Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Wellington

04/03/2010 - 06/03/2010

Globe Theatre, 104 London St, Dunedin

24/03/2010 - 27/03/2010

Maidment Theatre - Musgrove Studio, Auckland

09/08/2010 - 14/08/2010

NZ Fringe Festival 2010

Production Details

Alfonsina is the underdog, a heroine clown who simply cannot avoid trouble!

Alfonsina is a comic depiction of the adventures and misfortunes of a young Argentinean cleaner facing the social, economic and cultural challenges of migrating to Auckland in search of a new life.

Escaping the harsh suburbs of Buenos Aires (Argentina) straight to downtown Auckland, Alfonsina manages to find a job cleaning offices. She quickly meets another cleaner, her neighbour Hera. Hera introduces Alfonsina to Tracy, a former cleaner who is now the boss of the cleaning company she works for and who is torn between her point of view as an employer and her compassionate support of her employees. 


LAB: Research Theatre Company is a permanent acting laboratory engaged in the research of actors’ training and the creation of theatre shows. Alfonsina is the first performance outcome of our research.

We are influenced by the works of the theatre masters Stanislavski, Meyerhold, Copeau, Brecht, Grotowski, Mnouchkine and others who managed to develop their work and theories because they had a permanent group of actors that worked together uninterrupted for a long period. They were engaged in rigorous theatre research intended to break through new areas of theatre practice, challenging paradigms and investigate the essence of drama; they worked continuously on rediscovering the basic laws that govern life on stage and became famous not only because of the quality and originality of their productions, but also because of their contribution to the systematic approach of theatre making.

Likewise, our ambition is to become a reference point in this approach to theatre – a company that produces quality drama and a centre of theatre investigation. Both areas are developed simultaneously by continuity of research, creating shows, exchanging experiences with other theatre companies, directors and scholars through festivals, conferences.

Community Discussion – The Immigration Debate

The dialogue between both communities (New Zealand and South American) in the field of arts is growing substantially in the last years.


This project will explore the connections between both cultures and discuss the impact of immigration by South Americans to New Zealand, and facilitate exchange between both cultures in terms of arts and academic practice. Alfonsina started a dialogue with the audience by discussing the question of social, economic and cultural dislocation using the story of an Argentinean immigrant to New Zealand as a focal point.

The sense of cultural dislocation is an experience that affects a large part of the population in this country with South Americans being one of the newest ethnic groups that compose the fabric of the New Zealand immigrant population. 

4-6 March, 8.00pm
Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee St
Door Sales $14   

24-17 March
Globe Theatre, Dunedin

Alfonsina in hot form for Auckland after conquering Brazil

The Alfonsina cast and crew have returned from Brazil in hot form ahead of their Auckland season premiere opening next Monday, 9 August at The Musgrove. In Brazil last month, they performed two sold-out shows and were well received by international audiences at the Vertice Brazil 2010: International Women in Theatre Festival.

Alfonsina director Pedro Ilgenfritz says the trip was a great opportunity to gauge international opinion of New Zealand theatre, as the only local theatre group to be invited. "The festival was a great experience. The audiences loved us," says Ilgenfritz. "We had so many queuing up for our performances that we had people sitting on the floor."

Alfonsina depicts the adventures and misfortunes of a young Argentinean cleaner facing the challenges of migrating to Auckland in search of a new life; escaping the harsh suburbs of Buenos Aires (Argentina). Ilgenfritz says audiences laughed and bonded with the play’s universal themes, which delve on immigration and labour issues and the social adjustment factors that face newcomers to New Zealand, especially the cultural melting pot that is Auckland.
"The Portuguese subtitles we used worked very well and the audience had no problems following the plot. There was plenty of talk from festival-goers that Alfonsina was one of the stars of the programme," explains Ilgenfritz.
The play was also enhanced by the cultural diversity of the cast, who all studied together at Unitec.
Andrea Ariel, who plays Alfonsina, says the trip was a great networking experience for her. "It was so enriching. We met some great names in the theatre world, we learnt a lot, and the show went very well," says the Argentinean-born actor. "Now I’m really looking forward to performing here in Auckland where it all started."
The other cast members; west Aucklander Katie Burson (Hera) and Waiheke Island resident, Genevieve Cohen (Tracy) graduated with Andrea from Unitec in 2009, while travelling backstage crew, Ruby Reihana-Wilson and Joshua Bond are current Performance Technology diploma students at Unitec.
Alfonsina is produced by the Lab Research Theatre Company, which is sponsored by the Unitec Research Committee and Department of Performing and Screen Arts. Alfonsina was one of the highlights of the Wellington and Dunedin Fringe Festivals earlier this year and was praised by audiences and critics:
"Excellent direction and three superb performances from the cast" (Ewen Coleman – THE DOMINION POST)
"Fluid ensemble work and impeccable timing" (John Smythe – THEATREVIEW)
"The method is fresh and charming, utilizing all the best skills of clowning" (Terry MacTavish – THEATREVIEW)

WHAT: Alfonsina – Auckland Premiere Season
WHEN: 9-14 August, 8pm & 14 August, 2pm
WHERE: Musgrove Studio, The Maidment, 8 Alfred St, Auckland City
TICKETS: $18 Adult, $15 Concession/Students
or (09) 3082383

MORE INFO:!/pages/lab-research-theatre-company/104106616304851?ref=ts

Thread lost when comedy turns to drama

Review by Janet McAllister 11th Aug 2010

Although “Lab:Research” – the production company’s name – suggests experimental work, Alfonsina is gossamer-thin, mildly amusing slapstick, centring on an Argentine cleaner’s adventures in Auckland.

Our eponymous heroine is sweet and folksy with a naif enthusiasm. With her long plait, and flowery blouse tucked into her high-wasted jeans, Andrea Ariel plays Alfonsina as the innocent abroad; the childlike, colourful foreigner with enormous gestures, expressive mannerisms and a cute accent. [More]
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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Magic combo mesmerising

Review by Caoilinn Hughes 10th Aug 2010

Alfonsina, which opened at the Maidment Theatre’s Musgrove Studio last night, depicts the experiences of a young Argentinean cleaner who has just immigrated to New Zealand.

This original and inspiring piece of physical theatre leaves audience members grinning from ear to ear, arguing as to whether it’s the best thing they’ve ever seen, and checking for free evenings in their calendars when they can see it again. Check your calendars: 9-14 August at 8pm & 14 August at 2pm.

The play is a three-hander, performed in sinuous sync by three female actors – all recent graduates from Unitec. Andrea Ariel, who plays the central character Alfonsina, opens the show by wishing farewell to her family, as she leaves the harsh suburbs of Buenos Aires for Auckland, in search of employment.

From the very opening moment, Ariel has the audience captivated by her zealous characterisation and stylised use of clownery. The rapid Spanish dialogue rolls off her tongue with perfect comic timing, and the scene leaves the audience as excited as Alfonsina is about moving to New Zealand.

Alfonsina is complemented on stage by her new neighbour, Hera (played by Katie Burson) – another cleaner who helps Alfonsina get a job in her building and becomes her accomplice in some slapstick-gone-wrong situations involving black market work visas and handbag robberies.

Burson handles the challenge of playing alongside Ariel very well and her Kiwi charisma goes a long way. Her fresh confidence and boisterousness makes it clear that Burson is another strong physical theatre actress. Ariel and Burson are magic on stage together and you can’t help but be mesmerized by the choreographed direction by Pedro Ilgenfritz.

The physical theatre discipline requires both measured and dynamic direction – a tough balance to strike. Ilgenfritz, with his clear appreciation for Spanish cinema as well as the clowning tradition (of the Laurel and Hardy kind) conducts Alfonsina to perfection. Every movement and adjustment of the one prop on stage (a box) is deliberate and effective, and you get the feeling that the cast and director are having a ball with the play and its rhythm. 

Ilgenfritz allows the ‘boss’ character, Tracy (Genevieve Cohen) to become the on-stage director; giving her employees the low-down on correct posture for vacuuming and keeping their work ethic in check. Cohen’s part could so easily have been the wet blanket in the play, but she takes that wet blanket and gets down on her knees and scrubs with it until it shines.

To close the show, Cohen comes on stage with a guitar around her neck, accompanied by Ariel and Burson and the three sing a gorgeous Spanish song – in harmony, of course –until the audience is absolutely sure that life is wonderful. 
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Clowning captures indomitable human spirit

Review by Terry MacTavish 27th Mar 2010

A programme note makes Alfonsina sound very serious and worthy: “the show reveals the contradictions and paradoxes of the immigration experience, the lower socio-economical environment, and hope for better days.” This turns out to be something of a tease, as the production is sheer fun from the start, almost right up to the sobering but not unhopeful conclusion. Certainly it tackles the immigration experience boldly, but the method is fresh and charming, utilising all the best skills of clowning.

Alfonsina is a Latin American cleaner, complete with cute accent, who has come from Buenos Aires to Auckland to seek her fortune. Her neighbour Hera persuades her own boss, Tracy, to let Alfonsina work for the Sparkle and Shine Cleaning Company.

It seems ironic that anyone should be desperate to secure such a crummy job, but not even this is safe. Alfonsina has failed to provide herself with a working visa, and when she visits Immigration, she is informed she will have to prove there is no one else in the whole country who could do the work. So naive Alfonsina approaches a thug to purchase a fake work permit. From this false step the comical series of disasters snowballs, rolling ever faster towards the inevitable catastrophe. 

Alfonsina herself, as played by Andrea Ariel, is deliciously upbeat throughout all her setbacks, a tiny woman with a long plait and a smile wider than her hips. Her exuberance is so infectious you can’t help but beam back at her from the dark of the theatre. Her determined efforts to communicate in broken English, affectionate chatter to the portraits of her family, and streetsmart courage, all combine with her passion for cleaning, expressed through energetic scrubbing, in a winning performance. 

Hera, the more cynical cleaner who befriends her, is a similarly attractive personality, feisty and cheerful despite her uninspiring job. Actor Katie Burson is in complete control of her craft, and seems to relish the role of stroppy Hera. We are on her side from the moment she plays a Tom Sawyer painting-the-fence confidence trick, to get her pushy boss to clean the floor herself.

But even Tracy, the superior boss, is a complex and ultimately likeable character. She is effectively presented by Genevieve Cohen, who also plays the solid back of the Immigration Officer, and does a great turn as the mute but scary thug who terrorises Alfonsina. All her characters, indeed, present a threat that deepens the growing friendship between Hera and Alfonsina.

The direction by Pedro Ilgenfritz is assured, with just the right variety of pace to hold our interest, fast and furious action alternating with more pensive moments. Simplicity of set, costumes and props means the focus is firmly on the larger-than-life characters. The decision to tell the story through physical clowning is completely justified.

The themes are relevant: the labyrinthine nightmare of bureaucracy, the dangers inherent in a soulless foreign city, the irony of battling for such unattractive employment, and even of seeing Auckland as El Dorado: all balanced against the indomitable human spirit. The script deals with these concerns without sentimentality.

But what impresses most is the uniformly snappy acting – the cast are extraordinarily well-disciplined, especially in the tightly choreographed mime sequences and clever use of space, and the final effect is really funny. In one scene memorable for its smooth synchronisation, Alfonsina and Hera gaze down on Auckland from the top floor window, turning almost upside down as they crane their necks simultaneously to admire the Sky City Tower.

Though doubtless horrid to do, on stage or in reality, the vigorously mimed cleaning is in itself entertaining. I agree with Jerome K. Jerome: “I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.” There is indeed something very pleasurable about watching others hard at it.

The actors’ bright presence is sufficient to dress the bare stage, with its simple black tabs, and the hour leaves you wanting more of their company. This small theatre group (LAB) is a splendid advertisement for the training given at UNITEC. I can’t wait to see what they’ll do next.


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Upbeat underdogs in a ruthless world

Review by John Smythe 05th Mar 2010

Yet another Auckland group has endowed the Fringe with comic creativity superbly performed and directed. Hot on the heels of Sunday Roast and Ruby Tuesday comes Alfonsina. I could quip it was so hot on opening night that four fire engines came, twice: an hour before the show then slap in the middle. But let’s be serious: this is comedy after all.

The LAB Research Theatre Company – created in 2009 as an initiative of UNITEC’s Department of Performing and Screen Arts – is, a programme note tells us, “engaged in the investigation of the actor’s methodology and praxis and the development of original theatre shows.” True.

Character and story-wise we’re in commedia clowning territory here, without the masks, red noses or extreme costumes. A naïve, gullible, up-beat, immigrant underdog teams up with a naïve, gullible, up-beat and somewhat more cunning Kiwi woman to make a go of it in a ruthless world.

Alfonsina (Andrea Ariel, originally from Buenos Aries) leaves her extended family – including her son Manuelito and one chicken – in Argentina to earn good money in Auckland.  Hera (Katie Burson) works for the Sparkle & Shine Cleaning company, owned and run by Tracy (Genevieve Cohen) and she gets Alfonsina a job. But Alfonsina has overlooked the need to secure a working visa …

Each attempt to overcome an obstacle just creates a bigger obstacle, each seeming more insurmountable than the last, which is an excellent generator of drama and comedy. Money is at the root: it was ever thus.

Superbly directed by Pedro Ilgenfritz, in bare black-draped space lit by Steve Marshall, the scenario is an Auckland-set 21st century equivalent of the Depression era silent films, especially the ones featuring comedy duos confronting formidable forces. But these are women and they speak – in animated South American Spanish, heavily accented English and a range of Kiwi dialects – except for the hoodie-shrouded thug (played minimalistically to maximum effect by Cohen, who also plays an Immigration Officer – and a guitar in the finale).

The purity of Alfonsina’s deep-felt emotions arise from fully committed (probably personal) clowning. Likewise, although not quite as extreme in her Kiwi character, Hera is write large and true. Tracy is relatively straight but just as distilled and true. This teams understands the value of pathos in comedy and their world view is compassionate, humane and realistic.

Amid their fluent ensemble work and impeccable timing they handled the fire alarm thing well too, as did the audience. The bizarre world outside with big yellow men in big red trucks and theatregoers mingling with parents and children from the apartments above did not seem so disconnected from the world of the play. It added to it somehow.

Alfonsina ends with a beautifully harmonised version of ‘Bésame Mucho’ (believed to be the most recorded song of all time). It’s only on two more nights and well worth seeing.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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