GO SOLO 2012

Te Whaea National Dance and Drama Centre, 11 Hutchison Rd, Newtown, Wellington

03/10/2012 - 13/10/2012

Production Details


Where else would you be able to see a suicidal sheep meeting Hitler alongside a regular cross-dressing guy from Howick? Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School’s notorious and glorious monologues – Go Solo 2012 – invites audiences to sample a rich variety of 18 points of view as entertaining as they are thought-provoking.  

Third year acting students present this year’s annual season of Go Solo from Wednesday 3 – Saturday 13 October at Te Whaea: National Dance and Drama Centre.  The show will comprise 18 new 20-minute solo shows created and performed by graduating actors, who will present their pieces in five groups.

The season is directed by award winning actor and director Sophie Roberts.

“Solos are a long-held tradition of introducing the community to new voices that will shape the future landscape of the performing arts. As a director am constantly fascinated by the scope, investigation of personal politics, humour, unique perspectives and willingness to challenge the form of solo theatre that the students meet this project with and this year is no exception,” said Sophie.

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.

Attached is a photo of Alice Canton, Andrew Patterson, and Manuel Solomon by Stephen A’Court. Alice’s solo – The Big Little Dictator – is the story of a suicidal sheep meeting the Leader of the Third Reich. Andrew’s solo is looking at secrets, suburbia, ballet, obesity, and cross dressing. Manuel’s solo examines the father figure he remembers and the father he hopes to be one day.

Audiences may chose to see a single group, or all the groups over several nights or see all five shows on a Saturday with a marathon of performances at 12.30pm 2.30pm, 4.30pm, 6.30pm and 8.30pm.

Go Solo 2012 features:

Group A:  Cameron Jones, Manuel Solomon, Awhina-Rose Ashby
3/10, 8.30 | 5/10, 8.30 | 6/10, 4.30 | 12/10, 6.30 | 13/10, 2.30

Group B:  Alice Canton, Jacqueline Gwaliasi, Kenneth Gaffney, Richard Munton
3/10, 6.30 | 6/10, 8.30 | 8/10, 6.30 | 12/10, 8.30 | 13/10, 12.30

Group C:  Alex Tarrant, Sam Wang, Tameka Sowman, Ria Simmons
4/10, 6.30 | 6/10, 12.30 | 9/10, 8.30 | 10/10, 6.30 | 13/10, 6.30

Group D:  Tom Eason, Tai Berdinner-Blades, Carrie Green
4/10, 8.30 | 6/10, 2.30 | 8/10, 8.30 | 10/10, 8.30 | 11/10, 6.30 | 13/10, 8.30

Group E      Lucinda Hare, Deborah Rea, Jonathon Power, Andrew Paterson
5/10, 6.30 | 6/10, 6.30 | 9/10, 6.30 | 11/10, 8.30 | 13/10, 4.30 

Go Solo 2012
Te Whaea: National Dance & Drama Centre, 11 Hutchison Road, Newtown
3- 13 October 2012

Showing at 6.30pm and 8.30pm daily (no show Sunday)
with all five groups showing on Saturday 6 and 13 October
(12.30pm, 2.30pm, 4.30pm, 6.30 and 8.30pm). 

Tickets $15, $10 (conc) or $50 for all five groups. 
Online at www.toiwhakaari.ac.nz 

Group E

Review by John Smythe 06th Oct 2012

Lucinda Hare: Harriet, 25. Sunday

I take it the vacuum cleaner, used in various ways throughout this solo, is a metaphor for the vacuous life of Lucinda Hare’s Harriet, whose Sunday on her garment-littered sofa is portrayed. Sleeping, munching on Froot Loops, tweeting, watching telly, applying fake tan, tweeting, putting on bright pink lippy and sun glasses, tweeting, watching a weepy, half-hearted exercising on a Swiss Ball, tweeting …

This less-than-riveting scenario is punctuated with her dog’s simple desire to go for a walk, clearly expressed – “Walk? Walk?” – although the transitions and characterisation could be better. A totally different physicality would be welcome, and I’d like to form a clear picture of the breed.

The intentional torpor of this life leaves me time to notice such details as her holding the i-phone the wrong way around to take a phoney photo of herself. And if the climactic song – ‘Fire Away Fire Away’ (I’m bullet-proof) – was heartfelt and well sung, instead of send-up bad singing, we might be challenged with something to chew on. We’re not.

Jonathan Power: On The Road (Again)

This is more of a writing exercise than a performing one. The physicality, which seems to owe something to Irish dancing, brings rhythm to the welter of words but doesn’t reveal any further function or meaning.

Jonathan Power’s programme note tells us he is addressing his experience of leaving a middle-class white-collar world – Christchurch – for the creative life and “bohemian jungle” of Wellington’s Toi Whakaari. And this he does.

His verbal evocations – of student poverty, guilt at smoking, night fears, youthful excesses, a family gathering in rumbling Christchurch, confronting the judgenebts of National Party voters – are well articulated. But somehow we don’t get to share his emotional journey at a depth one might hope for in a performance piece.

Deborah Rea: Sole

Performance art and poetry are part of what informs Deborah Rea’s piece, which is as much about the performer grappling with the wherewithal of putting it on – at a Cossie Club – as the creative content itself, not to mention its socio-political context.

Her Red Riding Hood cape and a wolf mask, and a keyboard and microphone, abet her enquiry into, and critique of, the sanitisation and various distortions of the original myth. That she is still working out her position on it all seems to be part of it, so we don’t get a clearly articulated thesis with which to agree or disagree.

There is plenty to wrestle with along with her, however, and a growing awareness that her character is really dealing with a personal childhood trauma draws us into something deeper and unresolved.

Andrew Paterson: Howick on the verge of a nervous breakdown

There is nothing very enigmatic about Andrew Paterson’s nevertheless oblique and “naughty” evocation of growing up in Howick. A hugely obese ballet teacher – created with an inflatable Sumo suit – and an acerbic woman-at-the-window of middle class suburbia loom large in the life of the timid schoolboy who nurses his schoolbag and feeds on Cheezels …

The performative juxtaposition of grotesquery with grace, of exotic mystery with crass small mindedness, as perceived by this sponge of a boy, makes for a compelling 20 minutes.

And we get to find out why Howick is like herpes. 


Nathan Mudge October 6th, 2012

Photos can be taken with it, too.

John Smythe October 6th, 2012

Thanks Nathan - I thought the lens one the sceen side was for just Skyping.  My mistake? 

Nathan Mudge October 6th, 2012

In reference to a small criticism of yours of Luci's piece, iPhones actually have cameras on both sides - back and front.

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Review by John Smythe 05th Oct 2012

Alex Tarrant: Welcome to 12D
In a class of twenty boys it’s hard to have your cake and eat it too.

The parallel universe of mostly non-verbal interaction between students in a high school class is amusingly enacted by Alex Tarrant. Gradually, through different classes, we get to identify a range of characters.

Raw intelligence becomes apparent along with the focal issue: food, or rather hunger. This is the poverty belt and the so-called playground is a jungle. But who is this “mister” who is so violent? Surely not a teacher!

The solo culminates in the ‘Welcome to 12D’ rap, which powerfully brings the message home: D is not for Dumb but Different – and Tarrant, for one, is certainly gifted. The most poignant line for me: “like doing something bad to get my dad to talk to me.” This piece and its insights linger for me.

Ria Simmons: KEEP OUT! Science In Progress!
A proton, neutron and electron make matter; alone they are lonely but together they matter.

Which came first: the nerdiness of Drew’s deep obsession with the universe, or her loneliness? That Ria Simmons’ eccentric creation is all over the place is part of the premise, but slowly the lonely girl comes into focus.

The science itself is fascinating, as she uses wheeled contraptions, dangling mobiles and a sun-like Swiss ball to demonstrate it in a well-modulated ebb and flow. But are we doomed and do we really need to form a Save The Universe Team – meet at the swings after school – or is it just a ruse to make friends?

I scribbled “the loneliness of the long distance science nerd” while watching this. That about sums it up. Strong on pathos.

Tameka Sowman: Can you be more pacific please?
Proceed to customs. 1956 – Niue – Auckland. 2012 – Auckland – Niue

I recognise the ‘Dusky Maiden’ poses Tameka Sowman’s Lani starts her show with and am surprised to learn it’s her mother taking the photos. Late we discover she – Lani – is European on her mother’s side. It is her father. Tangipoi (sp?) who came from Niue and that is the culture she needs to connect with.

Again the non-verbal interactions slowly gain meaning as she meets her extended family, made present in the reflection on her response. Her ‘fish-out-of-water’ discomfort is palpable as she tries unfamiliar fare and fields questions that imply moral judgement.

There is a very different feel to the penultimate scene where her anxiety in isolation meets a curly ‘what next?’ moment concerning her grandfather. And he is the only other character she physically personifies in the final moments. Moving.

Sam Wang: Ping-Pong Death Match
1987, Paris. Against the backdrops of the Eiffel Tower, Cold War super-spies face off.

An intricately constructed wooden tower precedes Sam Wang into the performance space. It turns out to represent the Eiffel Tower – made by a wonderfully humourless German student – and we are in Paris for the 1987 World Table Tennis Tournament at which the Soviet Union and China are the main contenders.

But the real story is a spy thriller, which becomes too convoluted for me to follow, not lest because of the manic energy brought to the role switching. Nevertheless there is impressive dexterity in personifying Russian and Chinese agents (speaking in Chinese), Australian commentators and ping-pong player. A sustained volley against the wall is a physical high point.

Abetted by his black bereted assistant (Alice Canton), a chase up the tower is played out by tiny rod puppets and enlarged via digi-cam for our enjoyment. At this it’s first showing, the chaotic plot and performance doesn’t reveal its true purpose so when it’s over, it’s over.


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Group D

Review by John Smythe 05th Oct 2012

Tai Berdinner Blades:  The Ballad of the Lonely Traveller
Ashville. Population: 27. The Devil is in the Wind

By choosing Southern USA Gothic literature, particularly the works of Carson McCullers, as her inspiration (as opposed to Ronald Hugh Morrieson’s Taranaki Gothic or Duncan Sarkies’ Southern Kiwi Gothic), Tai Berdinner Blades gets to demonstrate her facility with Southern USA accents, which I therefore assume is part of her purpose.

The arrival of a man in the remote town of Ashville, devoid of men, precipitates the gradual surfacing of what lies within the community’s dark undercurrents and has twisted its inhabitants even more – except for Hannah. Prepubescent Hannah is keen to make a friend of the stranger by sharing secrets …

Her mother, drained of all liveliness, is a stickler for schedules. Mad old Sadie preaches hellfire and damnation as the inevitable consequence of the sinful ways of Miss Levene and her ‘girls’. Then there’s the wind which fanned the fire at the cotton mill where all the men were working …

A beautifully sung acapella lament for a man – “mah baby”: Hannah’s daddy? – tells how the woman who sings it now has just the wind as her lover. And Hannah ends the piece with a naïve ‘poem’ that epitomises the dry humour that permeates what is technically a very proficient display of acting.

Thomas Eason:  Grind
The only way out is in. Pack up your soul.

This superb piece of physical theatre epitomises the 9 to 5 grind with minimalist power before dropping into an abyss that may or may not lead to a way out, of sorts.

Be-suited Thomas Eason simply uses a mug, himself and mime to show what a mug’s game soulless office work is. When he hits the wall it is simultaneously hysterical and tragic. And the questionable creature he encounters down the abyss is something else again.

The semi-coherent ranter who bookend’s this solo is someone we have all seen in the street. Now we have some insight into where he might have come from. A haunting ‘there but for the grace of whatever go I’ piece. Special.

Carrie GreenThird Tavern Wench From The Left
Les Miserables is coming to Pahiatua Repertory!

The ingenious reverse structure of Carrie Green’s solo means the ending has much more impact than it would have had played in conventional linear form. We start with opening night, where Erica is singing her heart out as Third Tavern Wench from the left in Pahiatua Rep’s Les Mis.

As we work back through the rehearsal process, meeting many archetypal am-dram colleagues on the way, the nature of Robert the big shot director from Palmerston North looms large and nasty. The moment where Erica learns she has not got the lead is poignant, but she is a team player and will contribute wherever she’s wanted and needed … The reveal of Robert’s criteria for casting says it all.

And so to her audition, singing the now iconic, ‘I Dreamed a Dream’. All of us get to sit there and ask, what would I have done as director? This is a rich and keenly observed piece of Kiwiana comedy with heart.


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Review by John Smythe 04th Oct 2012


Dualities, be they warring factions or contrapuntal value systems, characterise this grouping. I sense these four pieces – and much of the whole season – could be driven by a deep-felt ‘where to from here?’ concern. Emerging from tertiary education throws an especially strong light on the ‘who am I and what do I stand for?’ question, after all.

Richard Munton: Who’s the boss?
Those who work in glass offices should not throw stones.

Although the world he is depicting could inhabit any office block anywhere, give or take the odd dramatically licensed hyperbole, and involves very recognisable people, Richard Munton’s performance is literally off the wall at times.

The action prologue suggests a life of office work (photocopying), smoking, drinking, fridge-raiding, fighting, spewing … Thus a situation has arisen – from, it turns out, the unhappy cohabitation of IT and HR teams in an open plan office. The always busy boss, Gary, has brought in South African conflict negotiator Mitch Wilson to mediate between surly and hungry Antony (IT) and timid yet maddening Phil (HR) who sees it as “an energy thing” and finally reveals what he can’t stand about Antony. Then there is Steve who got beaten up …

Munton shows great versatility and a dynamic facility for action and stillness. His running at and up a wall then flipping and landing square on an office chair is a memorable recurring motif.

Jaci Gwaliasi: Devil Shark
Physically working to find lost’ed tradition

Two piles of sand are used by Jaci Gwaliasi in her quest for identity given a heritage steeped in Solomon Islands conflict. They represent the bush people and the coast people. Then there are the traditional way, including a mythology involving sharks, versus the ritualism of Catholic faith.

Gwaliasi brings a compelling physicality to her work but while she is obviously clear on what each beat of the action means, I find myself at a loss to interpret quite a lot if it. And given her stated intention is to communicate this story and move us with it, there is more to be done to gain our understanding and empathy.

Kenneth Gaffney: Knights of the Almafi Cross
Here’s a first aid kit, let’s slay some dragons.

Given Kenneth Gaffney relies on our attention, interest and intelligence to ‘get it’, it may constitute a spoiler to articulate the premise of this cleverly conceived piece, so I will try to be circumspect. The common denominators are the Almafi Cross (as stated in the title) and a man with a telephone headset.

Dominant is James, lording it from his LaziBoy as he tests a new Play Station-style ‘heroic’ battle game, gives feedback and orders to unseen colleagues and staff, and munches on the birthday cake his Mum has sent. He is highly assertive and confidently fluent in the jargon of his vocation. And he sings beautifully in Elvish too.

Also on cans and telephone mic is a St Johns Ambulance operator, quietly dealing with a real life-and-death crisis. I’d have liked more of this story to counterbalance the other which tends to get cluttered with variations on the same theme.

Aside from the actual relationship between these two, the question Gaffney is asking us to consider is “what it means to be a hero”. He’s on to something well worth honing here.

Alice Canton: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
Vote or Die Trying

Clowning – like most other art forms, and perhaps even more so – seems simple when it works well. But when it doesn’t, there is little in the way of a safety net, so it’s brave person who gives it a go, especially in a solo show.

Poker-faced Alice Canton certainly has what it takes performance-wise but the material she has developed here lacks the worldly wisdom (for want of a better phrase) – the editorial ‘bigger picture’ perspective – that’s needed to counterpoint and contextualise the innocence, naivety and gullibility of a clown character operating in a global political sphere.

The setting is a World Summit, which a lone protester in sheep’s clothing wants to subvert but of course she is excluded. When her multiple messages on butcher’s paper don’t do the trick she attempts various other attention-getting strategies which would have been totally self-defeating if they had worked. So, while not pitched in a way that produces laughter – mainly because there is not enough downward pressure present to provoke her, let alone anyone to notice her reactions – the objective seems to take the piss out of mindless protesters Fair enough, I suppose, but not what her angry programme note suggests is her intention.

Employing a backstage hand, and using signs to make a virtue out of the time it takes to change costumes behind the red drop, she also gives us a parade of cultural archetypes, culminating in a fear-mongering anti-Asian speech from Piggy Muldoon, no less. While displaying her versatility, they add little to the debate.

Perhaps this idea could find its potential with more than one performer, so the political conflict is physically present ‘in the moment’ and insightful comedy can erupt from a visceral sense of jeopardy.


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Review by John Smythe 04th Oct 2012

What are you passionate about? What are your questions about creating theatre? What kinds of stories and storytelling do you want to see on stage? Director Sophie Roberts’ programme note reveals it was such questions that provoked the devising process for this year’s 18 Go Solo pieces from the Third Year Acting Students of Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School.

Despite – or rather because of – the common starting point, each 20-minute Solo is very different in form, style and content.


Awhina Rose Ashby: Mean Maori Mean
Let us remember the gifts that have been handed down for there are great learnings therein.

A tantalising segment of the story of Hineamaru, founder of the Ngapuhi sub-tribe Ngati Hine, forms the through-line of Awhina Rose Ashby’s piece. Employing the physical gestures of carving – because it was Hineamaru who claimed the right of women to carve – Ashby tells, shows and embodies glimpses of her ancestor.

Drawing us into an understanding of whakairo patterns, and the tools and principles that bring them into being, allows her to turn from the past to now and back again, placing contemporary talent-questers and back yard gossips in context while advancing her central purpose. Hard wood and soft wood, leaders and followers, book-end the 20 minutes that I hope will grow to reveal its full self, and given the strength and determination Ashby draws from Hineamaru, I trust it will.

I am still grappling, however, with why it is called Mean Maori Mean.

Manuel Solomon: Before the last Tui drop falls
Using new moves to dust off old memories.

Another enigmatic title (this Tui is amber and liquid, right?) heralds Manuel Solomon’s largely non-verbal enquiry into fatherhood. Admitting in his programme note that “Words seem to piss off when I need to say something that matters”, he also employs a popping dance vocabulary to explore the question and express himself.

Words are uttered, minimally, by a smoking, drinking, pool-playing, pissing, snoozing Dad whose main response to his son’s wants and needs is to put him down. Mum, who frequents the Cossie Club, also has a bit to say, about fatherhood. But the boy’s interest in sport, the ever-pressing need for money and his means of coping in ‘conversation’ about it is physically expressed with eloquence.

The piece ends in a way that suggests there is more to come.

Cameron Jones: Meet Henry Lewis
Everything he touches turns to gold.

The rigours of skipping introduce us to a very determined Henry Lewis, whose rise and rise is vividly presented by Cameron Jones. His strategy for rising above the morass of nobodies to become somebody is Property.

As a Real Estate Agent his sales pitches are beautifully crafted, whether extolling the virtues or a large lawn of no back yard at all. But property development is where it’s at, driven by the ruthless principle “Lions kill for food; humans for fun”.

The way a swivelling adjustable bar stool evokes the crane that allows him to survey his latest Herne Bay development is brilliant. And the pressures of it all are made manifest with a relentless game of squash. Again I sense there is more to come – although perhaps the next phase is inevitable and for us to envisage.


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