Go Solo 2011
11/07/2011 - 23/07/2011
Emerging Actors Go It Alone
Toi Whakaari third year acting students present this year’s annual season of Go Solo from Monday 11 – Saturday 23 July at Te Whaea: National Dance and Drama Centre. The show will comprise 16 new solo shows created and performed by the final year actors who will present their pieces in groups of four.
From the misadventures of a Norwegian Death Metal fanatic to the lyrical weaving of family stories and memories, Go Solo invites audiences to sample a rich variety of 16 points of view as entertaining as they are thought provoking. Audiences may chose to see one or more group of four pieces over several nights or see all four shows on a Saturday with performances at 2.30pm, 4.30pm, 6.30pm and 8.30pm.
The season is directed by award winning directors Sophie Roberts and Jade Eriksen with stage management and technical support provided by Toi Whakaari students from those disciplines.
For many of Toi Whakaari’s graduates this established season has served as their first major stepping stone into the professional theatre. Go Solo provides Wellington audiences with the opportunity to view fresh, bold theatre from our next generation of fine New Zealand performers.
Go Solo 2011 features Leon Wadham, Te Rina Thompson, Hayley Brown, Leroy Afford, Phoebe Hurst, Tawanda Manyimo, Catherine Croft, Victoria Abbott, Chris Parker, Ana Corbett, Lily Greenslade, Elliot Wrightson, Sophie Kendrick, Adrian Hooke, Hayley Sproull and Emma Fenton.
Go Solo 11-23 July 2011
Te Whaea: National Dance & Drama Centre, 11 Hutchison Road, Newtown
Tickets $15, $10 (conc) or $50 for all four groups.
Showing at 6.30pm and 8.30pm daily (no show Sunday)
with all four groups showing on Saturday 16 and 23 July
at 2.30pm, 4.30pm, 6.30 and 8.30pm.
Bookings online at www.toiwhakaari.ac.nz
or in person at Te Whaea: National Dance and Drama Centre during business hours.
Mon 11 Jul A B
Tues 12 Jul C D
Wed 13 Jul B A
Thu 14 Jul D C
Fri 15 Jul A D
Sat 16 Jul D C B A
Mon 18 Jul D C
Tues 19 Jul A B
Wed 20 Jul D C
Thu 21 Jul B A
Fri 22 Jul B C
Sat 23 Jul A B C D
A good MC has poise, presence and is able to shift roles to ensure the event goes smoothly. I started working with personal stories and this led to my experience of having three siblings engaged and married off last year and being swamped in wedding fever and antics. I am interested in working with improvisation and the performer’s stamina.
Leroy Afford Lakamu
Fakalofa lahi Atu! This play is my exploration into the history of Niue. I have been exploring the times of 1774, the 1840s and 1953 in the hope of find out how much Niue has changed and why. I admire practitioners who are willing to tackle the true stories and bring them, with relevance, to an audience today. An example of this for me was Taki Rua’s production of Strange Resting Places. I am working with the question of movement that is relevant to forwarding the narrative of the story. In this exploration I have learnt more about where I am from and am applying how that informs me today. My true inspiration is based on accounts as told by my Grandfather, Halefaleti. Tutavaha, who is the hero of this story.
Gastronomy is the study of food and culture. Derived from ancient Greek gastér (stomach) and nómos (laws that govern), it literally means “the art or law of regulating the stomach.” This piece owes a lot to Steven Berkoff, Dylan Moran, Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain, Vachel Spirason, Larry David and Saturday morning cartoons.
Te Rina Thompson
Ngahirata: “Unique like the thumbprint of a tree”
The grandmother I didn’t know. I weave together family stories and memories to get a picture of who she might have been. The threads of who she was reach down to me. My challenges have been about history and real stories. I look into and question how to play a real person over a lifetime. I want to dedicate this solo to the memory of my Nan Ngahirata Jennings née Petera and to my beautiful mother Faye for opening her heart and mind for this piece and for supporting me no matter what I do.
What is this — some kind of joke?
It’s funny how we all have differing opinions as to how and why the world is the way it is. This solo piece is a snippet of a journey into the strangeness of life and how this has influenced my own life and the lives of my immediate society. There have been absurd and sometimes tough situations that have defined my perceptions of the world, and the realisation that, more than anything else, the more I try to seek the answers to my questions , the more questions I have and keep getting. I have been investigating how to use different forms and devices to get an audience to engage with me in this material.
Love Me Do
In this process I was inspired by people’s stories: tales of triumphant love and loss; short stories or skits re-enacted like those by Emily Perkins and Alan Bennett; sewing; talking over cups of tea of good times when women in small town halls were being waltzed in to drum kits; scratching your dad’s car and knocking over the letter box trying to sneak home; or that time you got food poisoning and threw up at your cousin’s wedding (it doesn't make it okay that you were ten).
A French femme, corporate American and Kiwi cowboy sit in a bar. Three leave, but only two walk out. I love the stories people tell when they’ve had a few. For some people alcohol is like truth juice. Others construct their ideal lives afresh, regardless of the realities around them. For a few it’s the only time they can see exactly where they are. At the beginning of the year I studied with Philippe Gaulier. Building from that I’ve found a couple of BIG characters, put them into little containers and have been exploring how they explode them. I’ve been working with Greek Mythology - especially the tale of Orpheus in the Underworld; Limbo; the night-time underbelly of Wellington; Film Noir; and contemporary containers of ‘womanhood’.
Kung Faux: Call of the Siren
I had a chat with my Mum on the phone - we were talking about Solos - and it came up that Dad was into Bruce Lee flicks as a kid. Combined with my love of Beastie Boys video clips, fake moustaches and heaps of Mighty Boosh and Monty Python, so began my quest to make the ultimate Kung Fu spoof piece. This is my personal homage to all things hammy and wonderful.
Underneath my three years of sensible actor training, lies a true ham at heart.
No More Dancing in the Good Room
Reminiscing is one of my favourite pastimes. There is something so insightful about looking back on your life and relating it to where you are now. My solo has been born out of the anthology of home movies starring my family over the last two and half decades. In a world of Facebook, Twitter and Keeping Up with the Kardashians, I ask this question: how do we truthfully document our lives?
Thora has a collection of friends who are all coming for tea and currant buns. What could possibly go wrong? Investigation into my family history has unearthed six new friends for you to meet. In the search for stillness I have been exploring a situation where I don't have to rely on props, costume or a set.This piece has evolved into a multiple character driven story where I
am playing with the idea of character through physicality and
The Wheelwork of Nature
It's funny how when you become conscious of something new, it's not long before you start finding references to it all around. That's very much what happened over the last few months as I began to find subject matter for my solo. I discovered links and ties between everything from ancient mythology to modern neurology. This piece is a look at Nikola Tesla's descent into obscurity coupled with another man's search for purpose as he comes to terms with a new outlook on life. Did Tesla have the answers to questions we still face today?
The Holding Pattern
She wears a uniform, she’s away 20 days out of every month, she gets 25 % off duty free and her office is 30,000 feet in the air. My investigation is about the public and private, the roles we play within different social environments and how to create the energy of a populated space using one character.
Faith in Kohuratahi
She has wisdom, grace and a wicked sense of humour. The amount of incredible stories she holds has encouraged me to want to share them in the hope it will trigger a memory within you. This is my take on a small, but influential, part of her life. The Forgotten World Highway. 1955. She was 19 and she wasn’t sure how much Reckitt’s Blue to use. You are friggin’ awesome Nan.
Whale Saving Time
As I was walking home one day I got to thinking, thinking thoughts, all sorts of thoughts, all sorts of serious thoughts like:
How can I incorporate multiple characters into a solo show?
How can I work with physical precision?
How can I walk the line between parody and sincerity?
Then I thought - it's XX#@x!n whale saving time. That has lead to this.
Silke’s Big Day Out
A New York - set comedy centred on a girl named Silke who I met while on secondment at the Susan Batson Studio. Silke was a huge inspiration to me and I admired her work. She was still, dark, mysterious and I often found her very comedic. Basically... I wanted to be like her. So I began my quest into finding my own character of Silke playing with physical humour and clowning through stillness, while attempting to show what would 'normally' be considered an ordinary day with perfect hair and oversized boots. 'Silke can go anywhere she wants, she can do anything'.
Not in that context, of course
This solo comes from my tireless insistence on being a musician and an actress without delving into the world of 'musical theatre'. As a composer, pianist and actress I have tried to create a world in which these three roles can co-exist, without writing Cats II, and leaving enough room to be a very naughty performer. When asked "what do you want to say?" I came across this; sometimes I don't have a lot to say. So here's Jenny; she thinks she has a lot to say, but really...
1hr 25min, no interval - each group
Groups C and D
Review by Helen Sims 15th Jul 2011
The Toi Whakaari third year students’ Go Solo productions are an excellent opportunity to see some new talent in action, showing off their skills in vehicles of their own devising. This year they are being performed in the school’s Seeyd Space, offering a fairly blank canvas for creativity. Some choose to fill it with backdrop and set (the requirement that everything they use fit in a car seems to have gone), others choose to roam the blank space.
A quick perusal of the programme indicates Group C’s works will run the gamut from the deeply personal to the historical.
Chris Parker begins the Group C performances with No More Dancing in the Good Room, making excellent use of a standing lamp and his rubber face. Parker is interested in exploring how we remember and document our lives, and the piece focuses on his evolution as an actor. Despite the good start, I found this piece quite annoying – it was self indulgent, seemingly deliberately so, and Parker taunted us with post-modern references. Family home movies are well used, but the piece is punctuated by Parker storming on and off stage and shouting from behind a curtain. It was far too long and lost any semblance of structure in the middle, so it was quite odd when the performance bookended itself by returning to the device of Parker carrying out a conversation between 2 characters (father and son I think). Parker seems like a talented, if camp, performer, but perhaps not a strong original writer/deviser.
Next up is Lily Greenslade with her work Thora’s Collections. This piece is ambiguous, kooky and even a little bit scary. I couldn’t quite work out what was going on with Thora and her unusual friends. I find Greenslade a mesmerising performer, able to physically and vocally inhabit a number of characters and clearly delineate between them. Holding the focus of the audience on a blank stage is no mean feat and Greenslade manages to hold our attention and manifest her characters without props or costume changes. Although I feel this piece was not quite fully developed yet, it is highly imaginative and Greenslade is a delight to watch.
Elliot Wrightson, in The Wheelwork of Nature, plays two characters who are both fascinated with the mystery of energy and electricity: the famous scientist Nikola Tesla and an ordinary Kiwi bloke. For me this work is an example of evident research not yet fully turned into drama. There is too much factual exposition, and not enough exploration of the human element (for example, Tesla’s desolation or bitterness at being sidelined and discredited).
Finally Ana Corbett presents a sketch of an air hostess in The Holding Pattern. On the night I went I felt like Corbett might have been suffering from nerves or having an ‘off night’. This was a shame because I think the success of this piece depends on precision with lines and actions to show the repetitive nature of the air hostess’s job. Nevertheless, she manages to capture both humour and melancholy and the piece is refreshingly simple after the three multiple-character works that have preceded it. I have, however, seen more insightful portrayals of the nomadic lifestyle of flight attendants.
Group D also promises to cover a wide range of stories and subjects, with settings from Kohuratahi to New York.
First is Sophie Kendrick, with Faith in Kohuratahi: her funny and sweet tribute to her Nan. She had the audience eating out of her hand from the beginning with her cheeky and casual approach. It feels extremely truthful and well thought out. This piece manages to be both a touchingly intimate portrait of Kendrick’s Nan and to convey a broader message about appreciating your elders. Kendrick’s flare for comedy is evident, especially when she delivers the withering refrain of her great grandmother, “Oh Faaaaaaye. You are trying. You are trying.” The work is subtly self-referential at the end.
Whale Saving Time, in an intricate work in which Adrian Hooke narrates the life of Jack (also playing Jack at various points) at breakneck pace, advertorial style. I think the beginning in particular owes a bit to American Psycho. Choosing third person narration as a device is risky as the audience can lack connection with the character and become bored or irritated. Just as the piece skirts the boundaries of this, a madcap third character is introduced that re-invigorates the piece and makes the risk pay off. The physical precision and energy displayed by Hooke is amazing. There’s a bit of Dr Seuss style philosophising near the end that strikes an odd note, and Hooke needs to realise that if he structures part of the performance around questions and answers it’s inevitable that a cocky audience member is going to answer back.
Emma Fenton’s Silke’s Big Day Out is a quirky tale employing physical humour and clowning. Imagine if Borat was an incredibly deadpan Eastern European determined to have a Samantha from Sex and the City experience in New York and you’ve just about got it. Just about … Fenton cleverly and hilariously uses props (especially a duck), although she never allows them to upstage her performance. Her characterisation is complete, and she could invoke peals of laughter with merely a wry smirk. Silke is bizarre but brilliant. Her adventures and guide to getting a “hot boy” had everyone in stitches.
Finally, Hayley Sproull is a wildly inappropriate teacher in Not in that context, of course, with the audience as her shocked class. When I first read that Sproull wanted to incorporate musical theatre into her piece, I inwardly groaned. She has found the perfect vehicle in a teacher wanting to be ‘down’ with students going through puberty and using music as a form of communication. This piece seems malleable for Sproull to improvise around the way the audience is reacting to her, as well as allowing her to perform her set pieces. The result is a work that feels as deliciously dangerous as the substitute teacher character at its centre. It takes great skill to remain completely in control of a work whilst giving the illusion of being totally out of control. I consider this piece has the best prospects for being developed into a longer solo work. In the meantime, I hope she releases a CD. Her final line (which I won’t spoil) is priceless.
It’s a tad unfair to compare the Groups, but Group D is uniformly excellent. Four very different works are presented that are funny, touching and at points downright bizarre. I got the strong sense that all four actors had set out to challenge themselves and incorporate different techniques into their work. They have all been rewarded with rapturous audience appreciation (a standing ovation on the night I went) for their extremely entertaining works of theatre.
The director’s note from Sophie Roberts and Jade Erikson states their hope that by going through the Go Solo process the soon-to-be-graduates can begin developing a way of making theatre that can sustain them beyond the school. What I think the evening shows is that devising is not for everyone and devising for the sake of devising shouldn’t be encouraged. I’m not sure I’d want to see all these stories on professional stages, but the Go Solo season offers the students a chance to give devising a go and find out what works with audiences.
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Groups A and B
Review by Phoebe Smith 15th Jul 2011
Go Solo 2011 is the Toi Whakaari third year students’ solo performance pieces and comprises four groups with four students in each. The first two groups of these devised works show the actors making use of this opportunity to highlight their versatility and physicality, with most monologues employing multiple characters to display the students’ ability to use a range of voices and to use their bodies in a range of ways.
Directors Sophie Roberts and Jade Eriksen have kept the pieces simple but effective, sets are minimal but striking – a carpet is laid down, a world is made out of cardboard boxes – and light is used in diverse ways while never upstaging the actor.
Group A’s Hayley Brown starts the evening off with Good Gurll in which she plays a range of characters speaking into the microphone at a wedding reception. She does well keeping up banter as the audience are coming in and taking their seats and once she begins her monologue’s narrative is easy to follow. Most of her characters are clearly depicted – though the two men that she plays are difficult to tell apart – and she uses her microphone and stand cleverly and humorously.
Leroy Afford Lakamu’s Savage Island follows. This piece is an exploration into the history of Niue. Lakamu is charming, and the presence and subsequent playing of a guitar works well. The narrative of this monologue was not always clear and the piece as a whole needs more hooks to be entirely compelling.
Leon Wadham’s Gastronomy was a wild hit with the opening night crowd, provoking some of the most uproarious laughter this reviewer has heard in a theatre. At times, I confess, this was baffling and I couldn’t tell what on earth was so funny, but it must be said that I stood largely alone in that department. Wadham’s physicality is impressive and his comic timing impeccable; his performance confident and smooth.
Te Rina Thompson’s Ngahirata ‘unique like the thumbprint of a tree’ is an exploration of the life of “the grandmother [she] didn’t know” and closes group A’s performance. Thompson’s stage presence is at once calm and quietly confident, but at the same time her performance seemed to suffer either from nerves or from a slightly under-rehearsed quality.
Group B opens with Tawanda Manyimo’s What is this – some kind of joke? and points its finger at many of society’s injustices. At times this becomes a little preachy, which could have been solved with a tighter sense of the comedy of the piece. There were moments of humour but these often seemed forced and the timing of the comedy was not quite in sync with the piece. There is plenty of potential here that was not quite realised as its premiere.
Catherine Croft’s Love Me Do is one of the most enjoyable and well structured of the 8 monologues. Croft portrays two very different female characters each telling the story of a similar experience – one attending a Beatles concert and one a Courtenay Love concert. Various elements go awry and it is very funny (particularly the sherry in the shampoo bottle!). While Croft segues between these characters very successfully, with even her eyes changing as she changes character, nerves seemed to be a hurdle as she struggled a little with some of her lines.
Victoria Abbott’s Rare displays her ability to embody significantly different caricatures and her ability to perform comedy. They certainly are caricatures though, rather than complete human beings who appear three-dimensional. The connectivity between them needs finesse to tighten the piece as a whole.
Finally we end with Phoebe Hurst’s Kung Faux: Call of the Siren one of the most enjoyable things I have seen onstage this year. Hurst is utterly confident and comfortable with her piece, her characters and the audience and is a comic genius! Playing a fake moustachioed cop ostensibly giving us training, her piece pays homage to Bruce Lee films, the Mighty Boosh, and “all things hammy and wonderful”. This is genuine laugh-out-loud and keep-getting-louder material. I look forward to seeing lots more in the future.
It is always a pleasure seeing performances from third year Toi Whakaari students. The level of ability amongst these groups is high and we will undoubtedly be seeing lots more of them after they graduate.
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Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer