The Auckland Fringe Festival 2017: Week Three
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 three of the Auckland Fringe Festival has two shows that brings us a power ballad, a conversation with a child, a comedy about deities playing doctor and much more! Our Auckland Fringe review team - Jess Holly Bates, Melissa Laing, Kate Prior and Sam Brooks - is here to cover it all.
Auckland Fringe Festival, Week Three (Sunday 5 March to Saturday 11 March): The Shows
Power Ballad is the slick new operation from electric duet Nisha Madhan (director) and Julia Croft (performer). An experiment in disrupting the pre-coded act of communicating through innately gendered language systems, this solo work defies genre - appropriating clown, silence, dance, lecture and karaoke to interrogate the space between word and meaning. True to the work’s title, Croft is a glam metal hero, a topless, hair-endowed beast making bizarre (sometimes violent) love to the microphone in a rude gesture to the soaring emotional vocals the title promised. The makers exploit this slippage well: Croft delays our gratification with surgical comic precision, milking our need for virtuosic sound by terrorizing the microphone - it is beaten against every surface available. When the karaoke comes, it is the audience who must volunteer their vocal services, giggling through muddy verses to find united satisfaction in the clean consonants of a Pat Benatar chorus.
There is a playful interrogation here of how we receive voice, by using a modifier into which Croft speaks, gendering her pitch and rubbing up against intention and expression. She morphs from femme nasal narrator into a the vernacular outrage of Fred Dagg - driving to the core of our inability to receive social criticism or anger in a “female” tone. Madhan’s directing is a rich and layered distillation of ideas, striking an uncanny balance between performative risk and precision. In this Power Ballad is a revolution: winking while bringing both form and content to its knees in a way that is deeply, deeply hopeful. - JB
The Basement, Tuesday 7 to Saturday 11 February
For more information on Power Ballad, go here.
Lookout takes place at the top of the now decommissioned Bledisloe Building in Aotea Square where you can look down and out on the city around you. Its a combination of preprepared audio tracks and live, one-on-one conversations with a 10 year-old kid. The kids are imagining the future in 30 year increments: "What will Auckland be like when they are 40, 70 and 100 years old?" Its a science-fiction imagining – domes, floating houses, skytrains – and a post-environmental-apocalypse survival story with a mini ice age, rising waters, and the pastoral scenes of a ‘simpler life’. These audio tracks set the scene for the conversational moments you have together, where you ask each other questions about the world now and look forward into the future.
The concept is sweet, the subject is serious, and its success or failure rests not just on the narrow shoulders of a 10 year old, but also on yours. Can you appreciate the courage it takes to make an ephemeral connection with a stranger and will you also reach out and work to bridge the gap and enter into a dialogue with them about our shared future?
Despite the careful construction of the situation, the experience is somehow uncomfortable and slightly labourious. The children are not professional performers or conversationalists and they are not creating an aesthetically gratifying experience. Instead, they are working with Andy Field and us, the audience, to create a sticky work. One that lingers well beyond our brief encounter and demands that we keep thinking about the children’s ideas and the underlying need to reimagine the future that they express. - ML
Q Theatre, Wednesday 8 to Friday 10 February
For more information on Lookout, go here.
Flesh of the Gods aspires to be a dark comedy portraying fallible deities. Ones who are forgetful, avoid responsibility, don’t have good relationships with each other and don’t seem to want the job. They have to be coached into it and need to undergo regular therapy. They are resentful about being here, suspicious of what its all about, and in general pretty volatile.
The deceptively simple set, a circular reception table with a typewriter that slides along its inner edge, is key to the work, which happens in the round in the arching oval space of the Samoa House Fale. From this desk the therapist wields her authority, moving her typewriter from place to place as the gods pace, dance and bicker.
This is a work in development with all the raw energy and potential of an unfinished work on the way to something interesting. It has compelling performances and interesting ideas, the therapeutic monologues have some clever and funny moments, but the show often doesn't read as a comedy. The end portion is rushed, and it finishes abruptly. Flesh of the Gods is a work with strong parts, but it doesn’t come together into a cohesive whole yet. - ML
Samoa House Fale, Tuesday 7 to Saturday 11 February
For more information on Flesh of the Gods, go here.
It is impossible to write a review of 21 Movements that is not a love letter to Alexa Wilson. She is an astute voice of cultural criticism, known for her bald address to contemporary politics, and an insistence on its relationship to the body. Her solo performance work 21 Movements is no exception. The show is a call-and-response to the cataclysms of the 21st century, designed to walk us pechakucha style through everything from 9/11 to the Syrian crisis, but also proffering a space to speak back to these events - whether by voice, body or gesture. From the first instant, Wilson mobilises the room: she is unapologetic in her invitation that the audience build the work with her. The result is variously stark and messy - there is a puddle of smartphones, a chorus of opinions on Obama, water all over the concrete, and a line of remembrance for those lost.
Despite the stakes of the content, Wilson brings a slaughterhouse comedy to the power-point format. She is capable of holding a plethora of qualities simultaneously, launching vulnerability, viscerality, stoicism and compassion into the space in a single moment. Above all else, she is a woman holding uncompromising autonomy in her way of being, and this is the fundamental form of magic. The ontology of resistance; of self-trust is at the core of the work. In declaring both content and process, she unpacks her making with intention and flexibility, and she makes space for other bodies to do the same. In this, 21 Movements is a work of generosity and challenge - shining light on our capacity to act, and bringing us to face ourselves as a nation drenched in political passivity. - JHB
The Basement, Tuesday 7 to Saturday 11 February
For more information on 21 Movements, go here.