Review: Krishnan’s Dairy

by Emma Maguire on September 22, 2022

Review by Talia Carlisle.

A wise man once told me that real loves grows, and so does my love of Indian Ink’s now legendary tale of Krishnan’s Dairy that wound up its final season in Wellington this week.

The production is a well polished gem in the crown of creative team Jacob Rajan and Justin Lewis, which I first saw at Wellington’s Hannah Playhouse 10 years ago and have been captivated by ever since.

Their latest and last season found its home at Te Papa’s Soundings Theatre and was just as magnificent, hilarious and heart-wrenching as I remember. Added to this was the perfectly choreographed sound design, creative props, catchy songs and their infamously magical mask wizardry that brought our favourite dairy and characters to life.

There are many legends in this tale of an immigrant dairy owner named Gobi – all of whom are played by Rajan and weave in Gobi’s love story with his wife Zina – in with that of the Indian Emperor and visionary romantic, Shah Jahan, who is responsible for the famous Taj Mahal.

It compares their recent arranged marriage with the prospect of a love marriage, all while settling into new life and parenthood in the prized suburbs of New Zealand… which is not the paradise Zina imagined it to be.

The perseverance of their relationship – and of their shop that earns them $4 an hour on a good day within a 17-hour shift – is nothing compared to the persevering strength of the Indian Ink Company. which has itself honoured New Zealand as its home for 25 years, despite receiving rapturous applause and 65 successful overseas tours during that time.

Their love story, both Gobi’s and Rajan’s, will not be forgotten and I am ready to love the new works by these masterful creators that are already on their way to inspire new audiences like myself.

I am not ready to let go of Gobi and Zina yet, but their impact will stay in my heart, and in the shadows of Te Papa where this breathtaking masterpiece is appropriately worthy of a long awaited rest.

I don’t see any rest in sight for its creators however, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

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Review: Back to Square One?

by Emma Maguire on September 7, 2022

Reviewed by Shona Jaunas

Back to Square One invites you into conversation between 95 year old Inga’s living room in Denmark and her grandson, Anders Falstie-Jensen in New Zealand.

It starts with the audience all writing their names on the stage front in chalk which immediately brings us into the space; we are all involved in this discussion. Through the play Falstie-Jensen keeps bringing us into his conversations with Inga and thoughts as he discusses the meaning of living on this earth through Danish folk stories and interpretations of the multi-generational response to the Covid lockdowns. He uses the stage and chalk as a visual representation keeping us on track as he meanders through what it means to feel isolation, be far away from family and deal with fear.

This is a non-pretentious moment of truth. Falstie-Jensen presents this story as a shared experience and invites us to eventually question whether going “Back to Square One?” is the next step in our journey or whether there is another option. Perhaps we could be better?

If you are looking for an epiphany, then this is not the play for you but if you would like to partake in a shared experience that may reflect and extend your ideas of how the lockdowns affected you and the world that follows then this is a warm and generous invitation into one family’s experience.  Falstie-Jensen is relaxed in his story telling style and his genuine positive attitude is infectious.

The cake is really, really good, apparently a very difficult to make Danish danish.  The chance to talk and have coffee together after the show only adds to its sense of taking us all on a journey together.

I went on a Sunday afternoon and it was a perfect way to reflect on not only Falstie-Jensen and Inga’s conversations but that yes, we have just all been through a global pandemic together and maybe we should reevaluate the world we live in.

Circa Two – Sat 3rd – Sun 11th September, Tues – Sat 7.30pm; Sun 4.30pm

$25 – $35 (and $50 combo ticket available for 2 Tahi Festival shows at Circa)
Get your tickets here.

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Review: Skin Tight

by Emma Maguire on August 30, 2022

Skin Tight is my favourite ever play and I’ve been wanting to see it performed since I first read it. Circa Theatre did not disappoint with their iteration of this show; a gloriously evocative piece with incredible staging, performances and movement.

The play is not just a love story to its characters – and the highs and lows that come within their lives – but a love story to the landscape of this country, the rolling mountains, the rivers, and the dizzying snap of spring. It is this imagery that carries us into the piece.

A reimaging of Denis Glover’s poem The Magpies, Skin Tight sets us in an apple orchard, on a farm somewhere within rural New Zealand, where two lovers find themselves together.

Elizabeth (Ella Gilbert) and Tom (Arlo Gibson) are very much in love, and have weathered such grief in their lives. Our two characters and the dialogue dip in and out of temporality as they fight, make-up, love, live and grow old; ageless within two single actor bodies, but with the weight of many years on their backs. Gary Henderson’s writing is gorgeous, and so very real, with this pervasive sense of love undercutting the entirety of the script – love that is brutal, and passionate, and mourned when it is gone.

Skin Tight is a masterclass in physical theatre. Movement (Luke Hanna) and intimacy (Tandi Wright) intertwine within this work, creating a piece that almost dances through the beats of these characters’ lives. From fighting – rolling on the ground, pushing, slapping, biting and grabbing – to smaller, more sensual pieces of intimacy, the moment is held beautifully by our two actors, who perform wholly complex physicality across the show. There is one particular scene involving a knife that is one of the most daring and most erotic things I’ve even seen staged. I dread to think the state of the actors’ bruises by the time this season is over!

The heights of sensuality that these actors must reach within this show would be a challenge to most, but both Gilbert and Gibson surpass them with (seeming) ease, with a palpable chemistry and genuine heart. Elizabeth is cocky and quick to emote, and Tom a little more thoughtful, but both have their places within the work, finding their feet in moments about infidelity, and the War.  A strong directorial hand (Katherine McRae) is very apparent, with beautiful stage pictures that set the piece out amongst the starkness of the stage.

I’d like to make a special note of the designers behind this show, whose work is apparent but simplistic, an invocation to the notes of the landscape but does not distract from the movement of the piece. Brynne Tasker-Poland’s lighting is warm, cut softly across set and bodies; creating interesting shadows on the floor, bare thighs, the back wall of the theatre. Lucas Neal’s set is mostly dark, geometric poles that create the shape of a building, along with the infamous metal bathtub – which is filled with water across the course of the show. The music (Oliver Devlin) and sound design (Ben Kelly) are almost characters of their own – multi-dimensional but not overpowering, perfect notes that support the fever of the fighting and the wistfulness of the history within .

The final scene of the show has no dialogue, and is a send-off, in a way. Water falls from the ceiling, into the bathtub, and the characters strip naked, finally free from the trappings of years, to bathe together – one final sensual, deeply intimate moment. It is near spiritual in its framing, and we are left with an older Tom (KC Kelly), stepping out onto stage for a final moment, as his younger self sobs over his departed wife behind him. He stares off into the sky. A magpie cries. He cuts a final slice from an apple. We rest.

Skin Tight is being performed at Circa Theatre in Wellington until the 24th of September. Get your tickets here.

 

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Before I even start this review, let me just stress how well the cast of Celestial Nobodies performed under pressure last night, the audience space was quite challenging for multiple reasons and they held the show well with composure and poise – no mean feat considering it was opening night as well!

Celestial Nobodies sold out during the 2021 Fringe Festival and is back reskinned at BATS Theatre this week with a slightly smaller cast and presumably some other differences behind the scenes. It’s a polylogue show, where the planets are personified, and has a fascinating discussion of queerness and humanity underscoring the entire piece.

Mercury’s (Annica Lewis) is telling their boss that they need a break, Earth (Lilli Margaret) and Moon (Lewis) are codependent in an unhealthy way and Jupiter (Q Walker) really needs their kids (other moons) to just calm down for a moment, okay? Uranus (Laurel Mitchell) has Trauma, with a capital T, The Sun’s (Nick Erasmuson as Eva Goodcoq) singing songs and Venus (El Yule) needs people to stop looking at them.

It is a particularly novel idea to personify the planets, but a wholly clever one. There’s not a lot of shows where you can see wonderful human performances and learn about the planets at the same time, and I congratulate playwright Evangelina Telfar on her depth of research. The part of me that wanted to be an astronaut for most of my childhood is very tickled by this show. Telfar’s writing is zingy, full of puns and delight, but isn’t afraid to delve deeper into the more heavier issues – at points the show dips into discussions about queerness, domestic abuse and mental health.

Anastasia Matteini-Roberts directed the Fringe version of this show and is back for this iteration. Her strong directorial vision is quite apparent and lends itself to the show in a very good way. Tonally, the show goes through multiple different themes across just over an hour, each handled carefully and differently, with characters embracing the fullness of the stage during direct audience address.

“Enjoyed” isn’t particularly the right term, but a moment I felt particularly heavily during this work was Earth’s scene. The monologue is grounded but not particularly emotional, the toneless ache of a character in crisis. It can be easy to overact scenes around depression and mental illness, but I found Lilli Margaret’s performance to be utterly compelling and very realistic. Annica Lewis’ Moon, when she joins the scene, is more eager-to-please and emotional, and together the performers make quite the pair, creating a moment of desperate, misplaced intimacy that is both wholly toxic but utterly resonant. It’s a moment I’ll be thinking about for a while, I reckon.

Other moments I found particularly rich within the show were Saturn (Q Walker), a partier at the end of their night discovering things about themselves – a dizzying fumble with identity that I know all too well; Venus (El Yule) and their battle with the voyeuristic desires of others juxtapositioned against a clothes-changing scene; and Uranus (Laurel Mitchell), a stand-up comic going wildly off the rails.

Crew-wise, the entire production is studded with a ton of local talent. Anne-Lisa Noordover’s set is simplistic but gorgeous, with fluffy clouds and glitter that seem to warm the space immediately. Simplistic but lovely sound design (Phil Brownlee) and lighting design (Bekky Boyce) add to the overall feel, creating a space on stage that feels welcoming, and serves its purpose to elevate the performers, rather than distract from them. The room feels nice, actually. Despite the heaviness of some of the monologues, it is good to come into a place where the staging, performances and scripting is so utterly queer.

Celestial Nobodies is a play with a lot of heart at its core. Ideally, I think the work would have benefited from a slightly truncated script, and more of an overall conclusion, but overall, it’s a play that takes the audience places, and leaves a lot of heart in its wake. At points, it’s simply out of this world (sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

This show is on at BATS Theatre in Wellington until the 13th of August. Get your tickets here.

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Review: RNZB’s Cinderella

by Emma Maguire August 4, 2022

RNZB’s Cinderella is a carnival of excess, packed full of joy and beauty and delight. It shines with queerness, and as a queer dancer myself, this ballet was a revolutionary take on a well-hewn story and hit me right in the chest. Cinderella (Mayu Tanigaito) is the same woman we all know, stuck in a […]

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Review: Shift Your Paradigm

by Emma Maguire July 29, 2022

Shift Your Paradigm Reviewed by Lox Dixon Shift Your Paradigm (No Chairs Required) begins by welcoming us into the Dome space at BATS Theatre, for a chair seminar. The stage is sparse. Two cheap desks are set up, one to either side of stage, and an object (presumably a chair) covered by a sheet, sits […]

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Review: Dying Swanologues

by Emma Maguire July 16, 2022

Tutus and trauma: a delicious slice By Talia Carlisle It’s never too late to join the ballet bandwagon, unless that wagon is the Tempest season of Dying Swanologues at BATS Theatre, in which case you have sorely missed out. The short and sweet season from July 5-9 was made shorter with two last minute cancellations […]

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Sex Workers of Aotearoa; A Day in the Life of exhibition

by Joanna May 29, 2022

Back for the fourth year in a row – Sex Workers of Aotearoa; A Day in the Life of – is an annual art exhibition in which all art has been created by current or past sex workers. The artwork is for sale, showcasing various mediums; photography, ink, paint, mixed media, cross-stitch, sculpture, poetry and more.   […]

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Review: Trifles

by Emma Maguire February 6, 2022

Reviewed by Shauwn Keil. Upon entering the theatre, we are treated to a magnificent set, designed by Jasmine Bryham. Everything that reminds you of Nana and Poppa’s house is present. Jars of God knows what across the kitchen bench. A kettle and cool mugs. Dinner set items. A paua shell ashtray on a shelf on […]

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Review: Soho Cinders

by Emma Maguire January 31, 2022

Reviewed by Talia Carlisle The set of Soho Cinders is a simple train station in London, but the story, design and performances are far from simple. A saucy queer rewrite of Cinderella, Soho Cinders tells us the story of Robbie (Chris McMillan), who’s caught between sugar daddy Lord Bellingham (Stanford Reynolds) and London Mayoral Candidate James Prince (Michael Stebbings). […]

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