Review - Me and My Girl
Director: Chris Burton
Co Director: Kirsten Clark
Review Date: 12/03/20
At the end of a busy Thursday, do you really want to go to see a theatre production? I didn’t. I hoped it would finish early so that I could eat snifter lumps and fall asleep in front of the TV. I was feeling like a misery guts.
What is Me and My Girl even about? I’d never heard of it before, but Google said that Stephen Fry had been involved in its creation, so I felt it had to be some fun. Some fun indeed!
Me and My Girl is a play set in England during the 1930’s that sets the similarities and differences between classes at centre-stage and makes a comedy-drama out of the ensuing madness. It’s a dancing, singing, laughing extravaganza that will entertain the socks off you.
The band lead by Danielle Joe started the show off well. Before the curtains had opened I found myself affected by some addictive and joyful toe-tapping music. The combination of a lively band and some fun dance acts made it hard not to get swept away with it all. There was a simply smashing scene that involved the playing of spoons which had the audience bouncing in their seats and whooping for joy. I say!
It wasn’t just the enjoyable story-line and quality laughs that made Me and My Girl such a riveting piece of theatre, a huge part of the fun came in the form of Zac Maskill playing a lovable character from the wrong side of town—Bill Snibson. Zac seemed the perfect choice to play the main character with his excellent vocals, authentic sounding accent, and impeccable acting. His performance came across as genuine, he had amazing stage presence and delivered a good measure of laughs (or should I say larfs).
Similarly, co-star Leonora Potten as Sally Smith showed off a strong, sassy, act with a lovely vocal performance. Sally was a delightful presence who stole the hearts of those on and off-stage. Together, Bill and Sally (Leonora and Zac) had a beautiful onstage chemistry, a true romance.
Gabby Clark as Maria, The Duchess of Dene, delivered a strong performance and a very impressive solo piece in ‘Song of Hareford’. Ayesha Satya as Lady Jacqueline Carstone also showcased some strong vocal performances. Karmeehan Senthill-Nathan as Herbert Parchester played a darling role as the family solicitor and Blake Storrier delivered a very enjoyable comedy act as stuffy, snivelling, snob Gerald Bolingbroke.
The production team had prepared the cast well, they all delivered strong, polished performances. Transitions between scenes were managed smoothly, and the show moved along like a well-oiled machine. Costuming and make-up had the cast looking absolutely dapper.
Me and My Girl is an excellent comedy that is very giving to the audience. It’s a laugh a minute, and for those of you who feel tested by overly long, drawn-out musical numbers, let me reassure you that you will not be rolling your eyes here. Instead you will lose track of time as you lean into the liveliness of it all. It’s an excellent antidote for misery, I smiled a lot and I wasn’t the only one. I suspect the whole audience were beaming smiles back at the stage for the duration of the show. We certainly made a lot of appreciative noises too. In fact, the audience gave a stellar performance too, we rocked!
I’ve reviewed a few PNGHS/PNBHS shows and this one is my favourite. It is lively, has an enjoyable story, and is a laugh a minute.
Just in case you’re interested, I did go home and nail a packet of snifter lumps, what a night!
Review: The Unfolding of Benjamin's Misery
Written and Performed by Hideto Ambiguous
Square Edge Community Arts Centre
Review Date: 7/02/2020
On Friday night at Square Edge Community Arts Centre in Palmerston North, Hideto Ambiguous bared his body and soul to present The Unfolding of Benjamin’s Misery.
It was a small room, which accommodated an intimate audience, with a basic stage which was only slightly elevated above the audience. There was no backstage area to slip behind the curtains and peer out at the audience, there were no shadows to lurk in, there wasn’t even mood lighting. Hideto Ambiguous had to master the space, and he did.
The Unfolding of Benjamin’s Misery is an award-winning one-person show (having won the 'Best Words and Ideas' award at the Melbourne Fringe Festival 2019) in which Hideto showcases a range of talents including spoken-word poetry, story-telling, singing, ukulele playing and his uniquely entertaining ‘Asian’ dancing.
The show started about fifteen minutes late, but as it turns out that was when we as the audience were playing our role—a clever device which subtly reinforced the themes of us and them. We were watching a show as an audience but were also the audience in the show. There was also an unexpected guest cameo—a blowfly which became expertly woven into the tapestry of the show and showed how supremely Hideto governed the stage.
Benjamin’s misery really did unfold in front of us, like an intricately folded artwork with new things to discover under each new layer. Hideto performed multiple characters, with unique accents and postures who came to life with such natural ability that for a moment I started imagining there was a backstage where all the characters resided.
It was perhaps fitting, given the subject material, that Hideto had only the clothes on his body, a ukulele and a few coins to use as props. With a small audience unable to be distracted by moving or colourful props how was it that Benjamin made us see things so clearly?
It is a true inside story, as Benjamin sheds his problems in front of us, and we observe the evolution of Benjamin. Powerful story-telling works to break down barriers between cultures and expose the beating, human heart at the centre of us all. Every step of the journey created the Benjamin we saw before us, and it was fitting that we observed that through past, present and future layers of story.
Although the subject material illuminates the shadowy world of exploited migrant workers, Benjamin is gentle and kind, offering options, possibilities and ideas for dealing with these challenges. Benjamin is nobody and everybody. He opened up a portal to his vulnerabilities, and struggles and then offered hope, and the potential for happiness. I laughed and smiled, frowned and sighed, as Benjamin unraveled his journey.
We get to see the breaking and making of Benjamin and how he chooses to take control of his life by using his gifts to improve life for himself and other Benjamins. I am grateful for the gift of Benjamin that now resides in me.
It was both a privilege and a pleasure to experience this performance by an exceptionally skilled artist whom I expect to see carrying on to do many great things.
As well as being the winner of Liverpool Poetry Slam 2018 (UK), Hideto's first poetry collection, “Foreigners in Me” will soon be published by Lastbench/Antivirus productions in Liverpool, UK. Hideto Ambiguous is someone to watch as he takes multiple talents, this show, and a new one he is currently developing, on the road internationally. You can follow his Facebook Page or his Instagram Account to keep up with upcoming projects (I will be).
Written and Directed by Gregory Cooper
Review Date: 9/11/2019
Prostates, Pelotons, and Property Management what more could you want out of your Saturday night? There’s another P word, so just use your imagination. . ..
Saturday night was opening night at Centrepoint Theatre as they wheeled out their latest showing—MAMIL aka Middle-Aged-Man-In-Lycra. I was eager to see a MAMIL up close because usually they are only seen moving in packs—cycling like they are trying to outrun the inevitability of their lives. Getting a MAMIL out on his own in front of a live studio audience was sure to be a rare treat.
This show written and directed by Gregory Cooper is the story of one shallow, privileged, white male (Bryan) who transforms his life by joining a cycling group after his world crumbles around him. He finds his soul and learns how to really love himself and his fellow man.
The set design was the barest I’ve ever seen at Centrepoint, I guess they were emulating the soul of a MAMIL. It was sparse and black, like a recently divorced middle-aged man's bedroom. The special effects amounted to a smoke machine, lights and sound effects. The attention was centred on one middle-aged man acting out multiple personalities. Of course, there was also a bike and Lycra.
New Zealand actor Mark Hadlow delivered this one-man show. He was confident, strong, and a great story-teller. It seemed like he held nothing back. It’s worth seeing this show just to see a theatre legend work a room. I’m in no way qualified to have opinions about acting techniques so I’m not even going to try. I’ll use lay persons terms. He played at least eight characters and switched between them seamlessly using different accents for many of them. My personal favourite character was the wiry old man who organised the cycling group. Also, he cycled throughout the whole show and made it look effortless. Leaping on and off the quite tall set and getting changed on stage multiple times goes a long way towards proving that he’s obviously a superhero. The audience were highly stimulated by the probing nature of the show—literally. Mark Hadlow certainly has his fingers in a lot of places. There was more than just a bike seat around his rear end.
This is a man friendly show. If you want to drag your man out for a date at the theatre, then this show has the black décor and right amount of testosterone to make even the most theatre-hating man happy. If you’ve raised your eyebrows about this heavily stereotyped statement then rest assured, the whole show is like that. . ..
I’d like to see Centrepoint Theatre open-up a night for palmy MAMILs with a group discount for arriving in their Lycra and click-clacking into the theatre with their cycling shoes on. Maybe a latte special that day would be useful too.
This show is well explained. You won’t have to turn your brain inside out to figure out what is going on. It’s an easily accessible laugh if you can overlook the quite un-PC content.
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.
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