MY OWN DARLING
16/10/2017 - 22/10/2017
12/09/2017 - 12/09/2017
24/08/2017 - 24/08/2017
Take a ride on the South side, where poetry and theatre collide.
This Auckland Theatre Company work showcases a new genre of performance, where an invisible city reveals deep secrets through intensely personal stories.
This must-see show is part road movie, part love song.
“Auckland city is actually the sixth character in this show – she’s kind of my muse and my lover,” says TED Talk sensation Grace Taylor, the creator of My Own Darling.
Grace, also an award-winning poet, mixes Samoan culture with touches of humour and is accompanied by a pumping soundtrack from Anonymouz.
She storms the stage along with rising star Gaby Solomona.
Together, they celebrate the people you might otherwise pass by – a girl in blood-red jeans, a bro from the mounga, a neighbourhood mama, and K-Road characters.
It’s edgy, urban and it’s now.
To the point: Multi-character road movie/ taps into rap/ new genre/ personal stories/ Samoan culture and humour/ edgy, urban, now.
TARANAKI ARTS FESTIVAL 2017
Crystal Palace, New Plymouth
Thurs, Aug 24, 7pm
CHRISTCHURCH ARTS FESTIVAL 2017
Tues 12 September, 7pm
Papa Hou YMCA, Christchurch
MANGERE ARTS CENTRE
16-22 October 2017
Starring Grace Taylor, Gaby Solomona, Taofia Pelesasa
Music by Matthew Faiumu Salapu (Anonymouz)
Theatre , Performance Poetry ,
Uniquely personal but simultaneously appealing and accessible
Review by Naomi van den Broek 13th Sep 2017
Yes! My Own Darling is exactly the sort of show I want to see in an arts festival: fresh, relevant, New Zealand stories performed by committed and talented performers in an interesting and challenging presentation style. I would love to see more work like this, in particular Christchurch works, being given support from our theatre companies and festivals.
My Own Darling is a cohesive and well curated cycle of ‘found poems’ written in and presented by various characters who sometimes interact, and whose stories contextualise and frame each other’s. Playwright Grace Taylor says in her programme notes that each of the characters presented “have a shade of me that until this point has been unseen or unheard”.
The three actors play five characters between them, with the unpersoned character of Auckland also being a strong presence. The characters are honest and real, as well as playing on some delightful stereotypes that bring laughs and groans of recognition from all quarters of the audience.
Taofia Pelesasa embodies both the cheeky and dreamy ‘Man from the Maunga’ and the sassy and nosy ‘Lady Next Door’ with equal success. Gaby Solomona is almost unrecognisable in her transformation from defiant ‘Grit Girl’ to the cringingly accurate ‘Patron’. Both actors employ distinct physical and vocal qualities for each character, allowing us easily to follow their character transitions with the assistance of very minimal costume pieces.
Grace Taylor is one of those performers who has the indefinable ‘it’ that makes it impossible to take your eyes off her. Her understated but magnetic performance style, her creamy voice and her pitch perfect delivery of the text is something I could happily have watched and listened to for twice the duration of this one act presentation.
Staging is very simple on this completely bare set, but when movement is employed it is effective. I would like to see this element of the piece developed more fully, as I would the use of percussive elements like hand clapping and finger clicking. These details add depth and interest for the audience, and more exploration of these can only benefit the production as a whole.
From a technical standpoint, I would prefer the players’ microphones not to be on stands or hand-held. Not only do the stands pose challenges for performers of different heights, but they also create a barrier between performer and audience. There is also the bigger challenge of managing vocal volume using hand-held microphones and at times some of the text delivered at higher volumes is distorted and uncomfortable to listen to. Either performing in a venue that allows performers to work un-amplified or using head set radio mics would be preferable. These are small critiques, though, of what feels, on the whole, a very cohesive production.
For me the star of the evening is the text. This is a script I would buy in published form just to read and re-read it, allowing myself to completely absorb these stunning pieces. The work gives us all the best things about poetry – playing with rhythm, rhyme and a vast array of other literary devices – without sacrificing the dramatic experience. Rather this ‘play presented in poems’ is enriched by the way in which Taylor has employed, manipulated and transformed language into something uniquely personal but simultaneously appealing and accessible.
In particular lines from the two very strong pieces performed by Taylor that bookend the work have stayed with me overnight and throughout the morning as I write this: “I am not your poem” and “My love is the poem I can’t write”. I would happily see this piece many times over. Thank you / faafetai to the writer, performers and production team who gave My Own Darling life and brought it to Ōtautahi. What a crying shame it was for one night only.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Genre combo doesn’t quite gel
Review by Liz Deacle 25th Aug 2017
In My Own Darling Grace Taylor, through a series of powerful poetic vignettes, invites audiences to join her on an intimate journey through a city of Auckland that differs from the sky tower and the swanky shops of Queen Street. An Auckland that many don’t necessarily see or want to acknowledge.
Grace Taylor is joined on stage by two incredibly talented actors who move seamlessly between four characters. Fasitua Amosa plays a gentle giant biker from Maunga who is full of local historical facts. His massive frame and stage presence command authority on stage. Replacing his beanie for a hair flower, he melts effortlessly into the comedic, but pitiful role of the Samoan auntie who lives next door.
Gaby Solomona takes the role of a South Auckland teenager, glaring out from the shadow of her hoodie, speaking a thousand words with her eyes, often finding members of the audience and challenging them with a stare. Everything is perfect about the character: her facial expressions, her stature, her voice. By removing her hoodie and donning a pair of bright red glasses, she transforms into the gushing but naïve patron and organiser of a Ponsonby poetry competition.
The piece is advertised as being where “poetry and theatre collide” and this was the problem. They collided. While there is no doubt that Grace Taylor’s poetry is powerful, hard hitting and thought-provoking, the combination of poetry with the narratives of the characters doesn’t quite gel. It doesn’t flow.
Three microphones line the front of the stage, sometimes used, sometimes not. I am not sure whether I am watching a hard hitting poetry recital delivered by the writer Grace or a piece of theatre from two incredibly talented actors. When the two jump from one to another it feels disjointed and often confusing. Grace is apparently playing herself and remains the central character throughout, which is a shame. The show is much more entertaining when we can feast our eyes on the other two actors. Grace brings to the show not only her hard hitting beautifully eloquent poetry but also a lack of energy and entertainment.
In contrast, when Gaby Solomona starts to talk about her life I don’t want her to stop. She gives the audience just enough but leaves us wanting more. The energy that her character emanates is electrifying, and it is frustrating that this role plays second fiddle to that of Grace’s leading central character.
The immersive soundtrack blends well with the piece but is at times far too loud. I struggle to hear some of Grace’s lines, even with the aid of her microphone. Her obvious lack of character along with her petite frame brings a lack of vivacity to the stage. She is placed centre stage throughout. Perhaps something that the director might want to reconsider.
The lighting is stark and edgy and adds to the overall ambience of the piece.
There are the odd moments where the poetry and theatre work well and I can see what Grace is trying to achieve. But I can’t help thinking that if Grace was replaced with an actor in role, the audience would benefit and the writer would accomplish her goal to combine both genres.
If you remember that this is neither a piece of theatre nor a poetry recital you will not be disappointed with this show. Go to see it knowing that Grace’s words will hit hard and Solomona’s and Amosa’s performances will delight you. They just won’t do it at the same time.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer