DOMINION ROAD STORIES
16/03/2013 - 17/03/2013
Neighbourhood theatre has never been so extraordinary.
Venture halfway down Dominion Road and join Auckland Theatre Company artists, actors, volunteers and neighbourhood friends in a celebration of Auckland’s street-of-a-thousand-stories – Dominion Road.
Over the weekend you can pick and choose from a series of surprising bespoke performances in local haunts including Balmoral Bowling Club, Potters Park, restaurants and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra rehearsal rooms.
Join the dance-hall inspired free family picnic in Potters Park on Saturday and sing along to music from Dominion Road’s famous son, Don McGlashan, and his band. Book your tickets and walk from show to show…
Dominion Rd, Potters Park
Sat 16 & Sun 17: Daytime
Sat 16: Picnic from 5:30pm to 7:30pm
TICKETS: Free and ticketed events. All-event and single-event passes available. Visit autdominionroadstories.co.nz for tickets and for programme details or call 09 309 3395.
# In a nutshell: Hanging in the ‘hood’, spontaneous street theatre, picnic with Don McGlashan.
Dominionator Cardboard Collision: Sunday 17 March at 10.30am in the Mt Eden War Memorial Hall (2 tickets + 2 observers(no ticket required))
Walk Eat Talk: Sunday 17 March at 11.40am starting from the Mt Eden War Memorial Hall (2 tickets)
Bowled Over!: Sunday 17 March at 1pm starting in the Balmoral Bowling Club, Mt Le Grande Road (3 tickets)
Pav On Dom: Sunday 17 March at 3pm starting in APO Rehearsal Room, Dominion Road (3 tickets)
Come Dancing is a free picnic on Saturday evening. Roaming acts in the park will begin from 5.30pm.
Loud and proud fusion of theatre and local communities
Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 17th Mar 2013
After last night’s one-off ‘Come Dancing’, my immersion into ATC / AUT / Auckland Arts Festival’s co-pro, Dominion Road Stories (DRS), continues on a wet and windy St Patrick’s Day.
Billed as extraordinary neighbourhood theatre, the day starts with ‘Dominionator Cardboard Collision’ in the local War Memorial Hall (also ATC’s new permanent home). This is my third interactive cardboard experience as a parent. Of the three, this one comes second.
On the positive side – lots of resources and room, plus an entertaining entrance from artist john Radford, which the kids get to replicate at the end. On the downside – not enough time, especially for the kids who didn’t have a parent who could assist for the full hour, plus after his fun entrance, I don’t see or hear anything from John for the rest of the hour. Perhaps others benefit from his interface though.
My daughter Ella and I are impressed with the transformation of the hall into a recycled cardboard factory, complete with cutting, glue and drawing stations, each with a DRS staff member. Tahi, the trusty town planner, takes charge and explains the kids will be making a mode of transport to race down the luge they have created. Tahi and team are helpful and chatty and Ella has a great hour of creativity from recycled cardboard.
One niggle: Tahi shows the kids the inspiration board, with photos from the olden days. So as Ella gets underway, I take a closer look at the board. While it’s nice to see photos of old trams, cars, horses, carts, boats, motorbikes, wheelbarrows and wakas… WHERE ARE THE BICYCLES? Historically, before the dominance of the car, cycling enjoyed high levels of popularity all over Auckland. Just saying.
Next, it’s straight onto ‘Walk Eat Talk’, an ambitious multi-media project involving a walk down Dominion Road, taking in many of her hidden treasures, down alleyways and up small flights of stairs. On the positive, our small group gets to feel, smell, touch and taste a slice of local life, from close up and personal experiences and conversations from some of Dominion Road’s Asian community, who work and play in the area of the Road commonly known as Chinatown. Through our mp3 players and headphones, we hear the history, experiences and stories of several proprietors and tenants, from a line of eateries in the Balmoral Shopping precinct.
Personally, I would much prefer to have a host talk to our group, rather than be cut off from the actual ambience and vibe of the precinct. Trying to juggle the timing of my mp3 and my daughter’s mp3, while at the same time staying aware of other foot traffic and actual traffic, as well as being mindful of keeping up with the group, is too much for me. Too much information – all of it interesting and diverse – yet at times competing against the visual experience it is designed to support. (especially when we walk through the faux protestors).
The multitasking required to stay on top of the overall experience, with daughter in tow, on a busy slippery street, is beyond me. I think I would be more at ease if our traffic guide at the start hadn’t been so distracted trying to fix my daughter’s mp3 player, that he walked straight across the first interaction (Dunbar Road) without checking for traffic. That gets the heart-rate up and affects my state of mind for the duration of the mp3-assisted part of the journey. No doubt it would be easier to enjoy on a sunny day, without my mini-me, and when the traffic is less dense.
I enjoy the experience 100% more once we ditch the mp3s and get to soak up and focus on the atmosphere, using all our senses. Ella loves the modern dancers breakout performance in an alleyway, even though they are hampered by technical failure. While the dancers successfully showcase Asian youth with vibrancy and modern chic, I find it a little sudden, obvious and forced into the journey. Ella doesn’t care, she loves the colour, the beats and the music, both modern and traditional, both pre recorded and improvised acoustic. The arrival of the ‘ninjas’, who take us to their ‘ninja dojo’ (a neat twist into the now, via the adventure business ‘Clip and Climb’), is the icing on the cake for her.
My absolute highlights are the conversations and educational interaction we have at the mahjong club members, which is all too short, plus the feast we end with. Ella now loves dumplings and I’ve fallen in love with at least 3 new eateries, which I will return to.
‘Walk Eat Talk’ is incredible, inspired and a must-do experience. It is also rushed and very busy at times, and for an old girl like me, I go into sensory overload very quickly.
Without pausing for breath, we walk/jog down Dominion Road to the Balmoral Bowling Club, for Kathryn Burnett’s lively comedy, which is full of good heart and great gags. Called ‘Bowled Over’, its directed by Ben Crowder and performed by a senior citizens performance group, called MARVELLOUS.
The venue is the club rooms upstairs – I’ve been in there once before, to hear a choir practice from a branch of the Sweet Adeline’s. The walls are rich with history and community connection – it is a marvellous and inspired location for this over the top, pantomime-like caper.
Ben allows each member of the cast to have as much fun as they dare, by making their characters as large or as natural as they want. While it’s a triumph to see the cast create with so much freedom, overall, it’s a bit of a bumpy narration, as the story is unevenly told.
It absolutely doesn’t matter to all watching and participating however, as it’s all about the community: people from all walks of life and levels of experience, getting involved. Across the board, performances are genuine and committed. Top marks to professional actors Harry McNaughton and Virginia Frankovich, who both deliver stand out performances, right to the end of the cute conga line closer.
For me, the highlight of the day is Jonathan Alver’s hugely entertaining creation, ‘Pav On Dom’: forty minutes of laugh out loud humour, from a simple mix of two inspiring young opera singers, two sublime actors, four fabulous classical musicians and one true story about Pavarotti coming to practice at the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra rehearsal room in 2003. This comic romp throws in three accessible opera arias with live classical accompaniment and a chance for the audience to sing, hoot n holler, plus we get bubbles and cake…. I am in heaven.
We’re given an hilarious insight into the very specific and demanding world of world-class artists’ contract demands and riders (exact humidity, perfect acoustics, red carpet, masks for those who have a slight cough) plus, in Pavarotti’s (imagined) case, his affections and suave charm, even from afar. While the play starts as a true story, Jonathan and cast rightfully embellish the tale into folklore.
With the irresistible Laurel Devenie as orchestra manager Barbara and the always-entertaining Adam Gardiner as Maestro’s minder, the pair are a divine match. Both astute in nature as well as in performance, I imagine both Adam and Laurel were as generous and connected during the devising and development of this work, as they are on stage.
The script is witty with bite. Anyone who slips in gags about Mayor Len Brown’s singing in public places, as well as the self-serving ‘furniture-donor’ syndrome into their work, makes a friend for life out of me.
Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist at NBR NZ Opera, Bianca Andrew, and young tenor on the rise, Bonaventure Allen-Moetaua, both hold their own on the acting front, next to Adam and Laurel, then present a very fine ‘Seguidilla’ from Bizet’s Carmen, plus the ever popular ‘Nessun dorma’ from Puccini’s Turandot.
Overall, cast, singers and musicians deliver a perfectly pitched performance, right through to the fitting finale, after the inevitable realization that an iconic Kiwi desert is as close as we will come to meeting Maestro. As Barbs and the minder slip behind the white board, we launch into an all-embracing climatic delivery of the Brindisi, the ‘Drinking Song’, from La Traviata. I hope Jonathan expands this premise and we see it return as a full play, both here and abroad. It’s hugely enjoyable.
Overall, the day really showcases a new arm, face and identity for the ATC, who many associate with high-end theatre and large production budgets. Motivated no doubt by their change in business, rehearsal and creation spaces from the CBD to the suburbs, and specifically to the famous 6km long-Road that stretches to every colour, culture and creed from our multi cultural city, the fusion between professional theatre and local community, is loud and proud from both camps.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
Celebrating the songs, dances and stories of yesteryear
Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 17th Mar 2013
A modest crowd of about 1,000 experience a one-off magic moment on Saturday night – a shared community occasion that’s as rare as rain this summer. There we lucky few are – friends, families, locals and special guests such as the (David) Shearer family, dancing and singing on and around the stage, half way down Dominion Road, in Potter’s Park, with much-loved local legend singer-songwriter Don McGlashan, and his son Louis on drums, belting out the anthem of a Kiwi generation, as the only possible finale item at Auckland Theatre Company’s inaugural Dominion Road Stories ‘Come Dancing’ community event.
As much of Auckland’s Festival audience prepare for a night of expected festival shows at conventional venues, a brave number enjoy a unique collaboration between AUT, ATC and Auckland Festival, that seeks to celebrate Dominion Road as the dancing capital of the region, from past decades, through to now.
As an event it is loose and, to be honest, organic to the point of being ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ at times, with hectic stage managers rushing up to able-MC Mark Hadlow asking him to ad-lib, or steering him back on track, or onto the right cue-card. Yet the charming chaos that comes when an ambitious vision is full of wonderful moments, but simply under-rehearsed as a whole, just doesn’t seem to matter, or bother the friendly crowd. It is an occasion where, after each item, those on stage look and react with as much enthusiasm and delight, as those in the audience.
Rain, which falls like clock work at the start of the pre event, then the first half, second half and finale, does not dampen the spirit or heart of the event at any time.
The pre event features the inquiring minds and fluid moves of local school Kowhai Intermediate, who use dance to convey the triumph of acceptance over isolationism. It is reminiscent of Stage Challenge or J-Rock in presentation and form. Jason Te Mete’s ‘Dominion Road Singers’, a 6 weeks old community choir, actively looking for new members, sing with heart, sweet harmony and smiles. While under-supported technically, they make a delightful acoustic impact. I have three 9-year-old girls with me, and they run to the stage after the first song, so they can hear the second properly. Ella and Amelia come back to base and announce, “That was a pretty cool pre-show.”
The main event kicks into action unannounced, with the stunning Tuxedo Swing Orchestra displaying tight musicianship and flare. I look at the stage and recognise that some of the city’s top brass are up there – what a treat! I feel like running to a microphone and giving them the introduction and back announce they deserve from the top of the show.
Second item in, visual magic is added when Candy Lane and Brian Jones, rekindle the joy of dance, not only from Dominion Road’s rich history, but from NZ’s love affair with the much missed Dancing With The Stars.
Charming MC Mr Hadlow is in his element, reading us tid-bits from the area’s history as we move through the decades of dance, going on-script, then off, ad libbing, weaving between dancers, and chatting to Candy. It is genuinely moving to hear Candy’s childhood memories of dance lessons down the road, from the age of 4: “I danced all around the world, but this is my hood, I used to play on those swings, right there.”
Various dance groups from in and around Dominion Road bedazzle the crowd, including The Dance Studio’s sassy ‘flappers’ ladies (“How do they do that in heals?” ask the 9-year-olds); 7 charming mature couples called ‘The Sunshine Dancers’; the return of Candy with Aaron Gilmour from DWTS; 6 pint-sized lads called ‘Boyzdance2’ (who are naturally crowd favourites); a bunch of energetic dudes and dudettes lead by Chris Bryan, who become Jitterbugs, then lead a conga line through the crowd, much to the delight of the willing 9-year olds, then lead the rousing finale to the first half of the event, with the all-inclusive, ‘Land of 1000 Dances’ (even our dogs are scratching in time to the music).
The dancers all look so divine, and are so connected. As Mark says, we used to make such an effort to dress up and go dancing. Community dance groups of all ages, perform alongside some of our most celebrated professional dancers, with great warmth and flare, and connect us back to a wonderful time.
After a break, Don takes to the stage with ring-in musicians Dave Carn and Sean Donnelly either side. Their three-part harmony is a treat and with Louis McGlashan on drums, the vibe is perfect. Don sings his stories and shares his experiences with the enriching lyric and musicianship that has cemented him as one of our finest singer-songwriters. As they play the opening riff to “Dominion Road” and the rain comes down, I think what an exceptional picnic in the park this has been.
This event took huge investment and resource – big stage, back stage marquees, Portaloos, St Johns, a large sound set up… it is such a shame so few people attended. Darn that rare rain.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer