The Wellingtonista

Random stuff about Wellington since 2005

Review: PLAY

by Emma Maguire on September 5, 2020 in Theatre

It’s strange to be back in a place like BATS during times like these, but I’m very pleased I went along to see PLAY, a gay dating dramedy here from Auckland.

It’s a play within a play, of a sort – the first twenty minutes or so being a form of a drawing-room comedy, then the show takes an abrupt dip into realism (of a sort), exploring the life of the writer writing said comedy.

The performances are excellent, and the show is very well directed. The actors capture the space, making their three-person show feel a lot larger than life, and it’s incredibly funny.

The first portion of the play is set in modern-day city life, but the performers speak as though they’re within an Austen novel, which leads to many excellent quips, and quite a lot of euphemisms for one’s… shall we say… johnson? I was crying with laughter, let me tell you.

The second part of the show is a lot closer to home, a world that one could easily walk past on any of Wellington’s streets. Rich (Alex Walker) is writing a play about a married man who cheats on his husband with a waiter. All things feel perhaps a smidge too close to home as he’s torn between Dan (Zak Enayat), an artist, and Nick (Liam Coleman) a realtor, both of whom he definitely cares for, but he can’t quite settle for either.

PLAY is an interesting fossicking around of polyamory, open relationships, love and commitment. Though the ending was perhaps a little telegraphed and didn’t quite feel satisfactory, I had a lovely time. Support shows like this, they’re worth it.

PLAY is on at BATS Theatre in Wellington until the 12th of September. There are limited seats available for two of the performances, so get in quick! 

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Has it really been a year since I last reviewed an interation of Public Service Announcements? Apparently so. The political satire is back, mixing COVID, controversy, and Election Night into one wild and very timely show.

Our actors take the stage with a parody of a well-known ABBA song, now rebranded as “MMP”. This trend of soun-alikes will continue for the rest of the piece, culminating in a parody of the Game of Thrones theme as one of the politicians (I bet you can’t guess who) rises from smoke at the top of the stage.

It’s been an absolutely hell year, both in politics and in the real world, but Public Service Announcements seems to take it in its stride, commenting on things that barely even happened a week ago in the political news cycle with alacrity and prescience.

Jacinda Ardern (Hannah Kelly) is basically running a cult, Judith Collins (Johanna Cosgrove) is turning all the members of her party into vampires and David Seymour (Sepelini Mua’au) is recruiting strangers off the street to join his party. James Shaw (Simon Leary) has started smoking an absolute shit-ton of weed, Winston Peters (Matu Ngaropo) has gotten into some sweet dance moves and Marama Davidson (Neenah Dekkers-Reihana) is trying desperately to get her party in line.

It’s all very good.

But that’s the thing with PSA, it’s always quality writing and excellent fun. Though dependent on your age you might not hit on all the jokes – there was one line about incels that I suspect I’m the only one who laughed at it – it’s a very good time, and you’ll definitely enjoy it.

There’s a delightful kind of weirdness to this show, an air of esoterica – Chloe Swarbrick has been possessed, Shane Jones is slowly mutating into some kind of homunculus, David Seymour seems to live in a recycling bin, and we’re not even going to start on the vampires – but it’s satire that hits, and it hits well. The performances are recognisable, and very strong – Cosgroves’ Collins being a noteable standout with her Wicked Witch of the West-esque vibes – and everyone seems to be having a very good time.

Like I said in last year’s review, National still wants to fuck roads.

(True to life there, then.)

My only regret is that I didn’t get additional tickets, because PSA is the kind of show you could see multiple times and still pick up new things. It’s sold out, but you can go on the waitlist by contacting them.

What a bloody good time.

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Pete Gilespie - Co-Founder of Garage Project - with a can of the new Ghost Light beerWellington based independent brewery Garage Project has released a new beer to support NZ theatres and live performing arts. Working in conjunction with Wellington’s BATS Theatre, Auckland’s Basement Theatre, Christchurch’s Little Andromeda and other independent theatres around the country, the Ghost Light beer has been designed to reference a tradition in the arts, and be the perfect beer for enjoying during a live performance.
It’s tradition in the theatre that when theatres close their doors, an electric light is left illuminated on stage to keep the resident ghosts happy. During lockdown, these Ghost Lights have been burning bright on stages around the globe. Good for the ghosts, not so for those in the Arts. Brewed with extra light malt, oats, and a blend of Citra and Nelson Sauvin hops, Ghost Light is a brilliant white gold brew with a distinctly spectral haze.
Proceeds of the Ghost Light beer go directly to supporting theatres around New Zealand. They’ve have been hit hard with Covid-19 closures, cancelling seasons, pivoting to streaming shows online and being forced to dramatically rethink how they are going to operate and survive moving forward. With NZ going back into level 2 and 3, the future is still very uncertain. An already stretched industry that relies on ‘live bodies in space’ is seriously struggling.
Garage Project wants to encourage beer lovers and theatre lovers alike to support local independent theatre, either by being in the room together (if they can) or by buying a brew that keeps a light on in the dark.

With label art by Julia Murray

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Four dancers are standing while one is on the ground between Award-winning director and performance designer Sam Trubridge is bringing a bold new performance to Te Whaea this August. Taking inspiration from H Guthrie Smith’s ‘Tutira: The Story of an NZ Sheep Station’ (1921), Ecology in Fifths enacts this obsessive account of NZ ecology — now a recognised classic in environmental science worldwide. Piece by piece, the NZ myth of a ‘clean green and natural landscape’ is unravelled to reveal the environmental tensions that lie underneath our grassy paddocks and forest canopies.

Developed by Trubridge’s production company The Playground NZ, the show had its first development season in 2010, receiving glowing feedback from test audiences. Spectacular performance design by director Sam Trubridge and stunning choreography by Sean MacDonald (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāi Tahu) combine to present a powerful, poignant lament for the lost ecologies and history of Aotearoa NZ. An immersive soundscape by NZ composer Bevan Smith transports the audience through the evolution of the story: a transformation occurs, as Guthrie Smith’s principles are interwoven with Māori myth and legend. Marcus McShane, a prolific and talented lighting designer joins the design team. McDonald  is joined on stage by Hannah Tasker-Poland, Emmanuel Reynaud, Brydie Colquhoun, and Luke Hanna.

Environmental issues are a critical theme in the production that extend into its design realisation, with an emphasis on developing sustainable practices. With the short life of many structures built for theatre it can sometimes be costly to our environment. As explained by Trubridge “Productions often compromise design or personnel in order to make theatre that tours easily. Our challenge is to ask how we can sustainably produce the original concept without having to lose the spectacle and intrigue of design led performance

Ecology in Fifths is a new production by the makers of Sleep/Wake (Auckland Festival 2009, NZNP Festival New York 2015) and the acclaimed annual Performance Arcade festival on Wellington Waterfront (2011-present). This new work develops the company’s unique style and explores the integration of musical composition, choreography and set design. This orchestration of performing elements reflects upon the ecologies in our everyday lives, illustrating how microcosmic events can have a significant effect upon global crises.

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