Bite Size Fringe
Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, The Edge, Auckland
21/07/2009 - 25/07/2009
BEFORE THE BREAK
Created by Release Candidate
Performed by Kerryn McMurdo and David Hall (dance) and Tim Coster (sound)
An evocative site-specific dance theatre performance. Two dancers and a musician create a captivating live installation in a performance that’s constantly changing and interacting with the audience, offering moments of surprise, confrontation and beauty.
"Startling" – Theatreview
Before the Break features Auckland-based dancers that have national and international experience.
Created and performed by Isla Adamson and Josephine Stewart-Tewhiu
Directed by Gabrielle Rhodes
The lives of an eclectic handful of characters intersect over the course of a typical high school day in this wonderful bitter sweet comedy. Follow the eight characters into a fraught environment where words and actions can have dire consequences. The two actors pull off superb characterisations while holding the balance of tragedy and comedy at a fine-tipped point.
"A little gem" – Theatreview
Ruby Tuesday is set at the fictional school of Avondale High.
Created and directed by Jacob Tamaiparea
Performed by Jacob Tamaiparea and Rangi Rangitukunoa
Live music by Josh Mainwaring and Hazel Leader
LightBulbMan illuminates the darkness in this twisted hip hop musical. Paranormal murder mystery meets rap-style musical in this surreal story set in a Glen Innes soup kitchen. LightBulbMan considers himself a vigilante superhero, cursed by a monkey… and so the drama unravels. Accompanied by two live musicians on stage.
"Highly entertaining" – Theatreview
LightBulbMan is set in a Glen Innes Soup Kitchen.
Warm laughter suggests satisfaction
Review by Margi Vaz Martin 23rd Jul 2009
Auckland’s inaugural Fringe Festival kicked off earlier this year, running from February 27 to March 22. Bite Size Fringe is a triple bill of three diverse Fringe Festival productions deemed worthy of a joint showing. Bitter-sweet comedic theatre piece Ruby Tuesday, site-specific dance installation Before the Break and hip hop musical LightBulbMan are aimed at audiences who want a taste of something that’s fresh, innovative and eclectic.
Ruby Tuesday is a compelling narrative laced with side-splitting humour and finishing with a tragic twist. As we take our seats, the actors, in role as sergeant-major school teachers, survey their seated ‘students’ and write detentions for cuddling, and eating in assembly. We meet Clarissa Duncan (Isla Adamson) a gruff, self-serving P.E. teacher and Nigel Dungaree (Josephine Stewart-Tewhiu), a controlling, geeky science teacher.
Set in a high school, the two actors play eight characters – five teachers and three students. Each character is established through initial soliloquies that quickly engage us through their recognisability. Miss Cynthia Ruby, a stigmatised but sweet Asian drama teacher, is the central character, along with Shelby Leperton, a slacker student with attitude and brilliant one-liners.
Since the other teachers detest Miss Ruby, she is forced to be Shelby’s detention teacher, which gives rise to some brilliant comedic moments that have us laughing uncontrollably. Seated on the floor, the pair are ‘acting like seaweed’ and ‘responding to the coloured fish’! At times the fast-paced comedy has the audience in the palms of the actors’ hands.
Awa is a vocal and shifty Māori boy who "borrows school property" and Shelby is his best friend in crime. These are the kids that every teacher and student in a school know the names of and this causes the scripted lines to be hilariously believable.
Thoughtfully crafted scenes carry us through the lives and stories of interesting and eccentric characters to reveal what happened one fateful Tuesday when Shelby learnt that she has more of an effect on those around her than she realised.
I am entertained and delighted by the clever and effortless transitions that the actors continuously make, passing quickly behind a semi-transparent screen to change costume, accents and mannerisms.
In contrast to the humour, Shelby’s closing soliloquy is sobering and the final dialogue between Awa and Shelby creates silent dramatic tension in the theatre.
The power of this piece reinforces to me how effective humour can be in punching home our human tendencies to prejudice that can result in avoidable tragedy. Well worth the viewing!
BEFORE THE BREAK
Before The Break is a site-specific choreography, adapted for this space. We are at the side of the Herald Theatre, up the driveway from Aotea Square. The two dancers make use of the upper and lower stairs to change the levels of their dance and journey through the audience. Two spotlights identify the dancers with other spots already there in the Aotea landscape.
The music begins. We hear an otherworldly soundscape with a medium pitched drone, high scratchy static noises, muffled distant voices and clanging. A dancer (David Hall) on the high balcony begins to move. He is male but dressed in a woman’s red skirt suit. Looking skyward, open-armed to the universe, and very slow and shaky. He turns his back and then faces us twice, followed by a gradual shuffle along the balcony and down the steps. As he draws closer we see that he is on demi-pointe with bent legs. His movement has a spastic quality – slow, shaky, bent; perhaps disabled. It takes him an eternity to get anywhere.
I suddenly become aware of a second dancer (Kerryn McMurdo). She is climbing the stairs in the same slow manner, but is dressed in a man’s black suit. As an audience we seem free to move around, trying to get a better view, allowing the dancers to take their journey through us.
Utilising light and shadow, this is structured improvisation – movements developed by the dancers through applying certain rules or guidelines but delivered in the dancers’ own terms. The audience is unsure what response to make. "What are they doing?" " She’s really scary," I hear whispered around me.
A shift occurs and McMurdo appears to take a new role. Her movement is natural now and she discovers chairs in a garden and arranges them in a circle. Hall is still spastic and approaches the chairs only to be blocked several times and then picked up by McMurdo, carried and placed on the ground several times. The piece ends with Hall lying still.
The work is contemporary and post-modern, the dancers playing with their own conventions, blurring the boundaries between art and everyday experience. It echoes Epic theatre in which there is no definite aesthetic of beauty and what is important is not so much what people see during the performance, but what people see after looking at it. The audience is left to create and ponder their own meanings from the piece.
Looking for more insight I question McMurdo later in the evening and she makes reference to Pina Bausch. The last section pays tribute to the recently deceased choreographer, referencing her work.
This hip hop musical comedy is odd but entertaining. The raw energy, unconventional setting (a soup kitchen) and interaction with a live band capture my curiosity. Lightbulbman (LBM: Jacob Tamaiparea) is an improbable superhero who has lost his superpower – the blink. Rangi Rangitukunoa, plays Zach, his sidekick and confidant, as well as villain Shoes and possessed monkey Jose. He also plays LBM’s personal god Ice Cube, who visits him through a portrait on the back stage wall, offering farcical wisdom and hip-hop songs.
Live music cleverly accompanies fast and comic rapping, choreographed comic book style, slapstick fight sequences and hip-hop moves. As the hour progresses we follow LBM as he seeks to find Jose the monkey, break out of the control of the evil Shoes and regain his enlightening powers. I am laughing along with the others, but I notice that not everyone finds it funny. Perhaps the pop-culture references connect best with the youth in the audience?
The saturation of stimuli becomes a little overwhelming for me and I wonder if the feeling of chaos is intentional. Raps, pop-references and plot twists bombard me and I am a little dazed. The character transitions that Rangitukunoa must make become frequent, and the character differentiation becomes blurred and sometimes unconvincing. But is that an intentional dreamlike device? I’m not sure. There are so many ideas and so much clever dialogue, but they get lost in verbosity.
As LBM says to Zach when he is on a fast and lengthy rant, "Quiet! A volley of over excitement."
The press release has advised us: "Expect an unstable mix of the ludicrous and the surreal." LightBulbMan achieves this with a mixture of joy and frustration.
The smorgasbord has lasted 2 ½ hours, starting in the theatre, moving outdoors and – after the intermission break (hot drinks very welcome) – back into the theatre. Are we satisfied? We have been ‘wined and dined’ but what of the flavours?
As the audience spills into the foyer at the end I hear the warm laughter of satisfied participants. Most of this audience have laughed repeatedly throughout both theatre pieces and watched intently as the dancers moved slowly through and around us. Ruby Tuesday seems to be the favourite offering of the night. People are undecided about the dance piece Before The Break and there is a mixture of responses to the LightBulbMan.
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