Theatreview Weekly: 21/02/2013

Ella and Will
A selection of reviews from Theatreview from the last week including: Ella and Will, Bus Stop, and Trouser-Wearing Characters.

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A selection of reviews from Theatreview from the last week including: Ella and Will, Bus Stop, Jealousy and Greed – The Story of Alistair Macbeth, and Trouser-Wearing Characters.

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

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A selection of reviews from Theatreview from the last week including: Ella and Will, Bus Stop, Jealousy and Greed – The Story of Alistair Macbeth, and Trouser-Wearing Characters.

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

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TAPAC Theatre, Western Springs, Auckland - BUS STOP: Courageous look at a complex issue
- reviewed by Lexie Matheson

Zac has hanged himself from a tree in the garden of his home. He was young, had friends, was seemingly popular so it’s all a bit of a mystery as to why he would do such a thing.

It seems everyone has an investment in Zac’s death and so the myth-making begins.

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Whitireia Performance Centre, 25-27 Vivian Street, Wellington - ELLA AND WILL: A gothic fairtyale with no real heart of darkness
- reviewed by Ann Hunt

The director, producer, choreographer/set designer, Anita Hutchins, and the Oncunscious Corps (yes, it is spelt that way) have created an overlong show (opening night ran at two minutes under two hours, almost an hour longer than the printed programme) which lacks pace, cohesion and clarity.

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BATS - Out Of Site - Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington - HOME / THE HILARIOUS COMEDY ABOUT HOW I NEARLY KILLED MYSELF / A PLAY ABOUT HOW I NEARLY DIED BUT DIDN'T THEN LEARNED A LOT ABOUT LIFE AFTERWARD: Brave generosity produces unique comedy
- reviewed by John Smythe

“Comedy is truth and pain” according to veteran US sitcom scriptwriter Jon Vorhaus (The Comic Toolbox). This explains how Freya Desmarais’ extraordinarily insightful play, masquerading as a casual chat about how she nearly killed herself but didn’t, comes to be so funny.

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Whitireia Performance Centre, 25-27 Vivian Street, Wellington - ELLA AND WILL: Enormous potential and uniqueness
- reviewed by Lyne Pringle

There is a strong moment when Anita Hutchins joins the group to perform a movement pattern with a repeated chant about Love, delivered to the four directions of the compass. Starting West with their backs to u,s I am intrigued as the earthy movement conjures a deeper realm of ancient ritual where ‘things are not as they seem’. Their long black cloaks become more powerful, and I stop thinking of “eyes wide shut, Potteresque” connotations and become immersed in a story that is essentially about love and wise choices.

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Whitireia Performance Centre, 25-27 Vivian Street, Wellington - JEALOUSY AND GREED – THE STORY OF ALISTAIR MACBETH: Corroded classic
- reviewed by Caoilinn Hughes

Ultimately, trying to get across any kind of emotional authenticity, relate-ability, complexity of character or narrative arc when each scene change is longer than each scene is an impossible feat.

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Lakeside Court, Hamilton Gardens, Hamilton - SEE?: Unclear out of context
- reviewed by Brenda Rae Kidd

See? Unfortunately I didn’t. I thought this play was about a murderer having to atone to God for his sins.

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Fringe Bar, Cnr Cuba & Vivian, Wellington - TROUSER-WEARING CHARACTERS: Celebrating iconic cross-dressers
- reviewed by Lori Leigh

Aptly titled Trouser-Wearing Characters, Collis conveys the stories of four real-life ‘trouser-wearing characters’; famous twentieth-century figures who have either literally or metaphorically ‘worn the pants’: Nancy Spain, Valerie Arkell-Smith (aka Colonel Sir Victor Barker), Douglas Byng, and Coral Browne.

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Whammy Bar, St Kevin’s Arcade, K' Road, Auckland - MATTHEW HARVEY IS... DANGERMAN!: Conquering the world, one funny poem at a time
- reviewed by Gus Simonovic

They say “observation is the mother of imagination” - and Matthew Harvey is a very good observer. Very very good! If you want to test yourself, try writing a poem about someone pushing the pedestrian traffic-light button, after you have already pushed it; and delivering that poem in front of the audience – with passion and fury.

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The Basement, Auckland - AN UNFORTUNATE WILLINGNESS TO AGREE: A desire for something much more human and honest
- reviewed by Jenny Stevenson

Dancer-collaborators Oliver Connew, Zara Killeen-Chance and Gareth Okan use their highly-trained bodies not to present a bravura display of dance, but as a conduit for energy and its transmission between themselves - through a spare vocabulary of movement. Connew sets out to call into question society’s passive acquiescence and the all-embracing world of technology that can let people stand back and not get involved in, what should by rights, deeply affect them.

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Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland - TIM DIBLEY. MASTERCLASS.: Pretentious world of the screen arts lampooned
- reviewed by Nik Smythe

From the first his pseudo-effete voice of consummate experience has the star-studded opening night crowd howling with recognition at his industry lingo and passing snide references to various local practitioners, present or otherwise.

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Hamilton Gardens Lakeside Stage, Hamilton - BIRDS OF PARADISE (2013): Faaabulous birdlesque comedy
- reviewed by Brenda Rae Kidd

Staged outdoors for the very first time, the surrounding vista of lake, willowy trees, reeds and starlight night are so much part of the appeal. It is hard to imagine that Birds of Paradise were not designed for such. A dizzying array of costumes, so breathtakingly beautiful and strikingly reminiscent of our feathered friends, are molded to the dancers lithe bodies as they glide strut and peck across the stage. The musical accompaniment is evocative and thoughtfully arranged by New Zealand musician and composer Sean James Donnelly (SJD) and peppered with gems from Gold Frapp, Bonobo and Sola Rosa. Well-known New Zealand songstress Caitlin Smith’s voice is in fine fettle as she opens the evening with birdsong. The dancers are all accomplished artists in their own right and this shows in their athleticism and poise on what is actually a very small stage.

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Medici Court, Hamilton Gardens, Hamilton - SNOW WHITE AND THE PIRATES: Fun family entertainment
- reviewed by Gail Pittaway

It is a classic family show full of jokes for people of all ages and while it milks the cross-story, cross-gender staples of panto style, it has a fresh script and a few witty jabs at contemporary Waikato life.

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THE EDGE Box Café, Auckland - THE ENIGMA BOX: Intimate five course menu
- reviewed by Reynald Castaneda

The Enigma Box is a fun house curiosity, a time machine and a confessional, all conveniently condensed in a tiny box that can only fit two audience members and an actor in the middle Aotea Square. Talk about unusual.

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Thistle Hall, Wellington - FOR YOUR FUTURE GUIDANCE: Elicits an exceptional range of emotional responses
- reviewed by James McKinnon

Binge Culture’s artists have a formidable repertory of tactics for making their audience feel at ease while simultaneously taking them out of the comfort zone of conventional theatre and into more exciting places. It’s worth asking: how do they do it?

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Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland - ELEVATOR: Strong roles for women
- reviewed by Heidi North-Bailey

It’s a tough concept to pull off: three characters confined to a physical space the size of an elevator, in a theatre with seating on three sides. What this means in practice is not much room for physicality and a lot of blocking.

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Q, The Vault, Auckland - SISTERLY LOVE: Could be a simmering firecracker
- reviewed by Kathryn van Beek

The play is set on the day of Charlene’s wedding. She, each of her three sisters and their mother all have an opinion on the day and whether or not Charlene deserves to wear the family’s lucky white wedding dress.

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Gryphon, Wellington - RAGEFACE: Cyberspace v the real world
- reviewed by John Smythe

Playwright / director Adam Goodall’s programme note reveals it was his bruising experiences on the ‘Something Awful’ internet forums that inspired Rageface, but he has had the sense to tie that in to a simple, if prosaic, narrative structure that compares and contrasts the virtual with the real, thus enriching our perception of both.

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Meow, Edward St CBD, Wellington - ADAM PAGE: Creative musical puppeteer
- reviewed by Lucy O'Connor

Going in to Adam Page I had no idea what to expect. One man, one looper, a menagerie of instruments and a beard to rival Rasputin.

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Musgrove Studio, Maidment Theatre, Auckland - HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS AND STILL APPEAR NORMAL (2013): Poignant... and a bit tongue in cheek
- reviewed by Briar Wilson

The next dance scene is stunning. The three, in a line running back from the front of the stage, in pale flesh coloured pants and bra, move with slow caressing fluidity, now to more serious music, in unison, but as if each is in her private world.

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Gryphon, Wellington - SPIDER DANCE: A feminine tempest of divine creativity
- reviewed by Nancy Catherine Fulford

The three actors’ dexterity at working with male and female roles and making them completely wacked and believable is legendary. And they do it as a balanced trio. They are all quirk-stars; ask anyone in the audience. The man in front of me was in hysterics.

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Ponsonby Baptist Church, 43 Jervois Road, Auckland - THE UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE: Bold attempt lacks cohesion
- reviewed by Norelle Scott

The play attempts to address big ideas – which, at times, are conveyed by ostentatious and thinly motivated dialogue – while presenting a plot that strains credibility. It attempts to grapple with the ‘big questions’ of existence, bringing together science and religion.

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Underworld – 152 Vivian St, Wellington - DAYS OF THE BOLD AND THE RESTLESS: Unexpected revelations vomited out in scandalous increments
- reviewed by Lucy O'Connor

“We’re ordinary people living ordinary lives/
We’re lying to our husbands and cheating on our wives ...”

All right, I’m in. Who can resist a bit of scandal to spice up your own life and – let’s face it – make us feel a tad less troubled.

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FAHS Theatre: Feilding High School, Feilding - HE REO AROHA: Dexterity, intelligence, warmth, passion, humour, and a fine musicality
- reviewed by Richard Mays

Promising when it was first performed as a workshop production in Centrepoint Theatre’s The Dark Room back in 2008, He Reo Aroha (The Words or Language of Love) has certainly matured.

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BATS - Out Of Site - Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington - FATU NA TOTO - PLANTED SEEDS: Harnessing the old and the new to enlarge the world
- reviewed by Jennifer Shennan

Male and female contrasts alternate through the experiences depicted in dance, each twinned with a song, and interspersed with narrative in Samoan. Such power and such grace. Sasa and fa’a taupati, siva and taualuga … hese forces are complimentary, not in opposition. The occasional aiuli, clumsy clown, only elevates them in the contrast.

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Pioneer Womens' Hall, Cnr High St & Freyberg Pl, Auckland - TALK:
- reviewed by Melissa Fergusson

I have never been to The Pioneer Women’s Hall before, so I was looking forward to checking out the space and watching the screening of this ‘portmanteau’ film by a collection of young film makers, headed up by duo Christopher Stratton and Ruby Reihana-Wilson.

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Uxbridge Centre, 35 Uxbridge Road, Howick, Auckland - GOD OF CARNAGE: Biting satire reflects us all
- reviewed by Adey Ramsel

The four adults, brought together to discuss their sons’ argument and subsequent fight, represent us in various degrees of hostility, repentance, shame, anger and fairness. They are Everyparent. Each character goes from A to Z, from reactive to proactive, in their attempt to fight for their child, husband/wife, and way of life.

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Hashigo Zake, 25 Taranaki St, Wellington - WE BUILT THIS CITY…: Skilled charmers’ slapdash show
- reviewed by James McKinnon

We Built This City… does not fit neatly into any recognized category of live performance: it’s not a play, it’s not a concert, it’s not a comedy show. It is essentially a sing-along with a flimsy plot.

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Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland - THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES: Universal themes localised
- reviewed by Shirin Brown

Mokomedia’s production of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues embodying a Maori women’s perspective, directed by Maria Walker, has me intrigued.

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Whammy Bar, St Kevin’s Arcade, K' Road, Auckland - HORSES AND OTHER FARM ANIMALS: Contemporary Pacific performance extravaganza at its best
- reviewed by Gus Simonovic

The packed-out Whammy bar is a great venue choice for an uber-urban farm, stage dressed-up for the occasion in plastic, hard plastic and soft rubber. The performers and their special guests are – yes, yes, you guessed it – dressed in plastic bags and rubber gloves.

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Botanical Gardens: The Dell, Wellington - ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA: Bard back in the Dell
- reviewed by Laurie Atkinson

Summer Shakespeare is back where it belongs: in the Dell. To celebrate its 30th anniversary it is presenting for the first time in Wellington since 1970, Antony and Cleopatra, which was then played in period costume unlike the current production which is in contemporary dress.

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Court Theatre, Bernard Street, Addington, Christchurch - BATTLE OF THE BASTARDS: Intelligent, raucously funny, rich, varied and grisly
- reviewed by Erin Harrington

The show is as much a lesson in Shakespearean language and character as it is a comic exploration of this fairly grisly and brutal storyline. Ladderman steps the audience through the story, the language and the characters’ motivations in a manner that illuminates the play’s broader themes, while leaving time for some goofy stage fighting, well-placed audience participation and a touch of eye gouging.

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Downstage Theatre, Wellington - AFFINITY: Profoundly insightful; deserves a long life
- reviewed by John Smythe

Once more playwright/director Sarah Delahunty and her 1st Gear Productions team have created a gem that draws on classics – contemporary this time – to throw far-reaching light on, and into, the ‘adolescence on the cusp of adulthood’ experience.

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S and M’s cocktail and lounge bar, 176 Cuba St, Wellington - THE PENIS MONOLOGUES: Despite its length I don’t feel much at all
- reviewed by John Smythe

Standing, sitting on either of a couple of stools, or interfacing with an electric keyboard, he recounts a selection of the penis-related missives he received after he’d “sent out a call to blokes asking them to write original works based on their experiences, stories and relationship with their penis.”

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BATS - Out Of Site - Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington - A PLAY ABOUT SPACE: Hugely inventive
- reviewed by Helen Sims

The cast looked amped to perform the show on opening night and their energy levels were outstanding. Each of the three actors (Hannah Banks, Paul Waggott and Alex Greig) play one of the main characters the story revolves around, as well as a host of minor characters.

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Medici Court, Hamilton Gardens, Hamilton - BOOOM!: Fraudsters and fools in financial scams
- reviewed by Mark Houlahan

It’s a very simple premise, and allows the invention of outrageous versions of 1980s types. There’s a sad widow, desperate to contact her husband on the other side. A fake gypsy accent is enough to convince her she is dealing with a real medium. There’s a desperate actress and her stupid, angry rich brother. All their cash is swallowed up.

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Meow, Edward St CBD, Wellington - TRUBIE AND ABBY ARE JUST A BIT WORRIED: Wiz kids at improv
- reviewed by Nancy Catherine Fulford

Trubie and Abby look seriously worried in their Fringe Festival caption photo. They shouldn’t be. They’ are top-notch problem solvers with a plethora of inane solutions that are such a hoot, chances are all problems will soon be forgotten.

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Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland - BLACK FAGGOT: BLACK FAGGOT
- reviewed by Naomi Cohen

Iaheto Ah Hi and Beulah Koale bring an incredible energy to the stage as they move seamlessly between each character and their story. There is great joy when you recognize a character who appeared earlier on in the show and an excited anticipation as you wonder what intimate detail will they share next.

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Civic Square, Wellington - THE SAUSAGE CIRCUS SOUNDSYSTEM: Bubble pops too early
- reviewed by Nancy Catherine Fulford

The Sausage Circus Soundsystem is beautiful in an edgy, sexy way. It invites musically backed fantasies of old fashioned debauchery with corsets, pipe organs and late night fun. Perhaps it is inevitable that things of this nature leave you wanting. In this case I really do think they could have ‘put out’ a bit more. There was such promise.

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ARTWORKS, 2 Korora Rd, Oneroa, Waiheke Island - INSOMNIA IN A DAYDREAM: Poetry for the senses
- reviewed by Charlotte Everett

Insomnia in a Daydream explores a common and serious problem for a lot of people: the inability to sleep. It's a bold piece which pushes the boundaries between sleep and awakeness; reality and illusion. Siri Embla and Gus Simonovic take us on a surreal journey of the senses, asking us to question what makes us real, and indeed what is really real.

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Barbarian Art Hut at diverse public locations, Wellington - WIG WAM JAM: Jump aboard the Freedom Train
- reviewed by Nancy Catherine Fulford

There you are strolling through civic square on your lunch break, lamenting never running off to the circus nor being picked up by Hollywood, and presto – you’re stepping out from behind the curtain playing Superman, or Queen Elizabeth, or Babe, with a perfect balance of comedy and pathos.

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Court Theatre, Bernard Street, Addington, Christchurch - AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY: Adversarial revelations
- reviewed by Lindsay Clark

The play builds steadily, as raw emotions are unleashed to several scenes of shocking intensity. Never short of crisp one liners, each scene contributes to the overall jigsaw, layering character and implication in a neat progression. What at first sight seems a vast set (from the meticulous design of Mark McEntyre) resonates with 'adversarial' revelations.

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Christchurch Botanic Gardens, behind the children’s playground, Christchurch - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS: Panto treatment of woodland classic
- reviewed by Elizabeth O’Connor

Adapted famously by Alan Bennett from the 1908 children’s classic by Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows can seldom have been staged in a more sublimely apt location than this curving riverside niche in the Botanic Gardens.

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Wellington Waterfront, in front of Circa Theatre, Wellington - THE WHALES: A remarkable happening
- reviewed by John Smythe

And suddenly: she’s beached, bro! Stranded on the tarmac between Te Papa and the harbour. And people in hi viz vests are asking passers by – and those in the know who have come prepared with buckets, spray bottles and towels – to fetch water and keep her wet …

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Bike Barn; 246 Wakefield Street (start) the Southern Cross, 35 Abel Smith St (end), Wellington - WHEELS OF JUSTICE: Despite the fuzz Cops on Bikes win through
- reviewed by Hannah Smith

Wheels of Justice is a great concept for a show, and just the sort of thing that Fringe is all about.

The audience are endowed as well meaning citizens who have come along for a ‘ride-a-long’ with Wellington’s new initiative ‘Cops on Bikes’. Leaving from our meet point outside the Bike Barn we are split into three groups and embark on a murder investigation – by cycle.

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Botanical Gardens: The Dell, Wellington - ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA: Astutely orchestrated and dynamically paced with visceral eloquence
- reviewed by John Smythe

One may also quip, then, that the compulsive lovers fiddle with each other’s emotions while Rome’s hitherto failing fortunes are rekindled by Octavius Caesar. But “fiddle” doesn’t cut it. We’re dealing with profound passions here.

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Chinoiserie Garden, Hamilton Gardens, Hamilton - EARNEST!: Funny, sexy and smart in full Victorian drag
- reviewed by Mark Houlahan

Body in Space promised a seriously silly version of Wilde’s famous farce, which remains the funniest play ever written in English, and they deliver in spades. Originally developed for the Nelson Arts Festival, the production has crossed Cook Strait and is a terrific addition to this year’s Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival.

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Mangere Arts Centre, Auckland - THE YOUNG AND THE RECKLESS: Three hilarious and touching solos
- reviewed by Phillip J Dexter

The Young and the Reckless is an excellent collection of self-penned, one person shows celebrating the next generation of emerging acting and writing talent from the Pacific arts quarter. LIMA Productions, under the direction of Olivia Taoma, present three hilarious and touching stories, each presenting a predicament from the protagonist’s point of view.

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Switch Bar, Upstairs, 309 K Road, Auckland - SALON MIKA: Life, love, lust, loss, longing and leaving in Mika's finest work yet
- reviewed by Jan Maree

It's a heady a mixture of dance, burlesque, spoken word and song. And it is a big show: big in themes and big in size.

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Circa Two, Wellington - MINKSIE AND RON EXPLORE THE GAP: Elusive search offer laughs on the way
- reviewed by Phoebe Smith

Vanessi and Rutherford bring out various props, including miniature chairs, making them seem child-like again, as they ask each other questions about big ideas and play games within the space. But what is the space? It feels almost like a purgatory, or a waiting room. But what are they waiting for? Godot springs to mind.

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Gryphon, Wellington - THE GREEN ROOM: Lots of potential in the format
- reviewed by Hannah Smith

The Green Room is improv for improvisers. The format is dizzyingly meta: improvisers improvising improvisers in an improv competition. We see the scenes performed as part of the show, and also scenes set behind-the-scenes, behind closed doors, in the green room.

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Nenek’s Kitchen, 37 Mt Eden Road,, Auckland - AI: A series of vignettes with great potential
- reviewed by Glen Pickering

Ai is your typical childhood friends, love story: teenage boy professes love; girl only sees him as a friend; boy disappears from her life; girl meets another boy who turns out to be a jerk; adult boy and girl meet up again; girl realises boy is actually the one; they fall in love ...

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TAPAC Theatre, Western Springs, Auckland - TROUSER-WEARING CHARACTERS: Engaging, entertaining and personal
- reviewed by Charlotte Everett

Acclaimed British performer and alternative historian Rose Collis’s Australasian premiere of her one-woman show Trouser-Wearing Characters has been highly anticipated, and as she walks out onto the stage at TAPAC, the roar of approval and applause from the audience makes it clear that she is in the company of people who are both familiar with and extremely fond of her work.

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Aotea Centre at THE EDGE®, Auckland - THE WAILING CHAMBER: A highly-alternative unique experience entirely reliant on public participation
- reviewed by Charlotte Everett

Like any spiritual missionary (of sorts) I suppose it’s unsurprising that the majority of people approached quickly reject the Mourners’ offer to be released from their grief. When a Mourner approaches me, I make the decision to embrace the opportunity, and when instructed to do so, write down my grief on the piece of paper given to me, fold it, and place it through a slot at the back of the Wailing Chamber.

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Gryphon, Wellington - SECRETS: Real depths of emotion mined
- reviewed by Helen Sims

Director Bobbi Block introduces Secrets as “spontaneous, reality based, serio-comic theatre”. Although this is a bit of mouthful, the show does deliver on all of these components.

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Parnell Baths, Judges Bay Road, Auckland - SWAN SONG: Swan Swimming Pool
- reviewed by James Wenley

The Wet Hot Beauties run a water-tight operation. In groups of 15 the audience is ushered to take their seats pool side to watch (as well as receive the odd splash of water) the company’s latest unique contemporary spin on the Water Ballet genre for Auckland Fringe: Swan Song. While we wait, the Parnell Baths are filled by the incredible 65-strong cast who create a series of tableaus and pageantry ...

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Q Theatre Loft, 305 Queen St, Auckland - VIVACIOUS VAUDEVILLE: Rough round the edges but a good time had
- reviewed by Nik Smythe

As we convene in the dark, spacious Q loft, 50s rock ‘n roll house music on the PA and an as yet unmanned band rig upstage left, there’s an appropriate sense of anticipation and curiosity.

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Gryphon, Wellington - MY BEAUTIFUL DISASTER: A very unnatural disaster
- reviewed by Caoilinn Hughes

Authenticity, relateability and sincerity are key, even if there is no positive outcome or catharsis allowed. Accurately representing the condition is crucial, if the goal of the performance is to ask (as the play in question literally asks): “Can you understand? Have you ever felt this way?”

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BATS - Out Of Site - Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington - THE ROAD THAT WASNT THERE: Road trip show cleverly brought to life
- reviewed by Ewen Coleman

The new BATS Theatre venue is really humming with the start of the Fringe Festival and their early evening show, The Road That Wasn’t There by Ralph McCubbin Howell is a real stunner.

Highly original in concept and presentation, it uses many forms of theatrical conventions to tell its simple but very engaging story.

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BATS - Out Of Site - Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington - PANIC!: Funny, lovely and sweet with potential
- reviewed by Hannah Smith

Double act Jeremy Rolston and Kade Nightingale have the late night comedy slot at the BATS Out of Site venue (corner of Cuba and Dixon streets). Don’t be misled by the ‘late night’ handle though, PANIC! is not risqué in the slightest, it is a one hour variety show from two very engaging and likeable performers.

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

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Theatreview

21 Feb 2013

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