The Auckland Fringe Festival 2017: Week One
It's Auckland Fringe Festival season and we're covering it much like we're covering the New Zealand Fringe Festival: we've assembled a team of reviewers to get to as many shows as we can, covering them in bite-sized reviews for your daily consumption.
Week one of the Auckland Fringe Festival has two shows that revolve around supermarkets, a woman reciting 621 opinions in an hour and a virtual virtual reality show . Our Auckland Fringe review team - Jess Holly Bates, Melissa Laing, Kate Prior, Janet McAllister and Sam Brooks - is here to cover it all.
Auckland Fringe Festival, Week One (Tuesday 21 February to Sunday 26 February): The Shows
It’s all about scale and perspective.
Tom is the last man on earth and he’s stuck in his workplace Countdown with only the produce, groceries and tannoy announcements for company. It starts out funny – this is a man alone after the world has fallen, railing against his fate and struggling to survive. It quickly becomes farcical, with the appearance of a feral produce section and talking dry goods packets. But as the play goes on, and Tom spirals down, it becomes more and more serious. Our perspective shifts and we realise, maybe he’s just stuck in his own head. Maybe he’s drowning in his self-induced alienation from his friends and family, not surviving the world apocalypse.
This journey of decline, with its inevitable moment of redemption at the end, is communicated to us in an elegantly spare set of elasticised lines converging to a vanishing point that act as shelves, cliffs and the walls that contain Tom. The puppeteers, Chye-Ling Huang and Cole Jenkins, pass in and out manipulating oversized vegetable puppets, plastic bags, Sunmaid Raisin packets and teeny tiny Tom’s while providing a harmonised soundtrack of songs, announcements and foley effects. They create the shifts in scale, from human to puppet, and turn the supermarket into an epic landscape to be traversed and hopefully overcome.
The whole package is clever, dealing with a serious subject lightly, but with respect. Its complicated, and its utterly enjoyable. - ML
Q Theatre, Tuesday 21 to Saturday 25 February
For more information on The Last Man on Earth is Trapped in a Supermarket, go here.
Rushes provides the perfect start to Auckland Fringe 2017. A transformative, joyful new interdisciplinary work from choreographer Malia Johnston collaborating with over 20 dancers, musicians and designers, Rushes is a boundary-breaking promenade work which transforms the awkwardly conference-like Lower NZI Room into a soft neon and white festival of spaces and bodies.
Over 75 minutes, dancers weave through spectators who are free to curate their own experience, ambling through, resting in, or revisiting various rooms or ‘chapters’, containing poetic interplays of light, space and twisting bodies.
There’s a cheeky inventiveness to the peep-holes looking into new worlds and spaces which place audience as unwitting performers. From simple beginnings, the work builds to a pulsating upheaval. Rushes is an immersive balm for your busy brain - that amount of bodies encompassing you as a company alone is deeply gratifying, and mixed with hypnotically oscillating live music, spatial playfulness and attention to all-sensory detail, this work is a Fringe must-see. - KP
Aotea Centre, Tuesday 21 to Saturday 25 February
For more information on Rushes, go here.
In We May Have To Choose, writer/performer Emma Hall offers an impeccably honed, sharply compelling hour-long stream of pithy personal certainty. These are our personal aphorisms, our banal de Botton, our strange, illogical, fixed, contradictory meaning maps. Hall’s personal declarations on the world are teased out in subtle, dynamic shifts by director Prue Clark to build a cumulative force, from the minutiae (“Leather pants are impractical”) to the global (“The planet is dying and we are okay with that”).
It feels a bit like church and a bit like Internet, then, like a tuning fork, you’ll pick up on a truth that resonates. For me: “We need to learn how to argue”. And what is good arguing? It’s certainly devoid of a soapbox. It needs to acknowledge change. But it still means committing to an idea. Yes - things can be both. But we may have to choose. - KP
The Basement Theatre, Tuesday 21 to Saturday 25 February
For more information on We May Have To Choose, go here.
Taking historical characters who never encountered each other and placing them in an imaginary world is a rich dramaturgical proposition, seen in plays such as Tom Stoppard’s Travesties (James Joyce/Lenin/Tristan Tzara) and Steve Martin’s Picasso at the Lapin Agile (Picasso/Einstein/Elvis). Playwright Stephen Lunt sets up the same writerly challenge with his characters Alan Turing, Oscar Wilde and a fictional contemporary writer, Daniel. His thematic intention is to draw a line between Turing’s posthumous royal pardon for gross indecency and the absence of the same for Wilde (and for the other 75000 men through history who were convicted).
It's fertile ground, however much of the time I don't know where we are - spatially or temporally. It seems the play can’t decide whether the fictional writer is a kind of framing device or whether all these characters are in some kind of purgatory. It makes for a confusing 90 minutes. The grab-bag of stylistic choices (realism/panto accents/Brechtian alienation) doesn’t aid this, and unfortunately Te Pou’s particular mix of a basketball and ballet sonic backdrop puts demands on voices and narrative which both don’t quite overcome. - KP
Te Pou Theatre, 21 - 25 February
For more information on Pardon Me Alan Turing, go here.
With the loosest of conceits, Binge Culture’s audio tour/adventure Enter the New World arms their audience with an iPod, a set of headphones and sends them into the dangers of the supermarket. It’s a silly swashbuckling adventure that sends the audience around all the sections of, in this case, the Victoria Park New World, on a trip to defeat consumerism, or at the very least lightly confront their own relationship to what they buy.
The content of Enter the New World has its pleasures, and they’re as sweet as the confectionary aisle they carefully avoid in the story, but the most special thing about the show is walking around a supermarket, sharing knowing looks with your fellow adventurers and trying not to crack up at the joke that you’re sharing but nobody else knows about. This, more than anything else, hits deeper at the show’s heart, that your relationship with your own consumerism is something that you, and only you can really know and examine. Nobody else in the new world, or the literal New World is going to do it for you. - SB
The Basement Theatre, 21 - 25 February
For more information on Enter The New World, go here.