Theatre-going in the summer can be a bit of a chore, eschewing the long hours of daylight better spent working in the garden or cooling of in the waters of Rocky Bay and Palm Beach. It takes something very special to lure me onto the ferry from Waiheke to New Zealand for a summer evening and after the show, there’s that rush down to the ferry to catch the 10.15pm if you are lucky or the last sailing at 11.45.
As I still don’t have a television here and the garden is more or less under control (swimming in the sea … in the winter?) I’ve set about investigating New Zealand theatre. Auckland seems to be thriving these days and in particular, Auckland Theatre Company seems to be shunting out a continuous stream of product.
Rupert by Australian writer David Williamson was a rush through the life and business acquisitions of monster Rupert Murdoch. Not well written and I felt no empathy for the central character even though Stuart Devine tried to make him cuddly. The cast acted their socks off, having to work too hard to make the show work for me. Lysistrata by Aristophanes, adapted and directed by Michael Hurst, was by contrast, joyous and outrageous. This is the unlikely story of Greek women going on sexual strike to force their men to stop going to war. The women are all glamorous and sexy while the men, poor things are plain, over weight, or decrepit. One of them is in a wheel chair and smoking. Once stripped down to their non-designer white underpants and displaying painful erections it all becomes totally farcical. I remember having such fun in an Edinburgh Fringe Festival production many years ago.
Last week I took myself off to see the ATC production of Heroes by French writer, Gerald Sibleyras (translated by Tom Stoppard). What bliss to see three of New Zealand’s senior actors George Henare, Ken Blackburn and Ray Henwood having such fun with these damaged World War One veterans in a rest-home. This is West End standard theatre, not cutting edge or confrontational, but gentle humour that sends you away with a warm feeling, ideal for a winter evening. That was Wednesday and the 6pm performance allowed me to get the 10.15 ferry home.
Thursday took me out to New Lynn and Te Pou Theatre to see my friend Johnny Givins’ return to the stage as GranPapa in The Great American Scream by Maori writer, Albert Belz. Set in New Jersey on Halloween evening1938 when Orson Wells’ radio production War of the Worlds created pandemonium in the population. This seemingly wholesome American family are sent into panic mode and, believing that they will all die, begin to reveal their shameful secrets. The play reveals the power of the media and fear of deviating from the accepted norm. Chatting with Johnny afterwards, it dawned on me that Albert has written a ’well made play’ with every character harbouring secrets – a little touch of Tennessee Williams and well worth the journey. Best of all I made the 10.15 ferry again.
No ferry ride was required on Friday as this was the only date I could see Jan Bolwell’s one person show Bill Massey’s Tourists at the Artworks Theatre, Oneroa. Her publicity leaflet featured a generous quote from my old theatre director, Raymond Hawthorne, so I quizzed him about it and got a whole-hearted endorsement. Jan had booked her show into the Artworks Theatre, Oneroa for three performances so it was lucky that I could only attend on the first night as the other two were cancelled due to lack of bookings. Playing both granddaughter and grandfather, Jan told a moving story of a young girl prizing out a story of the First World War. Of course, he was reluctant to say much, but Jan has filled in the details from meticulous research. She’s touring around the country with this show, so I wish her well.
Richard Howard suggested I join him to see Michael Hurst’s one man show, No Holds Bard at the Tiny Theatre at Garnet Station, Westmere. Hurst and a team of writers have put together a gripping and hilarious evening. An Actor, playing Hamlet returns to his flat to end it all. His personal life is in tatters and, on the brink of madness, inhabits not only the Dane, but Macbeth, Lear and Othello. It kind of helps if you know these plays, but not essential as Hurst is a consummate performer. His fight between Hamlet and Macbeth is astonishingly athletic and funny – lovely to see this up close in a full house of thirty people.
Back to the big space in Q Theatre to see Silo Theatre’s production of The Events by Scottish playwright David Greig. Tandi Wright plays a liberal, lesbian priest who has survived a horrific attack on her local choir by a disaffected young man. Her journey to understand and forgive him culminates in a face to face meeting in a prison. Beulah Koale not only plays the young man, but all the other characters, including Claire’s partner. Each performance welcomes a different local choir onto the stage. The choristers have not seen the play previously, so their reactions to the events are spontaneous. There’s plenty to think about in this 80 minute piece. As an added bonus, the 7pm show got me onto the 8.45 ferry without too much running down the hill.