Bite-sized Reviews: NZ Fringe 2020 Week Three
It's the final week of the New Zealand Fringe! Our Wellington team of Fringe reviewers – Freya Daly Sadgrove, Joel Baxendale, Kahu Kutia, Claire O’Loughlin and James Wenley – are experiencing as much fresh Fringe work as they can and writing bite-size reviews right here. With week one and week two done, we’ll keep adding to this page during the final week of the festival.
To be honest, the best thing about theatre is just the thrill of watching actors and writers bare all of their dark human selves right in front of me. While I hide in the back corner, quietly sip a warm beer and try not to think too much about myself. The best thing about Māori theatre is that I can’t avoid thinking about myself, because all of the dark little secrets and insecurities are probably mine too and I feel way too seen.
Like Sorry for Your Loss’s writer and performer, Cian Gardner, I am also in the white-mum-brown-dad-club. And while my story isn’t exactly the same, oh the joy I felt in seeing a patchwork of characters that I know. People that I understand and love embodied. For once the story is set in our world and everyone else is just living in it. The world of the culturally insecure (but proud), racially ambiguous rangatahi Māori.
To see the tender and earnest moments that Cian gave us was a pleasure. I saw whole worlds crash in her eyes, and the moments where she led us back to a place of nostalgia. Like all our best, Cian so effortlessly introduces heartbreak and still had me cracking up about the ordeal. This show is bright, in so many senses of the word. I felt a wero, like I was being dared to relate and to take this story in with my own.
God, I wish I’d had access to stories like this when I was 15 in a small town and having full-blown identity crisis. — KK
Monday 16 March to Friday 20 March, Circa Theatre
Buy tickets here
Maramataka is the final show I see before BATS closes temporarily due to Covid-19 – though no one knows that’s going to happen at the time of the show. While other spaces around town are already desolate, the theatre is packed. The importance of theatre, why we make it and why we go, is at the forefront of my mind. Maramataka — made by young, emerging practitioners — feels like the best thing I could see. It’s about connection: to each other, ourselves, our stories and our tūpuna.
We’re led singing into the theatre in a deliberately awkward and tentantive pōwhiri process. Everyone, including the audience, introduces themselves, which is nice and inclusive, though I feel weirdly uncomfortable, probably because I’m with my mum and she just whispered to me that she’s scared she’ll be asked to do something.
But the journey from discomfort to confidence is the key device of the show — and the audience experience of that is something that could be delved into more. The performers share real stories about navigating who they are and their place in the world. Sometimes the insecurity feels stagey, with overt wringing of hands. The turning moment when ‘Ana’ (Unity Brown) comes in to teach us a waiata (and hilariously roasts BATS at the same time), is the highlight. She whips the rangatahi into shape, empowering them to teach us the waiata themselves. With the permission of an elder, they put their insecurities aside and claim who they are.
Maramataka says a lot about what we feel we’re allowed to do and who we’re allowed to be. Another iteration of this work could go further, playing with theatre conventions and the audience experience. But it’s on the right track — it’s full of warmth and the performers blaze with energy. By the end, Mum loves it and doesn’t want to leave. — CO