Ten Plays We Loved in 2015: Auckland Edition
We're kicking off our end-of-year round-ups with a look at our favourite plays in Auckland this year.
The theatre we loved in 2015 was ambitious and fierce and often deeply personal. Balls were thrown. Lightbulbs talked, and a great big turkey was burnt. These plays were unflinching, and many lay bare a multitude of beating concerns about the world we live in and how we can be better. These were our ten favourites in Auckland theatre in 2015 (though we had many other moments we loved, too).
- Rosabel Tan and Sam Brooks
The production of the year. Everything in this show is working at 100%, from the cast's finely-tuned and committed performances (Todd Emerson, Chris Parker and a transcendent Jackie van Beek) to Daniel Williams’ photo-perfect design to Chapman’s script and direction. A joyous embrace of a New Zealand that could far too easily be forgotten, and a reminder of how close we can be to acceptance while still being so far away. - SB
Julia Croft's show was a reinvigorating discovery after a sloshy and dull winter. Mashing together portrayals of women in pop culture (from Nicki Minaj to Titanic to John Mayer to Basic Instinct) audiences took on the male gaze in this frenetic pass-the-parcel performance art (Croft began wearing every single costume she needed, shedding each outfit at the end of each scene. There are many, many scenes.) More than anything, the strength of this work was its warmth: it tackled an important conversation without ever being punishing or didactic. A joyful, powerful experience that deserves a wider audience. - RT
Titled was all about ritual: part Kafka-esque comedy, part Skull-and-Bones secret society meeting, Nisha Madhan's show began at the entrance to the building where each person was politely instructed to fill out a thick questionnaire detailing everything from their date of birth to their feelings about fire and water to a rundown of their sexual history. There were many more rules, many more briefings - all of it examining our relationship to the invisible boundaries we tacitly accept in life and in theatre - culminating in a cleansing, exuberant, and wickedly wry punch-line of a finale. - RT
A bus ride, a few actors and a pair of headphones transports you to the Ponsonby of thirty years ago, full of potential and the hope of young adults and new families. The opportunity to walk through modern-day Ponsonby, while actors perform the Ponsonby of old and someone whispers a story of that Ponsonby into your ear is such a treat, and one of those ephemeral experiences that makes the whole artform tick. A piece of theatre that deserves to be in repertory permanently. - SB
All too easy to miss in the chaos of the Comedy Festival was Chris Parker's solo show. Breaking the pattern of traditional festival fare with an autobiographical coming-of-age allegory, No More Dancing in the Good Room overlaid home movies with storytelling with dance sequences, transporting us back to Christchurch in the late '90s where a teen Parker was coming to terms with his relationship to ballet (yes, ballet is also a metaphor). Under Jo Randerson's direction, Parker's performance was fiery, vulnerable and exhilarating. It's returning next year as part of Silo's 2016 season. Don't miss it. - RT.
The Book of Everything
This was the production that reminded you why Silo Theatre is a thing, in the unlikely case that you forgot. Richard Tulloch’s beautiful adaptation of Gus Kuijer’s novel about a young child having a religious an existential crisis was brought to life by tremendous ensemble work, inventive design and Sophie Roberts’ trademark direction style: bringing the script’s most essential truth to life in the most clear and direct way possible. - SB
Proof enough that Wellington’s Capital E company is making some of the most vital and important work in the country, An Awfully Big Adventure gave real weight to the question “Why do we keep going to wars for other countries?” Hugely ambitious while still being accessible to any age group, this was not only the best show for kids I saw this year, but one of the best shows I saw at all this year. - SB
For obvious reasons, Sam Brooks' Stutterpop wasn't on his list ("I've never even seen it" is his unofficial statement), but it was adamantly on mine. Not the Fringe version, but its quiet restaging down in the Q vault, which saw it evolve in a number of crucial ways. While it remained an autobiographical account of Brooks' failed romances, complete with lip-syncing and back-up dancers, now there was a time limit in which he had to deliver each section (its initial iteration saw the show run nearly twice as long as advertised) and a rotating cast of understudies ready to step in and finish each monologue when Brooks' stutter slowed him down. The show subtly interrogates ideas around control, independence, and community and it's fierce, poignant and very funny.
Opening night also featured one of the most triumphant technical glitches of the year: a disobedient playlist left the audience waiting uncomfortably for the final song (Meryl Streep's 'I'm Checkin' Out'), and after a series of false starts, Brooks eventually sang it - actually sang it - himself. He didn't stutter once. - RT
A simple premise - a love triangle between a cavewoman, a caveman and a dinosaur - gave us the funniest piece of theatre of the year. Laura Daniel, Eli Matthewson and Oscar Wilson gave physical, hilarious and beautiful performances under Hamish Parkinson’s direction, giving us a show that was a stone’s throw away from a '30s screwball comedy. The comedic gem of the Fringe, and one that deserves to come back. - SB
A story-within-a-story featuring a talking lightbulb and a mysterious box, The PlayGround Collective's All Your Wants and Needs Fulfilled Forever formed an extraordinary exploration of storytelling, autonomy and grief. The writing was sharp, the soundscapes were adrenalising, the score was bittersweet, and the set was exquisitely detailed, contrasting a claustrophobically vast white cube with chaotic backstage clutter. Clever, ambitious science-fiction that never loses its humanity. - RT