Bite-sized Reviews: NZ Fringe 2020 Week Two

Theatre

09.03.2020

Bite-sized Reviews: NZ Fringe 2020 Week Two

Our bite-size Fringe reviews are back! Our Wellington team of Fringe reviewers – Freya Daly Sadgrove, Joel Baxendale, Kahu Kutia, Claire O’Loughlin and James Wenley – will be experiencing as much fresh Fringe work as they can and writing bite-size reviews right here. We’ll keep adding to this page during the festival. Check out our Auckland Fringe reviews too!

The Shows

Enough
Change Your Own Life
New Dance Group
I’m Walken Here


Enough

Enough is a show that incorporates three of my favourite things — dance, depression and poetry — so on paper it’s right up my alley. The combination however, creates some traps that the show doesn’t entirely manage to avoid.

The person at the centre of Enough is Mikey Sorenson — the programme tells us this is his story, and I appreciate his willingness to put himself in this position of vulnerability onstage. The show begins with Mikey surrounded by three masked dancers – Aimee Stringer, Jade Carey, and Rebecca Blom. Dr Jeremy Mayall’s original score is energetic and impressive from the start, and Aaron Chesham and Maddy Barnsdall’s lighting is slick and well-suited to the form. However, the choreography is a little predictable. It’s clear that we are to read the masked dancers as, you know, the dark forces of the mind. Mikey struggles with them bodily, and it feels a bit too literal, which I think is a trap that would be hard to avoid with this kind of subject material in a dance show. We’re too familiar with the phrase 'wrestling with your demons' for this visual metaphor to really hit home. I struggle a little to suspend my disbelief when Mikey is pinned by the masked dancers. Given that his depressive thoughts are anthropomorphised in slight feminine bodies, I’d be interested to see how they could be choreographically invested with a different kind of power than brawn.

The show comes into its own when Mikey dances alone to Michael Moore’s recorded spoken word. In such an intimate space as BATS Random Stage, we can see the dancers’ expressions clearly, and here is where I see Mikey really own and embody the feelings he is portraying through dance.

I applaud the earnestness of this show and the obvious care that its creators have put into it. The message the show leaves us with – that it is ultimately the support of our communities that gets us through dark time — rings completely true. — FDS

Saturday 7 March to Tuesday 10 March, BATS
Buy tickets here


Change Your Own Life

If Change Your Own Life doesn’t sell out the rest of its season today I will fucking scream. The first solo show from Jean Sergent, Wellington theatre’s beloved favourite aunty — we’ve all been waiting for this for years. I’ve never seen Jean give anything less than a powerhouse performance, but this show... gawd. Look, it’s maybe the most generous performance I’ve ever seen. She never turns off, never disconnects from us, her audience.

The show centres Jean’s grief over the devastating deaths of two young people very close to her in 2016. Jean knows how to talk about death. The writing is gorgeous and her words are completely at home in her mouth. She’s blunt and biting and hilarious; I keep cracking up through my tears, which is my very favourite feeling. Importantly, this isn’t trauma porn. She’s not exploiting her grief for art, she is making space for her grief in art, and making space for us to be there with her. It’s hugely moving. I stand up during the blackout before she takes her bows, and when the lights come back up, I see that everyone else is standing too. 

I’m worried this review is too glowing and you won’t believe me when I say you have to see the show. But sometimes in my life — not often — something affects me so much that I lose feeling in my limbs. Sometimes I engage with art that sets a new bar for the kind of art I want to make, and this show did that for me, which is really inconvenient, 'cos the new bar is really fucking high. Storytelling that is so openhearted… why would anyone not aspire to make art as welcoming as this? — FDS

Tuesday 10 March to Monday 16 March, BATS
Buy tickets here


New Dance Group

Footnote New Zealand Dance’s ChoreoCo 2020 show, New Dance Group, choreographed by Josie Archer and Kosta Bogoievski, is a provocative, energetic delight. It holds you in the moment as it questions what dance and performance is and can be. The five dancers work together seamlessly in warm, colourful light, resulting in a unique, funny, jarring, and ultimately beautiful experience. 

Josie and Kosta’s programme note lays the work bare from the get go, guiding me in and informing me that ‘in no particular order/choreography’ we will be presented with a series of honouring dances. 

Dancer Vito opens by pacing the shape of a circle around the stage, dipping in and out of low side light, like a piercing sunset in an otherwise dark world. His voice keeps time with his pace, drumming out “lent, less, re” over and over. It’s meditative and prayerful, then urgent as he speeds up. This dance, the only solo, sets an underlying sincerity to what is otherwise a playful show. I feel instinctively that this is the “Dance to honour our Ōtautahi Christchurch friends’ relentless energy”, and it’s only later that my brain rearranges ‘lent, less, re’ and I realise I probably got that one right. 

But figuring this show out and being right is irrelevant. It’s a work of deconstructed images, sounds and movement that plays with meaning yet never landing on it. The dancers look, speak and sing directly to us with open hands. It’s warm, inclusive, and somehow kind of heartbreaking. 

In the final sequence, John Mayer’s Gravity starts playing and the dancers and the lights all melt to the floor, and I'm won over by beauty and absurdity. — CO

Tuesday 10 March to Sunday 15 March, Circa Theatre
Buy tickets here


I’m Walken Here

At what point in American actor Christopher Walken’s career did he slip over into self-parody? Peter Pan Live? Waltzing with Travolta? More Cowbell? The impersonator’s go-to is with us in the pulpy flesh – turns out he is about the same size as the large Event Cinemas popcorn placed next to him on the mini-stage in BATS Studio. Walken’s tics are animated with a generous amount of ‘Wow’ and ‘Oh jeeze’s by puppetmaster Jon Coddington. Seconds into starting, Coddington realises that the string at the top of the marionette’s head is broken, fixing Walken’s attention to audience in the front row, and later makes an extended bit out of Walken’s left hand malfunctioning. Watching Walken work is transfixing all the same, with Coddington indulging in some twerks and dabs to show off what his creation can do. A supporting character in Present Company Live’s earlier Puppet Fiction (Walken here pulls out the famous Pulp Fiction watch monologue as a party trick), Walken’s solo, directed by Hannah Clarke, is a rambling love letter to cinema, with random prizes for audience who correctly answer movie trivia (congrats, here’s some wind-up teeth!). While hearing movie plot summaries in Walken-ese is amusing, the show doesn’t move much beyond a ‘remember this movie?’ nostalgia. An adorable orange monster steals the show during the half time entertainment. Unfortunately it is Walken’s script that is in most need of a few more strings. — JW

Thursday 12 March to Monday 16 March, BATS
Buy tickets here

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