Archive for the Theatre Category

One For Robert or Five Go Mad at the Barbican

Posted in Theatre, Theatre reviews on 28 September, 2008 by sonal

A few months back, in the wee hours of the morning, sitting drunkenly at Mum’s dining table checking emails one night during the NZ Comedy Festival in Wellington, I received my regular email/advertisement from the Barbican about their upcoming Bite season. Usually the email gets sent to the bin, but for some reason (well, I know precisely what reason but I don’t want to get in trouble, again) I wanted to see what the world outside of Wellington held for me … and lo and behold, it was a new 9 hour work from Robert Lepage and his company Ex Machina.

Now first things first, I am NOT a fan of Lepage … I don’t hate the his work (I was bored by The Dragons Trilogy, which is far worse than hating it), I’m just not adoring of his work – all style, no content, all show and shoddy script.

But a nine hour show is too much for even me to resist (what? I sat through the 3 parts of Henry VI and Richard III in one weekend last year – I even timed the start of my visa in the UK to make sure I didn’t miss it!), so I booked the second cheapest seat I could find in the last weekend, boasted to poor Robert about it and marked it in my calendar before shuffling off to a drunken slumber.

When I arrived in the UK, I told every Victoria University theatre and film grad that I knew what I was planning and soon they booked tickets on the same day to join me – my friend James Hadley can give you more details about the show from his column, here.

The most important thing, was to keep fed and hydrated, so bossy lass that I am, I made the call that we would be doing a shared picnic. Thankfully they still haven’t figured out how to stand up to me, so dutifully arrived with all manner of goodies to keep us through the day (kudos to Beccs for bringing dolmades and a thermos of hot water to make tea). How smug were we when everyone on the water terrace went past us eyeing our delicious spread while they had to be content with sandwiches from at cardboard box that they had just queued 12 minutes for and now had 3 minutes to scoff before heading back inside for the next act?

That was a fantastic bit of planning – the intervals. We probably didn’t sit in the auditorium for anything longer than 90 minutes and so the whole day passed by quite quickly and, unlike the second Henriad, we didn’t come out feeling completely shattered.

Five, surprisingly sprightly, after nine hours in the Barbican ...

Five, surprisingly sprightly, after nine hours in the Barbican ...

Also good was the set. Oh how I loved the set! I loved it so much, I came out of the show wanting to learn how to weld and join so I can make me a set like that – multifunctional, metal, sliding panels and wheels. Better still, there wasn’t any masking of the stage, stage crew and everything in the wings were visible – most of the scene changes were mini performance pieces in their own right although sometimes the actual props were in themselves a bit gimmicky.

Which brings me to the script itself – *sigh* maybe they should try a silent play? You know, the sort without words. Admittedly that would just leave them with plot, but then with only one thing to concentrate on they may make a better go of it than usual. That’s the thing that frustrates me with all of Lepage’s work – it’s beautiful, the stage craft is always stunning but it is always, always, always let down by the dramaturgy (plot construction, character narrative, story arc etc.). He / they get too caught up in the playing, images and ideas to lay out solid through lines and interweave stories as tight as a company of that stature and experience should be … and that is why I won’t be converted to the temple of Lepage as I have been to Peter Brook.

Bloody good final image, though.


Just In Case You Didn’t Hear Me the First Time

Posted in Theatre on 1 March, 2008 by sonal

Go and see Black Watch

Do not ask, just go and see it.

Seriously, the play itself is fantastic, the production is brilliant. I was shaking when I left the theatre (and I already knew the play before I went in!).

Go, buy a ticket. NOW.

Festival Fun

Posted in Theatre on 1 November, 2007 by sonal

The NZ International Arts Festival brochure has been launched … and I am so relieved that I don’t have to change my flights home to see Black Watch. Yes, I really would have changed my flights, it is just that good, and I’ve only read the play. See it, see it, see it! I’m planning to go on 29 February (once the public bookings open on 16 November) if you want to join me.

What else am I going to see? Well definitely going to see Indian Ink’s new play The Dentist’s Chair and Te Karakia, Albert Belz’s new play set during the ’81 Tour … oh and … er … guilty pleasure … bro’Town Live on Stage

And there’s still the Writers and Readers week programme due in January!

So excited!

Venus and Adonis, dir. Gregory Doran, Little Angel Theatre/RSC

Posted in Theatre, Theatre reviews on 3 April, 2007 by sonal

Two word sum up: Puppets rock!

The more sophisticated version: The puppets really rock.
I’ve finally seen a Shakespeare directed by Gregory Doran that I liked! I think that has a lot to do with the puppets, but I also think that because the show is only an hour long, I wasn’t going to get bored. Yes, it’s true, I can be bored to tears by Shakespeare too. Unfortunately, until now, this has happened with every one of the plays that I’ve seen directed by Doran. I don’t know what it is about his direction that I haven’t taken to, maybe the actors speak too slowly, maybe he takes his time getting through scenes, I don’t know. But something about his productions drags for me, even with this short piece, I felt I had been in the theatre for much longer than an hour.

The text: Yup, fine, can’t do much harm there, they included the dedication with a puppet of Shakespeare scribbling away in the foreground and a marionette of his patron in the back. The poem itself was narrated by John Hopkins who, dressed in stage blacks, sat to the side of the stage on a stool and was softly lit through out.

The set: There were two sections – a pros-arch puppet stage and a tall rostra set out in front. The stage bit held the marionettes and the rostra was for the much larger hand and rod puppets. The two stages gave a great sense of perspective and particularly worked well with Venus’ entrance and exit to the story, both handled at the back of the stage with her marionette double.

The puppets: Gorgeous, obviously. Both Venus and Adonis appeared to be made out of materials that suit their character. Adonis was made out of wood which you could hear clop whenever he touched the stage, Venus was made of soft materials possibly leather or vinyl, she looked beautiful and soft. There were five puppeteers operating all of the puppets, ranging from small marionettes (Venus and her chariot being pulled by doves) to large (around 3/4 human size) doll and rod puppets and even the proscenium arch of the set became a giant puppet of Death.

This was a very sweet production and I’ve very glad that I saw it. I definitely want to see something a bit braver with puppets, while magical, it also felt safe. I’m going to see the Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes in a few weeks, which I believe had excellent reviews in AK07, I think that may be just what I’m looking for.

Thank You!

Posted in My work, Theatre on 23 December, 2006 by sonal

To everyone who came to my playreading on Tuesday. I’d like to email you in person but I can’t seem to send emails (possibly because I’m on an unsecured wireless connection – thanks whoever is in the building for it!).

Thank you so much for being there. I’m going to leave the play for a while now to get some perspective on it before attempting another draft so if you do have any comments or things that stuck out to you, please let me know – I’d be happy to hear what you are doing on your holidays anyway.

s x

Reading of dirty creatures

Posted in My work, Theatre on 15 December, 2006 by sonal

Yes, I’m having a reading of my play dirty creatures.

And as I edit this for the third time (yes I know it’s December, I’ve got packing-my-life-into-a-suitcase-while-keeping-it-to-20kg-only brain) …

Tuesday 19 December
Upper Chamber
Toi Poneke
61 Abel Smith Street

Please come along!