BATS Theatre, Studio, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington
23/10/2020 - 24/10/2020
6 short solos in the Studio.
TAHI is a dedicated platform for the hothouse of local talent to present their work. An important component of our work is valuing and fostering emerging artists. HATCH is a solo showcase for work in development from acting programmes at Toi Whakaari, Te Auaha and VUW.
HATCH aims to provide these students with opportunity to develop their craft through a series of showings with industry professionals held at BATS Theatre. This process not only connects these students with their peers in other institutions, but also potential mentors and venues in the Wellington region. The showcase itself serves as a platform for TAHI to promote our rangatahi to audiences, structured in a way where detailed and personalised feedback is given to each performer. It is a well-structured opportunity for these 6 students to gain skills and connections.
BATS Theatre, The Studio
22 – 24 October 2020
Full Price $20
Group 6+ $17
Concession Price $15
Access to The Studio is via stairs, so please contact the BATS Box Office at least 24 hours in advance if you have accessibility requirements so that appropriate arrangements can be made. Read more about accessibility at BATS.
This performance is presented as part of and in collaboration with TAHI: New Zealand Festival of Solo Performance. This five-day festival is dedicated to showcasing Aotearoa’s finest, most engaging solo performance. TAHI gathers soloists from around the nation, and beyond – from established to emerging practitioners – to present work, collaborate and make connections across the industry. Alongside premiering and showcasing solo performances, the Festival provides opportunities for practitioners to extend the life of their performance work, to upskill, and to network through an integrated programme of performance, workshops, and forums. TAHI also seeks to foster relationships among tertiary institutions, actor training courses, secondary schools, BATS Theatre, and industry professionals.
Theatre , Solo ,
1 hr 30 min
Held together by a theme of inclusivity and affirmation
Review by Claire O’Loughlin 23rd Oct 2020
Emerging artists are going to save us all. Sorry not sorry if that makes me sound like a lazy millennial, but the dedication, love and connection that radiated from the performers and the packed audience of friends and whānau in BATS’s small Studio theatre last night blew me away (and possibly damaged my eardrums a wee bit).
The energy in the Studio is palpable — as is the heat. Even before the first performance, everyone is fanning themselves with their programmes. The six solos from current third year drama students from Toi Whakaari, Te Auaha, and Victoria University are all coordinated and designed by Olivia Flanagan, who introduces the evening and does a great job of explaining how it will run. It’s obvious right away that this group is a real team.
And a piece about being a team is the first one up. Team of Five Million is four weeks of lockdown crammed into 10 minutes — and what better topic for a solo than the experience of being alone? But performer Zoe Stokes doesn’t seem alone here — there’s characters and caricature galore, from ‘Sir Dr Ashley Bloomfield’ to the nosey next door neighbour threatening to rat on the kids in the playground.
I’m reminded of Tom Sainsbury’s instagram characters (also shout out to Tom and all the NZ comedians who kept me going through lockdown). A dynamic performer with spot-on comic timing, Zoe has us laughing non-stop. As she blasts through them, her characters are added to the moasic AV design on the back wall — a fancy (and sooo 2019) way of saying the grid view of a Zoom call. It’s wonderfully clever, and seems so natural and live, but with every one prerecorded by the same performer in front of us, it’s a technical feat when you stop and think about it.
It’s that Love Actually collage of faces we’re all so used to now but as variations of the same person, it says something about how connected, and also how alone, we all were in lockdown.
Kaisa Fa’atui is enthralling in Malu a’e le Afiafi, sharing the love and loss story of his grandparents, from their meeting in Samoa in the 1950s to their journey to Niu Sila. Supported by soft, warm lighting that fills the space the way Samoa filled his grandparents house in Lower Hutt, Kaisa stands strong and open, engaging directly with us. I could listen to him for hours.
With vivid storytelling filled with sounds and smells, he sidesteps cliches and brings his grandparents to life — Nana with her “eyebrows always alive”— while well-timed jokes subtly acknowledge the stereotypes of island culture: Nana’s hair waving like a “Pantene shampoo commercial”. Clean, simple movements create powerful images — a hand on his heart evokes not only Nana’s failing heart but also his love for her. Holding his own hands shows his grandparents holding each other, but also how he holds them now.
A powerful haka from members of the audience at the end fills the space with the roar of mana, love, and whānau we are all feeling.
The next two pieces have clear content warnings. I appreciate these warnings been given verbally throughout the brief intervals, rather than just on an easily-missable poster in the foyer (as is still often the way). The warnings brace me, and also remind me that theatre needs to address the hard stuff too, and how important it is that emerging practitioners have a place to test this kind of work.
Olivia Chelmis’s The Unlit Network feels topical with the recent media about NXIVM, the women’s ‘empowerment’ organisation that was a cover for sex trafficking. It starts with Olivia in the role of a recruiter for a self-help / empowerment programme, trying to recruit the audience. It’s a brilliant way in, showing us immediately how anyone, especially those who are vulnerable, could be convinced to join. Then there’s a variety of characters complicit in one way or another in human trafficking, with the audience cast in the also-complicit role of witness.
Despite the racial slur warning, the driver character with an accent (Caribbean? Southeast Asian?) is hard to watch — I think the idea here is that all kinds of people and scenarios are part of the problem, but in seeing an evil character portrayed with an accent, my discomfort with the performance distracts me from the problem, rather than drawing me in. It’s easy for a thing or person that is specific in the real world to transform into a generalisation onstage.
[AMENDMENT 24/10/20: Since this review was published, I have learnt that Olivia Chelmis was using a Greek accent, a country and culture she has an authentic connection to (see comments section below). Having this knowledge now certainly makes this moment comfortable in retrospect, and I wish I had known it beforehand, or as part of the performance somehow. Of course my own ignorance about accents is at fault, but I expect I’m not alone in that. We do see accents and generalisations onstage and screen all the time — and I’m sorry that I didn’t see in the moment that this was an authentic one. It’s also worth noting that audience tension and discomfort is at a heightened level in performance that deals with difficult topics, and a bit of guidance for how to interpret shocking moments can help.]
For me, the nightclub scene is the most effective, with flashing lights and loud dance music, and a wasted woman shouting that she’s just witnessed something terrible with another woman, but just wants to continue to have fun. It shows the toxic environments in our culture where danger thrives because it’s so easy to turn a blind eye.
Content warnings also prepare me for Toku Ivi, Toku Kiko, Toku Toto, a forceful piece by Teherenui Koteka, exploring (as the programme says) ‘the disconnect women feel with their bodies’, and the relationship between sexual abuse, colonial abuse and self abuse. Teherenui embodies that disconnection by delivering the narrative in third person but also being the abused character herself. Dance and movement around the stage is used to strong effect.
With such heavy content, I wonder if it would benefit from more separation between the narrator and the character, to give it some more variation in rhythm and allow us some moments of reflection. It is an intense piece and the relentless pace does speaks to the relentlessness of living with abuse. Some parts of the writing could be interrogated further. The statements about virginity sit uncomfortably in a work that’s casting light on the actions and ideas that hurt women and their bodies (of which the concept of virginity is one).
Albert Latailakepa is a firecracker of hilarity and delight in Underkava Lover. It’s a ‘sliding doors’ story that plays out what would happen to a young man if he takes the kava his uncle offers him, when he asks for his advice about getting a girl to like him. Spoiler alert: turns out if he takes the kava, things will go well for a while, but end up in disaster.
Highly theatrical, with a guitar and a rugby ball used for everything from a mic to team mates to a romantic school dance, it is a hilarious dream sequence of delightful stage tricks. Albert’s physicality and comic timing are spot on — he shows rather than tells — bringing to life characters, crowds, even the Titanic drowning scene. Dynamic, full of energy but in total control, Albert Latailakepa is one to watch.
Maurice Tupua-Wilson is the embodiment of grace and strength in her piece WTF: What The Fa’afafine!?!?. Through the experience of Alofa, a fa’afafine representing Samoa in the Miss Universe Pageant, Maurice shows us what it is to be fa’afafine in a white, colonialist environment, while also proudly representing her country. It’s a calling out of the white gaze and the disconnect between being abused and shamed in one culture while accepted for who you are in your own.
Maurice is a grounded, calm presence on stage. The abuse hurts but Alofa knows she is right, she knows who she is: “There will always be a place for me in my Samoan culture. Why? Because it’s tradition.”
It’s the perfect piece to end the evening, which feels held together by a theme of inclusivity and affirmation.
It’s wonderful to see three separate institutions coming together like this. At the end of the final piece, with Maurice sitting centrestage, the other performers come on stage and dance around her, supporting her. After being on a journey through six different worlds, this brings them all together. It’s my favourite bit.
Kudos to Tahi Festival Artistic Director Sally Richards for initiating and including student work in this delightful festival of solos that takes over BATS for a week. It’s so important that this kind of new work gets seen.
These solos lit my night and warmed my heart. We will be seeing more of these emerging artists on our stages and screens very soon, you can be sure of that.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Editor October 24th, 2020
Thank you Lucy - Claire has now added an ammendment to her review. We really appreciate feedback like this.
Lucy October 23rd, 2020
I was at Hatch last night and was completely blown away by the talent of Wellington's emerging artists! However I do feel that I must clarify something in relation to your review of the Unlit Network. Olivia Chelmis grew up in Greece and spoke Greek during her performance, her accent was a Greek/ Easter and neither Caribbean or Southeast Asian.