Alana Haines Australasian Awards 2015

April 6, 2015 at 12:57 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the finals of the Alana Haines Australasian Awards 2015 (AHAAs) last night at the Opera House – Wellington.

The AHAAs is the largest ballet competition in Australasia, and can justly claim to be the premier competition in Australasia – more on this later.

All three levels of the Opera House was packed to witness the 22 finalists, in the three sections, ‘battle it out’ for the top placings. The knowledgeable audience – some of the top ballet teachers in Australasia, and their pupils – witnessed some exciting dancing. There were moments of thunderous applause – particularly for Harrison Lee and Wan Jin Jing. Both gave spectacular performances of Siegfried.

The night started with ‘set’ solos: Seniors followed by Juniors with their ‘set’ solos. Then the Seniors came back on with their ‘own choice’ contrasting solos.

The finalists, and their solos,  were:

  • Juniors (11 – 13):
    • Milei Lee, Peasant Pas
    • Stella Nyers, Peasant Pas
    • Mio Bayly, Kirov Peasant Pas
    • Jadyn Bagayas, Cupid
    • Tynesha Hancock, Flower Festival
    • Monet Galea-Hewitt, Peasant Pas
    • Matthew Maxwell, Flower Festival
    • Sophie Smith, Peasant Pas
    • Kieren Bofinger, Peasant Pas Boys
    • Heidi Freeman, Kirov Peasant Pas
    • Alexandra Walton, Kirov Peasant Pas
  • Seniors, 13 – 15:
    • Madison Ayton, Esmeralda, We (too) shall rest
    • Talia Fidra, Odile, Seta
    • Makensie Henson, Aurora, Here and Now
    • Bianca Scudamore, Lilac Fairy, Dream
    • Emily Bray, Aurora, To warn the world
    • Harrison Lee, Siegfried, Poem of Atoms
  • Senors, 16 – 21:
    • Isabella Howard, Aurora, Broken Dancer
    • Vida Polakov, Giselle, Imagine
    • Felipe Domingos Natel, Siegfried, Sorrow Atoms/em>
    • Wan Jia Jing, Siegfried, I Am What I Am
    • Tirion Law Lok Huen, Giselle, La Neige

A number of finalists have previously entered the AHAAs – for example: Harrison Lee, Bianca Scudamore, and Tirion Law Lok Huem were here in 2013.

The adjudicators were:

  • Lisa Pavane, Director of the Australian Ballet School and former principal with the English National Ballet
  • Richard Bowman, Ballet Master at the Jackie Kennedy Onassis School New York (NY), examiner for the ABT National Training Curriculum NY, and former principal with the Leipzig Ballet
  • Christian Tatchev, Director of training at the Queensland Ballet and former dancer with PACT Ballet Company in South Africa
  • Zenia Tatchevia, Tutor at the Queensland Ballet and former dancer with PACT Ballet Company in South Africa

This year there were over 400 entrants, and the adjudicators must have put in a marathon effort.

Congratulations to the winners:

  • Sophie Smith
  • Harrison Lee
  • Vida Polakov

All of the competitors are to be congratulated for their hard work and willingness to put themselves out there.[Apologies for any transcription errors – results available the at AHAA website.]

This biannual competition is held in memory of Alana Haines – a promising young dancer who died in a car accident on Christmas Eve in 1989. This is the 25 year of the competition and it has become the launching pad for some wonderful talent.

The AHAAs can rightly lay claim to being the premier Australasian ballet competition. Harrison lee who won the Junior section in 2013, was a winner at Prix de Lausanne Switzerland earlier this year. Vida Polakov won a gold meal at last year’s Genne, held in Belgium. Last year, Hannah O’Neill, 1st runner up in 2007, won the Varna International Ballet Competition in Bulgaria – past winners include Mikhail Baryshnikov and Sylvie Guillem.

I enjoyed the evening and for me the highlights were Talia Fidra’s Seta, Harrison Lee’s, Siegfried and Poem of Atoms, Wan Jia Jing’s Siegfried and Tirion Law Lok Huen’s Giselle.

I hope fortune will favour many of the contestants in the years to come, and I will be able to say “I saw them at the AHAAs”.

Jingles the Musical

March 16, 2015 at 6:53 am | Posted in Musical Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to see Dean Hewison’s Jingles the other night – at Bats Theatre.

Warning: Plot elements discussed

Hewison has cleverly worked some well known TV jingles to tell a story of farm girl to weather girl.

Wella, ably played by comedian, Hayley Sproull, leaves her home on her adopted father’s farm, in the back blocks, for the bright lights of Auckland. In true puss-in-boots style, she has a new pair of shoes, a parting gift from dad, and she is off to make her fortune (and to find her biological mother).

Jack Buchanan and Carrie Green, play all of the other characters: Wella’s mum, Wella’s adotive father, Wella’s adoptive sister, a dog, Coke, Wella’s brother, … .

All three of the cast: sing, joke, dance, and act their way through Wella’s adventure in the ‘big city’. From being greeted by the ‘dog’ on entering the theatre, to the free goodies tossed out during the ‘encore’, it was laugh out loud stuff.

The chocolates and cheese at the end was an apt way to finish off a show that was studded with jiggles from ‘golden age’ of New Zealand TV (when we made our own programmes and ads).

Definitely worth a go; and yes, the Wella hair ad gets an airing; as do lots of McDonalds’ ads.

Jupiter Ascending

March 2, 2015 at 6:47 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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I went to see Jupiter Ascending the other day, and its worth a go. If you want to enjoy the great special effects see it at a suitably equiped theatre.

Warning: plot elements discussed.

This is a deconstruction of the Cinderella story: fairy godmother, step sisters, glass slipper, prince charming – they are all there, just a little mixed up.

Jupiter Jones, played by Mila Kunis, is Cinderalla. Jones does a lot of domestic cleaning. There are two brothers and a sister who are the Step Sisters. Caine Wise, played by Channing Tatum, is the Fairy Godmother and Prince Charming! Caine is a former genetically augmented soldier who gets Jones started on the road ‘to the ball’ and saves her life a number of times along the way (and afterwards). In another twist to the Cinderella story, Jones is also the glass slipper.

It is a space opera, full of boardroom intrigue, spaceships, explosions, and romance.

Alan Turing

February 28, 2015 at 11:42 pm | Posted in Event Review, Film Review | Leave a comment
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I went to see The Imitation Game the other night and had a mixed reaction.

Benedict Cumberbatch, as Alan Turing, turns in a convincing performance; as does Alex Lawther, as the young Turing at boarding school.

On reflection I see the clever way the writers and directors managed to convey the crucial part the breaking of the German enigma machine generated ciphers played in shortening the war. The film simplifies events and uses a small handful of characters to convey a very broad set of issues; this avoids the need for a commentary track, or subtext, or more characters. The film is very tight, it all focuses on a handful of people in Hut 8.

Turing is vested just about every key decision and break through. So it is Turing who single handedly designed, costed, and built the machine that automated the repeated trials needed to find the key(s). It is Turing who decides to not use the intelligence freely, to avoid letting the German know that their confidential communications had been compromised. It is Turing who decides to recruit mathematicians and people good at crosswords. Turing who writes to Churchill asking for money to build a single electronic machine.

Unfortunately, it is not true. In fact there were close to 10,000 people working at (and around) Bletchley Park. Turing played a vital role; but there were others, but they get little screen time. Most unfortunately, Commander Denniston, who ran Bletchley Park, (played by Charles Dance channeling Tywin Lannister) comes across as a tyrant who actively worked against Turing and did not want Turing at all. This is so far from the truth as to insult the legacy of both men.

Cumberbatch’s puts in a great portrayal Turing; but I suspect it was of a different Turing – a fictional Turing, carefully crafted to tell a story based on the events at Bletchley Park, not the history of Bletchley Park. An terrible choice is to introduce the idea that Turing aided Russian spies (during the War) and was suspected of being a Russian spy (after the war). This is a terrible slight, with no basis in fact.

I went to see the film because I was going to Professor Rod Downey‘s talk on Turing and in the promotional material for the talk, it mentioned Bletchley Park.

Turing wrote one of the single most important papers of the 20th century on computers – providing a workable conceptual basis for them. Turing used what came to be known as ‘Turing machines‘ as part of a proof that it is not possible to proof the truth or falseness of any first-order predicate logic statement. During World War II, the direct application of this conceptual basis was to build specialised electrical machines to find the daily key for the code generated from German engima machines. Today, all programmable computers – general purpose computers – owe their origins to the description of a Turing machine.

Surely Alan Turing is one of the most unrecognised people of the 20th century.

Timon of Athens – Summer Shakespeare 2015

February 15, 2015 at 8:19 am | Posted in Play Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to this play the other night – put on by the (Wellington) Summer Shakespeare Trust.

Timon, played by Hayden Frost of The Almighty Johnsons fame, is a wealthy citizen of Athens who is generous to his friends and philanthropic to the needy. His friends turnout to be greedy and corrupt. Despite the efforts of Flavia, his steward, played by Emma-Yvonne Simons, his generousness and good works consumes his wealth and eventually he is penniless.

There is a series of scenes towards the end of Act I, where Timon’s friends show their true colours. To repay them, Timon stages one last feast, and serves up water and bones!

Act I ends with general Alcibiades declaring his disgust at the Athenian Senate for not showing clemency to a decorated Athenian soldier, and former subordinate of Alcibiades. I am sure that the scene is suppose to reinforce the disloyal nature of the senators (who are also Timon’s ‘friends’); but for me this does not work. Historically, the citizen soldiers of Athens fought to defend their city as a physical location and as a philosophical ideal. There can be no clemency; for that would mean no rule-of-law. But nevertheless the scene is set for disaffection to be harvested later.

Act II opens with Timon practically naked living in the open under a blanket. We see him railing against the city and it wealthy inhabitants. He finds buried treasure and is chanced upon by Alcibiades, leading his soldiers, towards Athens. Instead of trying to dissuade his friend from his course of action, he gives gold to the army, to encourage them to greater deeds. Similarly, Timon supports a trio of thieves, whom he sets upon Athens. The only Athenian Timon truly rewards is Flavia; Flavia restores Timon’s faith in Man, by giving Timon the last of his money, without knowing the Gods have played one last joke on Tiomon (through the buried treasure). But, according to Wikipedia, it is not enough, for Timon to stop undermining Athens (whom he previously loved so much). Timon cannot change his mind, because he dies (of presumably a broken heart) and is therefore unavailable to be persuaded by his former friends to save them from Alcibiades.

This is one of the Bard’s lesser known works; and has not been performed in New Zealand for a century and a half. I welcomed the Trust’s choice, but I wish the production gave more ‘handrails’ to an audience unfamiliar with the dialogue.

Still worth a go.

‘My’ performance was held indoors. I, along with a number of other people, got caught out with the venue change. So check the facebook page and the web site (warning it is not mobile friendly). There is no signage at the Dell. If you arrive and find it deserted and the loudspeakers still wrapped in black plastic, then head to Wellington High School :-)

The Naked Time – Star Trek in the Park

February 12, 2015 at 9:27 am | Posted in Play Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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Star Trek must be moving mainstream – after all people are putting it on live and outdoors.

So, I went to the opening night of Summer Star Trek – in Aro Park, in Aro Valley. This year it is “The Naked Time“; next year it will be “Mirror Mirror“. I know because part of the pre-show entertainment is the audience voting for next year’s production :-).

Also part of the pre-show entertainment was the “Space Babes” who sang a number of space themed David Bowie numbers. But the best number was “Star Trekking” – with the audience singing along.

The ‘episode’ kicked off with Bethany Millar (one of the “Space Babes”) singing the introductory sound track – she did the whole ‘wooo’ sequence, without the musicians using an electric keyboard. In fact the live music was a flute, cello (played by the versatile Miller), violin (played by Joel Miller who also sang with the Space Babes), and an accordion.

The plot is as I remember it. Though some of the characters have had their sex swapped – presumably to cater for the cast: McCoy; Zulu; Riley and Joe Tormolen all get switched. Captain Kirk is played by James Bayliss. He and whoever played Spock – there is no cast list – provide the back bone of the story – as they did in the original TV episode.

There is only one set, and there is some very clever prop switches. So that one back drop serves as the bridge, the sickbay, a corridor, a science base, an engine room; brilliantly done. The amazing sliding doors were re-created with pitch perfect sound effects – in a very clever way.

The episode itself is noteworthy because it introduces homeopathy – through the concept of water behaving as alcohol.

Worth going to: bring a thick picnic blanket; a donation; a picnic dinner; and prepare to boldly go where you have not been before.

Twelfth Night IN re.SPACE

February 12, 2015 at 8:12 am | Posted in Play Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to see Bright Orange Walls’ production of Shakespeare’ Twelfth Night in re.Space (on Victoria Street). It was very much theatre in-the-round, as there were two sets of almost parallel seats in between which the action took place. The venue looked a bit like an art gallery – and it certainly functioned as one in parts. Some of the cat did double and triple duty getting the minor characters into the action.

Major Characters:

  • Duke Orsino – Jonathan Price;
  • Viola – Ella Hope-Higginson;
  • Sebastian – Patrick Carroll
  • Countess Olivia – Brynley Stent;
  • Maria (Olivia’ maid) – Johanna Cosgrove.

Since the play is staged in an art gallery, the Duke is often working on a painting. There is a Dorian Grey quality to it all: the canvas is blank at the beginning and gets painted over as the play progresses; at times the canvas paints itself. There is a performance art within performance art quality to it, as each night a new painting emerges.

Staying with the art gallery scene much of the fights are paint fights.

Worth a go; and worth seeing the most static art on display in the rest of re.Space.

The Tragedy of King Richard III

January 26, 2015 at 8:32 am | Posted in Play Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to opening night of the Bacchanals‘ production of Shakespeare’s Richard III at Bat’s Theatre.

Very accessible well put together, well acted production. It had a helpful introduction: introducing all of the protagonists. Another nice innovation was to use the family tree to keep track of the body count – as Richard removed them one-by-one. The production was very much like in Shakespeare’s time, in that the cast played many characters – even actors who played major characters, donned a jerkin and became spear carriers from time to time. After a little while, you did not notice the older dialect of English.

Richard III was played by David Lawrence; and Elizabeth Wydville was played by Kirsty Bruce.

Definitely, worth going to; and you get to see the revamped, earthquake strengthened building – the play was pretty much ‘in the round’ in the new Dome room.

Your Body is a Battleground (2014)

December 14, 2014 at 7:44 am | Posted in Dance Review, Play Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to John Butterfield’s Your Body is a Battleground and it was challenging. A mixture of dance and drama putting ‘the question’ to audience: though showing a series of physical encounters – couples, men, women, and singles.

This is not a pure contemporary dance work, and it is not a play (there is a dialog), but a mixture of both. Most of the performers were mainly dancers:

  • Amelia McCarthy,
  • Eliza Sanders,
  • Felix Sampson,
  • Mark Semple,
  • Jacob Edmonds,
  • Laura Beanland-Stephens,
  • Roymata Holmes, and
  • Susie Berry.

This work, works well, partly because the anti-room where the audience waited had posters, and a projection wall, creating the context for the work. This made contemporary dance very accessible.
I wish them every luck in making the Fringe Festival.

Dead Tragic (2014)

December 14, 2014 at 7:08 am | Posted in Musical Review, Show Review | 1 Comment
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Last weekend, it was Michael Nicholas Williams’s Mama Mia, this weekend it was his Dead Tragic – which I saw at Bats Theatre 20 years ago.

The original cast:

  • Emma Kinane,
  • Jo Pheloung,
  • Lyndee-Jane Rutherford,
  • Michael Nicholas Williams, and
  • Darren Young.

updated some of the material, cast off the years and wow-ed the audience.

Mysteriously, the Bee Gees number was cancelled – copyright (?), after all, with a name like Dead Tragic, surely Tragedy, when the feelings gone, … would have been perfect. Still the updated choreography, included ‘selfies’ in hilarious rendition of “I did what I did for Maria” – very generation X.

It was really funny – “putting the fun back into funeral” – and very entertaining – even the Circa Theatre ushers were bopping to the music during the interval :-). The tradition version of how Billy[the] Hero [despite orders from his fiance] is challenged! Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town gets an update – what does happen if Ruby’s dis-abled husband doesn’t die, but lives for 20 years; well she waxes! The Leader of the pack was actually as lady biker!

Go see this, you laugh and be transported back to a simpler music period.

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