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.
Review date: 11/10/2018
I know Amy, the writer, director and performer of this play about menstruation. We’ve been in a writer’s group together and she pops up all over the place in different creative roles. Despite this, I felt like her show Period. was going to be bloody disgusting and very awkward. The marketing material was enough to make even the most experienced bleeders look twice in shock. Wow, I was exhausted that night and I hoped I wouldn’t have to sit there for too long because I was worried I might fall asleep.
I should have had more faith in Amy because she revealed an incredible depth of skill in her ‘World Premiere’ of this show. It was bloody fantastic! Amy played Karla, an innocent eleven-year-old girl coming to terms with getting her period for the first time. Karla’s role is all mimed. That might sound boring, but Amy actually made me realise how much lazier an actor could be when they rely on dialogue to act out their role. Her expressions and character were absolutely delightful, perfectly capturing the innocence and confusion of a child discovering new things. Karla’s mother is all dialogue and no acting—this role is voiced by Amy too. Karla’s mother—delivered like an omniscient being from the sound system—talks Karla through the changes her body is experiencing. There are some hilarious, and some very touching moments. It was heartening to hear so many males in the crowd laughing uproariously, I thought they were brave to even come along but after seeing the show it is obvious that you don't need to have ovaries to enjoy the show.
There were a plethora of great props which I am not going to go into detail about here because some things just have to remain a surprise and my descriptions will not do them the justice they deserve. There’s some excellent skills displayed with puppetry too, and if Amy created all those things she deserves a bloody award. What surprised me the most was how ‘not gross’ it was. Her particular mixture of child-like curiosity, play, and honesty dealt with what is usually a hidden and taboo subject in a very tidy way. I didn’t leave feeling dirty and horrified, I left feeling so astonished and happy at what a fun show I had just seen. I personally think this show should travel round the country being shown at schools because it is a brilliant, funny, non-awkward way to talk about a bloody annoying topic.
I think Amy might have worked long and hard on this project. She seems to have thought of every little detail. Her acting skills were exceptional and her connection with the audience incredibly natural and relaxed. You could say it simply flowed beautifully. I’d like to take my daughters to it but its short run here is already finished. We can only hope it comes back for a second showing, maybe on a monthly cycle....
This was top notch. I’m proud to have been at the ‘World Premiere’ of Amy Atkins’ Period.
Director: Jenna Kelly
There will be those of you out there that think that theatre going is ‘not your thing’, that it is ‘stuffy’ and ‘boring’ and you’d rather go to a movie or off to the pub. You’re wrong. It’s a brave act to step into a theatre and have a story acted out at you. You can’t close the book and walk away for a while—you’re there without seat belts and with no idea what kind of terrain you’re about to encounter. In a small theatre like The Darkroom in Palmerston North you might not expect to see anything exceptional—you’re wrong again.
Last night I took my teenage daughter to see Jenna Kelly’s version of Maya Levy’s Daughters. I’ll never forget it. I feel emotional trying to write this review and I want to find a way to implore you to go and see it without sounding like I’m trying to make a sales pitch or am getting royalties from ticket sales(I’m not). I don’t want to give much away either which limits what I can say…
Basically, Jenna has cast nine males to deliver the monologues of what were originally written as teenage girls’ narratives. Each monologue offers a glimpse inside the life of a teenager and covers topics such as gender norms, sexuality, social problems, drugs and so on. What stands out in these narratives is that even though they are being delivered by an all-male cast, there is almost no denying that they are all female voices. Imagine the ghost of a teenage girl wearing the flesh of a teenage boy. It is hauntingly beautiful.
I want to commend the whole cast for an excellent job but there were two stand-out acts for me. Callum Goacher brought tears to my eyes by showing powerful vulnerability in silent moments, and Léon Bristow hollowed out my chest and chucked my heart in my hands as a take home gift from his 18th birthday party. I’ve repeated a summary of Léon’s monologue to my family a few times now and have yet to manage it with dry eyes.
As this is a monologue driven show the use of props is at a bare minimum but when they are used they are powerful – never more so than in Léon’s act ‘Gift’.
While this show is at times traumatic it is also cleverly and tenderly delivered offering relief with some lighter and relatable content. There are laugh out loud moments and profound silences—just like real life. I’ll never forget this show.
When I got home my husband was watching the end of a sci-fi movie. I couldn’t help but notice how the actors were substandard compared with what I’d just experienced at the Darkroom. With all the movie’s special effects and ‘stars’ there was nothing but artificial emotion and a tired and clichéd story line. I got up and did the groceries on my iPad while it finished…
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.
Howard Ashman and Alan Menken's
Little Shop of Horrors
Abbey Musical Theatre
Wallace Development Auditorium
Director: Teesh Szabo
Review Date: 27/05/2015
I remember watching the movie version of Little Shop of Horrors and being blown away with what a crazy, spoof, sci-fi horror it was. The dentist and the plant ‘Audrey II’ were the main elements that stuck in my mind for terrifying reasons. It won’t matter if you haven’t seen the movie, you’ll still enjoy this excellent musical and it’s quite likely that you will never forget the dentist or ‘Audrey II’.
With an up-beat soundtrack and a lively cast you will not find yourself shifting uncomfortably in your seat or checking your watch. I found the characters in this show to be incredibly endearing with some really strong performances standing out from the crowd. Jessie Feyen’s role as ‘girl from the wrong side of town’, Audrey, was exceptional. Her accent was breath-taking and her characterisation impressive. It wasn’t just Seymour that fell in love with Audrey, we all did. Tyrell Beck as nerdy Seymour continued his run of strong roles with Abbey Theatre. Hopelessly in love with co-worker Audrey, Seymour had us all rooting for him to get his girl. Flower shop owner and Seymour and Audrey's boss 'Mushnik' was played with flair by Don MacBeth.
Larger than life Damian Thorne played many roles—I don’t know how he got changed so quickly but he could teach my daughters a thing or two about getting ready to go out faster! His main role as psychopathic dentist Orin is outrageously good, wow! At times eclipsing the plant (which had its own ‘growing’ role) Damian brought all our nightmares of dentistry to life in hysterical over-the-top style. He brought agility and energy in bucket loads—I challenge you to watch his role without laughing. I honestly can’t imagine how the dentist could have been better depicted.
A trio of chorus characters brought some excellent harmonies together, and kept the upbeat, lively tempo rolling. Erica Ward had a brief cameo and delivered beautiful and powerful song.
The set was well used, flowing seamlessly and lighting was used to its best advantage to create a really enjoyable scene.
Audrey II was more than a one person job (played by duo Nate Davis and Jacob McDonald) and every stage of its life was incredibly well delivered. I’m surprised at how quickly I forgot that it was a puppet and bought into it as a character – a sinister character.
The final scenes drew me back to haunting memories of watching ‘The Night of the Triffids’ while I was too young, with an excellent combo of costume, and lights creating an eerie yet comical scene.
I’ve not had the privilege of seeing a show directed by Teesh Szabo before, and I was impressed at how tightly she'd pulled everything together. The combination of great set work, lighting, choreography, costume, props, and acting created a thoroughly enjoyable show that was a pleasure to see.
That Bloody Woman
By Luke Di Somma and Gregory Cooper
Directed by Lyndee-Jane Rutherford
A chance to honour Kate Sheppard for giving us the vote as well as getting entertained and educated made me feel ‘bloody’ excited to attend That Bloody Woman. With lead character (obviously Kate) being brought to life by award-winning actress Lisa Chappell (Gloss, McLeod’s Daughters and lots and lots more stuff, a whole career’s worth...) who I used to sport a poster of on my wall from her high-fashion Gloss days, this show had great pulling power.
I rocked up with my hubby (what a good and brave guy) to what was likely to be a high-oestrogen storm of hyped-up women. To be fair, the audience seemed well balanced gender-wise which was pleasing.
If you’re turned off by musicals keep in mind that this is a feminist, punk musical, and plays out a bit like being in a mosh pit at a Jacinda Ardern/Amy Winehouse/Madonna gig. The setting is punk with concrete walls, spray paint and a nod to the past with a heritage-style arch centre stage. The opening scene is a strong start and I’m not giving away any spoilers but depending on your inclinations you’ll either be shocked or jubilant with joy (me) at the first word out of Lisa Chappell’s mouth. Lisa, is an absolute legend as Kate Sheppard. Spending almost the entire performance on stage and belting out a heavy load of songs, Lisa carried the show with both strength and tenderness. Gathering the audience in to her flock and guiding us through Kate’s trials and tribulations as she fought to get the vote—Lisa had us all eating out of her hand.
A strong ensemble team of punk-styled women had Lisa’s back as they powered through what was a riveting history lesson and revival of a New Zealand hero. Ensemble member Indiya Henman’s snappy dance moves and strong, engaging acting were delightful. Leona Revell’s supporting act as Kate Sheppard’s best friend featured some excellent vocal performances and Trudy Pearson’s role as the vicar presiding over Kate Sheppard’s wedding was a delightful crowd-pleaser.
It wasn’t an all woman cast though with Jeff Kingsford-Brown playing a massively pleasing role as King ‘Dick’—Richard Seddon. As Kate’s nemesis Kingsford-Brown produced an excellent performance with great chemistry. Gary Clark and Steve Jenkins both got to be up close and personal with Lisa Chappell and fulfilled their small male-speaking parts well (Lol, I jest but really it is a small satisfaction to see men play second-fiddle to the women for a bit).
The on-stage band lead by Kane Parsons was part of the show and seamlessly fitted into the action. They did an excellent job of keeping the musical score flowing faultlessly (or covering up any errors well because I didn’t notice any).
Costuming by Hayley Douglas was superb, especially Lisa Chappell’s almost steam-punk styled outfit which masterfully combined pants and a long dress and evoked a glam/punk Queen look.
I was surprised to find that two guys created this show – Luke Di Somma and Gregory Cooper, and I bloody salute them. It goes a long way towards paying homage to a hero who perhaps never received the hero-worshipping she deserved in her own life-time. With Lisa Chappell breathing new life into a modern Kate, and a strong cast backing her I felt that as a crowd we gave her the screaming, cheering, wild-clapping thanks she deserved. A standing ovation from the audience was a beautiful thing to see. Thank you Centrepoint Theatre and the cast and crew of That Bloody Woman—you were ‘bloody’ terrific.
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.
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