The Wellingtonista

Random stuff about Wellington since 2005

Review: Medea

by Emma Maguire on October 7, 2021 in Theatre

The Victoria University Ancient Theatre Society’s adaptation of Medea is an unique combination of both the Euripides and the Seneca play – and I must say, I like where it goes. It’s a fresh take on two classical scripts, and they meld together well, adapted by VATS’ Rebecca Drummond and Rebecca Scholtz.

The show itself is powerful, focused significantly on Medea’s rise to power as she ruins her unfaithful husband. It’s a tale of murder and witchcraft and bloodshed, and the zingy script works in its favour.

A wide variety of the performances within this show are quite strong. Medea (Maia Ross-Donald) is well-cast, and brings a feral intensity to some of Medea’s speeches. It is almost hard to not root for her – in some respects – by the end. I’d also like to make note of the performances of Aigeus (Isaac Bennett-Smith),  Sophronia (Sophie Helm) and Sotiria (Sacha Acland) – all of whom have excellent stage presence and fit well into the vibe of the play.

However, I do question the directorial choice to stage this script in the era it’s set in. Medea especially is a classical play that is very, very relevant to the modern age – it could so easily have been staged in a modern situation and the themes likely would have resonated a little more if it had been. I also question the desire to not include any kind of soundtrack to the show, there’s a lot of dramatic witchcraft moments that would have been incredible if there’d been audio attached.

On a whole, it’s a good piece of staging, with some really lovely stage pictures – I especially liked the moment when the actors utilised the audience space to symbolise Medea’s last stand on the roof of the palace. I also note that it is an incredible challenge to stage theatre at this point in the pandemic, the fact that this show is sold out is incredible.

Medea is running at Victoria University until Friday, but it is sold out. 

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This is the only theatre show currently running in Wellington, we’re told, as Community Noticeboard begins. It’s a little surreal to be back in a theatre – I’ve personally not been in one since like… June? – and it is especially surreal to be wearing masks and spaced out across a traverse in BATS Theatre’s Dome stage. What a fitting first night back – though – Community Noticeboard, explicitly a show about connections people make with strangers?

Using real-life notes found on the community noticeboards at supermarkets throughout Wellington, the show explores the needs, wants, desires, lives and relationships behind the notice writers and readers, realising relationships and creating stories beyond a few words on a piece of paper. Are the stories true? We’ll never know, but I’d like to think that some of them are.

Best on Tap has an excellent improv style that’s grounded and real, taking the good moments with the bad. There were lots of ‘awws’ from last night’s crowd and a lot of heartfelt moments, as well as a scene about a fishtank that I won’t get out of my head for a long while.

The Best on Tap cast – Nicola Pauling, Mary Little, Geoff Simmons, Tim Croft, Barry Miskimmin – are very talented performers with excellent chemistry. Their work is delightful to watch – slick, clever, funny improv that resonates deep in the chest.

If you’re keen on a good night out at Delta Level 2, I absolutely recommend this show. BATS is super stringent with their COVID-19 protocols, and everything feels really safe. Do recc!

 

Community Noticeboard is on at BATS Theatre in Wellington until Saturday. Tix are very limited, and also here.

 

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I’m out of commission at the moment brain-wise, and couldn’t get to this show, but the work got lovely comments from those there in my steed. The show season is completely sold out, but I’m certain these two will be about town performing at a later date – they’re a talented pair and deserve your time!

Guest review below –

Unusually for improv, rather than ask the audience for a relationship, or location, they asked for something you were passionate about. Working with this, they spun an engaging and creative story – in this case based around a militant anti-scooter group, and their adversaries, a big scooter company – from nothing.

One the main highlights was watching them play about 6 characters between the two of them, swapping roles as they needed, and the whole thing descending into hilarious chaos in the finale, when 4 characters were on stage at once.

90% of the lines got laughs. I counted. Never looked nervous, never got lost, created a fun, respectful narrative based on cursory check-in with one audience member. When it got really grounded, during the romantic moments between two quirky & odd characters, it drew the audience in an even deeper way.

This pair of talented improvisers have an easy, likeable charm about them which adds some immersive depth to this quick-fire, long-form improv show.

10/10, would watch again.

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We might be stuck in New Zealand for a while, but that doesn’t mean the world can’t come to us (especially if they’re rich, apparently). That’s the cool thing about the new exhibition Surrealist Art: Masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
He Toi Pohewa: He Toi Marupō o Muhiama o Boijmans Van Beuningen. You’ll get a slice of Europe last century and get to get out of the wind of Wellington all at the same time.

The exhibition steps you through Dada first, which was a reaction to the first World War. When things are pretty shit, it’s natural to want to escape into the dreamy and fantastical, right? I think we all experienced that in 2020. Many of the Dada cut & paste abstract journals on display seemed familiar to me – expect I knew them in the ’90s as zines. It was interesting to see the pieces with a more contemporary eye – does a figure with soft “feminised” hips and a penis still seem as shocking now that the Western world is finally waking up to the fact that gender is not binary?

A visitor hears voices of Dada

A visitor hears voices of Dada

But I felt the curation could have guided us a little more for the current context. If the Mae West sofa was originally considered shocking for the art of sitting on lips, what does it mean when it’s on display in a country where the head is considered to be tapu and everyone knows you don’t sit on tables or kitchen benches?

A sofa in the shape of Mae West's lips on display at Te Papa

Salvador Dalí, Mae West Lips Sofa, 1938, wood, woollen flannel, cotton, and brass rivets. ©Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí/VEGAP. Copyright Agency, 2021. 

Or in the case of the Margritte Mirror digital replication, where you see the back of your head when looking straight in to a mirror, how can that be reinterpreted for the age of selfies?

Four images of the back of Joanna's head, reflected in a fake mirror that is actually a screen

And then what does it mean when I take photos of it taking images of me and share them here?

That’s not the only interactive part of the exhibition. The surrealists were obsessed with dreams, so you’re invited to write down one of your own and file it away in the card catalogue. I was there the day the exhibition opened so the catalogue was empty, but I wonder if reading about other people’s dreams would be as dreary as listening to them can be.

There’s a screened-off room full of the more risqué pieces – a Venus in bondage, a little nudity, a film that was shocking in the 1930s. Legends of Tomorrow fans will even discover Gary’s haunted nipple – perhaps those wacky time travellers are what inspired Duchamp’s Please Touch

As the most famous Surrealist artist, Salvador Dali is at the centre of the exhibition, both metaphorically but also physically, with his four of his dreamy landscapes in their own circular enclosure.This is where I really must recommend that you try to see the exhibition at a quiet time. Take an extended lunch break if you can, or go first thing in the morning on a weekend before others get up. You’ll want time to sink into his hyper-realistic-but-also-not works, and you’ll want the quiet.

Visitor with Dali's Couple With Their Heads Full Of Clouds

Salvador Dalí, Couple with their heads in the clouds, oil on panel, 1936. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Purchase with the support of: the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Foundation, the Rembrandt Association, the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, the Erasmusstichting and Stichting Bevordering van Volkskracht. Photo: Studio Tromp. © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dali/VEGAP. Copyright Agency, 2020

The exhibition took me around an hour to get through, by myself and it wasn’t too empty, but I am a fast reader. But if you can make it to the museum on a quiet weekday not in the school holidays, definitely make sure you take yourself through the rest of the art too, and go and bathe in the light of Tiffany Singh’s Indra’s bow & Total internal reflection. That’s got to be good for your vitamin D levels!

Sureallist Art is on until October 31. Adult tickets are $23.50, and concessions are available. Te Papa and the exhibition are wheelchair accessible and their website lists a couple of quieter sessions for visitors with autism or sensory sensitivities, or living with disability.

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