Club Cabaret Part Deux!
Director: Dan Pengelly
Review Date: 21/09/2019
If you were lucky enough to catch Club Cabaret at Centrepoint Theatre last year, then you will be just as excited as I was to see ‘Part Deux!’ (if you’re scratching your head—it means part two) get brought back along with many of the same lovable characters and a seasoning of fresh ones.
‘Life is a cabaret’ and that is what we get to see at Club Cabaret Part Deux! All the messy and untidy real-life drama between lovable MC ‘Pierre’ played by Dan Pengelly and his wife ‘Darlene’ played by Darlene Mohekey spill out onto the stage. Pierre somehow manages to hold things together and keep ‘Club Cabaret’ moving along in an entertaining yet disintegrating way.
Emulating the low-budget vibe of your average cabaret there was a very similar set to the last Club Cabaret and if I am not mistaken the sign above musician Kane Parsons had been dusted off and put back up in the same old position. Clearly, they wished to be extremely authentic.
Darlene Mohekey graced the stage in a variety of different roles impersonating many cabaret stars. Personally, I think she is bloody great (and I think I am in good company in that opinion). On opening night Mayor Grant Smith was in attendance and that made him a prime candidate for being dragged up on stage by a drunk Shirley Temple impersonating Darlene. How she managed to get his fingers in her mouth shocked both me, the audience, and Grant Smith I suspect, and gave me an absolute belly-laugh. I really hope she washed her mouth out after that.
If my life is a cabaret it is certainly a cabaret with shit costumes. Darlene is an absolute darling and rolled out an exhausting number of costume changes which were all amazing. Apparently, her Mum was in the audience on the night and is responsible for creating her many beautiful outfits, what a legend (I hope I heard that right).
I’m considering changing my wardrobe at home to the ‘costume department’ and stealing the reused ‘Club Cabaret’ sign from Centrepoint Theatre after the show is over so I can hang it above my front door. I’ve also talked to the hubby about installing a trapeze/swing in the front yard so that I can dress up from my ‘wardrobe department’ and swing like Pink and yell feminist rants at the top of my voice. But this is not about me its about Club Cabaret Part Deux!, I was just getting carried away after all the inspiration on the night.
David Ladderman returns to the show with a personality that’s big enough to fill the room and the room next door and the one next to that. He seems like the sort of guy who would be fun at parties but annoying all the rest of the time (I wouldn’t know cos I’ve never met him off-stage but if he brings that much energy to a room on a regular day—no, sit down.) David always enters the stage with a variety of regular looking props and somehow makes them seem like the most interesting thing you’ve ever seen. You won’t need to see the show if I tell you what he gets up to, but I can promise his acts will keep you riveted.
David Heaphy is one of the fresh acts to join Club Cabaret Part Deux! and he gets up to some stuff that is both riveting and sickening. It was a love/hate situation for me. Every time he came onstage, I couldn’t help but wonder what sick shit he’d get up to this time. I think I held my breath the entire time he was on stage, covered my eyes and mouth and squealed ‘no’ or ‘oh my god’ repeatedly. What he could do with a tennis racket was mind-boggling.
Ellyce Bisson was also a new kid on the block at Club Cabaret Part Deux! and wowed everyone with her gravity-defying dance and aerial acts. I’ve never been able to get my legs to do what Ellyce did with hers. Seeing is believing and I believe I can’t.
Indy Henman is also new to Club Cabaret but not to Centrepoint Theatre where she has been involved in a number of excellent shows. Indy plays an intern at Club Cabaret Part Deux! and is delightful to watch as she refuses to be deterred by Pierre from bringing her own act to the stage. As usual Indy’s charming personality is infectious, and her dance skills are impeccable.
Pierre is a lovely, stoopid, sarcastic character. Personally I'd like to hug Pierre with my arms and legs wrapped around him. Unfortunately that's unlikely to happen because Pierre doesn't look like he could hold that kind of weight, and I don't have the strength in my arms to hold myself up. However, if you feel compelled to leap at him and squeeze him hard with your arms and legs I reckon he'd appreciate it.
Maybe you think your life is complete without the sparkle and drama of a good cabaret— it’s probably not. When you go to Club Cabaret Part Deux! you get to laugh and see cool things, and if you don’t want that in your life you should really ask yourself—why not? If you want to live life dangerously, I’d suggest booking one of the VIP tables at the front of the stage but if you’d just like to watch and laugh from a distance then the back row is a nice safe place to reside.
Nora and Delia Ephron’s
Love, Loss and What I Wore
The Dark Room
Director: Damian Thorne
Review Date: 24/05/2019
On Friday with my own squad of epic women we took the short stroll from The Brewers Apprentice to the Dark Room to catch this strong yet tender women-centric show. The title gives a decent clue as to what it was themed around, and a cast of strong, well-known local women was a good draw-card.
Beautiful floral artworks by local artist Amey Bell-Booth set a nice backdrop for an otherwise minimalist set. Five women (Gael Haining Ede, Jan Barnett, Trudy Pearson, Rachel Bowen, and Kate Balfour) dressed in black and seated on stools, faced the audience and spoke from the heart about life, and clothes in a series of candid monologues. That might sound a bit materialistic, but it was so much deeper than that. The closet was turned out, and every corner exposed as they each undressed the layers of clothing we hide behind. Comments by our parents that have haunted us for years, the well-meant but horrifying remarks tossed around about how we should look, the dresses worn at special occasions, the black-hole of the purse (handbag), rape and what was worn, the loved and lost clothes, the bad parts of our bodies, it was all there, and on point.
This show modeled excellent writing first and foremost. The script written by sisters Nora and Delia Ephron based on the book by Illene Beckerman was impeccable and all the women I attended with felt that it hit home in a perfectly true way.
Gael Haining Ede and Trudy Pearson produced emotionally vulnerable performances with expert style, and Rachel Bowen and Kate Balfour shared a beautiful and surprising scene about wedding outfits. Newcomer Jan Barnett delivered a challenging script about mini-skirts and her favourite boots.
I’m grateful that director Damian Thorne brought this show to Palmy. It was a lovely experience to share with friends. I’d suggest that you would need to be a particular kind of guy to gain enjoyment from this show. My hubby was going to attend but backed-out when he realised he would be the only man in the oestrogen-rich gang. I would have squirmed in angst if he was there because ninety minutes of deep discussion about women’s body image, clothes, relationships, aging and other stuff would be as overpowering for him as perfume sprayed right into his open eyes.
Lola and Friends ‘Up the Garden Path’
The Globe Theatre
Director: Ian Harman
Review Date: 23rd February 2019
Let me start by saying that I’m a fan of Mr Lola Illusion and have attended at least four of his shows both here in Palmy and in Wellington. I’ve also had the pleasure of attending shows that Ian Harman has directed, or been costume designer for, and his magic touch is evident. For this reason I knew that ‘Up the Garden Path’ was an excellent choice to take my two teenage daughters to, for maximum enjoyment and to foster an enduring love for theatre (which I actually hated before I attended ‘The Glass Menagerie’ in 2016 directed by Ian). I didn’t negotiate about whether they wanted to attend the show, I informed them, and then I made it super cringe for them by constantly reminding them that we were going on a ‘family date night’—haha! Moving on, we got seated and—they turned their phones off!!!!
Ian always knows how to fill a set, he probably has a mathematical rule or something to do with proportions that I’ll never grasp, but somehow even at times when there are minimal items on set he manages to have everything in the right place for the scene. Well this was a lovely whimsical garden scene that didn’t disappoint, complete with paper lanterns, hydrangeas and, in the background, was that a real bird in the theatre or were there bird sounds playing on the sound system? It was the latter, a lovely touch.
The moment Mr Lola Illusion stepped out onto the stage adorned with sequins ( I think or maybe he just naturally sparkles), long stockinged legs and heels, in a green whirlwind of beauty and entertainment and a few cheeky winks, I looked down the row of seats to see my hubby and two daughters beaming. Lola never disappoints.
I had no idea what to expect from this iteration of Mr Lola Illusion, he truly was leading me up the garden path, but because he’s a trustworthy companion I was relaxed about the journey. Here’s what a delighted audience was treated to. Havana Ciggaro seduced us with her cheeky and teasing burlesque, Bronwyn Turei delighted with her heartfelt portrayal of a wedding singer who got dumped by her fiancé while performing—we all wanted to hug her. Cole Hampton as Pamela Hancock from Bulls ‘Auntie Pam’ had us in fits of laughter with her seventies housewife persona, and Amy McKenna gave us goosebumps with her exceptional voice by belting out some big numbers and then doing an intimate original duet with her husband—very romantic. Valerie Bolter performed flamenco and created some audience interaction that was easy and fun to take part in.
Throughout this collection of variety performances the audience was privy to some planned, and some unplanned backstage dramas. To be honest, it was hard to tell which were planned and which weren’t because Lola is an absolute master of the stage and I’m sure he’d keep twirling his tail feather and winking even if the building was falling down around him, and the audience would just naturally trust that everything was carrying-on as planned.
Lola was resplendent in green, just as lovable as Kermit the frog and managed the stage with much the same panache. He is a dancing singing machine and can somehow take the audience from uproarious laughter to heartbreak in the blink of an eye. After being attacked by a swarm of bees—seriously how did he make a basket of cut up bits of paper come to life into a swarm of bees? I told you he’s magic—he hilariously returned covered in band-aids and sang a sombre heartbreak piece called ‘Black Tears’ which had everyone awwing in sympathy. Mr Lola Illusion is such a kind soul that he wipes away his tears, gives a happy wink and moves back towards the light.
Some standout moments were Pamela Hancock’s blooming entry as a flower (wow) and Bronwyn Turei’s drunken heartbroken wedding singer act as she belted out Alanis Morissette’s ‘You Oughta Know’. Mr Lola Illusion’s attempts to drag the spotlight from Havana Ciggaro when he joined her uninvited on the stage complete with tail feathers and stolen dance moves was also a highlight. I’m surprised he didn’t get a ‘heyyyyy-ya’ style karate chop reminiscent of Miss Piggy from Havana Ciggaro.
Lola ended the show by letting the audience know that he would be doing a new show every month for the next three months. You can’t see this show again, but the next show will be seance themed and obviously worth seeing. My girls were delighted and both asked if we could attend the next show—obviously ‘yes’ is the answer. Keep an eye out for the next one and book tickets early as this show sold out.
Hudson & Halls Live!
by Kip Chapman with Todd Emerson & Sophie Roberts
Director: Dan Pengelly
Review Date: 15/11/2018
I’ve got an identity crisis! How do you describe the feeling of being behind the scenes, part of the show, and part of the audience? The hubby and I were fortunate to have front row seats at Centrepoint Theatres Christmas production ‘Hudson and Halls Live’ and we got to play all those parts.
If you’re my age (I’m not telling but heading towards vintage and probably more in a cheese way than a wine way) or older you will likely remember the outrageous cooking show ‘Hudson and Halls’ that graced our TV screens from the mid 70’s to the mid 80’s. I was too young at the time to think anything other than that they were pretty funny guys who didn’t act the way that other TV cooking shows did with all their wild and chaotic tiffs and shenanigans occurring in front of the camera. It was quite a move away from the staid, one dimensional shows that we were used to. These guys were fabulous, and in a time when it was still illegal in New Zealand to be gay their relationship was the worst kept secret, and we were loving it!
So, this nostalgic show is incredibly clever. It’s so clever it makes my brain hurt thinking about it, and I’m slotting myself into a category of people that will never be clever enough to pull something like this off. It’s a cooking show, it’s a show about creating live TV and managing a live audience, it’s a show about Hudson and Halls, it’s a show that revives the 80’s, it’s a feast of experiences and a recipe for disaster!
Centrepoint general manager Kate Louise Elliot is generally great at managing her role as floor manager Ngaire Watkins who managed all of us audience members who were also part of the ‘live studio audience’ in the show (see it’s clever eh?). This is a huge role and I think the show would be severely affected without her expert management of everything! She was annoying, and funny and bold and I’d like to hug her and then run away because she also kind of scared me.
I want to thank Andrew Laing’s teeth for their role in holding back everything that his character Peter Hudson wanted to say and smiling through it all. Every time I think about that plastered on ‘smile for the TV’ I have a little giggle. Peter Hambleton’s character David Halls was a lot more big hair, big hand movements, and amped up fabulousness. He paired so well with Andrew Laing and honestly I was just sitting there watching all the drama unfold like it was real life—which it actually was. Their roles required a high amount of energy and throughout it all they were cooking a Xmas feast with all the trimmings. These guys were so pro I just basically believed I was watching Hudson and Halls—the originals.
I was fortunate to be there for the Wednesday night Q&A session (which I highly recommend if you get the opportunity) so I got some insight into the preparations for this show. There was a lot of set-up required with all the cooking involved and Henrique Beirao crossed the boundaries between behind the scenes operator and becoming a technical operator on the set of ‘Hudson and Halls Live’. He was a busy guy but played an enjoyable part amongst all the drama.
Overall, I would say that director Dan Pengelly has succeeded again in cooking-up an excellent show using seasoned professionals to make an awful meal that is definitely not the star of the show. I’m hungry for more. Go gorge yourself on the gorgeousness.
P.S I can’t say how this would play out if you have never seen the original TV show because I have, and I can’t undo that. If I had to guess I’d say that it would still be a good fun show, but you may just miss a few layers…
At the Q & A session Andrew Laing pointed those who hadn't heard of Hudson and Halls to this documentary about them which is very insightful.
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