cyphomandra: (balcony)
Performed on alternating nights, both one-man plays; definitely a triumph of stamina (for the actor – they were both about 100 minutes long). I liked them both but for me Shylock had the edge.

Shylock is, obviously, about the character in the Merchant of Venice, but the character Masterson plays is Tubal (or the actor playing Tubal), a wealthy merchant friend of Shylock’s and the only other Jewish character in Shakespeare’s plays, with a whole 8 lines. The piece – set against a backdrop of fraying banners with the word “Jew” written on them in various languages – is a history and a performance of The Merchant of Venice; we skip through the play from one scene with Shylock (and Tubal) to another, and digress frequently. It covers Jews in fiction and history from Pontius Pilate to the 1190 Jewish Massacre in York, to the Venetian ghettos and the shadow it casts forward into the Holocaust. In addition, we touch on Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta, the Italian source for the Merchant, the various actors who played Shylock and how they evolved the part, and up to tday. There are a lot of great moments and when we end up at the court scene with Shylock’s greatest speech and his total defeat it’s magnificent, and very disturbing. I would definitely see this again.

Under Milk Wood – I saw this years back at the Basement staged as a 1950s radio play, the actors stepping up to the mikes in turn, a Foley artist off to the side; an excellent production. This one-man version is enthusiastic, polished (I think he’s done over 2000 performances) and still affecting, but I am not sure making it a one-man performance improves it as a piece, even while it does showcase Masterson’s impressive acting abilities. He also lost me a bit with some of the female characters, especially the younger girls (all coy falsetto), but he does Polly Garter, looked down on by the town for her multiple children by multiple men, very well – she and Captain Cat (signified by him putting on a pair of sunglasses) get the best bits, really.
cyphomandra: (balcony)
This is the opening production at the new Waterfront Theatre, Auckland Theatre Company’s purpose-built venue, and it is indeed very nice; spacious, comfortable, excellent acoustics and a fantastic stage. It also had surprisingly cheap parking, but I’m not sure how long that will last.

Anyway. This is the musical of the film about a miner’s son in NE England who discovers his talent for dance against the background of the 1984/5 miners’ strike; the book and lyrics are written by the film’s scriptwriter, the music by Elton John. It was enthusiastic and enjoyable, and the performances (many of which are by children) are all solid, although the accents are a bit wobbly; however, I still end up with some of the same misgivings I had when seeing the movie, and maybe a few more.

More discussion, spoilers. )
I did like the songs, and the performances, and I’d recommend it with caveats (not least of which being that it’s three hours long!). In contrast with other similar movies (at least one also turned musical) about artistic efforts in depressed British small towns with failing industries - The Full Monty and Brassed Off, though, I think it loses something by focussing solely on the individual, however talented.
cyphomandra: (balcony)
"Women are just men with less money."

Astrid Wentworth is a successful city broker and the only female broker in her firm. She takes on a trainee, Priya, and coaches her in how to succeed, mainly by telling her how terrible the firm and everyone there is, herself not excepted, with a lot of rapid-fire profanity. In her spare time she hires a female prostitute, possibly to befriend her, and fails to notice events moving to their inevitable conclusion. There's a frame narrative with her drinking alone at a bar, so things are obviously not going to end well, and cabaret songs, and all the actors are women, either as women or playing men, which mainly means bad behaviour and peeing standing up, and as is possibly apparent, the performances were strong but the play really didn't work for me. I spent the last twenty minutes or so thinking wistfully about Caryl Churchill's Top Girls instead, which despite being over 30 years older is far more revolutionary.

Spoilers for both plays. ) This was the last one of my season pass plays, and the one I was least sure about - it was either this or a surrealist play with an elk. I will have to check out the reviews to see how that one plays out...
cyphomandra: (balcony)
Everyone here is sick, grumpy and unpredictable, so reheating dinner and eating half of it has taken me an hour and a half so far. So this is brief:

That Bloody Woman is an enthusiastic and entertaining punk rock musical about Kate Sheppard, the suffragette who got women the vote in New Zealand in 1893; it celebrates her while it looks at how far things have come - and how far they still have to go.

The songs are great. The staging is rock concert with a platform out into the audience, which worked well (there's a fair bit of interaction - I had a backing guy grinding enthusiastically next to me during one song), and the costumes were brilliant - Kate (Esther Stephens, excellent) goes from Victorian to punk, all in white, throughout the play, while her antagonist, the then Prime Minister Richard Seddon who rejoices in the historically accurate nickname King Dick is, um, dressed appropriately.

Kate is on the NZ $10 note, and a few reviews have mentioned Hamilton (one of the creators says it was actually the earlier musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jacksonthat sparked the idea; it's not as musically clever, although it has its moments (the opening title number manages to rhyme "man-hating menstruator" with "shit-stirring agitator"), but it is good. And they are currently fundraising for a soundtrack recording, with three days to go. The website is not the most helpful, but I believe all donors will get a copy.

I mentioned how far things had to go. Kate's temperance work is linked to an attempt to reduce domestic violence, still all too prevalent, and while she gets the audience to agree to the principles of feminism, it's obvious that she knows that what you do matters more than what you say. Which is why the scene in which the bill is finally passed (on its third attempt) works so well; banners tumble down from the ceiling, showing the signatures that signed her petition, and showing who was prepared to follow her into action.
cyphomandra: fractured brooding landscape (Default)
This is the story of Medea's children - two, in this version, Leon and Jasper (Aedan Burmester, aged 12, and Quinn Bevan, 10 - there are two other children playing the parts on alternate nights). They have been shut in their (modern) bedroom while Jason and Medea argue; Medea comes to visit them several times throughout the evening, as events proceed and the final tragedy approaches.

The child actors were incredibly good. I've seen excellent child actors in film, but I haven't seen a play with such major parts for children - they are on stage for the whole 70 minutes. I thought Quinn was particularly good - there's a bit where he's been describing all the fun he's going to have in the mansion where he'll be living with his father and his new wife, and then he says to his mother that obviously she'll be invited over for dinner every night, so he can sit next to her. It was touchingly believable and heart-breaking.

Spoilers for 2500 year-old play. )
cyphomandra: boats in Auckland Harbour. Blue, blocky, cheerful (boats)
This is Albert Belz’s play for Te Rēhia Theatre company - the other play of his I’ve seen was Awhi Tapu, which was much more along the expected Māori playwright line (small forestry town, economy dying, young people running out of options make bad choices) whereas this is cheerfully Victorian gothic melodrama and is all about Jack the Ripper. The Ripper parts of this are basically Alan Moore’s From Hell with less architecture and, sadly, no Inspector Abberline – heir presumptive to British throne gets shopgirl pregnant and secretly marries her, Queen Victoria assigns William Gull to hunt out and destroy all witnesses, Gull & the Freemasons go a bit batty in the process. Instead of Abberline as a protagonist we get Walter Sickert, the artist (and another candidate for the identity of Jack the Ripper in some theories), who is supposed to be keeping a watchful eye on Prince Eddie and instead falls for Mary Kelly. Despite all odds - and numerous corpses - there is technically a happy ending.

More detail, some spoilers; basically, mostly great performances but not convincing as an explanation. )
Despite these issues, though, an excellent production, and I'd be keen to see what the group does next. Awhi Tapu also had a bit of a dud ending, if I recall rightly, so I'd be more cautious about the playwright.
cyphomandra: Painting of a bare tree, by Rita Angus (tree)
No More Dancing in the Good Room. Chris Parker, who played David Halls in Hudson & Halls Live! (the tall extroverted one) does a solo show - multimedia memoir, growing up in Christchurch with conventional parents while being gay and into dancing. It's affectionate and touching, and the bits with the videos of his own childhood work very well, especially the ending where he dances with his younger self (on a video that includes an intruding younger sibling and other distractions, given that he's in the kitchen!), but I always find solo shows a really tough sell and, also, this was kind of going backwards - he did this show before Hudson and Halls Live!, and this is a repeat season. It is a piece that makes me want to see what he does next, but I've already done that. I do want to see what's after that, though.

The Book of Everything. This is based on the Dutch children's book Het boek van alle dingen by Guus Kuijer, which I have not read, and is back for a repeat season (of which this was the last night) before touring. It is about Thomas Klopper, almost 10, prone to seeing things no-one else does (mainly a very bro version of Jesus, whom he chats to frequently) and living with a rigid religious father who rules the household - Thomas, his older sister Margot, his mother - with fear and violence, and is set in 1951 with echoes of WWII and the Nazi Occupation very definitely present. It is however cheerful, moving, and not as depressing or as obvious as this set-up might sound (fellow NZers traumatised by having to study The God Boy at school will find this a much more refreshing alternative).

Discussion, no major spoilers. )

They've been marketing it as a family play, which is unusual for the Silo, but it definitely works as one (probably 10 and up - a friend took 11 & 9 year olds), and it'll be interesting to see if they try something like that again. They have kids on stage for Medea later in the year - it's a version done from the point of view of Medea's children - but I can't imagine that'll be kid friendly to go to.

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