New Zealand

Dunedin’s Arcade Theatre Company And “Fold:” An Absurdist Production For A Post-Truth Era

The newest theatre company to emerge from Dunedin, New Zealand’s funky, eclectic arts scene is Arcade Theatre Company, helmed by director Alex Wilson. Like the now-disestablished Counterpoint–also initiated by Wilson–Arcade provides a forum for emerging practitioners to test and develop their craft. Its stated aim, according to Wilson, is to “offer…[young actors] opportunities to be involved in bold, adventurous theatre projects with a broad appeal” (The Star, February 25, 2018). Wilson is familiar with the Dunedin theatre scene, having completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Otago, and subsequently having worked in the city as a theatre director,...

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Celebrating Oceanic Voyaging In Spectacular Site-Specific Theatre: “Kupe” And The “Waka Odyssey”

Wellington, a portside city famed for its turbulent seas and hurricane-force winds, turned on a miraculously calm evening for the spectacular outdoor performance event Kupe which opened the 2018 New Zealand Festival on Friday, February 23. Only a few days before, the city had been lashed by ex-tropical cyclone Gita, causing flooding and road closures throughout central New Zealand, and fuelling speculation on the streets that the great ocean-going waka (canoes) that were the centerpiece of the show might not be able to reach Wellington. Kupe is acknowledged as the first Polynesian navigator to reach the shores of Aotearoa/New...

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A Mountain of One’s Own: “Taking the High Ground” by Jan Bolwell

Since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first to climb Mount Everest in May 1953, New Zealanders have bathed in the reflected glory of their famous mountaineers. The five dollar banknote depicts the craggy, taciturn Hillary contemplating a snowy peak, an iconic New Zealand image that equates rugged independence with masculinity. Jan Bolwell’s new play Taking the High Ground, premiered at BATS Theatre, Wellington on 5 December 2017, re-genders the national mountaineering mythology in feminist terms.  Her script conflates the stories of two female mountaineering “firsts” – In 1910, Australian Freda du Faur was the first woman...

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Female Desire In Experimental Postdramatic Theatre: “Body Double” Directed By Eleanor Bishop, BATS Theatre, Wellington

Merriam-Webster has recently named “feminism” as the 2017 “word of the year” and feminist issues and dramaturgy are central to Body Double, the 2017 STAB commission at Wellington’s BATS Theatre. Body Double boldly integrates its theme of female desire with a riotous and playful combination of multi-media and physical theatre. Since 1995 STAB has been an annual institution at BATS, an invitation to practitioners to dream, to experiment, to invent, to risk. The commission comes with a substantial budget, so the pitching process inspires cash-starved theatre-makers to out-bid each other with proposals that push the imaginative possibilities of live...

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A Pacific Production Of “The Mountaintop” By Katori Hall

For the past two years, Samoan playwright Victor Rodger has been tireless in bringing plays by non-white writers to New Zealand audiences through play readings staged in all of the main cities under the banner of his production company FCC (Flow, Create, Connect). FCC has presented readings of plays by Lorraine Hansberry, Robert O’Hara, Dominique Morisseau, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Amiri Baraka, Tarell Alvin McCraney, James Baldwin, Anna Deavere Smith, and R. Zamora Linmark as well as plays by Pacific writers such as Makerita Urale and Tusiata Avia. Few, if any, of these writers, would be familiar to regular theatergoers in...

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“A Doll’s House” at Circa One

POTENTLY RELEVANT Warning: I’m about to give the (well-known) ending away because the play can’t be discussed adequately without doing so. It was 138 years ago that Henrik Ibsen upset the patriarchal status quo with A Doll’s House, so named because Nora Helmer realizes she is being treated like a doll by her husband, Torvald, and she’s treating her children, Bobby and Emmy, likewise. So she leaves them. When his German agent insisted theatergoers in his fatherland would find the ending unacceptable, Ibsen wrote an alternative ending for the German premiere where the sight of her children collapsed Nora’s resolve...

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Avignon: Symphonies of Pain Part 2 – Lemi Ponifasio’s “Standing in Time”

Standing in Time.  texts by Rasha Abbas.  Direction, scenography by Lemi Ponifasio; sound design by Lemi Ponifasio (Auckland) Lemi Ponifasio’s Standing in Time, also the example of a  symphony of pain,  speaks as well of abused women, the victims of history and colonial genocide. Ponifasio’s context is very different from that of Munyaneza’s because she meditates on the history of colonial oppression in New Zealand. The style of the production is highly informed by the performative culture of everyday rituals, religious ceremonies, celebrations and mourning as practiced by the Mauri women from the New Zealand islands.  The play features an empty stage...

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“Hand to God” at Circa Theatre

If there is such a thing as typical Circa Theatre fare, Hand to God is certainly not it, yet the typical Circa opening night audience is wide-eyed and beaming in its wake: they love it! The word according to Tyrone – the puppet who delivers the prologue – is that the trouble started when we stopped being carefree individuals and took to living in communities (sorry Maggie Thatcher: there is such a thing as ‘society’); when we invented ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ – and ‘the Devil’, who could be blamed for the bad stuff a person did so they still...

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“Anzac Eve”: A Profoundly Insightful Enriching Experience

“Afghanistan is exactly like Gallipoli!” shouts Ben, well into the action of Anzac Eve. “All the wars are like Gallipoli!” Opening in Wellington within hours of the launch of Hit & Run: The New Zealand SAS in Afghanistan and the meaning of honour, by Nicky Hagar and Jon Stephenson, this moment has particular resonance. Then and now, front line soldiers have little true understanding of who they are fighting and why, things inevitably go wrong, lives are needlessly lost … Warfare will never be the answer to the problems it sets out to solve. For international readers: ANZAC stands...

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“Dark Matter”: An Interview With Lighting Designer Martyn Roberts

The light fades to a darkness more intense than a starless night on a country road. As the eyes slowly adjust, two barely discernible figures appear in a vast void, vanishing as mysteriously as they appeared. Over the next 40 minutes, the space before us shifts and changes, through a series of seven “visual haiku,” re-configuring the space so that at times we seem to be looking into an infinite space, at others closing it off so that there is a solid wall of light directly before the front row. Like a haiku, each sequence is brief, exploring one...

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Timeless Truths Of Cultural Appropriation And Cohabitation In “Public Works” And “The Landeaters”

When I reviewed the development season of The Ragged – the first play in what has evolved into THE UNDERTOW quartet – back in 2010, I tagged it “true community theatre.” And it is: of the people, for the people, by the people of Wellington’s south coast, in that its progenitors and leading lights are playwright Helen Pearse-Otene and Te Rākau Theater director Jim Moriarty, who live in Ōwhīro Bay. By distilling nearly two centuries of Māori-Pākehā relationship into the story of the tangata whenua of Ōwhīro’s fictitious kāinga Te Miti and the visitation upon them of the enterprising...

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New Zealand Dramaturgy: A Maverick Undertaking in 2016 Part II

This is Part II of the series on dramaturgy in New Zealand. For Part I,  click here. Dramaturgy is a shared process of learning. Here you will find the opinions, questions, challenges and observations of industry practitioners, creatives and performance academics; these are the voices of Aotearoa New Zealand on dramaturgy. This is our korero. Join us. In New Zealand, the proverbial playing field isn’t level. In fact, it’s a pretty steep slope for some of our teammates and the game certainly doesn’t get any easier. From being cast as a nameless terrorist to working closely on developing his...

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New Zealand Dramaturgy: A Maverick Undertaking in 2016, Part I

Playwright and dramaturge Gary Henderson points out that classic rugby analogies, although clichéd, work well because they’re specific to our culture, our country, and our people. Dramaturgy, he argues, is no different: “If you’re a rugby player you cannot break the rules, but what you can do is subvert the expected conventions,” he explains. “A brilliant rugby player is the one who will side-step when everyone is expecting them to pass, or will tackle when fans least expect it. This is still part of the language of the game but there is an active subversion of the expectation –...

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“Scarlet & Gold” Chronicles Labor Movement in New Zealand

Timely, relevant, engaging, entertaining and thought-provoking “You wonder if it’ll ever change, don’t you,” says Waihi gold miner’s wife Katherine Beech at the end of Lorae Parry’s Scarlet & Gold; “if in a hundred years’ time, will it still be like this.” That was 1912 – and the past is now. “The 1912 Waihi Goldminers’ Strike changed an industrial law in New Zealand, and out of the ashes of that bitter battle, the New Zealand Labour Party was born. It’s over a hundred years since that strike finished, yet the fight for workers’ rights still continues to resonate today,” writes...

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Women in New Zealand Theatre Hui

On the 19th September 2016, the 123rd anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in New Zealand, a group of theatre practitioners met to discuss the representation of women in New Zealand theatre. Around 100 people attended the two sessions at Circa Theatre in Wellington and there was also a group that met in Auckland the day before. The Circa contingent was made up of predominantly women, of all ages and stages in their careers including actors, directors, designers, writers, producers and academics. This hui[1] was inspired by several occurrences in the theatre industry both in New Zealand...

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“The Rime of the Modern Mariner” by The Playground Collective

Adapted by The Playground Collective From the graphic novel by Nick Hayes Based on the epic poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Directed by Robin Kerr At BATS Theatre, Wellington Clever craft elements diluted by structural flaws The annual BATS STAB season is always keenly anticipated because we know practitioners who have paid their dues in struggling co-ops have competed successfully to develop a new show with much-improved resourcing. The Playground Collective’s take on The Rime of the Modern Mariner marks the second time they have won the STAB commission, the first being Tinderbox...

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