03/08/2009 - 05/08/2009
16/03/2009 - 21/03/2009
It’s true. Boys really do love their toys. And when they involve engines, X-Boxes and things that blow stuff up, so much the better.
So when a group of 20-something actors got the opportunity to combine their love of all three, they were there faster than the time it takes to switch on a console.
Fasitua Amosa, Damien Avery and Nick Foo are the stars of Gestalt, playing at the Tapac Theatre Western Springs, August 3 – 5. After enjoying a successful run at the Auckland Fringe Festival, they’ve brought Gestalt back for another limited season, inspired in part by a visit to Weta Workshop.
Gestalt is based around the lives of three guys obsessed with the legendary X-Box game, Halo and what happens when a girl is thrown into the mix.
"We knew Peter Jackson had been in pre production for Halo, the movie and that got us wondering whether there might be props or anything we could possibly utilise," says Amosa. "So we decided to have a look into it.
"Nowhere else in the world, would you be able to rock up to a multiple Oscar-winning organisation and ask to take photos with their stuff. No way.
"But one of the great things about New Zealand is everyone knows someone who knows someone and a phone call or two later, we were walking through the doors of Weta Workshop."
In an extraordinary act of generosity, Richard Taylor and his Weta team threw open the doors to their top secret workshop and literally left the guys to play with the costumes, armour, weapons and even the Warthog.
"I was still getting over the fact Richard had even bothered to come and say hello, then next thing we’re standing right in front of the Warthog," says Amosa.
"I commented to the workshop tech that it actually sits quite low to which he replied "oh wait till I turn it on" which he does and BOOM, the Warthog’s sitting on airbags. Airbags!
"Weta had agreed we could use everything for publicity shots so we got to work taking photos. A staff member says, ‘Do you guys need the weapons?’ to which we’re all like ‘yes please, if you don’t mind, if it’s not too much trouble, thank you please’.
"When he came back with the Battle Rifle, I think we all collectively wet our pants with excitement. Then came the Spiker, Carbine…’is that the Sniper Rifle? Oh yeah, I’m sure we could use the Rocket Launcher somewhere, thank you’. It was an awesome afternoon."
Weta’s costume supervisor Matt Appleton says everything the boys used was designed to be true to the Halo game.
"We got digital files from Bungy to replicate everything," he says. "We knew we had to be dead on otherwise the fans wouldn’t be at all happy. One little curve wrong and it’d be all over."
Apart from Gestalt’s photo shoot, the gear was used on a series of Halo Shorts, a viral campaign for the X-Box game.
Of course, getting the Warthog onto the theatre stage was an entirely different proposition and it is now, in fact, in Australia as part of an exhibition for Microsoft.
"But a large part of theatre’s about letting your mind fill in the blank spaces. In fact, that’s the beauty of it," says Amosa. "At Tapac, we’ll give our audience the chance to step right inside the Halo world. Almost like we did at Weta. And if they have half as much fun as we did, then we’ll be happy."
Gestalt: Tapac Theatre Western Springs,
August 3 – 5. Bookings www.tapac.org.nz ph 360-5320.
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WEAR YOUR GEEK BADGE WITH PRIDE
If there are two words you should refrain from uttering around gamers, try arts and culture. Yet two Auckland actors have done just that – and met with unexpected success.
The result is their self-penned play, Gestalt, at the Basement Theatre from March 16 – 21.
In typical New Zealand do-it-yourself fashion, Fasitua Amosa and David Van Horn wrote Gestalt when both were looking for acting work. Based around the lives of obsessive gamers, it broke new ground when the pair staged it at New Zealand’s gaming and pop culture expo, Armageddon, in October.
"A play is the last sort of thing you’d expect to see at Armageddon and to be honest, we thought we were pushing our luck even approaching the organisers about it," says Van Horn. "It’s fair to say that you generally won’t find the Armageddon crowd among Auckland’s theatre audience"
But Armageddon organiser Bill Geradts was so impressed with the pitch he gave the go-ahead. The next challenge was to get an audience, particularly at such an atypical event.
"Given the fact that it was an expo, people were free to come and go but the play kept them in their seats," says Geradts. "It was hugely successful. There were a lot of people watching and it certainly exceeded our expectations."
It probably helped that Gestalt is based around the legendary Xbox game, Halo, which naturally aroused gamers’ curiosity. But for those Fringe Festival fans considering attending, Amosa is quick to point out his play’s broader appeal.
"I wanted to give the actors the feel of playing to an audience so we ran a rehearsal in front of some friends," he says. "Most of them knew absolutely nothing about gaming but they all got it. Sure it’s about geeks, but Gestalt‘s still a universal story."
Amosa and Van Horn, both well known on the Auckland theatre scene, are keen gamers themselves and developed Gestalt from a story written by a friend.
In a case of life imitating art, Gestalt is about three guys whose life revolves around Halo and asks what happens when a girlfriend is thrown into the mix.
"I used to go round to my friend’s place and play," recalls Van Horn. "They had three TVs in three rooms and we’d divide up into teams. After a few hours, I’d leave them to go and hang with my girlfriend and they’d still be going for it."
Best friends since they graduated from the Unitech Performing Arts course in 2002, Amosa and Van Horn have also acted together in several Silo Theatre plays. But this is the first production they have staged, with Amosa (ex Insider’s Guide to Happiness) directing and Van Horn starring alongside Jason Fitch (ex Shortland Street), Damien Avery and Laura Turnbull.
"We were really stoked by the reception we got at Armageddon," says Amosa. "Now we’re looking forward to playing in front of a theatre crowd."
March 16 – 21.
Tickets $15 and $10 concession
Glen - Jason Fitch / Fasitua Amosa (Aug 09)
Donnie - Damien Avery
Liam - Nick Foo
Izzy - Laura Turnbull
Review by Nik Smythe 04th Aug 2009
Gestalt is the return season of a production that originally played at the Basement Theatre during this year’s Auckland Fringe [link to review].
Besides the replacement of one actor – Fasitua Amosa replaces Jason Fitch in the key role of the Halo team captain Glen – essentially the play hasn’t changed: Glen, Donnie and Liam are flatmates, and a fanatical team of contending online Halo 3 champions, known to ‘normal’ people as geeks.
Glen (Fasitua) is the loud, officious captain to his two wingmen: honest, innocent Donnie (Damien Avery) and Liam, the serious young would-be romantic (Nick Foo). Their flat is a messy workshop and graveyard of pizza-boxes, energy-drink cans, comics, mags, transformers. Grown men living a ten-year-old boy’s dream.
But when Liam brings home his hot new hot girlfriend Izzy, played by Laura Turnbull, it’s uncharted territory for these pop culture-obsessed lads. And of course girls don’t care about gaming and Star Wars and comics do they, so Liam is valiantly striving to ‘grow up’ and avoid the real possibility of his geekdom cover being blown.
Along with competent performances, highlighted by Avery’s affably hilarious Donnie, the big-screen graphics drive the gameplay action. The lack of a programme prevents me from crediting the clever talent behind the stop-motion animated segue clips where action figures encounter various disastrous scenarios, which loosely relate to the issues between the four characters.
The whole story is about things being greater than the sum of their parts, i.e. gestalt, with a measure of things being other than they seem plus a liberal helping of gratuitous romantic idealism.
Co-written by Fasitua and David Van Horn, from a story by Michael Nanda, it would be good to see the script tightened and developed beyond a simplistic framework on which are hung as many nods to fanboy passtimes as you can imagine, and then some.
That said it’s still an entertaining ride overall and the more of a geek you are yourself the more you will enjoy references to all things sci-fi, superhero and x-box related, etc. When it comes to mining the archives of geek culture, the more the merrier: it’s clearly the main point for this play’s existence.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Feelgood X-Box Romcom
Review by Nik Smythe 17th Mar 2009
Ge·stalt (gə-shtält’, -shtōlt’, -stält’, -stōlt’)
n. A configuration or pattern of elements so unified as a whole that its properties cannot be derived from a simple summation of its parts.
Glen, Donnie and Liam are flatmates, and a fanatical team of contending online Halo 3 champions, known to ‘normal’ people as geeks. Glen (Jason Fitch) is the loud, officious captain to his two wingmen: honest, innocent Donnie (Damien Avery) and Liam, the serious young would-be romantic (Nick Foo). Their flat is a messy workshop and graveyard of pizza-boxes, energy-drink cans, comics, mags, transformers… Grown men living a ten year old boy’s dream.
Liam’s got a secret, you see, played by Laura Turnbull, except they know it now, and he’s thinking he needs to grow for his girlfriend Izzy, because of course girls don’t care about gaming and Star Wars and superheroes do they. In reality Liam really could have a point, given their entire lives revolve around pop culture, junk food and not growing up. So his attempt to be interested in doing trendy social things like she’d want to could be as noble as he intends, only if he’d just listen to her…
The able cast, as directed by Fasitua Amosa, forms a complimentary set of likeable characters. Fitch as highly strung Glen is a bit of a bully with his boyzone principles, angry with Liam disrupting the gestalt of the team. Avery’s Donnie has the most charm, winning our hearts with his frank, naive wisdom. The chemistry between the impossibly pretty Isobel and the self-loathing Liam isn’t exactly fireworks as they both conceal their true passions for fear the other will find it a turn-off.
In fact Liam gets so domineeringly false it’s a bit miraculous that she does remain interested. At one stage Glen accuses Izzy of ‘typical romantic comedy movie crap’… Playwrights Amosa and David Van Horn are surely self-aware that the set-up of this entertaining play is as idealistic, clichéd and, whilst-not-impossible-still-pretty-unlikely, as your standard rom-com, though arguably funnier than many.
A large screen upstage centre displays the graphics of their gaming exploits. It’s a pleasing enough lo-fi effect, although it’s slightly illusion-killing when they turn to watch the screen we watch while the rest of the time their television is the front of the audience. Perhaps they could either hook up a duplicate monitor upstage to watch, or else turn the couch around?
Gestalt premiered at the last Armageddon convention, and hopes to tour around the convention circuit. Taking live theatre to the sci-fi circles is a commendable cause, and as for the reverse – who knows how many trendy lefty culture-vulture type ‘normal’ theatre-goers’ curiosities may be aroused enough to have a crack at X-box Live? The ones who don’t already, of course…
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer