Written originally for the stage in 1990 then adapted into a film, Six Degrees of Separation is no newcomer to the scene. Thanks to a blend of superb canon to start with, intelligent set and lighting design plus well appointed casting, Auckland Theatre Company’s adaptation feels fresh, contemporary and still bears relevance today.
The premise that everyone in the world is connected to everyone else through a chain of six people is one that should resonate to most particularly in this digital age in which Facebook tracks your connections through your social network. Where playwright John Guare expands from this theory is by arguing that it’s not just six people but which six people.
Guare’s sharp and intriguing play is brought to life by a small but stellar ensemble cast which include heavyweights in the industry thus already raising the expectations considerably. The play is centered around Flan and Ouisa Kettridge, a rich couple who live the privileged high life in New York City whose lives are turned upside down when a stranger (played excellently by Tane Williams-Accra) stumbles into their home.
The Kettridges are portrayed brilliantly by ATC household name Andrew Grainger and the esteemed Jennifer Ward-Lealand who really needs no introduction. It’s always a treat seeing Ward-Lealand perform – she has a captivating stage presence and commands the stage with ease. Her and Grainger have great on-stage chemistry that was a delight to see and particularly engaging were the moments when they narrate directly to the audience; inviting us in to their world, personalizing the experience.
Another impressive aspect of the piece is John Parker’s set. Imposing columns give the performance space a cavernous depth and combined with the discerningly devised lighting by Jo Kilgour aptly give the overall ‘world’ not only a sense of grandeur but also conveys emptiness which feeds into the premise that while we are seemingly closely connected in this world, this still doesn’t take away feelings of isolation – something we can all relate to.
All in all under the skilled direction of ATC Artistic Director Colin McColl, Six Degrees of Separation is another slick production by Auckland Theatre Company. It’s entertaining theatre with weight – the lighthearted moments are enjoyable and well-placed but its underlying message is thought-provoking and challenging which will give you something to think about as you leave the theatre.
Six Degrees of Separation is on at the ASB Waterfront Theatre until 30 August. For more details and to book tickets, click here.
What’s your social media game like? Do you have a good retweet rate? Do you know your hashtags? Are you well-versed in the art of a good meme?
Alan McElroy is Sh*t @Twitter, as the name suggests, sees McElroy unashamedly flaunt his inaptitude at expressing his thoughts within 280 characters, try as he might. With the help of a Powerpoint presentation, we are shown a selection of tweets where he has tried to engage with his “f**k all” followers with little to no success.
Along the way we also learn some fun facts about McElroy like his fear of insects, anxiety when it comes to flying and the time he found himself involved in an unexpectedly harrowing sexual encounter. These anecdotes are where he really hits his stride because though it appears that he flounders in the social media world, he excels in the ‘real’ world and in what he does best – comedy.
His self-deprecating humour matched with his personable nature and ease at engaging with the crowd is very much the beating heart of the show. Interspersed in between failed tweets and comic mishaps, we are also treated to a few silly musical numbers which felt slightly out of place but all the same did add another comedic layer to the narrative.
What McElroy lacks in number of retweets and social media savvy, he makes up for in spades with his comical prowess and jovial energy live on stage. Alan McElroy is Sh*t @Twitter veers a little on the self-indulgent side but overall is an enjoyable and frequently funny late night offering.
Alan McElroy has one more show TONIGHT 10pm at the Classic. For more info and to book tickets, click here.
Some people are born to entertain and just thrive at being centre stage – Phil Nichol is one of these people and boy does he do it well. There is stand up comedy and there is Phil Nichol doing stand up comedy which is a totally out-of-this world experience.
Your Wrong is a crazy and capricious multi-layered narrative that takes you on an epic ride through Nichol’s life as a self-proclaimed hedonist which unexpectedly turns in to a journey of self-discovery following a curveball involving his older brother Andrew. He even throws in some rock and roll comedy on guitar for good measure.
Contrary to his accent, Nichol is actually of Scottish descent; he and his family moved to Canada when he was 12. He switches between the two accents with ease and his portrayal of his dotty mother Ethel who believes buttons are evil is a particular highlight.
The main pull of the show that keeps you engaged from start to finish is Nichol’s larger than life personality and infectious energy. He’s loud and brash but not divisively so; he is both over-the-top yet also deftly perceptive. In and amongst the silliness and outrageous antics, is some truly brilliant comedy. Nichol has his finger firmly on the pulse of the crowd and his material and it’s a joy to watch.
Your Wrong is a gloriously freewheeling, riotous affair with surprises on every turn and laughs at each corner. Nichol is the consummate entertainer in a league of his own – an absolute must-see for all comedy lovers.
Phil Nichol is performing at The Classic all of this week until 25 May. For more info and to book tickets, click here.
During the comedy festival season where stand up shows are in abundance, it’s nice to try something new to cleanse the comedic palate. Enter Space Couch: A Live Comedy Chat Show – a refreshing blend of comedy and conversation which takes inspiration from iconic talk shows like David Letterman and Jon Stewart.
This late night soiree is the brainchild of two-time Billy T nominee Tim Batt and electronic/ synthpop musician Luke Rowell (aka Disasteradio). Together they have created an entertaining and eccentric hour of comical banter, facetious commentary and riotous antics with some sketch comedy thrown in and even a commercial break.
Batt’s charisma and amiable persona make him the ideal host while Disasteradio provides well-timed musical cues as the show’s one-man house band. At centre stage is the titular Space Couch who we learn was named so after traversing space in 1958 and along the way found his voice, albeit a communist one. A talking couch may sound ludicrous but somehow doesn’t seem totally out of the ordinary within the context of this show.
Each night, in keeping with the talk show format, the audience is treated to a panel of different guests. For this show we had local comic Hamish Parkinson and his mum Lynette who took part in a guessing game with a shock factor that sent audible responses both onstage and in the crowd.
Actress Claire Chitham of Shortland Street/ Outrageous Fortune fame was the celebrity guest and who was just an absolute delight to have onstage. When she closed the show with an impromptu pilates class, we don’t even blink an eye – we’d seen far more outrageous things at this point.
With a bit of refining, Space Couch: A Live Comedy Chat Show certainly has the potential to be a permanent offering in the comedy festival programme. If you’re getting a bit of show fatigue and keen for something a bit different and unpredictable, this is a great late night treat.
Just one more opportunity to see Tim Batt fulfill his chat show dreams! The last show is at 10pm tonight at the Basement Theatre. For more info and to book tickets, click here.
It takes great skill to present a comedy show that is not only inherently personal and in many ways educational but also one that has a generous helping of funny. James Roque nails all three and makes it look effortless.
Boy Mestizo centres around Roque’s recent trip back to his home country to reacquaint himself with his Filipino roots. Or in his words, to embark on his ‘eat pray love’ journey. His sharp wit pair well with his self-deprecating humour to bring together a show that is packed with hilarity but has lots of heart at its core.
Over the course of the hour, Roque gives us a candid snapshot of Filipino culture through his interactions with family, own discoveries and he even throws in a quickfire history lesson for good measure. He draws attention to idiosyncrasies and common traits while also revealing some harrowing home truths particularly around the nation’s definition of beauty.
Roque’s French-Canadian girlfriend gets regular mention and could almost be another show in its own right. From being his lucky charm to receiving better service in shops in the Philippines to keeping his airbnb reviews in check, it provides another comical stream to the show.
Overall Boy Mestizo is a fast-paced, well-crafted hour with never a dull moment and fires on all cylinders. It’s easily enjoyable, heartwarmingly honest, thoroughly engaging and packs a comedic punch.
James Roque’s Boy Mestizo is on tonight at the Basement. For more info or to book tickets, click here.
He is also one third of the sketch comedy trio Frickin Dangerous Bro who also have a show later tonight at Q Theatre. For more info or to book tickets, click here.
This is Medusa as you’ve never seen before. There is no creature with a head of snakes instead the rage that embodies this character unravels before our eyes in a vivid and visceral tapestry of spoken word, light and sound.
Nisha Madhan, Julia Croft and Bronwyn Ensor collectively “play” this mythological monster and they do so like a well-oiled machine. The piece starts in complete silence bar a few awkward sniggers and shuffling before evolving, coming alive and eventually going the other extreme in a defiantly discordant way.
We are taken on an erratic journey where any notion of a conventional narrative is completely dismantled. Things get chaotic, raucously loud, uncomfortable, raw, unsettling yet oddly hypnotic. The lighting design and soundscape are like characters in their own right, adding a visual and aural layer to the cacophony of words.
Medusa is an assertive assault to the senses, reminding you of the power of theatre. Postmodern in its approach, it will not be for everyone but for those who take the chance, it is a bold beast that will affect and bewilder as well as challenge your ideas on femininity.
Medusa is part of Q Theatre’s Matchbox 2018 season and is on upstairs in the Loft until 3 November. For more details and to book tickets, click here.
Love and sexuality are complicated enough to navigate without adding race in to the mix. Orientation is a bold new work by Proudly Asian Theatre that explores what it means to be Asian in Aotearoa, dissecting in particular common stereotypes associated with sex and relationships.
Mei, the central character of the story, finds herself battling an identity crisis being half Pākehā and half Chinese yet only having dated white men. Enlisting the help of the ‘Asian Everyman’, she goes on a quest – to “root herself back to her roots”. As she speed dates her way through various suitors, we are given a superficial representation of “Asianess” which will no doubt speak to and resonate more to those of Asian descent in the crowd.
This audacious way of self discovery is certainly unorthodox but paves the way to the bigger subject matter at hand – the racism and social conditioning that is deeply ingrained into the fabric of New Zealand society. From dumplings and that iconic lucky cat to throwing around popular prejudice and cringe-worthy clichés, playwright and director Chye-Ling Huang’s script is unabashedly honest as it is deeply perceptive.
Where this piece falters ever so slightly is in its over ambition and pace. While what is being presented is compelling, the overall narrative could have benefited from being tighter, focusing on a select few talking points rather than a whole slew – though perhaps this was the intent. Regardless things did drag in parts and at times felt on the over-indulgent side.
All in all Orientation packs a punch. It is an edgy and thought-provoking theatre piece that uses one woman’s mission to find her place as the beacon that casts a light on Asian sexuality and the racial undercurrents that exists in this country.
Orientation is on at Q Theatre until 15 May as part of the MATCHBOX 2018 season. For more info and to book tickets, click here.
Indian Ink Theatre Company are renowned for their innovative and visual storytelling with Mrs Krishnan’s Party delivering just that and more. Taking place in the back room of the titular character’s dairy, it centres around recreating Onam, the annual harvest festival of Kerala which celebrates life, death and rebirth.
The party atmosphere is pulled off brilliantly with the use of theatre in the round style seating. Performance and audience spaces are very much blurred with no Fourth Wall in sight as audience members are engaged in conversation and invited to participate. The different tiers of tickets allows attendees to be as involved as they want to, very much mirroring what would happen at an actual party.
Aspiring DJ James played with charming aplomb by Justin Rogers is the amiable host of the festivities who is intent on bringing us together for a merry affair that’s like “Christmas, Easter, and Diwali all rolled into one”. Colourful scarves are passed around and bindis donned before the imminent arrival of the assertive yet endearing Mrs Krishnan herself portrayed superbly by Kalyani Nagarajan.
A highlight of this festive gathering is watching a pot of dahl come together live before our eyes. Just like how the flavours of a curry build over time, the depth of both these characters develop (and unravel) as the narrative unfolds. The journey their characters go on parallels the heart of Onam and the Hindu mythology that surrounds it.
Mrs Krishnan’s Party is another solid offering from Indian Ink Theatre Company that is a heartwarming recipe of culture, folklore, dance and cookery. It is a fun, feel-good, multi-sensory theatrical soiree that uses interactive theatre – and food – to bring everyone together.
The season at Q has finished but the company are taking the show to Wellington and Christchurch next. For more info and to book tickets, click here.
With thirty years of experience under his belt, Arj Barker is a seasoned pro who has well cemented himself in the comedy circuit beyond his Flight of the Conchords fame. It’s been a couple of years since his last visit to our shores so he has a few things to update us on.
Organic is a fitting title for this show as while Barker’s style has always been more on the laidback side and this still holds true, there is something even more stripped back about his performance this time round. He is now a married man which could be the reason and it is adjusting to this new phase in his life which forms the comedic backbone of this show.
Barker’s recent transition to a gluten free lifestyle (thanks to his wife) is a recurring theme and particular highlight. He channels his struggle to adapt by giving popular gluten foods new meaning with amusing nicknames like “bread in a bottle” and “nautical seafaring bread” to hilarious effect.
Whether it’s debating Uber versus taxis, discussing flying business class or lamenting about the social etiquette around talking about Game of Thrones in public, Barker has the audience thoroughly engaged with his comic wordplay, sharp irony and perfectly timed punchlines. His closing set sees him treat us with a bit of musical comedy which adds another great comedic element to the show.
Organic is another enjoyable offering from Arj Barker filled with perceptive observations and entertaining anecdotes delivered in that signature style of his. As an added bonus, if after the show you still can’t get enough, after the show you can purchase some funny “Arjisms” to take home with you!
Arj Barker had only two shows at SKYCITY Theatre this year but I’m sure he will be back in NZ again soon! To find out when and where he is performing next, visit www.arjbarker.com
He has also started a hilarious DIY YouTube channel you should totally subscribe to – check it out here.
Retired wrestler turned stand up comedian El Jaguar is back in Auckland and this time he is teaching a masterclass! It has always been a dream of his to direct his own telenovela which he explains is a Mexican soap opera (or to put it in terms Kiwis will understand: “Shortland Street but spicy”).
The hallmark of an El Jaguar show is that there isn’t a Fourth Wall and that it is very much an interactive experience. El Jaguar actively incites conversation with several individuals in the crowd, even managing to get some form of response from the more reluctant participants.
We are also told there are four cornerstones that build a good soap and throughout the course of the hour El Jaguar runs us through these components. Audience members’ improv skills are put to the test as he enlists their help to demonstrate and inevitably bring his telenovela to life.
There’s something quite magical about El Jaguar’s style in that while the show relies heavily on audience participation, Derek Flores – the man behind the mask – is a deft improviser so pulls it off seamlessly with skill and cunning. From orchestrating a Mexican “look” wave to setting up an elaborate sequence of events which culminates in a family portrait, he brings the crowd on an escapade of fantastically farcical proportions.
Telenovela is an absurdly fun and frivolous caper that encourages you to get out of your comfort zone and embrace the silly. El Jaguar’s offbeat brand of comedy isn’t for everyone but for those looking for something a bit different at the Festival, you can’t go any more wonderfully irregular than this.
There’s just one more opportunity to attend El Jaguar’s masterclass Telenovela. Take a punt on something new at the Festival – go check this out tonight (19 May) at The Classic! For more info and to book tickets, click here.