The Auckland Fringe Festival 2017: Week Two
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 two of the Auckland Fringe Festival has two shows that brings us a floating theatre, a choose your own adventure around the waterfront, an award-winning dance show and much more! 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 (Sunday 26 February to Saturday 4 March): The Shows
A Virtual Virtual Reality Show starts out with a simple premise: its the future, we’re in a bar on the moon, the rabbits are in charge, and humans are slaves. We, the audience, are rabbits and while we can help the human sex slave Chang’e’ achieve freedom by emoji liking her, we are strongly discouraged from doing so. This premise is reiterated to the point of tedium through videos, live performance, and voice overs as the show progresses. Finally, after 15 min of set-up we are introduced to Chang’e’. She performs, as instructed we withhold, she begs, and then we leave. She remains stuck in her situation.
Performance artist Roshelle Fong might have been aiming to make a pointed political statement about the sexual exploitation and oppression of (asian) women in this work, but she didn’t get there. Instead she presented the banal cliche of woman as sex slave without contesting it. She may have also been trying to demonstrate through a Milgram experiment that audiences are obedient to authority and willing to engage in petty cruelty. However, the obviousness of this move obstructed any moment of self-realisation.
She could have been simply critiquing the insidious practice of chasing Facebook ‘likes’. If so – sadface emoji – I came out disappointed. I can respect the ambitions of A Virtual Virtual Reality Show – to make us confront our own complicity in a culture that exploits bodies and subjectivities – and because of these ambitions I wanted the work to succeed. However it needs serious development before it can live up to its potential. - ML
Te Wero Bridge, Thursday 24 to Tuesday 28 February
For more information on A Virtual Virtual Reality Show, go here.
It starts out like any info evening run an amateur club or society – enthusiastic handshakes and name sharing, welcome speeches delivered with an overlay of nervous energy. They are delighted we’re here to be inducted into the ‘Truth Seekers’, a society of people who want to discover the truth of things in the world. Its quickly revealed that the society in the midst of a crisis: people have gone missing and information about possible infiltrators from ‘The Watchers’ has been left at drop points around the waterfront.
But, while there is a need to leave the Silos and find out more, some of us need to stay behind and guard the site. Its an interactive choose-your-own-adventure experience and this is your first choice – stay or go. Don’t overthink it because there is no wrong choice, merely a different narrative arc through trust, conspiracy and betrayal to the final dramatic conclusion.
With Are You Sure? the Auckland University’s Stray Theatre Company has created an energetic adventure that takes advantage of the diverse spaces of the Wynard Quarter from the viewing balcony of the Viaduct Events Centre to the waters of the Silo Marina. Its a challenging task they’ve set themselves – keeping the audience groups moving towards the end goal – and you can see the actors’ brains whirring as they improvise within the structure of the work. But their enthusiastic performances and our willingness to play along combine to carry it off. Add in the beautiful weather and you’ve got a fun evening of frivolous exploration. - ML
Silo 6, Tuesday Feb 21 until Thursday March 2
For more information on Are You Sure? go here.
Beth Kayes’ Once There Was a Woman is a delicate portrait of a mother, and a daughter's search for memories of her following her death. Framing the narrative with an awkward visit to a psychologist for anxiety and insomnia (a flat emptiness hangs; you can almost hear the clock ticking) Kayes journeys through various story worlds: broken nightmares, memories of a full home in 1970s Mt Albert, and gaunt realities of her mother in care.
Kayes is easy to watch – with an extensive background in physical theatre she’s deftly in her body and works with a pliable physicality. There’s a brittleness, a quickness about the central character; someone who’s always holding tension in their shoulder blades and keeping it Very. Much. Together. Yet anxiety in the character sometimes tips over into an anxious pace in performance, and there are a couple of moments – notably a touching final scene with a satisfying callback - in which I crave the opportunity to inhale, to let the images of this incredible mother sink in to my skin. The sniffs around me tell me I’m not alone, yet we are shunted through the curtain call and out into the Queen Street rain. Once There Was a Woman is a touching, tender solo performance which embraces its simplicity and which, over time, can trust itself. - KP
Q Theatre Loft, Tuesday 28 Feb until Friday 3 March
For more information go here.
Castles is a curious piece of performance; both unapologetic and fizzing with authenticity. Eliza Sanders works solo, with list poetry, contemporary movement, song and striking visual allegories in her toolkit. The work is neither narrative, nor sequential, utilising rather the ‘associative logic’ of memory. Much of her spoken text seems to meditate on the slips and hooks of language - it is a deeply playful romp through pop culture, cultural idiom and internal rhyme. Sanders is gorgeously self-aware as a performer and this is what makes her electric to watch; With unashamed simplicity, she sings acapella, and every gesture travels through her body to complete extension. Sanders never submits to the saggy blues of this second-night audience, and is so utterly committed that we intentionally witness her bald exhaustion as the show draws on.
In fact, her conviction in her work is so deeply unshakeable that even as she develops an idea to the point of expiry, we cannot look away. Where she becomes dog-on-a-leash for longer than is interesting, I am forced to sit with the parameters of my own boredom, rather than question the works’ integrity. However, I am left wanting for something to change in this environment, more than a performer becoming tired. Despite the lulls in dramaturgy, it is a beautifully unpretentious Fringe show, and Sanders is an evocative performer, with an unusual scheme for looking at the world. - JB
Basement Theatre, Tuesday 28 Feb until Saturday 4 March
For more information go here.
Tomás Ford’s Chase is a homage to every spy and action flick ever. It’s filled with noir footage, 80s synthpop anthems, interpretive asides to the audience and some very funny one-liners. The main character, and only live actor Tomás Ford is a Western Australian anti drug cartel government operative, whose wife Claire thinks he’s in IT. He is a bit of a hard drinking, she’ll be right Aussie bloke who tortures drug runners in the shed down the back of the garden. But it all falls apart when he comes home from a mission to find that Claire is missing. Cue a sequence of ‘I love her, miss her, where is she’ songs, a whirlwind tour of the globe that ends in a drunken binge on a beach in Bali, and a lot of guns.
As a show it has some really high points, including a few very funny songs, a wonderful one-man-against-many fight parody and a great participatory looking-for-the-gun scene. But overall the quality is erratic: the middle passage doesn’t quite carry its own weight and some of the songs drag. Despite this, and the fact that 6:45pm is a difficult time for a cabaret style show, Ford still manages to maintain energy and momentum through the work and brings it home to a very funny conclusion.
Q Theatre, Tuesday 28 Feb until Saturday 4 March
For more information go here.