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IDIOM 002 | Regional News


Directed by: Laser Kiwi

Te Auaha, 19th Mar 2021

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

Cucumbers! Melons! Grapes! Bring your shades and get your weird on because this deliciously fruity show is so brilliant, it’s dazzling.

From chefs to clowns and looping violinists, IDIOM 002 features a variety of artists at the very top of their game. The acts aren’t all connected but the mood is carefully curated by our hosts, the only but indeed best surreal sketch circus trio in the world, Laser Kiwi. Plus, several cucumbers find their way onto the stage more than once. I don’t know why, but I like it.

The high-energy variety show begins with a rousing medley of artists giving us a small taste of what’s to come. Comedian Sowmya Hiremath then takes the stage, navigating ghost buses (and ghost husbands for that matter) with a relatable and refreshing honesty.

Over the course of the evening we meet aerial hoop artist Sophia O’Connor, whose athleticism astounds; Sharn Te Pou, who does flips and splits in roller skates and can even sing, mesmerising all every moment he’s on stage; chef Jack Shewell, who is really good at chopping and flambéing things; world-renowned circus artist Emma Phillips, who juggles whole tables with her feet and has the audience gasping for breath; and clown Fraser Hooper, who rides a tiny bike and wields giant gloves in a boxing routine for the ages.

Laser Kiwi’s programming of physical and stand-up comedy shows their aptitude for balance, echoed in their inclusion of MOTTE (violinist and composer Anita Clark). MOTTE’s otherworldly, experimental music isn’t upbeat like the other acts but it’s my favourite addition to the show.  

Tying it all together are our hosts Zane Jarvie, Degge Jarvie, and Imogen Stone, who delight the crowd with their rhythmic bobbing and unique brand of Pictionary, sometimes at the same time. Brothers Zane and Degge make quick work of chopping six airborne cucumbers while Stone’s impressive and dexterous candle-lighting act is another show highlight.

It might sound cliché but I truly mean it when I say there is never a dull moment in IDIOM 002.

Cuffs, Stockings and Two Smokin’ Barrels  | Regional News

Cuffs, Stockings and Two Smokin’ Barrels

Written by: Finlay Langelaan

Directed by: Finlay Langelaan

Te Auaha, 16th Mar 2021

Reviewed by: Sam Hollis

Finlay Langelaan’s riotous Cuffs, Stockings and Two Smokin’ Barrels feels like theatre on adrenaline. Though it passes by quickly, the Tarantino-esque story is captivating, innately suspenseful, and funny throughout, despite some technical letdowns that occasionally force the actors into hammy territory.

Believing that her husband Roger (Esteban Jaramillo) will be spending the night in hospital following cataract surgery, BDSM-savvy Cathy (Anna Barker) takes the opportunity to invite her lover Peter (Caleb Hill) over for an evening of pleasure. Their plans go out the window when a determined thief, Damien (Jett Ranchhod), crashes the party, soon to be followed by a recovering Roger.

Langelaan’s script wastes no time, taking us from zero to 100 the second the stage lights dim and Cathy and Peter burst into the living room with their lips locked. Our entire audience sit up in their seats, and this reaction does not subside for the next hour. Tonally, the dialogue is somewhat inconsistent, bouncing from natural to extreme at a moment’s notice. What is not inconsistent though is the plot, which is tightknit, clear, and effortlessly entertaining.

The jazz score, composed by Ben Kelly and performed by Magic Monké and the Banana Boys, sets the mood with ease. It’s seductive and intense, and paired with sharp lighting cues it helps to further define the simple stage design. The decision not to mic the cast unfortunately leaves many punchlines drowned out by the band. At times it feels like I am at a jazz gig rather than a play, and I am left jealous of the front row who appear to catch hilarious lines that are lost to the rest of us.

Barker deserves praise for her committed performance; sexy, smart, and slightly insane, Cathy is the show’s greatest asset. Sadly, the sound issues lead to some overacting all-round as the cast fights to be heard.

While a little unpolished, Cuffs, Stockings and Two Smokin’ Barrels is still an exhilarating ride from start to finish.

Crowded House | Regional News

Crowded House

TSB Arena 15th March 2021

Reviewed by: Graeme King

Monday night at the TSB Arena really was a crowded house, where over 4000 fans were treated to something special.

From the opening song Weather with You the hits flowed: Mean to Me, World Where You Live, Whatever You Want – featuring the superlative bass of Nick Seymour, co-founder with Neil Finn.

The hits kept coming as fast as the hilarious banter between all the band. Whispers and Moans and Playing with Fire were both songs featuring the talented support artist Reb Fountain and band on backing vocals, showing great camaraderie between everyone on stage.

Pineapple Head featured gorgeous vocal harmonies, with Neil somehow managing to include a verse of the old Petula Clark hit Downtown in the middle of it!

When You Come featured the ethereal keyboards of Mitchell Froom, and a stunning lead guitar solo by Liam Finn. Private Universe started off with Elroy Finn on guitar before switching back to drums. Four Seasons in One Day had the audience singing loudly – to which Neil commented: “sweet and tender, Wellington!”

He described the sombre Silent House, co-written with the Dixie Chicks, as “saying goodbye slowly to people we love”.

To the Island, the name of the band’s nationwide tour, again featured Aucklander Reb and band – after which Neil introduced percussionist Paul Taylor, who played on several songs throughout the night.

Locked Out had a frenetic ending, culminating in Liam throwing his guitar high into the air and catching it safely – to Neil’s almost sarcastic: “Nice catch Liam!”

At the end of Don’t Dream It’s Over, the audience was asked to sing a chorus almost a cappella. Something So Strong again had the audience singing loudly, and then it was Distant Sun to finish the set.

After what seemed like several minutes of very loud clapping and yelling, the band was back on stage for the first encore Chocolate Cake, featuring Neil on piano, followed by David Bowie’s Heroes. The final song Better Be Home Soon had everyone happily singing along.

Overall a superb night, featuring an exciting new edition of an iconic band led by the extremely talented Neil, together with a beautifully balanced sound and stunning light show.

The Cool Mum | Regional News

The Cool Mum

Written by: Joanna Prendergast

Directed by: Joanna Prendergast

Cavern Club, 13th Mar 2021

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

Jo Ghastly (Dr Joanna Prendergast) is a ‘cool mum’. She’s up with all the teen lingo, ya dig? She even knows how to dab. Jo is holding a seminar to teach her audience to be just as cool as her – not that we have a hope of reaching her level on the coolometer.

This one-woman comedy show has the potential to be excellent. Unfortunately, Jo is just a little too Ghastly, which my friend and I find alienating. I get the schtick – she’s an uncool mum who thinks she’s cool. But at times the character rides the irony past humour to needless nastiness, making it hard for me to invest in the show. Only an uncool person would roast one member of the audience over and over again, that’s the joke, but the fourth time it happens I’m for Bob and against Jo. This also means I’m reluctant to engage for fear of being ridiculed myself. You can feel how uncomfortable some audience members are when called upon, which is a problem in an interactive comedy show like this.

I’m really unsettled by the jokes about blind people, just one example of which is the flippant remark, “have you ever tried to explain a graph to a blind person?” Deliberate or not, is discrimination ever funny? There’s enough good stuff in The Cool Mum to make this content totally unnecessary.

Onto the good stuff, then. Prendergast has a wonderful stage presence and a way with wit, carefully measuring her approach to deliver punchlines to maximum effect. Structurally, The Cool Mum is brilliant, centred on a PowerPoint presentation that features my highlight of the evening: a role reversal video of a teenager and her mum. It’s clear from the appreciative laughter that a lot of people present love the show.

With the addition of a director, an outside eye to gauge audience response and curb some of the more offensive jokes, The Cool Mum would be lit AF.  

Fab Beasts | Regional News

Fab Beasts

Written by: Ryan Cundy and Catriona Tipene

Directed by: Catriona Tipene

Gryphon Theatre, 11th March 2021

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

Fab Beasts is a clever two-part show, featuring a beautifully crafted mythical world within which to address social issues through playful allegory. Act one details the plight of five elitist unicorn property managers jostling for the privilege of a place on Noah’s ark. Act two follows Detective (Loch) Ness (Katie Boyle) and her struggle to break through the glass ceiling.

The cast and crew make great use of their space by using ‘the magic of theatre’ to their advantage. They do not hide the set transitions, incorporating the set and its quirks into the storyline and often breaking the fourth wall. A large blue sheet is used for rising water levels in act one, making the audience feel as though they too are floundering. Musical interludes make for seamless transitions between stories and allow for the construction of Detective Ness’ imposing costume. David Conroy’s lighting design is instrumental in setting the tones of the show: natural during moments of comedic relief, red and hot in moments of tension. Costume plays a key role in making the imaginary world real. The complexity of the mythical characters’ costumes alongside the transitional and minimalistic set brilliantly work together to underscore the irony of social issues such as the housing crisis, gender inequality, and racial privilege. If the show’s world and characters are imaginary, could our world’s inequalities be a social construct and thus dismantled as well?

The world of Fab Beasts is tangible and authentic, despite or perhaps because of its fantastical protagonists. The actors make their characters believable, relatable, and inherently human. Though flawed and often whimsical, the protagonists navigate a mythical world similar to our own, and blossom into something genuine, sincere, and not unlike ourselves. Alongside its mythical setting, the borderline absurdism of the show underscores the irrationality of many social issues, rendering them farcical and calling into question often illusory problems created in our own (not so) mythical world.



Written by: Liv Woodmass

Directed by: Regann Rees-Henry

BATS Theatre, 11th Mar 2021

Reviewed by: Petra Shotwell

It’s not often I see a piece of theatre where I can relate to a little bit of every character.

INTROSPECTION deals with the topic of mental health, depicting characters who each have a different battle to overcome. While the content warnings for this piece are extensive, I feel that the script treats the topics very delicately, touching on dark themes somewhat vaguely. We watch the characters develop, working towards the end goal of ‘leaving’ the space, or walking through the door into the unknown. The five characters are distinguishable by the colours which represent them, and by what appears to be their personality types and coping mechanisms.

Upon entering the space, I’m immediately intrigued; the set comprises several black boxes with painted abstract faces. At the back of the stage, against a wall of more faces, is a door. The set itself is simple, yet incredibly artistic and fits well with the overall piece.

The use of coloured lights (Bekky Boyce) helps to direct the audiences’ focus onto each character, and is an aesthetically satisfying and effective way to aid transitions. Sound (Boyce) is also a key element in the narrative, for it is what drives the characters toward the door, either pushing them to go through or scaring them away.

The dynamic between the actors on stage is truly comforting to watch; despite the conflict in the story, it is clear that these actors (Htoo Paw Thin, Ngarongonui Mareikura-Ellery, Kerris O’Donoghue, Liv Woodmass, and Kezia Thompson) have been working hard together to depict the complex and beautiful relationships we see in INTROSPECTION.

Unfortunately I often find myself confused about the literal setting, which is never made clear throughout the piece. I bounce between thinking it’s set in an individual’s mind, in a psychiatric ward, in a house which the occupants feel unable to leave; eventually I settle on the conclusion that it’s perhaps an abstract symbolisation of all of those things.

Overall, this was unlike anything I’ve seen before. With the creative staging and lighting, and the beautiful performances, INTROSPECTION is not one to miss.

Suit and Ties | Regional News

Suit and Ties

Written by: Li’i Alaimoana

Performed by Li’i Alaimoana

Cavern Club, 11th Mar 2021

Reviewed by: Sam Hollis

Suit and Ties is comedian Li’i Alaimoana’s swan song, his final hour following a six-year career in stand-up. He admits this will be a “brutally honest” window into his time in comedy, and while our audience is captivated by his presence and insights, a lack of structure falters what would surely be an airtight set if it had time to sharpen up.

Underground and dimly lit, the Cavern Club is certainly the appropriate setting for this tender performance. Alaimoana opens by discussing how personal tragedies nearly forced him to cancel this show, but his appreciation for an audience eager to hear him out clearly outweighs his heartache. He goes on to impart a behind-the-scenes look at a life in the New Zealand comedy circuit, how his Sāmoa heritage affected it, and ultimately, why he is choosing to leave stand-up behind.

Alaimoana is a natural-born storyteller. Our audience hangs on every word, aware that this is about more than jokes, it is about truth. Having said that, this is still comedy. While some jokes leave me in stitches, there are long lulls where I hope a story is leading towards a whopper of a punchline that unfortunately never comes. Although, as he approaches subjects like the true meaning of diversity in the entertainment industry, his family’s varied experiences with racism, and the difficulty of crafting relatable jokes for a majority that does not represent him, I am undeniably hooked. I simply wish I laughed more.

The core of Alaimoana’s set lasts roughly 40 minutes, after which he grabs his guitar and proceeds into crowd work. This fragment of the performance is a light-hearted treat after an intense opening, and possibly the funniest part of the show. It does, however, feel improvised. If Alaimoana was to spend a few more months developing Suit and Ties it would be one for the ages. Still, as the first of his final three shows, he should be immensely proud of the magnetic performance he delivers.

Love and Plastic Roses | Regional News

Love and Plastic Roses

Written by: Isabella Murray and Revena Correll Trnka

Directed by: Revena Correll Trnka

Te Auaha, 9th Mar 2021

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

Starring its creator Isabella Murray as Bella, Love and Plastic Roses is a solo show about the pressure people can feel to make romantic and sexual connections with others.

Bella sits down for a date at a table set for two, with cheesy mood lighting and music (both co-designed by Revena Correll Trnka and Murray) setting the scene and creating a soft, pretty aesthetic. She faces the audience while her date is represented by a robotic voiceover and an empty chair with its back to us.

I experience some confusion while watching Love and Plastic Roses, at first believing Bella to be on one date. With the introduction of more Siris and Alexas, so to speak, I start to think we’re witnessing multiple dinners, with each date more mechanical than the last. After Bella mentions never having been out with anyone, I wonder whether we’re watching her rehearse these situations and they’re not real after all. Maybe the circumstances aren’t important and not knowing is the point, but while trying to piece the action together, I find myself missing some beautiful moments onstage.

Some decisions are clear and clever, with metaphors woven throughout that suggest Bella is just going through the motions, that everything is not coming up (plastic) roses. A gradual change of lighting state catches me by surprise and makes me chuckle more than once, while Bella’s soliloquies and asides feature some arresting lines that catch my heart in my chest.

Murray’s performance is heartfelt and captivating. While it’s possible she reaches peak panic mode as Bella a little too early, she puts in the kind of unreserved energy that I can’t look away from.

There are some great ideas brewing in this work, which has a strong backbone and an authentic story at its core. With a little more workshopping and development, Love and Plastic Roses has all the makings of a show you’ll never forget.

Dr Drama Makes a Show With You | Regional News

Dr Drama Makes a Show With You

Written by: James Wenley

Directed by: Rachel Longshaw-Park

BATS Theatre, 7th March 2021

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

A rollercoaster ride from the very beginning, Dr Drama Makes a Show With You flips your expectations and theatrical convention on its head from the moment the lights dim, or in this case brighten, for suddenly you become the star of the show! Dr Drama (James Wenley) playfully breaks the fourth wall, deliberately deconstructing what it means to be a performer versus an audience member, and what role we think the audience, the performer, and performance itself should play.

Dr Drama calls the audience onto the stage to become performers. Conventional performance pieces about Wenley’s personal relationship with and love for theatre, along with his experience isolating alone during lockdown, are interspersed with theatre games, didactic segments, conversation, and of course your very own show. Tim Fraser’s lighting design spotlights traditional performance moments while the audience remains in the dark, but illuminates the whole stage when the audience are to perform. Alongside Wenley’s narrative, Fraser’s use of lighting ingeniously underscores theatrical practice while simultaneously questioning its norms and boundaries.

Wenley’s show is artfully self-aware, broaching relevant topics such as loneliness, a shared struggle in the midst of a pandemic. Wenley brings theatre back to its choral roots, changing the notion of what it means to attend a performance into something much more human, much more collective. Each moment links together with a common thread of hope. Theatre acts as the binding force by which we can not only overcome loneliness, but also connect with others in a world where we are becoming increasingly divided physically, socially, and emotionally.

Dr Drama Makes a Show With You is both clever and effective. Wenley successfully involves his audience and navigates around (at least my) discomfort. The juxtaposition between actor and audience performance is exciting and fresh, but also thoughtful and constructive, inspiring me to consider less traditionally Western modes of performance and its effect in my own small world as well as society at large.