Director: Scott Andrew
Manawatu Theatre Society
Before you read this review there is something important to know: my daughter plays a main role and I am going to say she’s amazing because she really is. This affects my credibility, I have none, I shouldn’t really be doing this—but I am.
For a change I didn’t attend opening night for this show—here’s why. There are two girls sharing the role of ‘Iris’, one of them is my daughter Faith Offord and the other is Jenna Shapleski on alternating nights. Opening night was Jenna’s night and the Mum in me took precedence over the reviewer in me—I wanted to see Faith’s portrayal first. I look forward to attending a showing soon where Jenna is playing the role of Iris. With a team of family and friends it was a wonderful party of supporters to turn up at The Globe with to see our wee star shine.
A simple set awash with blue light greeted us and evoked the blue glare that shines out from our computer screens. The Nether’s opening scene is set in an interrogation room where Mr Sims (Glen Eustace) is being interrogated by Morris (Hannah Pratt). The rest of the show jumps between the interrogation room, in real life, and ‘The Hideaway’ in The Nether. Hold onto your seats, this show blurs the lines between fantasy and real-life. Hannah Pratt’s portrayal of Morris was strong and took us on a journey of emotion—is she the good-guy or the bad-guy? Similarly Mr Sims traversed a line between good and bad—but is he on the bad side of good or on the good side of bad? Glen Eustace kept us guessing as he toyed with not just our emotions but with those of Doyle (Danny Goodman), Iris (Faith Offord/Jenna Shapleski) and Mr Woodnut (Michael Salmon).
It’s an eerie moment when a young Iris enters ‘the hideaway’ looking like a porcelain doll but acting in ways that are alarming for a young girl. The relationships depicted between Iris and Papa, and Iris and Mr Woodnut are unusual and unsettling. Director Scott Andrews has been careful with the management of these relationships and navigates the space well. Faith Offord (MY DAUGHTER!!!!) played a touching role as Iris. She was tender, articulate and a master of technique—just saying. The trust and connection on stage between Michael Salmon (who managed his difficult role with delicacy) and Faith Offord was evident as was the relationship between Glen Eustace and Faith. This extended the audience a comfortable space to connect with the content. Danny Goodman’s performance was exceptional and it’s hard to say much more without bringing spoilers into play.
There’s a lot of dialogue in this production but the subject material —how much we know about who and what we’re dealing with on the internet and who’s policing it—is riveting. It plays out like a bit of a ‘who dunnit’ but also challenges our perceptions of reality, and right and wrong.
The set was well used throughout the show despite its minimal presentation it somehow was very easily transformed from scene to scene. Live music added to the eerie scenario at the hands of Elijah Graham. In fact a light touch of everything: set, music and lighting really threw emphasis onto the story and the actors who carried the weight of delivering an intricate narrative well.
This is the first time that award-winning The Nether has been shown in New Zealand and it certainly has a lot to say. This production was tight—nothing was over or under done—it struck exactly the right note.
Still Life with Chickens
Director: Fasitua Amosa
Review Date: 7/4/2018
The Billboard for this production showed a woman holding a chicken and the title--Still Life with Chickens. The woman was exuding a Polynesian vibe and further investigation uncovered that this show promised to be a comedy about a woman talking to a chicken. Why was I excited to go?
The Centrepoint Theatre has been consistently delivering high-quality performances so I attend expecting satisfaction—plus comedy is my favourite genre. The programme revealed that Still Life with Chickens won ‘Best Play 2017’ in the Adam NZ Awards so all signs were encouraging.
Set in a functional backyard furnished with a vegetable garden and a washing line ‘Mama’ played by Goretti Chadwick moves slowly about—like a tired old woman— delivering a simple yet revealing narrative about the ins and outs of her life. At the surface level this is comedic and entertaining, but beneath the tough facade that slips occasionally we get a look at what simmers beneath.
Goretti expertly delivers the role of Mama, so that we are both fearful and fond of her in equal measure. Goretti’s real life age is a mystery to me— at a guess anywhere from twenty-five to sixty years old— but a combination of costume and great acting made her believably a very old Mama. Her confidence in delivering comedy was effortless and the emotional range that she visited had me along for the ride, at times having a lump in my throat and at times laughing.
Quite surprising, was finding that the chicken was a puppet (this was no lame duck but a high-class chicken puppet). How I expected a real-life chicken to participate I don’t know, but I hadn’t been prepared for it to appear in the form of a puppet. I inwardly cringed when I realised that a puppet was coming out but it turns out I didn’t need to get into a flap about it. Puppeteer Haanz Fa’avae-Jackson played a strong role as the chicken but simultaneously seemed to not exist on stage. Somehow he magically seemed to become part of the background which is hard to believe considering he was miked up and making chicken noises. While the chicken was an active part of the play, Haanz’s ability to channel all his energy into the chicken meant that his own presence on stage was minimally noticed. The chicken pecked its way through the layers of Mama’s tough exterior revealing her inner vulnerabilities.
Lighting was used to great effect along with excellent sound technique to support what was essentially a one-woman, one-chicken show. A nice bright set was well used and a well chosen place to show how mundane housework can germinate philosophical musings.
Still Life with Chickens (I love the naming of this play) is a short but sweet show, lasting for just one hour. But, as with most high-quality things you don’t need to consume huge amounts to be totally satisfied. This show is still brooding away in my mind as I think about all that it revealed; it won’t be forgotten soon.
Manawatu Theatre Society
Regent on Broadway
Director: Steve Sayer
Excitement swelled throughout the foyer at the Regent on Broadway for Friday night’s opening of Grease’performed by the Manawatu Theatre Society, and a broad demographic of people filled the seats of the theatre. The lights dimmed and the band started with a roar as the curtains rose, and you could be forgiven for thinking that you’d been transported back in time to find Olivia Newton-John from the movie version of Grease standing on the stage.
Olivia’s doppelganger playing Sandy was actually Georgia Bergeson—recently seen as a Survivor NZ contestant— who with her petite frame and perfectly sweet Aussie accent (if Aussie accents could ever sound sweet) had us all falling for her charms. Georgia showcased her excellent dancing skills, very natural movement, and her tender singing solos were well articulated.
The show really accelerated to life when the classic ‘Greased Lightning’ scene roared into action complete with a magically transforming car—I was distracted by the dancers and when I looked back the car was fully restored, word to the wise, keep watching if you want to see how they made that happen.
Taylor Ellis’s role as Danny Zuko was well played out, he had Danny’s personality spot on, and—with his T-bird gang—some of their over-emphasised swaggers were extremely comedic.
The ‘Pink Ladies’ were a pretty exceptional bunch. Leader of the pink pack—Rizzo—played by Renee Evans was an absolute knock-out. With a great vocal performance and enough swagger and sass to fill the whole stage, Renee really nailed her part. There were more than a few goose bumps during her stunning solo performance of the song ‘There are Worse Things I Could Do’. Laura Signal’s role as Jan was believable and adorable; her impressive acting abilities were well showcased in this role, and Frenchy was portrayed perfectly by Frankie Curd, with her timid attitude totally figured out.
School principal ‘Miss Lynch’ played by Sophia Parker looked like she’d stepped straight out of the movie, but some cheeky subtleties Sophia masterfully added were well enjoyed by the audience. Rocky Rowland’s portrayal of pesky Patty was irritatingly good; she brought excellent dancing skills to the show.
The band led by Roger Buchanan was exceptional, providing a full and enjoyable feel to the stage, and nailing every song they performed. Singers Johnny Casino—Elijah Graham—and Teen Angel—Douglas Ransom— tuned into a bygone era and absolutely nailed memorable Grease songs like ‘Beauty School Dropout’ and ‘Born to Hand Jive’.
There were some opening night technical errors which are likely to be ironed out quickly, though one memorable unplanned line “I forgot about my ****** gum” heard due to a mic/timing error had the crowd in stitches.
The big numbers we all came for were there, and some high-energy dancing had some audience members singing and dancing in their seats. It’s hard to go far wrong with a well-loved show like Grease which is laden with nostalgia yet still able to captivate young audiences.
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