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.

Ella & Will

February 17, 2013 at 9:12 am | Posted in Dance Review, Musical Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to Anita Hutchins’ Ella & Will Friday night – part of The Wellington Fringe Festival.

Billed as a dance-theatre work, I was looking forward to a dramatic work that featured dance but in a different way to say a ballet.

At it’s heart Ella & Will is a love story: Ella is torn between will and the man in her dreams!

The continuous 2-hour long work features dance and video projection, as well as dialogue. It also featured life music – composed by double bass player Mostyn Cole.

I liked the clever movement of an assortment of boxes to create mode, create a sense of motion, and to create an amazing range of landscapes.

I also liked the pas de deux between Ella and Will – where they dance inside her skirt.

Cast (and dancers): Will Barling (Will), Anna Flaherty (Ella), Tanemahuta Gray (the man in Ella’s dreams), Sandra Normal Shaw, Aleasha Seaward, Jillian Davey, Andrew Miller, Lara Strong, and Anita Hutchins.

Script: Donna Banicevich Gera.

The Beard of Avon

December 3, 2009 at 12:01 am | Posted in Play Review | Leave a comment
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Plot elements revealed!

December 1, 2009 by Show_Hanger

I went to Amy Freed’s The Beard of Avon, the other night, at Gryphon Theatre.

This comedy explores who wrote the works of Shakespeare.

Will Shakspere – played by Tom Rainbird – unhappy with his domestic circumstances in rural Avon, is tempted by the bright lights of the city and of the stage, runs away from his wife and farm! It turns out that he has no real talent to be an actor (can’t: dance, tumble, act, nor orate), but nevertheless becomes a spear shaker – a spear carrier – in a company in London. There his ability to polish and have a neat feeling turn of phrase is discovered and his future is assured – as is Willliam Shakespeare‘s place in history.

It is asserted that Shakspere/Shakespeare polished and finished off the plays (and poems), but who provided the drafts? The play drags forth a number of candidates. It does explain how Shakespeare had such an intermit knowledge of politics and of the nobility.

The play is engaging and mildly funny. The more you are familiar with plays of Shakespeare, the more your will be engaged; I am sure I missed a few references.

Chris O’Grady is superb as Edward de Vere (the Early of Oxford). Gillian Boyes makes a wonderful Queen Elizabeth I – though I am not sure that her handbag was historically accurate! Felicity Cozens took the various sides of Anne Hathaway (grumbling wife, sorry wife, unhappy wife, harlot!) in her stride. Susannah Donovan is great as Geoffrey Dunderbread – a man playing a women.

Worth going – if you have time bone up on your Shakespeare before you go!

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Steel Ballerina

September 19, 2009 at 11:29 pm | Posted in Play Review | Leave a comment
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September 16, 2009 by Show_Hanger

I went to the opening night of Jacqueline Coats’ one act play, Steel Ballarina, the other night, at BATS Theatre. This performance played to a full house.

This play is inspired by the latter half of Dame Margot Fonteyn’s life. At the age of 42, on the verge of retirement, she establishes a dance partnership with Rudolf Nureyev – recently defected from Russia. Thus probably the dancer of his generation and the dancer of a prevous generation unite to form one of the most well known partnerships in ballet; thereby cementing Nureyev’s place in history and placing Dame Margot at the fore of another generation.

The play explores Dame Margot’s motivation for dancing another 20 years past the time when most other ballerinas normally retire. The play exposes both Fonteyn’s and Nureyev’s need to dance, and the support they gave each other as time finally caught up with Fonteyn (both with her and her husband Tito) and as AIDS caught up with Nureyev.

The play has two actors: Mel Dodge and Pagan Dorgan. One plays Fonteyn’s fictional companion and caregiver – Ana; the other plays Fonteyn the dancer. The programme does not say who is which so I will refer to them as ‘Ana’ and as ‘The Dancer’. The play is a little complicated as Ana is sometimes Fonteyn addressing the audience, and sometimes herself. Ana has most of the dialogue; sometimes conversing with apparent recordings of Nureyev. The Dancer dances – to classical or other music – whenever the playwright wishes to reinforce the mood of Fonteyn dancing.

The play begins with a rather confusing sequence which appears to be the two characters being driven to the hospital, when Fonteyn is very ill. The majority of the play is one long flashback picking up the highlights of Fonteyn’s life from the time just before she partners with Nureyev to her retirement. The play ends with Fonteyn’s death. The death scene consists of The Dancer doing a variation of the Dying Swan, complete with a shower of feathers.

I went away a little disappointed that there was not more dancing, what there was was technically adequate, but not light or soft as Dame Margot would have done it. But after consideration, I decided that it is a play, and not a dance; so what dancing there was, was adequate and sufficient to create the right mood. And besides there is only one Dame Margot, what accomplished ballet dancer would want to hold herself up for direct comparison?

All-in-all worth going to: strong story and innovative direction.

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

August 18, 2009 at 1:04 am | Posted in Play Review | Leave a comment
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August 15, 2009 by Show_Hanger

The other night I went to Toi Whakaari‘s – New Zealand Drama School – production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Previous productions that I have seen did not really hold my attention, but I was intrigued by the billing around “circus and burlesque”. so off I went.

There was an air of expectiaon in the lobby, and when we were allowed in the theatre space, there was more promise – circular seating: theatre in the round with just a hint of a circus tent.

The plot is quite convoluted: Hermia has two suitors – Lysander and Demetrius; Helena her friend has none – Demetrius having transfered his affection to Hermia; Lysander and Hermia run away, because Egeus (Hermia’s brother) favours Demetrius; in the woods Lysander and Demetrius are bewitched into loving Helena; and by the time it is all sorted out out Lysander is back with Hermia and Demetrius is back with Helena; oh, someone else is turned into a donkey; and there is a play within a play.

The directing team – Josette Bushell-Mingo and her assistant Julian Pellizzaro – are to be thoroughly congratulated. The circus and burlesque techniques fit perfectly into the story; they are not a clever contrivance that stands out. Of course fairies waft through the air on tissu. Of course mischeivous sprites are nasty clowns. Burlesque makes the lovers and attractions a little earthy, but its what happens in the darkly enchanted forrest at night! Bottom and Titanias’ attraction to each other is a physical attraction – it is not the plutonic attraction more often seen in BBC-type productions – the burlesque approach removes all doubt as to what they are really getting up to.

Deborah Pope is to congratulated for teaching the drama students circus skills and polishing them to a performance standard, and not doubt working the circus into the wider play. The drama students are to be congratulated for mastering circus techniques and employing these in the play. Particularly: the tissu performers; Moana Ete’s suspened hoop work, as Titania; Jonathan Kenyon’s juggling as Lysander; and Tola Newbery’s stilt walking and bullwhip work, as Oberon.

I was so engaged that I took in the final play-within-a-play segment, which seemed like of a teaser for Romeo and Juliet. The casting of Tom Snout, the wall, played by Esmee Myers, as a mime artist was brilliant; as was the casting of Francis Flute, Thisbe, played by Sam Wang, as a kabuki player.

Three characters really stood out: Helena (played by Chelsea Bognuda), (Nick) Bottom (played by James Tito) and Puck (played by Micheal Leota). I found Puck a little too tragic; I prefer my Pucks more on the micheivous side. Bottom was just perfect. And Helena was how I imagined she would be.

Definitely worth going to; the theatre in the round combined with the earthy circus/burlesque approach, made for a ‘as Shakespeare probably staged it’ feel. I felt like I should have thrown money at the end!!

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