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.
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