Hamilton Gardens, American Modernist Garden, Hamilton

20/02/2019 - 22/02/2019

Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival 2019

Production Details

Created by Kyle huen, Nick Braae, Nick Wilkinson and Courteney Mayall

Directed by Kyle Chuen
Score by Nick Braae

Celebrating a night out on the town in Hamilton.  

Hood Street is the home of many a late night romp and site of many a Hamilton story. Courteney Mayall and Nick Wilkinson portray the colourful characters who patronise the fine establishments of this city: the couple on their first date, the couple on their last date, the smooth guy with all the best lines, and many more.

Collaboratively written by Hamilton’s young musical theatre talent, directed by Kyle Chuen and with an original score by Nick Braae, Hood Street is partly a cheeky commentary on the anxieties and hopes of modern love and friendship, and mostly a heartwarming tribute to the Hamilton bars where many an enjoyable evening has been wiled away.

Modernist Garden
Wednesday 20 – Friday 22 Feb 2019
$35 General Admission
$32 Concession
*Booking fees apply

Nick Wilkinson
Courteney Mayall

Braae Braae and The Love Snakes

Theatre , Musical , Comedy ,

Sensitive, silly and so damned funny – this show will travel well

Review by Jan-Maree Franicevic 21st Feb 2019

The Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival is always a highlight on my performing arts calendar: celebrating a feast of international talent while being a proper celebration of local talent. It is always well-attended, except for those years where Mother Nature throws a tanty and the weather packs up, with the majority of the venues being outdoors!

A capacity crowd is filling the seats in the American Modernist Garden, tonight is opening night, and also the world premiere of Hood Street: The Musical. The cast, musical director and director (coincidentally the same four who have written the show) are well known to Hamilton audiences, each with a fine reputation, so it is unsurprising that Hamilton has turned out in numbers tonight.

I understand from the programme notes that actors Nick Wilkinson and Courteney Mayall got together with Musical Director Nick Braae and Director Kyle Chuen in July 2018 and began to write a musical, because it seemed cheaper than buying the rights to someone else’s. This cost consciousness carries through the production: these four have done everything it would seem – from costumes and props to direction and choreography.

On stage, seven piece band Braae Braae and The Love Snakes thumps out a merry tune led by Musical Director Nick ‘Braae Braae’ Braae, who is centre stage on piano as we take our places.

Uber theatre whiz kids Nick Wilkinson and Courteney Mayall are our players tonight, we have already wandered past them pre-show, standing all in black, in their sharkey wraparound shades, tall, soundless and stiff, like nightclub bouncers: a fitting setting of the scene.

The show opens with an introduction by The Narrators; Wilkinson and Mayall burst with energy, delivering each line with power and immediately proving their pedigree. They are effortlessly sassy, unflinchingly cool as they sing, dance, throw gold confetti (and pick it all up again) and belt out lines which are ironic and glib, and above all, damned funny.

Through their animated song and dance number ‘Saturday Night’, we get to meet several of their hilariously-played cast of revellers: the Bogan, the bragger, the unhappy couple, the Tinder geeks, the girls out on the town. After all, this is Saturday night on Hood Street – Hamilton’s equivalent of, say, Wellington’s Courtenay Place or Auckland’s Viaduct – lined with clubs and bars, complete with all night burger bar and taxi stand, and heavily populated with a vast array of party people who are doing their thing, out for the night.

The show cracks on at a wicked pace from here; Wilkinson and Mayall play their cast of characters faultlessly and with enviable energy. They appear well-rehearsed and comfortable within each character’s storyline, never skipping a beat as they snap seamlessly between each portrayal. I am impressed no end that they have opted for the simplest of props (wigs and jackets) to identify each character, on a bare stage where the pair fill each space as they whirl through an epically funny night out. 

Director Kyle Chuen has done well to keep the reins tight; there is a sensitive minimalism running through the performances Wilkinson and Mayall deliver. This show is very much a piss-take of taking the piss out of getting on the piss; while there are some well-played hammy japes along the way, the performances are controlled and I enjoy loudly guffawing at these extreme versions of people I have met over my years of partying on Hood Street.

There are also some very smart turns, which add layers of complexity and texture to the piece. Did I expect to see a Passo Doble in this show? Nope. But wow – it works! My greatest moment of joy is watching Mayall play with a tiny cocktail brolly – the kind you would find in a pina colada, or indeed a ‘Fishbowl’ at House Bar on Hood Street. Sometimes it is the smallest of things that showcase an ensemble’s creative maturity, as immature as what I have described might sound.

There is also the careful and crafty use of Musical Director Nick Braae … I cannot bring myself to spoil this, so will leave it there. Braae shows his true colours and sheer talent for tunes, in putting together a clutch of original music which complements the lyrics and offers that essential variation from song to song (the lack of which can be the undoing of many a musical). Braae leads his band ably, and beams from centre stage throughout (if he isn’t enjoying himself up there, then by gees he is great at faking it)!

The writing is smart and witty, and shows a definite mastery these four have, in the craft of richly mining seams of humour from the everyman, and the everyday. The choreography is simple yet effective; Wilkinson and Mayall sing their hearts out throughout this show and their fitness comes to the fore in delivering well executed moves, in synch and seemingly without having to think, which I put down to Chuen’s strong leadership coupled with the discipline of experienced actors.

So as we stand to leave I am sad, because the show is over – it is a quick hour. While Braae, Chuen, Wilkinson and Mayall may have embarked on Hood Street: The Musical to save some pennies, they have (perhaps unknowingly) made a very smart move, because they have written something far better, far more unique, sensitive, silly and so damned funny – which to me makes this production priceless. The themes are not geographically specific and neither are the characters – this show will travel well.

If you have ever been out on the tiles of a night, or if you are curious to get an inside scoop on that world, and laugh your pants off while you do – see this show. Five stars!  


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