Dance Troupe Supreme

Maidment Theatre - Musgrove Studio, Auckland

20/03/2010 - 27/03/2010

Production Details


‘We were so worried when our Charlotte got into dancing. We kept asking her, why are you wasting your life, darling?’ 


A dance troupe has been formed. A tour has been organized. Now it’s just time to dance, dance, dance. Join Charlotte, Amber, Kellyanna, Sean James and their stage manager, Honcho, as they tour New Zealand. Watch them interact with the locals, starve themselves to perfection, and live out their dreams to audiences of seven and to the beat of Britney Spears’ ouvre.

Charlotte, the innocent ingénue on her first job, will be played by JAQUIE BROWN. Jaquie is well-known to New Zealand audiences for her presenting on C4 and her recent comedy series, The Jaquie Brown Diaries.

Kellyanna, the self-proclaimed leader of the troupe, will be played by MADELEINE SAMI. Madeleine recent credits include The Jaquie Brown Diaries, Sione’s Wedding and No. 2. She will next be seen on television in her new comedy, Super City.

Amber, the hard-partier and sweetheart of the group, will be played by Morgana O’Reilly. Morgana’s recently appeared onscreen in Piece of My Heart. She has also starred in Sainsbury’s LUV and The Mall, and her one-woman show, The Height of the Eiffel Tower. She will next be seen in Silo’s When the rains stops falling.

Honcho, the loveable yet fallible stage manager, will be played by Yvette Parsons. Yvette is fresh from a stint in Wellington where she starred in Entertaining Mr Sloane and the hit New Zealand comedy, Gas. She has also recently starred in Outrageous Fortune and Legend of the Seeker.

Sean James, the predatory love machine, will be played by Thomas Sainsbury. Thomas has also written and will be directing the piece. In the last two years Thomas has written and produced his plays LUV, Loser, The Mall, Beast, Gas and The Feminine. He has recently resided in London where he has produced productions of his plays A Simple Procedure and . . . and then you die. Thomas’s plays The Mall and Loser have been published by Play Press. Loser and his play Main Street are being adapted for the screen. He is currently working for TV3 with a new comedy, Super City

WHEN: MARCH 19th, 20th and 24th, 25th, 26th, 27th.
WHERE: Maidment’s MUSGROVE STUDIO, 8 Alfred Street, Auckland.

Charlotte:  JAQUIE BROWN

Moments of quick-witted humour and a rigorous (vicarious) workout

Review by Lillian Richards 21st Mar 2010

Written and directed by (as well as featuring) Thomas Sainsbury, Dance Troupe Supreme began as a seed idea between Sainsbury and Madeleine Sami, who plays Kellyanna, the lead dancer of a troupe touring the rural centres of New Zealand. According to the program the initial idea was to be a two-hander but Sainsbury swiftly realized that the story needed more characters, more content, more dance moves. From reading between the lines on the program, the idea was also to have a reason to dance.

It’s about here, in the second paragraph, that I’m going to diverge a little from the plot of the play and talk a bit about how I review. Firstly and obviously I believe that reviewing should be as transparent a process as possible. It should not hang on arbitrary concepts of ‘good’ and ‘bad’. A review, to me, is the holding up of a mirror: a chance to see if themes, narratives, plot devices, staging, lighting and acting were effectively translated to the audience; to see if the seed idea has germinated.

So that said, I always ask myself: what is this play trying to achieve and then, some way down the beaten track, does it achieve this?

Dance Troupe Supreme, from what I can gather, was designed as an edifice for the opportunity to dance. Deeper than this it attempts to look at the lives of dancers, with the hope, perhaps, that some of the lightly intimated social conditions might give the play a deeper relevance; something more than just laughs and dance moves.  

There is laughing (laughter at lines, ideas, implications and quick witted catch ups when lines are misplaced). There is dancing: whilst Britney Spears blares, Kerryn McMurdo expertly choreographs ticking clock moves, licking tongue moves, touching, kissing, simulacra sex moves – parodying the oversexed industry. A clever move.

As sturdy and laden with potential as the notion of dancing and laughing is, they create two pillars with nothing in between them. The suspension of nothing may seem an easy weight to carry, but soon enough the realisation dawns on you and ‘light’ and ‘weightless’ just become empty and pointless.

Now not by any means do I think a play has to be entirely serious but laughter isn’t created in a vacuum, there needs to be the addition of context and depth for the propulsion of laughter to sustain itself; for it to have something to hang on to.

As is often the case with Sainsbury, there are some moments of concise scripting where characters, in small flashes, begin to fill out, where story lines perhaps arch a little hinting at something in the middle of the two pillars of dance and laughter; something between the ears, as it were. But altogether these moments are not enough. They all add up and time passes but there remains a feeling that depth is missing.

The troupe’s lead dancer and inspiration for the play is Sami who has a highly acclaimed background in theatre but whom I could not hear speak. Nor, when she was audible, was she exactly coherent. Sami clearly added affectations to her portrayal of superficial, aging, fantasist Kellyanna but affectations don’t add up to likeability and when her character finally attempts a catharsis it is doubtful anyone cares. No matter how terrible the protagonist, we must be given the chance to care about them in some small way or else all is lost.

Jaqui Brown plays Charlotte, newbie to the troupe, over eager to please, gregarious and straight-laced. Brown stays in character perfectly, whether she’s playing Char Char or her (Sainsbury economy trick 101) alter ego stage hand. But as with Sami she could do with speaking up a little. Much of her sweetness gets lost somewhere between the stage and the second row. 

Yvette Parsons does a great job of playing Honcho, the stagehand techie, though this diversion of plot, apart from supplying a swift and predictable ending, doesn’t offer anything to the overall depth of the play or provide much beyond stereotypes and filler.

For me the highlight is easily Morgana O’Reilly, who plays eating disorder neurosis filled Amber. O’Reilly, as an actor, has these charming quirks and ticks, these laughs and these extraordinary moments of nearly psychopathic silences, gaps, over exaggerated responses and charm. Mostly charm. O’Reilly plies Amber with warmth and absurdity and makes her faulty and human, even though her circumstances are inhuman (eating cotton buds to stifle annoying hunger pains). She makes you like her, she makes you care. Which, to me, is the point.

Thomas Sainsbury plays Sean James, the male troupe member, who spends the entire time attempting to convince everyone of his heterosexuality…

Sainsbury’s portrayal of his own character is a bit harried; he seems more relaxed when tackling some of the minor roles such as the technical supervisor who comes down from Auckland to demote Honcho. Within this role Sainsbury effortlessly channels white-collar arse-talker when assuring Honcho that there is always a silver lining. Sainsbury, deadpan, suggests that she’s not to think of the demotion as a door closing, which it is, but rather as “One door closing then a concertina effect and a window opening to the left.”

This line left me in fits of laughter and – I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again – these gems of Sainsbury’s, these clever moments of really getting inside a characters head, are what’s important about him as a playwright. If he wrote a play fully fleshed with these insights I’ve no doubt it would be genius and a real contribution. But compiling a play full of insight, full of cherry picked ideas and words, takes time, it takes editing and bravery and the asking of opinions and reworking; it’s the wordy version of panning for gold but in the end gold is what’s valued, not silt.

Let me take a second here to address the real star of the show: the dancing. There are only two choreographed dance sequences, though throughout the show the cast maintain an air of ‘casual dancer’ about them; they move from place to place with a pirouette, they exit the bar with a twirl. This on-going joke has sustainable humour.

The cast’s first dance is a powerful opener, erotic and amusing, fast-paced and high energy: it’s galvanising. The last dance leaves a little to be desired as there is palpably less energy and it feels like the troupe’s enthusiasm had been curbed, which doesn’t quite fit with the plot.

Overall the cast all dance a great jig between actual skill and piss take, and they are fun and fluid to watch whilst retaining a high sense of physical humour.

So did the seed germinate? In ways yes, but it remains a sapling.

For a fun night out and the chance to laugh, for moments of quick-witted humour and a rigorous (vicarious) workout, for Britney booming loudly and an hour and a half of mainly thoughtless oblivion, Dance Troupe Supreme is $20 very well spent.


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