Proudly Asian Theatre: Orientation

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.

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Indian Ink Theatre Company: Mrs Krishnan’s Party

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.

NZICF 2018: Arj Barker – Organic

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.

 

NZICF 2018: El Jaguar – Telenovela

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 buy 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.

NZICF: Brendon Green – My Mates Dave

Brendon Green knows many Daves and he is pretty sure you do too. When he was at a wedding and there were seven Daves present (three of which were in the wedding party alone) this sparked his fascination with the name and what it is to be a Dave.

My Mates Dave takes the audience on an anecdotal journey through the Daves in Green’s life and explores the theory that your name determines the person you are and how you live your life. There are seven drawings on stage, one to symbolize each Dave, which serve as reference points to each short story.

There is frenemy Dave (Green’s first Dave that sets the Dave bar), serial online dater Dave, surfer friend Dave, even a furry feline Dave. Green talks about these characters and recounts his chosen memory of them in that detailed, illustrative way that he is incredibly adept at, painting such a vivid picture of the interaction it feels like we were there ourselves.

Though they are all different Daves, Green points out that every one of them uncannily bears similar traits, applying the notion that every Dave is an exact, specific type of person. This seems far too general a statement to make yet Green does an excellent job at convincing us.

This is another enjoyable offering from Brendon Green that is the perfect blend of comedy, charm and candor. Green is a charismatic storyteller who just knows how to spin a good yarn and this is what makes his comedy so wonderfully compelling.

Brendon Green has just one more show at Q tonight (19 May) at 10pm. Go get some late night yarns! For more info and to book tickets, click here.

NZICF 2018: Tony Lyall – Just Kidding

From off-stage, Tony Lyall gets the crowd’s attention with the big F word – fornication. Quoting Michael Bolton’s famous words, Lyall explains that when a man loves a woman something amazing can happen. For him, that something was becoming a father.

In this year’s show Just Kidding Lyall shares with us how his life has changed now that he has a baby to care for. He is especially cynical of nursery rhymes, fables and Disney films – he doesn’t trust them to teach kids about the world which he proceeds to prove by acutely turning the tale of the Gingerbread Man on its head, revealing the underlying dark message beneath.

He also shrewdly analyzes that iconic scene in The Lady and the Tramp swiftly dispelling the notion that dogs behave so coyly around a plate of spaghetti. What about the other diners? What is their food hygiene rating? These are pertinent questions Lyall poses to drive the point home. One huge serving of trout spaghetti (do not try at home) and an ill-fated road trip later, we are thoroughly convinced (and more than a little bit queasy) that dogs should never be offered pasta.

From cracking that cryptic real estate code to his logic behind why his son Arden is not named after the Prime Minister, Lyall’s material is a wealth of sharp witticisms that is engaging as it is entertaining. He has a very “every man” quality about him which make his material accessible, even if you’re not a parent.

Just Kidding is another enjoyable hour from Tony Lyall, this time with added world-weariness from being a new father. It is an hour of insightful dialogue and keen observations from an adept comedian that will surely tickle your funny bone.

Tony Lyall’s Just Kidding is on at Q for 2 more nights (until 19 May). For more info and to book tickets, click here.

NZICF 2018: Laura Daniel X Joseph Moore – Two Hearts: Restart the Hearts

Restart the Hearts proves that you don’t need an arena to pull off a gig that has that full-scale live concert vibe. With bangin’ vocals, killer moves, flashy lights, confetti and a whole lot of sparkles, this musical comedy spectacle has all the right ingredients for a rollicking good time.

It’s been a year since Laura Daniel and Joseph Moore joined forces to become pop music duo Two Hearts however much to their dismay they are still being haunted by their comedian past. After a few funny attempts at turning the show into a stand up routine – which if anything showcased how in sync the two of them are – they succumb to their true pop star selves.

Over the course of the hour, the humble little Loft at Q transforms into a mini stadium as Daniel and Moore have the crowd completely engaged and hooked on their brand of riotous musical satire. There are silly songs about revenge porn and PMS induced divas as well as tunes with an underlying message like a comical ode to the independent woman that turned out to be about sexual harassment.

Along the way there are onstage costume changes, backup dancers going rogue and cheering matches between the left and right side of the room. A show like this can veer on the trite, gimmicky side but Daniel and Moore toe that line brilliantly thanks to their shrewd songwriting and electric stage presence.

Restart the Hearts is a fabulously fun and facetious party of comedic and musical proportions. It is irresistibly irreverent, unashamedly audacious and a thoroughly intoxicating experience that will leave you wanting more.

Two Hearts will be performing at Q Theatre until 19 May. For more info and to book tickets, click here.