Lola’s Grave Mistake
Director: Ian Harman
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Mr Lola Illusion (Ian Harman) perform in ‘The Lola Show’ at the Wellington Fringe Festival in 2017 and as MC at the ten-year celebration performance of his popular burlesque show at Centrepoint Theatre ‘Tease-o-rama’, and I did wonder if ‘Lola’s Grave Mistake’ could offer more. It does.
Grab your sombrero and enter the sombre darkness, and burning pain, of a broken heart. You may find yourself in something resembling hell in The Darkroom, but with Mr Lola Illusion taking centre stage, even the hellishness of a broken heart looks hot in heels.
If you want to practise some facial exercises, then simply being in the audience will give you a great session of facial rejuvenation. I smiled, laughed and sighed deeply as Lola took me on a journey from intoxicating joy to heartache, and back again, during his short but sweet one-hour extravaganza. The art and magic of story-telling is alive in every cell of Lola’s vibrant body and soul. Somehow, he smiles with his whole body and wears sadness like a bodysuit of rocks.
Shaking his tail feathers, Mr Lola illusion takes us on a whirlwind ride to hell and back. There’s a real beauty in the honesty, naivety, and vulnerability that Lola expresses in the—at times—heart-breaking narrative that runs through the show, of which perfect performance by Ian Harman kept the audience engaged and vocally supportive. Though matters of the heart are a serious subject, Lola creates a redemption-song, Mexican-cabaret, drama/comedy genre which is as lively as the fast-beating heart of a drunk person running in heels (while singing). Cleverly placed subtle and some not-so-subtle innuendo was delivered with a wink and a cheeky smile and received with noisy, happy laughter.
There was an ever-so enticing cameo by the always delightful Sam Lyons aka ‘Costa DeMillion’ of The Boom, Boom Room Burlesque fame, and the unmistakable voice of local singing legend Amy McKenna was detected in a remixed version of ‘Jolene’.
Great musical numbers belted out without restraint (and sometimes while running) were well chosen and performed to wonderful effect. Sometimes when I’m watching shows with a few musical numbers I groan and think ‘oh no, not another one’, but this was not one of those times—Ian Harman has cleverly re-worked and created songs to tell his story in a most enchanting way.
Being a master of set, direction, and costuming (among many other things) Harman has everything well planned out and running seamlessly (although any show I ever created would never feature me running, let alone in heels). As usual for a show with his artistic hands all over it, the set and props seem to just magically appear and disappear out of nowhere. Telephone scenes that weave their way through the show were perfectly executed and an absolute crowd pleaser. Mr Lola Illusion is so generous to the audience that he even handed out popcorn to be devoured during the most dramatic parts of his act.
Lola’s Grave Mistake is a performance about love and loss that we can all relate to, and I am always grateful to those who are brave enough to share their stories with such honesty. Mr Lola Illusion showed us his heart—it’s beautiful.
Director: Dan Pengelly
I’m always excited to go to Centrepoint Theatre to enjoy one of their consistently good shows, and who doesn’t love a bit of Peter Pan? It was only as I approached the doors at the earlier than usual show time of 6:30pm that I realised that something was wrong. An early start time, school holidays and a children’s fairy tale all added up to one thing—there was going to be children there… I inwardly groaned at the inconvenience this would put upon me. It was an unusual experience to share this usually adult occupied space with kids, but I showed diplomacy and grinned and bared it. At half time I started texting friends with strong recommendations that they bring their kids to see Peter Pan, and felt a slight though quickly stifled pang of sadness that my children were grown-up.
The set didn’t give much away, looking sort of like an after-school kids club with a climbing frame of sorts and a tumbling mat. Cushions scattered at the foot of the front row seats gave kids the opportunity to be up close and personal. The cast really poured some magic out on that set. I had wondered how they were going to manage things like flying, I couldn't see any sky-hooks, but I needn’t have worried. I felt incredible joy watching an excellent cast of multi-taskers show just what you can do with some imaginative play and a few basic props. Audience interaction and a really quick-witted, enjoyable script kept both young and old laughing like children. Excellent timing and well-planned costume changes meant that among a whirlwind of activity the ‘Lost Boys’ were magically transformed into pirates and back again. Some actors manifested as at least four different characters in a cleverly seamless way.
Wendy played by Katie Atkins navigated the space between child and mother-figure with grace and charm. Tinkerbelle played by Ryan Ngarimu was delightful proving that star-quality acting is more than just having lots of lines. Captain Hook brought to life by David Fane (Bro Town and Sione’s Wedding) chartered a course between bad guy and lovable rogue that was pitched perfectly for children’s enjoyment. Mr & Mrs Darling were performed by the perfect package of Lizzie Tollemache and David Ladderman. The dynamic duo shone in their variety of roles showing their depth of talent and craft. I’d like to congratulate the whole cast and crew for this outstanding performance because they were all fantastic (it’s a long list). Director Dan Pengelly and the Centrepoint Theatre basement company have hit the perfect note on this family themed, pantomime-like, fairy-tale performance. Acting and imagination combine to remind us of the joy and simplicity of child’s play.
School holidays offer the perfect time to kick start your kid’s imagination on a show like this. In a world of special effects, iPads and blockbuster movies this pared back thrill of the imagination will lull children back to the charms of imaginative play. Why bother with props like a bed being wheeled on-stage when you could simply drape a white sheet over the backs of a few of the cast? This show was charming and refreshing in in its approach. I would happily attend a second time. Children eight and over will enjoy this Centrepoint production immensely, and adults will be wooed by Peter Pans invitation to never grow up.
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