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.
Review: The Addams Family
by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice
Directors: Chris Burton, Kirsten Clark, Alex Hughes
Review Date: 14/03/2019
The PNBHS/PNGHS production is always a popular show, with many proud parents, grandparents and friends pouring in to the Speirs Centre to see the results of their children’s labours over a long period of time. For some, it becomes a tradition and they keep going back year after year long after their children have left school and moved on. This year’s show looks to be a crowd-pleaser since most parents will remember The Addams Family—with their peculiar dark ways— from when they were kids. Younger generations may remember the movie, or at least be lured by the mixture of gothic themes and comedy in this out-of-the ordinary musical.
The main roles I expected to see were all accounted for—Morticia with her sharp, passionate, and witchy ways, Gomez, Wednesday, Pugsly, Uncle Fester and Lurch. Even Thing made a brief appearance. Callum Pritchard’s role as Uncle Fester was a standout crowd favourite. Charisma and warmth glowed all around him or was that just the light glaring back from his bald head? His role was impeccably delivered, he had the audience happily eating out of his hand. A photo op following the show could be a good call for this year’s production, I for one would have stayed to give Uncle Fester a hug.
Lily Bourne pulled off an excellent Morticia and was elegant and poised in her role, I would not want to cross her. Oliver Inman’s Gomez Addams was charismatic, quick-witted and his devotion to the Spanish accent required was impressive. I had to keep reminding myself that Emily MacKay was a high school student and not actually the middle-aged mother Alice Bieneke which she played with exceptional talent. House servant and zombie Lurch was well-played by Jude Wightman. Though his role required mostly grunts instead of dialogue his stage presence more than made up for it. Rachel Hodgson’s arts of imitation were scarily accurate as Grandma Addams, similar to Emily Mackay’s role I had to keep reminding myself that she wasn’t in fact an old woman but rather a very talented young girl. Annabel Orwin showed her strength on stage again this year including her strong vocal skills, as did Grayson Lodge as Pugsly. Overall the talent was exceptional and a testament to the work that has been put in by everyone to produce a well-polished show with some enjoyable singing and dancing numbers performed by the cast.
The set worked well with a high-class gothic look opted for instead of the expected dust and cobwebs aesthetic. Stage changes were managed quickly and efficiently, a big job considering how many scenes there were in the show.
Technically this show ran well, a more practised eye than mine may have been able to pick out something but from this laypersons perspective everything ran smoothly.
The hard work put in to produce this show was evident as the cast and crew worked together confidently delivering this goth-themed, comedic musical. Comedic delivery of this dialogue-driven show was outstanding. Costuming, make-up and hair was excellent and consistent with the clean, dark lines of the Addams Family wardrobe.
This stage-adaptation of The Addams Family focuses on family values and the ‘normal’ and ‘not-so-normal’ ways of dealing with them. With its origins in USA it’s a formula that we are familiar with—some laughs, some drama, some good old family morals, and will it be a happy or an unhappy ending? I’ll leave the tension there. Spooky…
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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