Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

16/07/2016 - 30/07/2016

Auckland Theatre Company's NEXT BIG THING 2016

Production Details

Gig-theatre! The songs that changed our lives and made us braver are covered live by Galaxy Bear in-between surprising scenes and mighty monologues by our all-girl writing team.

AUCKLAND THEATRE COMPANY’S NEXT BIG THING – YOUTH THEATRE FESTIVAL – 2016: A wild ride of faith, love and revolution  

Auckland Theatre Company (ATC) will send audiences on a wild ride through the Basement Theatre for this year’s Next Big Thing (NBT) from 15 – 30 July.

The dynamic 12-night festival will feature three original works, live music, new writing and fresh stories in a season focused on faith, love and revolution. Involving over 60 young performers, creators and crew, NBT provides a dynamic platform to foster, develop and showcase vibrant new talent.

The ATC youth company, which provides a bridge between training and the professional industry for up-and-coming young practitioners, is celebrating its eighth anniversary this year. It has grown from strength to strength, this year bringing in some of the industry’s most daring, bold and experimental professionals.

Exciting young professional actors Jordan Mooney (Once on Chunuk Bair, Hillary, Westside 2, Ash vs the Evil Dead), Kalyani Nagarajan (Polo), Caleb Wells (Lord of the Flies, Westside 2) and Arlo Gibson (Shortland Street) were all involved in NBT just before their acting careers took off. 

Actor, director and playwright Ahi Karunaharan (Tea, The Mourning After, Mumbai Monologues) will lead Shoulda Woulda Coulda; a devised piece exploring protest and revolution in a mash up that is part riot / part call-to-action. Ahi asks of his young cast, what will you fight to the death for?

Bronwyn Bradley (Go Girls, Sons, The Good Soul of Szechuan) will direct Angels (Reborn), an adapted version of the Samoan play with songs, Angels, by Tanya Muagututi’a and Joy Vaele.

Funny, heart-warming and ultimately touching, this rollercoaster story of the rise and fall of a teenage band is set in 1993 and features retro tunes, diva hits and gospel standards. During its world premiere in 2009, it was described as, “A voice of its own for Pasifika women and leaves us with food for thought as well as remembered laughter.”

Benjamin Henson is the mastermind behind Bravado! – the third show in the NBT line up. The award-winning director has been shaking things up since his arrival from London with his experimental company Fractious Tash. Most recently, they presented a sell-out season of an all-male take on The Importance of Being Earnest (Earnest) at Q Theatre and an all-male production of Titus at the Pop-up Globe.

He will be working alongside director Naomi Cohen (Lysistrata, Puss) and a full-female writing team of up and comers, including comedian Natasha Hoyland and Beanie Maryse-Ridler, whose debut play Defending the JJ Mac recently had a successful season at the Basement. Bravado! will also feature live band Galaxy Bear who will create a bold new musical experience.

In March, over 100 young people auditioned for a role in NBT, and the cast will be announced in late April after they have undergone an intensive workshop.

Don’t miss out on the chance to experience these three original works, overflowing with lively music, razor-hot talent and laughs a-plenty, you might even find something worth fighting for.

Venue: Basement Theatre
Dates: 15 – 30 July, 9.00pm
Tickets: or (09) 309 0390  

Set design: Dan Williams
Production Manager: Jamie Johnston
Dramaturg: Jo Smith and Phoebe Mason 

Youth , Theatre ,

1 hr

Go Nuts

Review by Matt Baker 26th Jul 2016

With four writers (Frith Horan, Natasha Hoyland, Beanie-Maryse Ridler, and Billie Staples) it would be easy for Bravado! to devolve into an incoherent mess, but, while there are obvious shifts in the lyricism of this existential piece, dramaturg Phoebe Mason, creative director Ben Henson, and director Nomi Cohen create a cohesively chaotic world in which the show exists. This, however, does not mean that all the stories are as effective as each other, but the few that do truly resonate. [More]


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Energetic insights into life of young #3

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 18th Jul 2016

BRAVADO! establishes a boldly experimental vibe with the band Galaxy Bear performing a live gig while the drama erupts out of makeshift spaces on the dance floor.

Four young women – Frith Horan, Natasha Hoyland, Beanie-Maryse Ridler and Billie Staples – have woven a densely poetic script that draws on pop songs as it articulates a search for meaning. [More


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Brave and interesting if hard to connect with

Review by Leigh Sykes 17th Jul 2016

Although this show takes place in the same space as Angels [Re:Born], it is unrecognisable when we re-enter. Where the audience seating used to be is now the band, Galaxy Bear, rocking out with enthusiasm, and the rest of the space contains a few items seemingly culled from the space where all stage items rest between shows: some stacks of chairs, a few ladders, the back of some scenery flats and the lower half of a shop mannequin, in very fetching hot pink underwear.

It’s clear that we’re not in Kansas anymore and that we are in a space overseen by four names that are highlighted (by a lightbox attached to the lower half of the shop mannequin) in turn as the show proceeds, the writers: Frith (Horan), Natasha (Hoyland), Beanie Maryse (Ridler) and Billie (Staples).

Notes in the programme give us some information about these four female writers and the issues they wanted to explore, alongside notes from Creative Director Benjamin Henson, Director Naomi Cohen and Dramaturg Phoebe Mason. It is heartening that so many of the creative forces behind the show are female, and this is a strong thread through all three of the shows that make up the Next Big Thing Festival. We are being exposed to new voices, particularly female voices, and the performing arts landscape can only benefit from that.

We the audience are invited to stand, filling the performance space, and this makes it clear that this will be an unusual show. It’s one of a number of high concept ideas in the show and the writers and performers are to be applauded for their bravery in both the content and the staging of the piece. However, for me, and my companions at the show, the decision to have the audience standing in the space does not really pay off. Being of less than average height, on a number of occasions I find it very difficult to see what is happening.

I admit I have every opportunity to move around within the space to make sure I can see, but here it seems the audience is not as avant garde as the performers would like us to be, as I see very few audience members make their own decisions to move. They do move in response to polite requests from the cast and Lizzie Morris the hard-working Stage Manager, but by and large we remain in our original spots, being the polite audience that doesn’t want to disturb the performance by moving around.

One reason for having the audience standing would be to engage them physically within the performance, and again, this does not quite happen. Perhaps we are all shy, or perhaps the sheer number of people in the space makes it difficult to hit the mark on getting us involved. It does seem a paradox that the most interactive audience configuration of the three shows in the festival delivers less actual interaction between performers and audience, or perhaps it’s that I just can’t see the interaction that does take place.

After a number of well-received songs from Galaxy Bear, giving us an authentic ‘at a gig’ vibe, the cast takes to the space in front of the band and delivers an opening scene that invites us to think about what we are searching for and how we might go about finding it. This opening section touches on a number of issues of importance to the writers and, I assume, the cast, such as the way we present ourselves through social media. This is a strong opening, after which the action dissipates into separate spaces that become more difficult to see clearly.

I’m ashamed to say I only realise after the performance that it’s the writers’ names that have been highlighted by the lightbox at the start of each section so I haven’t noted who wrote what, for which I apologise, as some sections are beautifully executed and highly memorable.

My personal favourite scene is between the characters who identify themselves with a Turtle (Eden Li’a) and a Bear (Hannah Horsfield). The conversation between these two is beautifully crafted and both performers brings sincerity and skill to their performance, particularly in Horsfield’s song at the end of the scene and Li’a’s response to it. In fact, I feel Li’a is strong in all of her scenes, with the audience finding her version of John Key particularly funny.

These characters are only a few of a wide variety that move within the space and give us glimpses of their stories. In the scene where Lilly (Momo Wakino) attempts to climb the ladder, with support and encouragement from Xandra (Sophie Cassell) and Serge (or it could be Ralph, since often the character names are not revealed during the scene) played by Murdoch Keane, the interaction between all three characters is well-judged and effective, making for another scene that lingers.

One scene that does not really work for me is where two gossipy characters (played again by Cassell and Keane) are confronted about the language they use when describing someone as looking like a ‘rapist’. I believe this section is created by Hoyland, as she tells us in the programme that “I’ve wanted to address the issue of sexual assault forever, mainly because I dislike the way that TV and media often address it.”

This is a brave topic and the underlying idea of confronting people about the lazy way that they use language is a good one. However, despite some great commitment by Grace Neely as the character who confronts the others, the scene feels somewhat clunky and lacking in resolution. Perhaps that’s the point: addressing issues like this is never going to be easy and this is reflected in the scene itself.

Through a number of different scenes and characters, the show makes its way back to a reflection of the starting scene as we consider whether there are any answers to the questions that have been posed. For me, the answer is, I’m not sure.

Although there are some memorable moments in the show, I’m not sure I truly grasp all the issues that are being explored or the viewpoints of those exploring them. I’m not sure if being hot and uncomfortable stops me from making the required effort to really connect with the show and I’m not sure if I might have been better off coming to this separately rather than as the third show in one evening.

I am sure my companions do not enjoy the show but I’m equally sure this is a brave and interesting piece, and that even though there are not quite enough memorable moments to make it a truly satisfying experience for me, other people may well have a completely different response.  

Links to other Next Big Thing reviews:
Shoulda Woulda Coulda
Angels Re:born


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