Nenek’s Kitchen, 37 Mt Eden Road,, Auckland

15/02/2013 - 17/02/2013

Auckland Fringe 2013

Production Details


Sounds familiar? Maybe it was you, or maybe one of your mates who had similar experience. Love is tricky, Love is hard, yet we can’t seem to run away from it! 

“AI” is an original show that incorporates New Age Hip Hop dance into traditional musical. This young and vibrant show will have its premiere on Friday 15th February at Nenek’s Kitchen, an artistic “hub” next to Powerstation at Mt Eden Road.

“Ai” means love in Chinese. The traditional Chinese character for love (愛) consists of a heart (middle) and a friend (bottom). This is essentially how the story started- a boy fell in love with his best friend. He was rejected after his confession, and things got complicated, and they never saw each other for the next 5 years…

The script and music are written by Jun Bin Lee, who previously composed and directed “How She Flew To The Moon”, a musical based on a Chinese folk tale, with 2 sell out shows at Musgrove Studio.

So if you are madly in love, or just got out of love, or patiently waiting for true love, “AI” is a show that everyone can relates to, especially during the season of love in February 2013.

Auckland Fringe runs from 15 February to 10 March 2013. For more Auckland Fringe information go to

AI (LOVE) plays
15th – 17th February, 7pm (except 16th – additional show at 2pm and 17th – only show at 2pm)
Duration: 50 minutes
Venue: Nenek’s Kitchen, 37 Mt Eden Road, Auckland

50 mins

A series of vignettes with great potential

Review by Glen Pickering 16th Feb 2013

I am in a room that looks like the foyer of Asian restaurant. White walls. Grey tiled floor. At one, end white plastic chairs. At the other, a carved wooden bench seat, a miniature penny-farthing pot plant holder, 3 mic stands and a music stand. The music playing is an ‘’80s hits by piano’ collection. You can see and hear the excited cast backstage. The toilets are upstage stage right. Brilliant!  

I have to admit I am a tad excited about seeing my first Auckland Fringe show for 2013. It’s at Nenek’s Kitchen, an easy-to-miss building (its right next door to The Powerstation on Mt Eden Road just incase you do), that doesn’t look like you would go to watch a show there – ever. Except of course tonight. Fringe! Brilliant!

As I arrive Jun Bin Lee (writer, composer, director, front of house, stage manager) gifts me a small hand folded note that thanks us for coming. He says to me, the Fringe is about trying things out. It is indeed.

Jun, I discover later, lives in New Plymouth and has been traveling back and forth for the last two months for rehearsals. Its makes me realize the importance the Fringe holds. It affords everyone an opportunity to contribute to the arts community and to be part of a festival which is a vehicle to test your art.

Ai (it means ‘love’ in Chinese) opens with a projected, Commodore 64 style animation, boy meets girl introduction. This is narrated musically by a trio of live singers who are present throughout. At the end of the projected intro we transition from animated world to meet the real life Oliver and Lisa.

Ai is your typical childhood friends, love story: teenage boy professes love; girl only sees him as a friend; boy disappears from her life; girl meets another boy who turns out to be a jerk; adult boy and girl meet up again; girl realises boy is actually the one; they fall in love … A few more problems but all is resolved in the end – told through a series of vignettes of song and dance.  

The Trio of Kazuhide Okuda, Michael Ma, Jessica Choy all have strong voices and carry the show musically. They are the BV’s for the leads on stage and have stand-alone moments that help forward the story.

Jenny Luo infuses both sweetness and strength into the role of Lisa. Her voice is not huge but has the right quality for pop work.

Whilst not vocally as strong, Kohei Iguchi’s Oliver is charming, funny and heartfelt. However Iguchi’s real strength is as the choreographer and dancer. His choreography, which is performed fantastically by all, including the four dancers/company, is spot on in every number.

The standout moment is when the all grown up Oliver decides to re-declare his love for Lisa on the train. It’s a moving piece that uses hip hop isolation blended with contemporary dance beautifully.   

Jun knows how to write simple pop and love songs. His Asian style pop compositions are pleasing to listen to and Jun even finds a way to inject some ‘traditional’ musical theatre components, much like the Disney musical movies made for teens over the last decade.

Amazingly and unfortunately, there is no Mandarin or Cantonese in this show. It’s entirely in English. Jun is Chinese. The cast are Chinese and Japanese. The audience, excluding me, was entirely of Asian decent. With a mixture of languages, Ai could be something really special.

Ai has more of a ‘presentation of work’ feel than being a complete show. There are a lot of interesting ideas and elements that never come to fruition, but the show has a lovely charm to it and for an inexperienced group they do well to tell the story.

If Jun can combine his song writing talents with an experienced dramaturg, musical director and director, Ai could easily move beyond a series of vignettes and discover its true potential.


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