Pah Homestead, TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre, 72 Hillsborough Road, Auckland

11/02/2014 - 22/02/2014

Cable Bay, Waiheke Island

28/02/2014 - 28/02/2014

Production Details

Daring Shakespeare like you have never seen it before. SHAKEITUP! presents Passionate Acts, an accessible collection of sexy Shakespeare scenes at one of the most incredible locations in Auckland, the Pah Homestead TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre. 

SHAKEITUP! is the brainchild of actor, artist and creator Grae Burton and actor director Alistair Browning. Browning has recently returned from an International Actors Fellowship at Shakespeare’s Globe in London and will be familiar to local audiences from his roles in the award nominated film Shopping, his NZFT award winning role in the film Rain and many theatrical productions all over New Zealand. Burton most recently appeared as core cast in Underbelly NZ: Land of the Long Green Cloud and prior to that was the Artistic Director for Summer Shakespeare for the Top of the South Summer Shakespeare Tour, which was for five years the largest outdoor theatre tour in the country. “It’s great to get back to my Shakespeare roots, this will be a great season for everyone, featuring accessible, bite sized sexy and fun scenes from the bard.” Says Burton.

Passionate Acts will feature accessible bite-sized scenes from some of Shakespeare’s most popular plays including Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Twelfth Night, Richard III, Antony and Cleopatra, As You Like It, Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

All these scenes will be performed by a company of six. Joining Browning and Burton in the SHAKEITUP! Company will be NZFTV award winning (the film Crush) actress Donogh Rees, Listener Critic and AFTA award winning actress Katherine Kennard, who will be familiar to audiences from her recent role as Jo in Nothing Trivial, producer and performer from this year’s QTheatre season of Titus Andronicus Jason Hodzelmans and newcomer to the stage, recent Actors Program graduate Moana McArtney.

This will mark the first full theatre season to perform at the Pah Homestead, a prospect that excites the Director of The Wallace Arts Trust, Sir James Wallace. “This was always a part of the original plan for the Pah, to create greater access and opportunity for all art forms to flourish with access for the greater community. Introducing opportunities for families to picnic in amongst the sculpture garden, see professional theatre performance and experience the art collection brings all facets of that plan together.”

Located in the grounds of Monte Cecilia Park, the TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre opened to the public in August 2010 and in the first three years has received over 300,000 visitors. It is home to the bulk of the 6000+ strong collection of New Zealand contemporary art, people enjoying and experiencing the regularly turnaround of exhibitions at the venue “This is an opportunity for new audiences to receive an utterly unique arts experience in Auckland, and for those who have experienced The Pah to see it in a new light, as a spectacular backdrop to a fantastic season of theatre.” Says Burton.

The performance will take place in locations at the venue. Audiences are invited to arrive at 6pm, enjoy the hospitality of Dawsons Catering at the Pah Cafe, with food and beverages available to purchase before and during the show and be seated on the veranda of the sculpture garden for the show beginning at 6:30pm. The performance duration is approximately 2 hours including a brief interval.

WHERE: The Pah Homestead TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre, 72 Hillsborough Road Auckland – 
WHEN: FEBRUARY 12, 13, 14, 15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 2014 SHOW BEGINS 6:30pm 
TICKETS: $25 FULL, $15 CONCESSION (Seniors, Students, Industry), $60 FAMILY PASS (2 Adults, 2 Children under 15)

Performed at Cable Bay, Waiheke Island
Feb 28, 2014


Donogh Rees
Alistair Browning
Jason Hodzelmans
Katherine Kennard
Grae Burton
Mo McArtney

Theatre ,

Passionate Acts Shake It Up

Review by Sharu Delilkan 13th Feb 2014

“Not Shakespeare again” I thought en-route to the preview of Passionate Acts, Grae Burton’s and Alistair Browning’s scenes of passion from Shakespeare’s most popular plays. Driving up the entrance to the magnificent Pa Homestead I lamented how and why Shakespeare persists when there is so much modern and contemporary excellence around, some of which hardly gets a look in by the crowds that William himself can pull in [grouch].

On entering the hallway I realised what a total Richard III I was being, as Grae Burton (the producer) and Maxine Cunliffe (front of house manager) welcomed us, explained the order of the day and deftly directed us to the drinks table. After some chatter in the foyer and a look around at the amazing Ian Scott’s paintings on show in the adjacent gallery, we soon settled in and took our seats on the covered back terrace with our food hampers to begin the show. [More]


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The age and body of our time reflected with joy

Review by Lexie Matheson ONZM 13th Feb 2014

I’m old enough, let’s face it, to have asked myself on more one occasion: what the hell do we do this theatre thing for? The answer is always the same: because there’s invariably a gem somewhere in the offing – though the offing, love it though we do, sometimes seems tragically devoid of occurrences to treasure.  

Passionate Acts is not like the others. Passionate Acts is a doozy! Let me say it again because I can and I want to: Passionate Acts is an absolute peach! 

The concept isn’t new, but, as Hamlet says, what of that? It’s a few short scenes from Shakespeare’s greatest plays performed by some damnably good actors in a beautiful outdoor setting.  “Yes,” I hear you sigh, “I saw something like that in the gardens in Otorohanga in 1978.”
“But no,” I reply with enthusiasm. “It’s likely you haven’t seen anything like this, ever.”
“How so?” you say. “What’s so special?”
“Joy,” I reply. “It’s full of joy!”

Pah Homestead is a sublime venue for almost anything and perfect for this. On preview night it was at its Edwardian best, all glittery, starched and crisp, like the welcoming committee, the complimentary glass of bubbles and the wee snacks that seemingly appear from nowhere. Everything pre-show is tickety-boo and everything after it is, too. 

Armed with vino, programme and a delicioso picnic hamper that is available for purchase we make our way through a gallery hung with Ian Scott paintings, reminding us subtly that this is the home of the Wallace Arts Trust and that Sir James Wallace is that most rare of divine creatures, a patron of the arts and our greatest living arts philanthropist. His Trust financially supports many other arts organizations in New Zealand with Sir James being patron, trustee or board member of some 20 similar institutions.

Good work, Sir James! A tinkling round of applause for the great man, if you please.

Seated at a round table on the verandah, we look out over farmland to One Tree Hill in the distance, “And still no tree,” my son observes sadly. There are plenty of others though and in the foreground of all this natural beauty lies a trimmed lawn, a rectangular raised platform skirted by a number of wonderful sculptures, some which challenge the intellect and some simply fitting in, being themselves and minding their own tastefully arty business.  Don’t be misled, I like them all, very much indeed.

While my spouse and I savour our champers, our son wanders around the grounds, climbs the gate into the adjacent field and checks out the statuary. “Cool,” is his assessment on his return. “Way cool.” He is, he says, looking forward to the show because, “It’s Shakespeare so it must be good.” 

Good it is – again and again. 

I am reliably informed that Alistair Browning and Grae Burton were the ‘starters’ for the project, but that Burton and Wallace had, prior to that, spent two years planning and developing the idea. The admirable direction of the carefully contemplated scenes had been mainly shared between Browning, Donogh Rees and Burton, who focused on the sections they weren’t in but that the whole thing was more group devised than directed. 

However the whole is created, the scenes have a lightness of touch and a delicacy that is both charming and effective. Deft direction is a joy to watch as it frees the actor from all manner of restrictions and the resulting nimbleness is a fine feature of this work. 

The scenes are cleverly interlinked without any heavy-handedness and all are accessible to even the least suave of audience members. 

The evening begins with Act II Scene 2 of Romeo and Juliet with Moana McArtney as Juliet, Jason Hodzelmans as Romeo and with a pair of precise and audible feet tapping nattily around in the house behind the audience and creating the ever-present presence of the nurse. There is no attempt made to present faux fourteen year olds (thank goodness) but the scene has a delicious innocence about it that engages us immediately. It’s the “Romeo, Romeo wherefore art …” scene for those of you who can’t  be bothered looking it up so it’s pretty well known but this appositely matched couple still manage to find new line-readings and subtleties that I haven’t seen – or heard – before.

From The Taming of the Shrew, Act II Scene 1, Kate (the delectable Katherine Kennard) and her Petruchio (an endlessly clowning Grae Burton) carry on the eternal debate between tamed and tamer and leave us none the wiser as to who is the victor and who the spoils. My son, the eleven year old ‘man of the house’ and Shakespeare aficionado, votes for Mr Burton as the winner while his two mothers take a somewhat different view, the issue to be resolved over homework somewhat later!  

Some things are worth revisiting for any number of reasons and this wee stanza is exquisite – sexy as anything and as filled with innuendo as anyone could possibly wish: 
Petruchio:  Come, come, you wasp; i’ faith, you are too angry.
Katherine:  If I be waspish, best beware my sting.
Petruchio:  My remedy is then, to pluck it out.
Katherine:  Ay, if the fool could find where it lies.
Petruchio:  Who knows not where a wasp does wear his sting? In his tail.
Katherine:  In his tongue.
Petruchio:  Whose tongue?
Katherine:  Yours, if you talk of tails: and so farewell.
Petruchio:  What, with my tongue in your tail? Nay, come again, Good Kate; I am a gentleman.

Milk it, they do, and we love every dripping nuance.  

From there to Anthony and Cleopatra, Act 1 Scene 1, and we meet Anthony (a grizzle-bearded but still athletic Alistair Browning) and Cleopatra (the handsome Donagh Rees ‘o’er-picturing Venus’) and these great lovers add an appetizing gravitas to the R & J of a few minutes earlier. Here’s a couple who’ve been there done that in the lusting stakes but who still have more than a few good shots to fire – and do so for our benefit. I’m moved to say how fantastic it is to hear actors who not only understand what they’re saying but who can say it and be absolutely understood well beyond the words.

It’s no mean feat bit this sextet moves me to the soul in every slice they serve to me. I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing Browning’s Anthony from close quarters for a full season and, as in this performance, I never tired of it. 

On then to a personal favourite, Act 1 Scene 2 of Richard III, and never has Richard Crookback (Grae Burton), that vile spider of Gloucester, been better portrayed – by an actor who, a nanosecond before, was amusing us with the drolleries of his Petruchio. Armed with a leg brace and all that implies, and as seeming and as black as sin, Burton sets about seducing Anne whose husband’s corpse, dispatched by the toad himself, lies between them.

It’s fine stuff and Anne (Katherine Kennard) gives as good as she gets but Shakespeare defeats her and won’t let her sink the dagger deep into this hedgehog’s breast as she clearly would wish to. It’s Kennard’s only defeat on a night where she shines in every scene she plays and in every suit she wears. 

Two scenes from the Scottish play come next, Act I Scene 3 juxtaposed against Act I Scene 7. We have two Macbeth’s, one in each, and two Lady Macbeths. Browning and Hodzelmans are the Thanes, and Rees and McArtney the beastesses. In my view these scenes are the least successful of the night but they still manage to delight with exciting interpretations and McArtney shows a side of her character that I wouldn’t wish to confront in Albert Park on a squally night any time soon! 

Then it’s to the true, pre-interval, highlight of the night – or one of them, it’s very hard to choose. Act IV Scene 2 of A Midsummer Night’s Dreamis a wondrous riot of magical silliness underlying which lurks extraordinary talent, exceptional interpretation and unbelievably good ensemble playing. It’s knicker-wettingly funny and plays like, well, like a dream. Insults are hurled by the Athenian lovers (Burton, Kennard, Hodzelmans, McArtney) – my personal favourite: “You juggler! You canker blossom! You thief of Love!” – and hurled right back – “Fie, fie! You counterfeit, you puppet, you!” – all directed by a magnificent masked Oberon (Browning) and Rees as the rascally Puck, Robin Goodfellow.

It is such a treat to watch actors with so complete a grasp on the text that could simply play with it as though improvising Shakespeare’s prose. The first half ends even better than it has begun, again no mean feat. 

After interval the audience is invited inside the house to experience Juliet’s dismantling by her unreasoningly irate father. Moana McArtney is a passionate and modern Juliet and when confronted by Browning’s fiercely tribal patriarch the sparks really fly. Browning is especially magnificent as Capulet and gives full reign to his not inconsiderable vocal and emotional power. All-in-all this ‘fly on the wall’ peak at a particularly nasty example of Veronese domestic violence leaves the audience silent and in definite need of a top up to their interval drinks. 

By the time we all file back to the verandah auditorium, a vision in yellow hose, cross-gartered, has arrived. Malvolio (Grae Burton) is a treacherously difficult role for even the best of actors yet Burton rips into the character with an ease that draws wild guffaws from the first nuanced word.  Equally Malvolio’s match as Olivia, Donogh Rees plays abject confusion and wretched distaste to the nth degree until we howl with laughter. (Twelfth Night, Act III Scene 4.)

As You Like It is simply my favourite Shakespeare comedy. There’s something about the boy playing a girl (Rosalind) playing a boy (Ganymede) that is infinitely entertaining and it’s usually scenes between Orlando and his Rosalind that pepper assemblages of this nature but not so in Passionate Acts. Here – in Act III Scene 5 – an ill-assorted pair, the irascible Phoebe (Donagh Rees) and the dumb but pleasant Silvius (Alistair Browning) banter their love until the arrival of ‘a proper man’ in the form of Rosalind /Ganymede (Moana McArtney).

All hell breaks loose with Rosalind’s attempt to burst Phoebe’s bubble. She tells Phoebe, “You have no beauty. ’Tis not your inky brows, your black silk hair, your bugle eyeballs, nor your cheek of cream, that can entame my spirits to your worship” then caps it all by referring to Silvius and saying, “For I must tell you friendly in your ear, sell when you can: you are not for all markets.” I am moved to remind myself – as though I need reminding – that sweet Mr Shakespeare is a supremely clever man who knows that the best of actors can always wring something fresh and new from a great text and these thespians do exactly that.

With the end nigh, Shakeitup prove they’re not ones to shy away from the big denouement and delve straight into that nastiest of games: emotional blackmail. Born to play Beatrice – and any other role you can name – Katherine Kennard takes us down the path of “you dare easier be friends with me than fight with mine enemy. O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the marketplace.” Grae Burton’s excellent Benedick isn’t easily drawn but Kennard finally convinces him to show his love by causing Claudio to render him “a dear account” and when he leaves the stage we are in no doubt that she has worked her woman’s magic and that he will “to it, straight!” (Much Ado About Nothing, Act IV Scene 1.) 

One hour forty minutes and we’re at the delicately balanced final act, a twinning in death of Romeo and Juliet and Anthony and Cleopatra. By now local children and a few more distant parents are observing the proceedings from the downside of the homestead gate. It’s charming and rustic and started, appropriately, when Phoebe began berating Browning’s silly shepherd Silvius, but these souls now evaporate like the dew in the morning as four of history’s most famous deaths are re-enacted. Each is incredibly moving with Anthony’s “I am dying, Egypt, dying” smacking me right in the mortality. 

As this sextet of stars take their exceptionally well-earned calls I am able, albeit momentarily, to reflect on Shakespeare’s instructions whispered to every actor worth their salt for over four hundred years and ignored at their peril: “Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance, that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature: for anything so o’erdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold as ’twere the mirror up to nature: to show virtue her feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.”

Well done, actors. You hold the mirror up for us and we love what we see because, like you, we are the age and body of our time. Thanks for the delicate – and kindly – reminder that life can be filled with joy when we take the time to look for it.


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