Reviews - Regional News | Connecting Wellington

Reviews

Call Me Intern | Regional News

Call Me Intern

70 Mins

(3 ½ out of 5)

Presented by: the Doc Edge Film Festival

Reviewed by: Annabella Gamboni

In 2016, 22-year-old New Zealander David Hyde made headlines around the world when it was revealed that as an unpaid intern for the United Nations, he was living in a tent on the side of a lake in Geneva. Little did the press – or the UN, for that matter – know that Hyde had only taken on the position (and the unfortunate sleeping arrangements) as part of a film project.

Call Me Intern is the end result of Hyde’s UN stunt, a compelling documentary about the exploitative nature of unpaid internships. Cleverly, he and co-director Nathalie Berger springboard off Hyde’s experiences at the UN to concentrate on the stories of young Black Americans Marisa and Kyle. Marisa was ousted from her unpaid role at the Obama For America campaign after she reported her sexual assault, while Kyle worked at Fortune 500 company Warner Music from a homeless shelter.

The interviews were obviously done with great skill and care, as Kyle and Marisa both reveal intimate details of their backgrounds, motivation to pursue unpaid work, and devastation when they realised their internships were a dead end. Their stories brilliantly illustrate how unpaid internships also work to restrict diversity in white-collar professions and at top companies. Only rich kids can afford to work for nothing, and statistically speaking, rich kids are more likely to be white.

The movie side-steps any accusations of millennial whingeing with extensive interviews from academics. They put these stories in a greater context, where unpaid internships account for up to half of all internships offered in America, in a workforce where entry-level jobs are all but disappearing.

I’ve never heard of an unpaid internship in Aotearoa, but the stories in Call Me Intern still resonated with me. It’s extremely hard to find meaningful work as a young person, even with a university degree. While to some degree Call Me Intern was preaching to a millennial choir, I hope that older generations can recognise the injustice the film delves into so well.

The Full Monty | Regional News

The Full Monty

Music and lyrics by David Yazbek

Directed by: Julie O’Brien

Gryphon Theatre, 29th May 2019

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

Based on the cult classic film of the same name, The Full Monty is about a group of six unemployed men who decide to stage a strip show to gain purpose in their lives and impress their wives.

Toxic masculinity. Sexism. Homophobia. Racism. Fat shaming. Slut shaming. It’s all here in this knotty, frankly gross script. I do admire a work that attempts to deal with difficult subjects, but this one barely resolves even one of the issues it raises. For the most part, The Full Monty lets bigotry fly. Unfortunately, it rather seems Kauri Theatre Company hopes we won’t notice this.

There are so many little decisions the company could have made to subvert the noxious notions expressed in The Full Monty. Let the gay couple kiss to offset the rampant homophobia (and the assault of a gay stripper) in the opening scenes. Don’t insert an Italian caricature – racist stereotyping isn’t funny. And absolutely do not graphically depict an attempted suicide in a car for no other reason than to show off your set.

Suicide is never, ever funny. If you’ve experienced it, you know this. You should know this anyway. If you choose to stage a scene featuring a deeply disgusting song called Big-Ass Rock, about helping your friend to die by suicide, you should approach the staging of it with extreme caution. Making the trigger warnings in the foyer more visible is necessary here, and the audience should be informed of the scene in the opening announcements.

There are really great moments in this show. The final scene is a riot, Jane Keller has me in stitches, Peter Quinn’s voice is exceptional, James Catherwood is adorable, the costumes (Cathy Yee and Mary Jarmulski) are total glitz and glam, and yes, it’s a great set. I’m not discounting the talent or effort of the cast and crew involved, but I just can’t abide a production content to blindside its audience in 2019.

Running Late | Regional News

Running Late

Written by: Courtney Rose Brown

Directed by: Shauwn Keil

BATS Theatre, 28th May 2019

Reviewed by: Annabella Gamboni

Running Late is the story of one remote, rural, decrepit bus stop, and six of the unlucky people that come across it.

We first come across the bus stop via Jamie (Emma Katene), a schoolgirl who’s been dropped off there indefinitely. She’s pissed off, and the only sustenance she has is half a bottle of scrumpy and a ratty cigarette (but she doesn’t have a light). Over the course of three days, she meets Lucy, or Ruihi (Kelsey Robson), a big-city Māori; the kinda-familiar Charlie (Shay Tanirau); wasted white boy Nick (Jackson Herman); and squabbling BFFs and maybe-lovers Sam (Courtney Rose Brown) and Jules (Harriet Hughes).

One of the best parts of the show is undoubtedly the set, designed by Anne-Lisa Noordover. It is perfectly detailed, down to the brown harakeke leaves and empty bottle brushed under the bus stop seat.

The scenes, connected piecemeal by Jamie, the setting, and a nearby wedding, are for the most part strong. A stand-out is the first sequence with Charlie, when Jamie realises he’s an old friend of hers that has come out as a trans man. The dialogue, peppered with Kiwi-isms, is awkward, funny, and sweet.

Other scenes don’t quite land as nicely. The opening scene between Jamie and Lucy/Ruihi, for example, never quite settles. It struggles to make the connection between the pair feel genuine, partly because we just don’t know them very well yet.

It’s unfortunately the weaker moments of Running Late that make me question its cohesion. As a slice-of-life piece, it does have a lot of valuable insights into modern-day Aotearoa. It’s just that, at times, the bus stop device doesn’t quite work. The realism of the dialogue pushes against its framing; we have to suspend our disbelief a little too far, too often.

Running Late is an exciting example of theatre inspired by everyday New Zealanders. Toi Ngākau Productions, the talented team behind the show, is a company to watch.

Jupiter | Regional News

Jupiter

Presented by: Orchestra Wellington

Conducted by: Marc Taddei

Michael Fowler Centre, 25th May 2019

Reviewed by: Dawn Brook

Marc Taddei said he has long wanted to double bill Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8. They are the last symphonies of both composers, completed a century apart. Mozart’s work is a transition point between the more formal classical and romantic periods of music. Bruckner’s work is a culmination of the romantic style where emotion is given full play.

The huge differences in style were well displayed in this concert. If Mozart and Bruckner could have had a conversation, Mozart might well have said to Bruckner, “Less is more, Anton”. Bruckner might have retorted “Loosen up, man.”

The visible difference lay in the size of the orchestras. There were 39 players for Mozart, including four brass, five woodwind, and four double basses. The 83 for Bruckner included 15 brass, 12 woodwind, and six double basses.

Orchestra Wellington’s opening of the Mozart was magical: stirring chords using all resources followed by delicate string melodies. I would say that nothing in the concert was better than the orchestra’s playing of this first movement. It was played with precision, lyricism, well-judged transitions between themes and dynamics, and good drive and rhythm. The Mozart was a total delight: elegant, exuberant, and joyful.

Joy was not apparent in Bruckner. Rather the colours were dark and the mood dramatic and intense. Tempestuous climaxes arose and subsided over and over. I particularly enjoyed the dying end of the first movement, the insistent urgency of the second movement, the aching but robust sweetness of some of the third movement, and the sense that Bruckner reached some degree of resolution of momentous emotions in the finale.

Special mention is needed of the timpanist for drama, the horn players for emotion and volume, and the lower strings for strength and mellow sweetness. And of Mark Taddei for his ambitious programming and for eliciting inspired performances.

Paul Sinha | Regional News

Paul Sinha

Te Auaha, 21st May 2019

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

For those wondering whether Paul ‘The Sinnerman’ Sinha from The Chase is funny, he is. Now we’ve settled that, let’s get into his New Zealand debut at the NZ International Comedy Festival.

The audience brims with anticipation before the show, with a long line snapping all the way to the stairs the second the doors open. Te Auaha’s Tapere Nui (the big theatre) is at full capacity; even ‘the gods’ are utilised to fit more bums on seats.

Paul’s show is almost a monologue; it’s a steady stream of scripted speech, rarely fumbled over. Eloquent, clever, and perfectly balanced, the script is equal parts heartbreak and hilarity, light and dark. Though clearly rehearsed and likely memorised, it’s not a tired set. The quiz master has put in the research. Israel Folau, our contentious relationship with Australia, and Hamilton are just some of the topics that Paul incorporates as he takes the mickey out of New Zealand. We don’t mind though – I much prefer being cheerily mocked as a nation to being singled out and personally ridiculed, a common comedy trope.

Watching Paul in action, I realise I’ve never seen a comedian more generous with his audience. As well as yarns about his time on The Chase (which the audience laps up), Paul shares deeply personal stories. He tells us about giving up a career as a doctor to pursue comedy (something his conservative family just loved!), shares stories from the worst week of his life, and even confronts a past traumatic sexual encounter. In this moment, the audience’s silence is deafening. But not because we’re not okay with hearing about the nigh assault. We’re silent because we’re devastated that Paul blames himself for it. If you’re reading this Paul, it wasn’t your fault, and no, you didn’t “lead him on.” Consent can be given and withdrawn at any time.

Paul is a brave, intelligent, and hilarious comedian. This is a golden hour of stand-up that I’d pay to see again and again.

20for20 | Regional News

20for20

Choreographed by Neil Ieremia

Presented by: Black Grace

Te Rauparaha Arena, 20th May 2019

Reviewed by: Deirdre Tarrant

20 years. 20 centres. $20 tickets. Black Grace is touring with a programme firmly sustaining their high-octane trademark style. This is a series of works danced with passion and projection by the five company dancers: Sarah Baron, Shane Tofaeono, Demi-Jo Manalo, Rodney Tyrell, and Keana Ngaata.

Opening and closing the evening are sections of Method – an earlier work that I recall seeing some years ago – set to the flow and flying music of Bach. Reminiscent of early Douglas Wright and Michael Parmenter, this exhilarating movement vocabulary never fails to excite. There was a real sense of community and Ieremia spoke to open and outline the programme, also leading a Q&A; session at the end. The dance is a series of solos, duets, trios, and full company works. There is an overall sense of searching and looking for personal ‘self’. Some of these sequences are more successful than others and the structure becomes rather repetitive and predictable. For me, the use of songs with emotive lyrics overrides the power of the movement and of the performers to communicate. Mimetic gesture and lip-syncing seem superfluous. That said, there are some memorable moments in the lyrics “please don’t let me be misunderstood” and “dance with my father again”, and the dancers give their all and more.

The choreographic choices incorporate Pasifika, Māori, contemporary, and street vocabulary and put an emphasis on upper body and arm movements, with a strong earthed quality and with phrases weighted into the legs. At the end of the day, it is predictability that embodies much of our time and informs our lives. When this is shattered it can be scary and challenging. I wanted more challenges. It was intriguing that Ieremia, himself a product of his country and especially of Porirua where he grew up, acknowledged only extant European influences for his own creative pathway. It is time to look at our own backyard and stand proud of the influences making today’s wonderful and challenging art.

Bravo Black Grace for all you have done and best wishes as the journey dances onward. Be brave. Kia kaha.

Love Eternal | Regional News

Love Eternal

Presented by: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Conducted by: Thomas Søndergård

Michael Fowler Centre, 18th May 2019

Reviewed by: Tamsin Evans and Jennie Jones

A robust little piece of Beethoven got this performance started. The Coriolan Overture, Op.62 tells a little-known story in a familiar tongue. Conventional form and interplay of themes made this an ideal warm-up for the main show.

Denis Kozhukhin, a dazzling young Russian musician, played a truly stunning rendition of Robert Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor, Op.54. It's hard for the amateur or non-playing audience to understand how such an apparently solid piece of furniture (whether upright or grand) can be persuaded, coaxed, managed, flattered, and ultimately mastered to produce such a remarkable range of tone, volume, and feeling as we heard from Kozhuhkin. Matching a high-quality player with a high-quality composition always helps, and Schumann's Piano Concerto was beautifully complemented by Kozhuhkin's expert playing. Frequent exchanges of voice between piano and orchestra, equally skilfully matched and balanced, brought a lovely sense of narrative and fluidity. Once again, the combination of the NZSO's expertise and flair delivered us a really wonderful experience.

Hearts might sink when the programme notes say something is a composer's “least performed” piece, but it would be a miracle if every ear and every individual taste was satisfied by every programme. Two of the lesser-known concertos by Sibelius, numbers six and seven, made for a demanding second half.

Both are relatively short, very dense, complex pieces of a little over 20 minutes each. The Sixth Symphony is in four movements, each of which finish rather suddenly and seem almost unresolved. The Seventh is even more unusual, being only one movement in total. Søndergård is something of a Sibelius specialist and brought his interpretation to the stage where an extremely focused and sensitive performance from the orchestra gave it life. Søndergård's conducting of the Sibelius was remarkable, but it was Kozhukhin's brilliant playing we talked about in the car on the way home.

Heroic | Regional News

Heroic

Created by: Donna Brookbanks

BATS Theatre, 14th May 2019

Reviewed by: Annabella Gamboni

Auckland comic and 2019 Billy T Award nominee Donna Brookbanks fancies herself a bit of a superhero, and maybe she is.

Prompted by a disembodied robot voice, Brookbanks tells us all about her super alter-ego Captain Moggy. Over 45 minutes, we meet her feline sidekick Cat Stevens (Stevie for short); learn about her great weakness, a lactose intolerance; and encounter her dastardly nemeses Saboteur and Imposter. You see, Brookbanks is a superhero, but she’s like, a relatable one.

While the show has a structure more like a piece of theatre (complete with characters and costumes), it also strikes up an easy-breezy flow more akin to a traditional stand-up set. It’s a pretty cutesy framing device, and sometimes I want Brookbanks to lean in harder to the cheese of it all, but she pulls it off largely thanks to her very natural charisma.

The comic is one of the most instantly likeable people I’ve seen on the stand-up circuit. Brookbanks best jokes combine the wit of an overthinker with the ease of girlfriends chatting over a Thursday jug of sangria. Interestingly, some of her material about sex and her own body – traditional fodder for lady comedians, I suppose – doesn’t quite land with the BATS audience. It’s not that the material is tired per se; it was more that this audience wasn’t on board with laughing at Brookbanks appetite and larger-than-a-size-eight body.

What I found really interesting about Heroic was the way it segues into Brookbanks spotty mental health, particularly her struggles with social anxiety. These moments were points of vulnerability in an otherwise hammy show, and I’m not sure they worked together cohesively. However, on their own, they were striking, and I would have liked to have sat with sad, self-doubting Brookbanks longer. Her social anxiety doesn’t make her any less funny; it lends weight to her everygirl schtick.

Heroic is a really fun, uplifting show, but I can’t help thinking that we’ll see Brookbanks flying higher than this with future works. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Waiting for Godot | Regional News

Waiting for Godot

Written by: Samuel Beckett

Directed by: Ross Jolly

Running at Circa Theatre until 1st Jun 2019

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

Waiting for Godot is a play in which two homeless men, Didi (Andrew Foster) and Gogo (Jeff Kingsford-Brown), wait for someone who never arrives. Pozzo (Peter Hambleton), a rich and well-fed aristocrat, walks past twice with his slave Lucky (Jack Buchanan). The first time, he sits down and eats chicken, and the second time he falls over, suddenly blind. And “in the meantime”, says Gogo, “nothing happens.”

Needless to say, Waiting for Godot is pretty sparse in terms of plot. I’ve written essays about what it all means in the past, but in the spirit of brevity, I think it boils down to the epitome of the existential crisis. It’s a play that audiences and theatre-makers interpret in different ways, bringing their own subtexts and histories to the table. Productions can therefore vary quite wildly. Ross Jolly has here delivered a relatively straight retelling with a traditional set (Foster), but his expert direction means that although “nothing happens”, we’re never bored.

Almost every beat of this production feels alive. Every word is uttered with electric energy by the exceptional cast, the chemistry crackling between our two leads. Put Foster’s reserved, tender, and cynical approach together with Kingsford-Brown’s bumbling affection, and Didi and Gogo’s relationship becomes quite touching.

Hambleton is a show-stealer, delivering delicious one-liners with snarky smirks as entitlement oozes out of the chicken bones he so idly throws away. And yet he is still (almost) likeable. Buchanan’s commitment to embodying a broken man makes him unrecognisable. When the doubled-over Lucky is forced to “think”, Buchanan’s outburst is profound and painful to witness, even eliciting a mid-show clap.

Marcus McShane’s lighting design complements the gloomy mood, while Sheila Horton does well to distinguish class with filthy and immaculate clothing.

Overall, it’s the dynamic pace of this production that drives the non-action ever-forward, keeping us engaged at every turn. If you want to get completely lost in the theatre for a couple of hours, Waiting for Godot is the one.