Colony! + Grimm

Wellington Performing Arts Centre, Wellington

06/02/2009 - 09/02/2009

NZ Fringe Festival 2009

Production Details

COLONY! | A circus troupe in pursuit of happiness in colonial New Zealand
GRIMM | A dark fairytale…


Back by popular demand, thirteen talented young actors of Long Cloud Youth Theatre are presenting COLONY! and GRIMM in the Wellington Fringe Festival.

Colony! and GRIMM are two devised works that have been researched and created by the actors themselves; both shows had acclaimed seasons in October 2008. The Company performs Colony! and GRIMM one more time at the theatre of Wellington Performing Arts Centre on 6, 7, 8 and 9 February. Colony! is on at 6.30pm, GRIMM at 8.30pm. On Sunday 8 February also matinee performances: Colony! 2pm, GRIMM 4pm.

COLONY! is a hilarious musical about a circus troupe traveling to colonial New Zealand in pursuit of happiness. Will the bearded lady, the Siamese twin, the mute mime, the fortune teller and the ring-master survive in the Promised Land? Double ticket for both Colony and Grimm only $20.

GRIMM concerns a group of fairytale characters who have been trapped inside the famous stories of the brothers Grimm for hundreds of years. Unhappy with their working conditions, they organize themselves in a fairytale union and the protest begins… Double ticket for both Colony and Grimm only $20.

Long Cloud Youth Theatre, run by Wellington Performing Arts Centre, is a unique training and production company for young people aged 16-20 years. The Company gives young actors the means to develop their theatrical skills through practical performance experience and the opportunity to work with Wellington’s foremost theatrical directors and tutors. The program is led by award winning teacher and director Willem Wassenaar.

LONG CLOUD YOUTH THEATRE | Training and production company for young actors

COLONY! | A circus troupe in pursuit of happiness in colonial New Zealand
FEB 6-9 @ 6.30pm, SUN 8 FEB also @ 2pm
Wellington Performing Arts Centre, 36 Vivian St

GRIMM | A dark fairytale…
FEB 6-9 @ 8.30pm, SUN 8 FEB also @ 4pm
Wellington Performing Arts Centre, 36 Vivian St

Each show $16/ $12/$10 | Double ticket for Colony! And GRIMM $20
BOOK NOW PH: 04 385 8033 or EMAIL:  

Starring Jack Buchanan, Ally Garrett, Tai Berdinner-Blades, Imogen Zino, Hayden Frost, Sophie Hambleton (season understudy for Phyllisophia JasonSmith)

Starring Bea Joblin, Ben Crawford, Stella Reid, Emerald Naulder, Zac Kerr, Ali Lai-Carlyle, Jack Buchanan (season understudy for Richard Child)

1hr 15mins | 1hr 5 mins, no intervals

Challenges to bourgeoning skills enjoyable for the audience

Review by Helen Sims 11th Feb 2009

The Fringe Festival sees the welcome return season of both Colony! And GRIMM – two short pieces devised by the Long Cloud Youth Theatre group under the capable direction of Willem Wassenaar. Both showcase excellent young talent, although they are far from mere vehicles for exhibiting acting skill. Both shows are entirely entertaining in their own right, and surpass some of the professional (and more generously funded) work seen on Wellington stages in recent times for sheer originality and energy.

Colony! features a group of washed up circus performers shipwrecked on a shore which they are told are New Zealand. Of a large and unusual sounding troupe only the bearded lady, Siamese twins, mute mime, fortune teller and ring master survive. The musical is begun by the angry ranting of the Irish mute mime, Bozo. Only the audience can hear him, and his venomous soliloquies punctuate the play. Hayden Frost as Bozo is excellent, snapping between barely restrained hostility and blank faced docility with precision. I found Tai Berdinner-Blades amusing as the pessimistic and cynical fortune teller, Bella (much is made of this rhyme in a song), although she needs to boost the volume of her voice at some points. Ally Garret and Sophie Hambleton are manic and disturbing as the dangerously erotic Siamese twins Lolita and Lola. Jack Buchanan plays the ring-master Percy well, carrying most of the musical numbers on his guitar. He starts off encouraging the disparate bunch to ‘percy-vere’ in their unfamiliar surroundings, but his lies catch up to him and he is one of the first to break down and give in to despair. Imogen Zino rounds out the cast as the dreamily romantic and hirsute Martha.

Although the play’s themes are clear enough to begin with, they break down and lose their way somewhat in favour of cliché. However, Colony! Is still a highly imaginative and enjoyable romp with a wicked sense of humour.

GRIMM is a shorter piece about fairy tale characters who have been trapped in repetitive roles and tied to tedious morality for centuries. Inspired by the disappearance of Cinderella they organize into unions and demand their freedom from ‘rigid morality and dark lifestyles’. However, in the ‘real’ world they are forced into new roles as consumerist, racist, road kill and rejected victim. The fairytale revolution does not herald freedom – they cannot escape the narratives and morals of their stories – they simply have been adorned with different details. This approach to fairytales is not wholly original (most recently we saw the same approach taken to jokes in Eli Kent’s brilliant Rubber Turkey) but the cast (Bea Joblin as Little Red Riding Hood, Ben Crawford as Prince Charming, Stella Reid as Rapunzal, Emerald Naulder as Evil Queen, Zac Kerr as Dwarf, Jack Buchanan as Wolf and Ali Lai-Carlyle as Sleeping Beauty) all acquit their roles well, even if they could all have been directed to shout a little less. Joblin in particular does a good job of capturing a mix of defiance and fear in her character.

GRIMM is far more typical ‘youth theatre’ fare, but still a decent offering and at just over half an hour doesn’t drag the idea out. Wassenaar and his cast should once again be commended for producing theatre that challenges and develops their burgeoning skills whilst remaining enjoyable for the audience. Look out for their next productions.

Originally published in The Lumière Reader.


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New talent knocking at the stage door

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 10th Feb 2009

Over the weekend six shows gave a kick start to the theatrical part of the Fringe Festival. Two of them displayed a new and talented generation of actors knocking on the stage door confidently announcing its presence with a couple of shows that the group devised and first presented last year under the guidance of Willem Wassenaar and Sophie Roberts.

First up was Colony!, a musical – or at least a play with songs – all about a group of circus performers tossed up on a deserted beach somewhere in New Zealand during the Gold Rushes. They survive for a time on their wits, dreams, desires and antagonisms, but they find neither gold, nor pigs for food, nor audiences to perform for, and then they starve and all eventually die.

GRIMM takes the major fairytale characters of the brothers Grimm forever trapped in their fairytale world attempting to break free of their poor living conditions and the namby-pamby voices of their readers and the happy-ever-after endings they have had to live with for so long.

When Cinderella mysteriously goes missing they decide to form a union, and with echoes of Animal Farm, they revolt and rip hundreds of books apart in a mass frenzy that is shocking. The freedom that Little Red, Prince Charming, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Evil Queen, Dwarf, and Wolf desire is not easily won and their future lies, as Stephen Sondheim wrote in his fairytale musical Into the Woods: "Into the Woods/You have to grope/But that’s the way/You learn to cope. /Into the woods/To find there’s hope/ Of getting through the journey.

Both productions are expertly staged though a great deal of it seems to be well utilized drama school exercises designed to create an ensemble, which Jack Buchanan, Ally Garrett, Tai Berdinner-Blades, Imogen Zino, Hayden Frost, Bea Joblin, Ben Crawford, Stella Reid, Emerald Naulder, Zac Kerr, and Ali Lai-Carlyle most certainly do.

However, at certain moments they are able to break free to shine on their own, but never to either play’s nor their fellow actors disadvantage; for example Hayden Frost’s spastic skeleton dance as a cynical clown and Imogen Zino’s Bearded Lady’s writing a letter for a romantic lover is both funny as well as touching, and Jack Buchanan’s feverish Wolf. An auspicious start for all concerned.


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Succulent morsels of talent

Review by John Smythe 07th Feb 2009

There is no doubting the brightness, talent and commitment of Long Cloud Youth Theatre, directed by Willem Wassenaar and tutored by Sophie Roberts. These two shows, devised last year, have been revived, revised and revitalised by most of the same performers for the Fringe and they are well worth seeing.

The premise of Colony! is that a circus troupe has been shipwrecked on an island assumed to be New Zealand, land of infinite promise in the gold-tinted view of super-optimistic ringmaster Percy Hemingway: visionary or con man; willing-to-risk entrepreneur or charismatic egotist …? Played with great spirit and musical skill by Jack Buchanan, his desire to Percy-nalise everything by Percy-vering with Percy-nality could be the key for anyone seeking the allegorical resonance such a play cries out for.  

But its potential as a story that exceeds the sum of its parts is not realised. Equal and opposite to the performance pizzazz that carries the show is its lack of endgame purpose. No wonder they die en-masse at the end: a classic symptom of theatre devised from the bottom up with no point in mind. When the separate strands remain disconnected they can only droop and collapse.

Another symptom of devising dyspepsia (a.k.a. premature performance syndrome) is the way they resort to monologues to explain their characters, rather than reveal them through dramatic interaction. While in this case they reveal notable skill and wit in using words to convey their characters’ preoccupations, these words contribute little to an evolving plot or unifying central theme. Subtext is thin under this ground.

Performance, then – in the moment and in our faces – is all.

Hayden Frost makes the most of his ectomorphic stature as Bozo the Mime, rantingly loquacious in Scots-accented monologues that reveal his misanthropic pessimism; mute and more vulnerable in the company of others.

More endomorphic are the Siamese Twins Lola and Lolita, played commedia-large by a perfectly pitched Sophie Hambleton (standing in for Phyllisophia JasonSmith) and Ally Garrett, whose expressed preoccupations with tea, class and etiquette are easier to take when she is not shouting. The savage jealously that erupts when one takes a lover emerges as the most interesting part of this relationship.

Imogen Zino, as Martha the Bearded Lady, comes into her own when she privately seeks romantic love by advertisement and letter, miraculously receiving seductively Latin replies from ‘Pablo’ (well voiced by Frost). Her joy is so manifest we want it all to be real.

Tai Berdinner-Blades’ cigarette and whisky-toting Bella, the Fortune Teller and Psychic Medium, completes the surviving jetsam of the wreck, showing good versatility as she channels voices from the deep. The scene where she channels the drowned Narcissa (Stella Reid), and so discovers she is second-best for the grieving and clumsily wooing Percy, offers welcome, if brief, dramatic complexity.

The troupe comes together as an ensemble through energetic physical routines and lustily sung songs, ensuring we leave with smiles on our faces even though our metaphorical bellies are empty. We have snacked on succulent morsels of talent and for many that will be sufficient.

Grimm, the second Long Cloud show in the Fringe, is blessed with a clear dramatic purpose: to liberate iconic characters of Brothers Grimm folk tales’ from their slavery to eternal naivety and happy-ever-afters, recreated ad-infinitum by honey-voiced storytellers. As we arrive, her (uncredited) mellifluous tones flood the space while seven characters use scattered books as stepping stones, going nowhere with steady precision …

Initially Little Red (Bea Joblin), Prince Charming (Ben Crawford), Rapunzel (Stella Reid), the Evil Queen from Snow White (Emerald Naulder), Happy the Dwarf (Zac Kerr), Sleeping Beauty (Alo Lai-Carlyle) and the Wolf (Jack Buchanan, taking over from Richard Child) declaim their roles and their stories in isolation.  And these are the truly Grimm, uncensored, cruel and violent versions.

It is news of the mysterious disappearance of Cinderella that brings them together in solidarity beneath the omniscient/ omnipotent cloud of fear that seeks to subjugate them. "Do not fear the apple or the spindle but the Velvet Voice!" is the battle cry.  

Dramatically, their robust rebellion and acts of sabotage – the actual ripping apart of books delivers a gut-level shock – were somewhat subverted in themselves on opening night by their hitting shout level too early, giving them nowhere else to go. By contrast the silence, apart from tinkling music, that greets their entry into the real world is a truly magical moment.

But there are prices to be paid, not only literally (e.g. what it costs to be told by a dentist there is nothing wrong with your teeth). Conforming to bigotry gains them access to a group. Red may mean stop and green may mean go but it’s still bloody scary crossing the road. No wonder the Wolf becomes a deeply disturbed and shy-voiced poet.

And of course the conditioning of their past is not easily dismissed: "there is no Prince Charming without your virginity"; "the evil you disperse will come back to devour you"; "obey your mother and never stray from the path …" In contrast to their certainty in revolution, the characters are too alienated and/ or bewildered to lead us to a clear conclusion.

Last year (as I recall it) they reverted to the status quo, better understanding their roles as life-lesson icons. Now, like the social revolutionaries of yesteryear, they go their separate ways and – in an ingenious dramaturgical touch – it is their epitaphs that provoke us to consider the whys and wherefores, goods and bads, happies and sads of their endings.  

While they rarely talk to each other, the seven actors each perform with individual panache and as a tight ensemble, benefitting (in both shows) from the well-aligned talents of the uncredited light & sound designers and operators.

I came away thinking the year has barely begun, the Fringe only just, and already we have been treated to a wondrous range of creativity. If Long Cloud Youth Theatre represents the next generation of theatre practitioners (the next big step for some will be enrolling in a performing arts degree), our creative industries and the community at large will be the richer for it.


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