Go Solo 06

Te Whaea - Drama One, 11 Hutchison Rd, Newtown, Wellington

18/08/2006 - 26/08/2006

Production Details

devised by the performers
directed by Jade Erikson & Christian Penny

Go Solo is sixteen new New Zealand compositions by third year actors and fourth year designers at Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School.

The Go Solo monologues have been revisioned this year to keep them fresh and contemporary. The directors are Jade Eriksen (Migrant Nation, Yatra, Penumbra, and the upcoming Arcane in the BATS STAB season) and Christian Penny (Penumbra, Hamlet and Head of Directing at Toi Whakaari).

Jade and Christian are working with a focus on the questions the students have about the world they live in – some of which include the $1 a day mentality, ‘OEing’ as a nanny to the rich and infamous and the highs and lows of New Zealand during the 1987 crash.

“What I enjoy about the Solo work is that it offers an opportunity to develop specific theatrical forms based on how each of the students experience the world,” said Jade. “What I keep repeating is let’s find a form that reflects how you think. This excites me. The unique expression of content and form.”

Fri 18th,     6.30pm – A;  8.30pm – B
Sat 19th,    2.30pm – B;  4.30pm – A;

                    6.30pm – D;  8.30pm – C
Sun 20th,  (no performances)
Mon 21st,  6.30pm – C;  8.30pm – D
Tue 22nd,  2.30pm – A;
                    6.30pm – A;  8.30pm – B
Wed 23rd   2.30pm – D;
                    6.30pm – C;  8.30pm – D
Thu 24th,  2.30pm – B;
                    6.30pm – D;  8.30pm – A
Fri 25th,    2.30pm – C;
                    6.30pm – B;  8.30pm – C
Sat 26th,    2.30pm – D;  4.30pm – C;
                    6.30pm – B;  8.30pm – A

Where:  Drama One, Te Whaea National Dance & Drama Centre, 11 Hutchison Rd, Newtown
Price:  $10 / $5
Bookings:  381 9253 (automated line)

Group A

Chantelle Brader - The Wayfarer

Whoso seeketh out a thing with zeal shall find it - Arabian proverb.

Amy-Louise Waller - Knock Out!
In the blue corner: floating on the surface of the ocean. In the red corner: A 180 Straddle Press.

Gareth Williams - Tweet Tweet Sniff Die
A tissue, a tissue, we all fall down.

Brooke Williams - Elbows Off The Table
Boart is bottom-grade diamond destined for use as industrial abrasive. The name may be derived from a middle French term meaning bastard.

Group B

Brad McCormick - Selfish Selfless

The best thing about sponsoring an African kid is knowing you've made a real difference to someone else's life, plus you can ignore those annoying street collectors without feeling guilty.

Bree Peters - People Don't Sing When They Are Feeling Sensible
Her hair is straight and thin, and she wears discreet pearls. She's always inhaling and never exhaling. I'm 'mom casual' in my khakis but with intimidating $400 shoes.

Sam Snedden - Sanctuary
1939, 1981, 2009: As the earth heats up and our relationships cool down a cataclysmic event takes the temperature of our nation.

Martyn Wood - Nightshift
The streetlights flicker on, the evening rush slows to a dawdle. As daylight fails so does our self control.

Group C

Allan Henry - Some Kind Of Robot

Do you use your powers for good? Or for awesome?

Jodie Hillock - Growing up Digital
No dirt under their nails they reach for the switch.

Miriama Ketu - Write Off
Time and distance mean nothing when the voice that joins them is travelling on paper.

Arthur Meek - Mergers and Acquisitions
1987. Hitting rock bottom with a share market junkie.

Group D

Francis Biggs - A Product to Fuel Your Desire

Reach out to grasp the material world! This is what dreams are made of.

James Conway-Law - Murder Unincorporated
Permanent solutions to personal problems. Can you put a price on a life? We can.

Laurel Devenie - A Place called Binario
Passing through the in between. Passengers in transit.

Yvette Reid - Judy and the Frog
A moth may love a flame but a lightbulb is much safer.

Theatre , Solo ,

Each Group approx 1hr 20 mins, no interval

Future of theatre (groups A & D)

Review by Lynn Freeman 23rd Aug 2006

Three years of blood, sweat, tears and courage go into the Toi Whakaari/NZ Drama School graduating students’ solo shows. One of the most striking aspects of this year’s 20-minute mini-masterpieces is the comedy – sometimes subtle, sometimes in your face, sometimes genuinely shocking.

It’s one thing to learn how to act and another to write your own work. Some of these young actors have gone with physicality over scripting, one speaking only three words at the end of the piece. There are four groups – this review covers Groups A and D.

Group A starts with Follow the Lead by Chantelle Brader. Complete with dog suit, she took us with her as her method-acting character desperately sought her big break as an aspiring actress. Amy Waller’s work, Knock Out!, related to a beach in the US where beach volleyball is played alongside a long stretch of crosses marking the war dead in Iraq.

Brooke Williams’ solo, Flash Trash, stood out for its excellence in concept, writing and performance. Three abandoned elegant dresses try to manipulate a simple man who recycles rubbish and seeks true love. Weird and wonderful and one of those occasionally shocking pieces mentioned earlier.

Gareth Williams also explored absurdist theatre with Tweet Tweet Sniff Die, a truly bizarre laugh out loud piece of work based loosely on bird flu and largely on a young man, dominated by his Mum, who really needs to get out more.

In Group D, two shows related to men in repetitive, dead end jobs. James Conway in A Above Middle C created a personable but lonely and overlooked young bank clerk. After three years he was still anonymous so the underdog decided to fight back. Francis Biggs, in A Product to Fuel Your Desire, presented us with a supermarket employee who turns to drugs to get through the daily grind.

Laurel Devenie took us on an OE in A Place Called Binario, one back in time to when communication was through letters not emails. Elizabeth breaks through the language barrier and tries to find a new life in Spain.

Yvette Reid’s recent TV and film experience shine through in Change the Script, her confident and absorbing performance as a young woman trying to help her benefit-and-boyfriend-dependent mother to break both habits.

These are just eight of the 16 solo shows on offer and a glimpse into the future of our theatre.


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Real, surreal, comic, dramatic

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 22nd Aug 2006

The 2006 third year students at Toi Whakaari are a talented bunch judging by the stimulating fifteen solo dramatic compositions that they are performing at Te Whaea.

While one or two of the performers’ intentions and inspirations as stated in the programme notes don’t quite match up with what happens on stage there’s not one weak performance or a dull composition amongst the lot.

If there is a general overall approach it seems to be surrealistic comedy such as Chantelle Brader’s funny Follow the Lead about new approaches to street appeals for the SPCA or Brooke Williams’s brilliantly performed Flash Trash with its three smart women tossing off Oscar Wilde-like epigrams and put-downs. Then there’s also Gareth Williams’s Tweet Tweet Sniff Die, a manic piece about an egg, a dream and how to make a rock concert.

But while surrealistic comedy may dominate this is not to say that the real world doesn’t impinge on the short dramas. Mergers and Acquisitions, frenetically illustrated by Arthur Meek at a blackboard, deals with the euphoria and the harsh costs of the free-market reforms of the Labour Government in the 1980s, and Francis Biggs’s A Product to Fuel Your Desires tackles the mind-numbing boredom of most modern work with a beautifully droll mime that recalls Chaplin’s Modern Times though Charlie’s factory hand never worked with such speed.

James Conway deals in A Above Middle C with the anonymous people in society and their desire for some sort of fame or recognition, and Yvette Reid tackles the problem of helping others in need but never fully comprehending the true need in her Change the Script.

Laurel Devenie takes us to Europe and she delves into the learning of new languages and how distance and time change us in her admirably presented and performed A Place Called Binario. Also set overseas is Bree Peters’ astutely performed account of nannying to a diplomatic family with a 4-year-old boy in New York, while Brad McCormick takes a sharp comic look at our contradictory behaviours when it comes to charity towards the less fortunate in Africa, and Amy Waller seeks to delve behind the stereotypes of Californians.

Closer to home Martyn Wood in Nightshift takes us forcefully into the tough, escapist world of bars and binge-drinking, and Miriama Ketu touchingly contrasts youth and old age with a wayward, seemingly uncaring young woman and her loving Aunty Bub. Jodie Hillock presents a chilling portrait of a wealthy woman and her indifference, both morally and emotionally, to the fate of a victim of a skiing accident.

Lastly, Sam Snedden’s excellently performed Sanctuary which strikes me as being a possible blueprint for a full-length play with its Stoppardian time-jumps between the 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic and young Caleb from Christchurch Boys High winning The NZ Secondary School Science Competition.

All the performers assist each other with lighting, sound effects, scene shifting, and so on and they do it all with the same professionalism that they bring to their own performances.


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Relevant, engaging and vital

Review by John Smythe 20th Aug 2006

This year the Go Solo season has shifted its emphasis from character-driven and largely historical evocations of iconic Kiwis to more contemporary theme-driven works, evolved from the experiences, passions, questions, concerns and skills of their perpetrators.

A core purpose of the season – presented in four groups of four – is to introduce, on their own terms, this year’s soon-to-graduate Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School acting students. The project also challenges each actor to develop the essential survival skill of creating their own work.

As each maker grows their 20-odd minute show, they explore, express and shape the content and form, in ways designed to engage their audiences. Beyond these basic principles, anything goes. If one word can unify the theme of the whole season, it is diversity, and of course the need for the world to accept and value diversity is a major survival issue for humanity itself. The other common element is a level of authenticity in each performance that is as welcome as it is rare.

Beneath a basic lighting grid and with a simple sound system – operated by their peers – all sixteen solos are economically staged using use two freestanding mobile modules, minimal furniture and some portable lights in various configurations.

Group A

Dressed in a doggy suit, until she scores her big break as a Shortland Street nurse, Chantelle Brader’s Follow the Lead explores faith. With dogged determination she hounds pedestrians in Cuba Mall seeking sign-up support for the SPCA while retaining faith in herself as an actress. By remaining as faithful to her passion as those homeless dogs would be to us, if only we took them in, she at last gets her reward. Cutely comic with a nippy bite.

In Knock Out Amy Walker explores her American roots by equating trying to make it in LA with boxing. Bikini-girl promo work at the big fight book-ends the piece. Meanwhile she eschews Hollywood’s cattle-call audition to retrain as a visual media journalist, capturing an idiosyncratic range of characters in the process. Her coverage of beach volleyball at Venice Beach, where memorial crosses remind us what’s really going on in the world, neatly summarises the bizarre extremes of American culture’s shifting sands.

Spanning the extremes of society in Flash Trash, versatile character actress Brooke Williams proves she is also a witty writer with a surreal imagination. Her grotty little scavenger, Trent, trying to better himself, finds unlikely allies in the personae of three discarded ball gowns, desperate to regain their places in the wardrobe. In this hilariously warped scenario, two posh ‘ladies’ with potty mouths and an extraordinary ‘daughter’ – “You know nothing and yet you know it so fluently” – tutor Trent in his quest to win Skye’s heart. Inspired!

Also surreal is Tweet Tweet Sniff Die, Gareth Williams’ subjective reality evocation of an adolescent alone in his room with an un-hatched egg, his computer, hypodermics and his hormone-ravaged brain … Any lack of coherence is a) germane to his state of being and b) saved by an unerring capacity to take his audience along for the rather spooky ride.

Group B

Substance, people and self abuse is the focus of Martyn Wood’s Nightshift. He powerfully demonstrates how comprehensively a sleek and skilled specimen of manhood, who works as a hot shot barman, can disintegrate, destroying all around him in the process, or destroy their opinion of him, at least. Unnervingly true.

Sam Snedden’s Sanctuary plucks a top science student from Christs College and sends him to compete at a science fair in Auckland, while recalling how his grandfather fought a losing battle not only against the influenza being imported by returning servicemen in 1918, but also against a government unwilling to listen, or recognise the validity of his concerns. Information v knowledge v wisdom.

In an extraordinarily brave exposé of male contradictions, Brad McCormack juxtaposes the moral high-ground of sponsoring children in Africa with male sexual dysfunction and underage exploitation. In For Less Than The Price of a Cup of Coffee, the laugh out loud jocularity of mateship slowly gives way to silence-inducing shock.

People Don’t Sing When They Are Feeling Sensible finds Bree Peters drawing on her international nannying experience as she examines the space between vocation and job, caring and love. A New York nanny agency boss, a South African diplomat’s wife and her recalcitrant 6-year-old son challenge the Kiwi nanny in such a way that when she triumphs, it’s impossible for her to regard her relationship with the boy as just another booking.

Group C

Arthur Meek powers through Mergers and Acquisitions, generating the very multi-coloured dust that the profligate 1980s turned to, as he counterpoints a stock exchange chalk boy in market-driven ecstasy with his old Nan, scratching to pay the power bill. The boy’s addiction to virtual profits is quietly compared to his drunkard granddad’s self-absorbed way of coping with the Depression.

The high-life on ski-slopes gives Jodie Hillock a way of exploring – in Prick of Conscience – the implicit and explicit violence inherent in upper class values. A vet student niece suffers the indignities of servitude, while some poor bloke who got in the rich bitch’s way rolls inexorably down a ravine.

Allan Henry’s Some Kind of Robot gets comic mileage out of two superhero comic shop owners – sworn enemies since kindergarten – vying for the attention of Marvel Comics guru Stan Lee at the Armageddon convention. The saggy gold undies hide more than meets the eye, until it (the contents) does. His nick-name could be nickel knickers. It’s poignant too.

In Write Off, Miriama Ketu plays a young woman from Shannon grieving for her kind and generous Aunty Bub. By tracking back through her 21st, 18th and 15th birthdays via the letters and gifts her aunty sent, she shares insightful snippets of rural Mâori social culture.

Group D

The nondescript routine life of a bank teller and his abortive attempt to gain recognition by auditioning for NZ Idol is the focus of James Conway-Law’s A Above Middle C. It concerns both the natural human desire to rise above the median of society, and the need to be known by name.

A Place Called Binario finds Laurel Devenie’s Kiwi woman abroad in France, Italy and Spain. Encounters on Eurorail, Spanish lessons and visits to ancient cities – involving a clever use of slide projections – interplay with missives from the boyfriend back home. Is she finding herself or escaping her reality?

Yvette Reid’s Change the Script reveals a young woman’s determination not to repeat her mother’s modelling of accepting abuse and being forever dependent. As a hospital caregiver she’s adept at compassion. With a doctor boyfriend she get’s to see how others live. But her mother’s inability to help herself sorely tests the daughter’s humanity. Heart-rending.

The mindless, routine job gets another workout from Francis Biggs in A Product to Fuel Your Desire. As supermarket specials are pushed via intercom he turns to alternative products to alleviate his boredom, speeding then tripping through his daily routines. Physically wacky.

The Go Solo season has moved well beyond offering a series of ‘calling cards’ from emerging talent. Many of these works are important pieces of contemporary theatre, worthy of further development, and there is every reason to hope that their creators will have the capacity to either progress these ideas or make more theatre that is relevant, engaging and exciting to witness.

Which brings me to a key concern. After their graduation production of Ibsen’s Peer Gynt (in October), these actors sally forth with a realistic idea of what awaits them. None will expect an immediate handout if they choose to create their own work. But how long with they last if the current project funding situation persists, whereby top quality project applications are highly recommended for funding by the Creative New Zealand Assessment Panel only to be knocked back by the Arts Board because there simply is not enough money?

At last year’s Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards the point was clearly made that none of the government-led increase in arts funding – including the last budget increase – has trickled through to CNZ’s Project Funding budget. Yet this is where the cutting edge of new homegrown work is. No-one wants the recurrently funded institutions to get less but we cannot afford to institutionalise our theatre infrastructure at the expense of the very work that most validates the existence of professional theatre in our communities.

Toi Whakaari has made an important contribution to the future health of truly New Zealand theatre with the revamped Go Solo season. Government arts policy and its implementation by CNZ must recognise the value of such creative passions – visible in many areas throughout New Zealand – and deliver a proper return on such investments. Otherwise, what’s the point?

[A Forum on this, entitled Project Funding, attracted 12 contributions from April to June. Please feel free to resume the debate.  NB from 1/2/23, see Views & Qs.]


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