Theatreview Weekly: 08/11/2012

Into the Uncanny Valley
A selection of reviews from Theatreview from the last week including: Into the Uncanny Valley, Giselle, Nuclear Family, and 13.

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A selection of reviews from Theatreview from the last week including: Into the Uncanny Valley, Giselle, Nuclear Family, and 13.

See more recent reviews at theatreview.org, the NZ Performing Arts Review & Directory.

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St James Theatre, Wellington - GISELLE: Worthy tribute to ballet supporter
- reviewed by Jennifer Shennan

Ethan Stiefel and Johan Kobborg, two stellar forces in world ballet, have combined to direct a streamlined synopsis for this classic. All the dancing serves the story tightly, so its unforgiving ending is inevitable.

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St James Theatre, Wellington - GISELLE: Lavish, wistful and awesome to watch
- reviewed by Virginia Kennard

The stage is set with a tilted back fore-drop – a feminine, pink, towering arboreal like Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree, looming its hearts-as-leaves over the audience. Gillian Murphy opens this production as Giselle, dutiful daughter with a hint of coquettishness in response to the brash pursuit by Albrecht. Her duet with Albrecht after catching the coveted bouquet at a local wedding is beautifully romantic, technically impeccable. Her zoned-out episode once she finds out Albrecht has duped her is freakier than a crazed frenzy.

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Q Theatre Loft, 305 Queen St, Auckland - NUCLEAR FAMILY: No dud
- reviewed by Matt Baker

Young writers are frequently reminded to write what they know, and Nuclear Family is a great example of why that is. There is no indication as to which degree this show, written by Venezuelan born veteran writer Desiree Gezentsvey, is autobiographical, which in turn raises the question of how much art should imitate life and where artistic license should be permitted to incorporate theatrical falsehoods to illustrate truths ...

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Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland - 13: Strong energy between actors in commendable production of ambitious play
- reviewed by Poppy Haynes

Across a discontented city, Londoners are all wracked by the same nightmare. Students protest fees hikes, a resentful granny vandalises her bank, a precocious child appals her mother with atheism and aloofness, the Tory Prime Minister considers war with Iran.

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BATS, Wellington - INTO THE UNCANNY VALLEY: Theatrically exquisite, but pointless and meaningless

- reviewed by Ewen Coleman

If ever there was a play that covers the whole gamut of theatrical experiences then Into the Uncanny Valley, the second of the STAB productions at BATS, is certainly it, although not all that successfully.

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Q Theatre Loft, 305 Queen St, Auckland - NUCLEAR FAMILY: Characters vividly drawn and extremely enjoyable

- reviewed by Stephen Austin

The immigrant experience is such fertile ground in which to plant and grow a rich piece of theatre. So many possible characters, ideas and emotions abound in the concept of leaving one’s homeland for foreign shores to start a new life. Now that New Zealand has evolved into a more multicultural society in the last 75 years or so of its existence, the voices we are starting to hear are becoming much more diversified; excitingly so.

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Playhouse, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, Hamilton - RABBIT HOLE: Touching and uplifting
- reviewed by Gail Pittaway

David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer Prize winning play brilliantly depicts a family group still in a state of crisis well after the traumatic events of the loss of a loved one.

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Playhouse, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, Hamilton - RABBIT HOLE: Engaging exploration of humanity
- reviewed by Ross MacLeod

There’s an old apocryphal tale that earnest Hemmingway was once challenged to write a short story in six words, a challenge to which he rose to great effect. I was reminded of this story for several reasons when thinking about Rabbit Hole. The sharply crafted script loads its characters with intent and emotion; truths hinted at and words unsaid resonating every bit as strongly as those that do.

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BATS, Wellington - INTO THE UNCANNY VALLEY: Science joins theatre
- reviewed by Lynn Freeman

The opening few minutes of this fusion of physics and theatre take your breath away – it’s a lighting and sound sensation that promises something remarkable. The STAB shows are all about exploring new technology (tick), boundary pushing (tick), experimentation (tick), and producing an unforgettable night at the theatre (tick).

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Various venues - on tour, - HOME: Perfectly pitched
- reviewed by Garth Wilshere

Home resonates for local audiences, it’s woven from diary entries, letters and songs, the story of Scottish immigrants culminating in the period of WW I.

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Basement Studio, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland - LIKE SMOKE IN HERE AND NORMA STRONG: Absurd choices

- reviewed by James Wenley

The Basement’s upstairs Studio space has really proven itself this year as an accessible venue where curious audiences can seek out work from left field. This week two new works Like Smoke in Here by Ben Anderson, and Norma Strong by Elyse Brock, are featured together as an ‘absurdist double bill’.

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Downstage Theatre, Wellington - PAPER SKY: A LOVE STORY: Puppetry and illusion
- reviewed by Lynn Freeman

Red Leap Theatre’s production of The Arrival remains one of the most memorable, remarkable, technically complex and beautiful productions this country has seen. It was epic, filling the Opera House stage. Paper Sky is a very intimate piece, best seen up close and personal.

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Basement Studio, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland - LIKE SMOKE IN HERE AND NORMA STRONG: A nihilist’s wet dream and beef on a fluffy hook

- reviewed by Reynald Castaneda

Welcome to a world where hysterical women inhabit the kitchen.

Now showing at the Basement until this Saturday, November 10, Like Smoke in Here and Norma Strong successfully navigates through two kitchens, one tested by slowly burning fire, the other by an invisible mistress. Absurd? Yes. Silly? No.

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Q, 305 Queen St, Auckland - LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS: Triffically Entertaining
- reviewed by Matt Baker

Anyone who has an appreciation of ‘60s doo-wop or classic musical theatre will be entertained by ATC’s production of Little Shop of Horrors, because it is the musical talent that not only carries this show, but gives it some emotional depth and journey. While the entire creative team jointly recognises and illustrates their influences and intentions both in the programme and on stage, the clearest, strongest, and most unique creative voice comes from musical director Jason Te Mete.

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BATS, Wellington - INTO THE UNCANNY VALLEY: Highly original and technically strong
- reviewed by Helen Sims

The second STAB production at Bats of 2012, Into the Uncanny Valley, promises to take its audience on a “theatrical adventure ... into the enchanting truth hidden within every particle of existence”. After a visually blinding but delightful opening, during which the audience is showered with small ‘particles’ (tiny bubbles), we follow a Victorian child called Sophie as she applies her imaginative powers to try and understand quantum physics.

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Various venues - on tour, - HOME: Songs shine in delightful tracing of the Scottish thread in our settler heritage
- reviewed by Michael Gilchrist

Maggie (Rowena Simpson) and Johnnie (Stuart Coats) are two Scottish immigrants to New Zealand, who meet and marry just before the First World War. Home tells their story in admirably economical fashion, showing how important traditional and popular songs of the period were in mediating the changes in their lives: from Scotland to New Zealand, in romance and in the trials of battle.

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Concert Chamber - Town Hall, THE EDGE, Auckland - BREL: Big performances in updated emotive story songs
- reviewed by Janet McAllister

Post-war songwriter Jacques Brel – an inspiration for the likes of Leonard Cohen and David Bowie – wrote punchy, intense stories-in-melody which are well-suited to a theatrical presentation such as this. His lyrics range from sentimental to harsh, and Silo Theatre has created an engaging showcase of 22 songs, emphasising Brel's tug on the heartstrings.

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Circa Two, Wellington - THE TIGERS OF WRATH: Play charts shifts in NZ society

- reviewed by Ewen Coleman

The title of the new show opening in Circa Two, The Tigers Of Wrath, along with the publicity posters convey a play with a Chinese flavour. But don’t be deceived. Although the politics of China play an integral part, especially at the beginning, and they do influence the lives of the three main characters, this is very much a NZ play, about New Zealanders and New Zealand politics.

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Q, 305 Queen St, Auckland - LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS: Flower power with a dark edge

- reviewed by Paul Simei-Barton

Auckland Theatre Company has struck exactly the right mix of comic book irony and raw energy in their stylish updating of Little Shop of Horrors.

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Downstage Theatre, Wellington - PAPER SKY: A LOVE STORY: Creative storytelling a delight

- reviewed by Ewen Coleman

Although a much more intimate and less substantial work then The Arrival, this production nevertheless still shows all the creative genius and flare of Red Leap founders and artistic directors Julie Nolan and Kate Parker seen in their previous productions.

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Centrepoint, Palmerston North - THE MOTOR CAMP: Clever psychology within high entertainment
- reviewed by John Ross

Clearly it’s a show for the not-easily-shocked, who are ready to laugh at boundary-violations, within a milieu where it is already shamingly uncool for a fifteen-year-old girl to be exposed as a virgin. And the play is indeed often laugh-out-loud funny, yet also has passages with serious bite.

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Q, 305 Queen St, Auckland - LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS: Full potential yet to explode
- reviewed by Nik Smythe

Mounting a production of such a beloved cult classic musical is a double-edged sword it seems. A good amount of the promotional work has already been done, and a proportion of any given audience will already be primed to hum/sing/toe-tap along with the cast in the tested-and-approved musical numbers, and to chuckle or laugh out loud with the ingenious script.

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Circa Two, Wellington - THE TIGERS OF WRATH: A twisted strand in our socio-political DNA
- reviewed by John Smythe

Only in New Zealand … Anywhere else a playwright aiming to trace the history of left-wing idealism over 35 years would contemplate a fairly large cast. Most New Zealand playwrights would work it so that the necessarily small cast could play multiple roles. But in his ironically titled The Tigers of Wrath Dean Parker does it superbly with four characters; four actors playing one character each – in 1974, 1993 and 2009.

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Downstage Theatre, Wellington - PAPER SKY: A LOVE STORY: A magical treasure
- reviewed by John Smythe

The typewriter sets the scene at some decades ago. He’s snappily dressed for a writer who works at home, in a headspace awash with white paper.

Because so much of the pleasure of Paper Sky arises from watching it all unfold, from interpreting the reality of his story and his stories as they all play out, to say much more may constitute a spoiler. But I want to capture its essence for the historical record.

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Concert Chamber - Town Hall, THE EDGE, Auckland - BREL: Bold, loud, emotionally raw
- reviewed by Vanessa Byrnes

Jacques Brel, that Belgian song master of dynamic lyrics coupled with rough melodies who’s been covered by so many over the years, is now brought powerfully to life with verve and glamour by this excellent team. This is slick and emotional, rough and polished, wild and tame.

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St James Theatre, Wellington - LES BALLETS TROCKADERO DE MONTE CARLO: A madcap evening of entertainment
- reviewed by Sam Trubridge

The dance is also really good. It is not just a prop for the comedy – these men all move with amazing control and grace through movements usually designed for the female body. It is amazing to see the lineup of such irregular body shapes, sizes, and colours all moving in unison to Ludwig Minkus or Tchaikovsky, when we are so used to seeing the homogenous lines of bodies selected for their similarity by various ‘straight’ ballet companies. It is quite moving to see such a disparate collection of bodies in motion together with such precision and control. This is particularly noticeable in the final piece of the evening – Paquita, after choreography by Petipa – where lines of dancers move in unison or cannonade to Minkus’ tinkling score.

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See more recent reviews at theatreview.org.nz, the NZ Performing Arts Review & Directory

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Written by

Theatreview

8 Nov 2012

Interests Theatreview is the New Zealand Performing Arts Review & Directory.

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