Allen Hall Theatre, University of Otago, Dunedin

18/10/2012 - 20/10/2012

Production Details

“Cuts to the heart of the personal and the political, revealing an appealing community of opposites.” – The Times

Toa Fraser’s Bare – an often hilarious, sometimes harrowing, always heartfelt look into what makes contemporary Aotearoa tick. Cited as one of the most unique New Zealand plays of the 20th century, Bare presents us with 18 different characters whom are struggling to make sense of their own lives and where they are going.

Performed by a strong cast of Allen Hall graduates who not only play multiple characters but also to sing, dance and beatbox in this great evening of entertainment.

Counterpoint is a newly formed theatre company that wishes to give a voice to young Dunedinites and to mitigate the drain of our young artists to Wellington and Auckland. We wish to produce new, exciting and fresh work and to allow recently graduated theatre students a chance to show off their abilities in a professional environment. Our members are recent graduates of the University of Otago Theatre Studies Programme and have been involved with a vast range of local productions including the Fortune Theatre’s Improsaurus improvisation troupe, Capping Show, and the Grind Guignol Horror Theatre.

Bare is running for a very limited run, so put the dates in your diary now!

Funded with support from the Otago University Humanities Performing Arts Fund and special thanks to Tim Riley and Toa Fraser. 
18th – 20th October, 7.30pm 
Allen Hall Theatre, University of Otago 
Tickets $8 Waged, $10 Unwaged 
Door Sales Only  



Ben Blakely
Leah Carrell
Lyndon Katene
Caitlin McNaughton
Baz Macdonald
Nylla Ah-Kuoi Tamati
Trubie-Dylan Smith

Lighting Design: James Caley, George Wallace
Sound Design: James Caley
Musical Co-ordinator: Baz Macdonald, Hadley Taylor 

Promising debut for new young company

Review by Jennifer Aitken 19th Oct 2012

This production of Bare marks the first outing for newly formed Theatre company Counterpoint. Created by young people, for young people seeking access to an industry that can be notoriously difficult to break into, Counterpoint’s aim is to provide acting opportunities and promote the stories of young people.

Even more importantly, Counterpoint offers experience to people at a time when around 200,000 young people in this country are looking for work, any work. Just as Toa Fraser’s Bare is a journey towards self-discovery and self-knowledge, so Counterpoint aims to assist young New Zealanders on their journeys.

Given the very specific desires of Counterpoint, Bare is perhaps the most apt and exciting piece to highlight their stage debut. This production is funded with support from the Otago University Humanities Performing Arts fund and from what I can tell the cast, crew, and company itself is largely made up of current students and recent graduates from the university.

Director Alex Wilson is a recent honours graduate from the Theatre Studies Department at Otago University; I have always enjoyed both his acting and directing work. I was incredibly excited to hear he was taking on a full length production in which he would have full creative control. Wilson tackles this piece well, his staging concept is innovative and although I have reservations initially I am happily surprised.

The lighting operator is positioned upstage centre behind, but in very close proximity, to the row of seats the actors inhabit while they are not performing. Operator and co-designer George Wallace is not at all intrusive in the space and in the few moments where I really do take notice of him I am very interested in his presence, not put off by it.

Wilson’s directorial intent is very clear and his actors (of which there are 7) are on the whole extremely competent. The musical interludes between some scenes are a wonderful touch. All ‘music’ and lyrics are performed by 6 of the actors and this provides some very funny light-relief. Certain actors really stand out as particular characters, presumably because they identify with them more than others.

The standout performer for me is Ben Blakely; a guy who always commits 100% to every endeavour. Blakely is cast as characters very physically different from himself. In each role he is not only convincing, he is exceptional (‘Smokie’ being my absolute favourite) and his energy on stage is infectious, offering tonal variations in the piece which help drive us through to the end (of this 2 hour long, interval-less production).

Baz Macdonald is another favourite of mine and a performer I have not had the luxury of seeing very often. He is a treat and his energy offers a very intentional drive to Fraser’s words. His monologues contain very definitive beginnings, middles and ends and he holds my attention through to his very last word. I wish that he could have a larger role, perhaps playing Dave as well as Burger King Customer and performing ‘Smells Emanating’.

Leah Carrell’s Venus grows on me more and more as the piece progresses however her final monologue doesn’t quite grasp the full emotional scale of Venus’ experience. Her contribution to the musical interludes is, however, fantastic. 

Caitlin McNaughton and Nylla Ah-Kuoi Tamati shine as ‘Smoker Giving Up’ and ‘Woman Pissing’ respectively but their other characters lack a certain pizazz that these characters possess. Lyndon Katene is a very honest and genuine performer but lacks some technical proficiencies; his projection and enunciation of dialogue can at times be disappointing as he is very capable of providing quite a moving performance.

Finally, Trubie-Dylan Smith, as ‘Shakespeare Guy’, offers something that is very different from the other performers. His performance as a young man playing this much, much older Fijian gentleman who spent most if his life as a sailor is very considered and deliberate and I think he does very well. If I was to nit-pick I would suggest that Smith’s long, elegant fingers and beautiful soft looking hands do hold me back from really seeing Smith as Shakespeare; perhaps he could wear gloves, even fingerless gloves.

The lighting design is created by James Caley and George Wallace, two young, enthusiastic and very competent designers and practitioners. Their design is something very special and from the moment you walk into the theatre this is evident (you must go to find out why). Caley and Wallace really have showcased their skills and I love the ways in which their lighting really punctuates certain dramatic moments. I will suggest that next time they design a show they could stick to one or two really good ideas and not worry about having to put in every effect, colour or style of lighting they can. With lighting, quite often, less can be more and I would love to see some subtleties develop in their designs.

On the whole this is an enjoyable production. Bare marks another well-earned notch on Wilson’s belt and the premiere production from new company Counterpoint: well worth seeing and supporting.


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