Browsers Bookstore, 221 Victoria Street, Hamilton

09/03/2016 - 11/03/2016

Hamilton Fringe 2016

Production Details

If I did one thing right in my life it was bail on the office last Friday for my first Aikido class! I feel so … eganimus … I could probably even claim it as a business expense – outsourcing, or whatever.  

I’d have kicked someone’s ass at work otherwise. I still might. Maybe I could just outsource all my problems …

Hamilton actor Michael Gaastra, recently returned from training at Jacques Lecoq’s school of physical theatre in Paris, is taking stock of three years away from home in the Fringe debut of his I Wanna Learn Aikido.

As writer, director and actor, Gaastra tells the story of Jonathan, a man who can’t accept that he has encountered a void in his life, and has pinned his salvation on Sensei Warden – a man running Aikido lessons from a shed in Whatawhata.

Developed as a piece of physical comedy for one actor, Gaastra has had to adapt to the space of a couch in response to a knee injury that kept him off his feet for nearly three weeks. “It kind of works out though – a guy on crutches determined to learn Aikido is, in itself is a great image. The execution of the play is impacted, but I think it only benefits the story”.

Over three nights, I Wanna Learn Aikido asks the question “what does it take to be honest with yourself?” In this half-hour show, the collateral effects of unpacking an identity look us right in the eyes and, perhaps, all we can do is laugh.

I Wanna Learn Aikido, supported by Creative Waikato and the Creative Communities Scheme, will be performed as part of the Hamilton Fringe Festival at Browsers Bookshop. It performs at 6.30pm, Wednesday the 9th to Friday the 11th. Tickets through door sales are $5 full price and $3 concession.

Browsers Bookshop, 221 Victoria Street, Hamilton
Wed 9th, Thurs 10th, Fri 11th March 2016

Theatre , Spoken word , Physical ,

Beautifully subtle

Review by Ross MacLeod 11th Mar 2016

Browsers Books shop makes a casual and intimate performance space and I Wanna Learn Aikido fits that atmosphere perfectly. Michael Gaastra’s affable characterisation engages the audience from the start and he holds it steadily throughout.

The key conceit of the play, upon which other tangential anecdotes are hung, is that the Jonathan skipped work last Friday to fulfil his lifelong desire to learn Aikido. Rather than being a mere comic tale the performance instead skips across elements of his present and past life with increasing poignancy.

Despite his optimism and enthusiasm Jonathan is a character beset by doubt and demons and Michael Gaastra has does some beautifully subtle work letting these frustrations slip through. His facial and vocal expression tells us of his sadness without ever dipping into the substance of it; a great example of the effectiveness of playing against emotion.

Yet despite this more melancholy side, neither actor nor characters loses the sense of optimism and enjoyment in life and the comedy keeps flowing steadily. In some ways it’s the naturalistic version of the hyper-stylized sad clown and it works a treat.

Credit too has to be given to the integration of Gaastra’s real life recent knee injury into the show. The injury becomes a plot point (the absurdity of finally going to Aikido on a day he can’t participate) and even his crutches are used several times in different ways. It’s great to see this amalgam of crafted theatre and improve gelling together smoothly.

If you’re looking for a piece of well acted, funny and touching theatre, check out the final night tonight, Friday, 6.30 at Browsers. 


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