PURE AND DEEP
12/11/2014 - 23/11/2014
TOA FRASER RETURNS TO HIS THEATRICAL ROOTS
Celebrated New Zealand film director and playwright Toa Fraser returns to the stage with the highly anticipated première of his new play PURE AND DEEP playing at the Herald Theatre from November 12-23. This independent sequel to the iconic kiwi classic BARE is long overdue and comes hot on the heels of the NZ première of his internationally acclaimed feature film THE DEAD LANDS.
Starring Mia Blake & Ian Hughes
Dave met Venus back in ’98. She worked at the gym, he dished out popcorn at the local multiplex.
Back then, there was no Facebook.Lord of the Rings hadn’t even started. The All Blacks were losing every test. There was no 9/11, no credit crunch. The gap between rich and poor was smaller. The impact of climate change was years away.
The world has changed. It’s noisier. It’s hotter. It’s hyper connected. But Venus (@VenusYoga) and Dave (@D_immersion) are still trying to figure it out. Older, a bit wiser, but still totally confused.
Toa Fraser has been long celebrated as one of New Zealand’s most treasured writers and directors. It was his second play NO.2with its subsequent film rendition that catapulted him into the international arena winning numerous awards and paving the way for his second award winning feature DEAN SPANLEY. But he cut his teeth on his first full length play – the hugely successful two hander BARE. Described by Metro magazine as an “an instant classic” this went on to tour extensively and win awards.
PURE AND DEEP plucks two characters from this late 90s era and presents them right here right now, facing the contemporary quandary of how to find meaningful, lasting relationships in a hyper-connected world.
“I wanted to do something simple, something clean. I wanted to do something that talks about now, but has its roots in Mt. Roskill, in Bare and No. 2, those plays I wrote a generation ago. I realised the way to do it was to reconnect with those charming, confused characters Venus and Dave, from Bare. I’m thrilled to be bringing a new play to the Auckland stage. It’s been too long,” says Fraser.
Toa Fraser is joining forces with the talented Mia Blake (Angels in America, Auckland Daze, No. 2) whom he worked with on the film version of NO.2and Ian Hughes (Ship Songs, Go Girls, Lord of the Rings). Hughes played Dave in BARE’s first season back in 1998 and also co-directed it with Toa for the sold-out Christchurch fundraiser gala show at the Civic in 2011.
PURE AND DEEP is certain to be another unmissable play from the hand of one of our most talented theatre and film artists.
PURE AND DEEP plays
Wednesday 12 November – Sunday 23 November
Preview Wednesday 12 November
Tues and Wed 6.30pm, Thurs – Sun, 8pm, matinees Sat and Sun 2pm.
Venue: Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre
Tickets: $45 full, $35 concession, groups 6+, $20 preview (12/11). Service fees apply.
Booking: www.ticketmaster.co.nz 0800 111 9990800 111 999
PURE AND DEEPwas commissioned by Auckland Live and has received funding from Creative New Zealand.
Review by Matt Baker 17th Nov 2014
Breathing and listening. They’re key components to acting, and they feature in Toa Fraser’s direction and latest script, Pure and Deep. Even for those who haven’t seen Fraser’s first full-length play, Bare, the nostalgia embedded in this, its sequel, along with performers Ian Hughes’ and Mia Blake’s trust and familiarity is enough to sense the successful completion – not often found in sequels – it permeates.
While Fraser doesn’t pontificate, his liberal voice as a playwright is heavy-handed at times, and may distance audience members of a more right-leaning, conservative political or social philosophy. It’s sixteen years later, and where Bare explored two people coming together, Pure and Deep takes the logical evolutionary step and explores these two people and their place in the world. [More]
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
Great substance and wonderful comedy
Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 14th Nov 2014
Oh how they’ve lived, loved and got lost. Revisiting Bare’s two central characters is a fascinating, sobering and at times melancholy reflection.
In 1998, Toa Fraser’s break through play gave a fresh street-wise voice to young urban adults in NZ, laying bare their daily lives and dramas: a multiplex world of body obsession, love, sex and takeaways, told through an hilarious mix of comedy and characters, with Venus and Dave at the helm.
16 years on, as the title suggests, their lives and worldviews, cut deep.
Dave and Venus – like so many of us as we transition from our more carefree, almost bulletproof, 20s to navigate increasing expectations and some sort of life-path in our 30s – have become more cautious, vulnerable and a little lost.
Because of the skilful way Toa weaves references of Dave and Venus’ past into this independent sequel, Pure and Deep is a stand-alone enriching experience for people who missed Bare (such as myself), as well as a fascinating catch up, for those who met the couple back in 1998, or at any of the subsequent productions of Toa’s iconic first play.
Toa reflects on the tricky decades – after the so-called ‘coming of age’ and ‘rite of passage’ of youth; yet before the traditionally labelled, ‘mid-life crisis’ – in an intimate, yet at the same time, confronting and expansive way. On the one hand, our characters’ personal journeys and every-day disappointments have individual truth and resonance; while on the other, wild sweeping generalisations and flippant political pontificating about the state of our country and the universe, flap around in conversation, looking for strategy and a way forward.
John Verryt’s clean calm minimalist yoga space, built with smooth chic wooden panelling, with just two chairs set far apart, is a fitting open space for Toa’s many and varied narratives, to fully breathe.
In terms of staging, Toa often directs both actors to face straight out to the audience, allowing us to see much of their performances front on, which I find more confronting, direct and engaging.
As it was with Bare, at the heart of Pure and Deep, are two stand out Kiwi actors, playing a multitude of characters:
It’s easy to feel empathetic towards Ian Hughes, a craftsman with natural openness and honesty, as he reprises his role as Dave. Dave is full of nostalgia, reminiscing for the good ole days (which weren’t that long ago!) when media formats had boundaries and stories knew their place. As we head into Dave’s current work – a big noisy limitless domain of ‘multiple platforms’ and ‘participation’ – I’m reminded how fast and frantic today’s world has so quickly become… So many stories, so little time.
And the ying to the yang: Mia Blake brings emotional fortitude and depth to Venus as she reveals that her life-compass is now set according to the stillness and calm of Yoga; she’s ditched the high-octane life of binge gyming and binge drinking to be a yoga teacher. She escapes for up to five hours a day, so she can shut out the rat race that she believes NZ has become, and find flow.
While it’s clear that one obsession has merely replaced another, from Mia’s finely nuanced performance we know she is trying to mask the early stages of coping with loss and grief. At times Venus’ vulnerability is palpable; at other times, she’s in full flight: angry and fierce. Look out anyone who turns up to her yoga class on that day. In amongst her hurt, she rips New Zealand apart, claiming it’s no longer the land of milk and honey.
At times it feels a tad awkward, the lurching from emotional fall-out to sweeping statements about what’s wrong with our country. For example, her confession that her late league-playing husband was controlling and couldn’t’ find his purpose off the field, when he wasn’t bashing into people, is illuminating.
However, as she tries to part-rationalise the inference that he took his own life by saying suicide rates in New Zealand are high because we are in political fall-out and not 100% pure, I momentarily detach from the narrative. However, my wise companion points out that that is a common reaction of many who are dealing with loss, frustration, or just having a bad day. Absolutely true.
Just as he did with Bare, Toa brings light relief to his work via a multitude of comical cameo characters, who capture current trends and obsessions with canny accuracy. Examples are our increasing tendency to blame others and externals, rather than looking to our own actions; the rise of the ‘expert’ (such as the stay-at-home mum who has an opinion on anything and everything, even what Mr McCaw should or should not be doing, come September 2015); the media’s need to label health hazards with catch phrases like, ‘Sitting is the new smoking’ … And finally, our love/hate relationship with social media is fully explored, as Toa notes that summarising a YouTube clip, is often mistaken as intelligence.
Mia is glorious as performance poet Tina, as she thrusts headlong into a monologue that’s part hip hop, part rap, part performance poetry and a whole lotta rhythm and sass. She states that socials come before showers and that she has so many options, choices and information at her finger-tips, she can’t get out the door to do a little living in 3D.
Toa’s other glorious cameos brought to life by Mia include:
The Russian wife living in her supposed Piha paradise, who laments that NZ is full of fat people who eat pies at gas stations;
The awful aging gym-freak who spies, pries and gossips about Venus and ridicules her obsessive yogi ways, before paying full verbal homage to squats, clam-shells and all things sweaty and hard;
The socialite greasing up to the American star filming in NZ, who has zero awareness of social issues, remarking that if something is broken, we should simply fix it;
The Piha famer observing another film crew on Piha, who reminisces about the old farming ways and how dark and deathly Piha can be once you realise that the ocean is mightier than the shore. Jeremy Fern’s slow cold fade to a back-lit shadowy figure in this scene, is chilling and affecting.
Ian also relishes many entertaining cameos:
The Maori boy from Opotiki having a blast working as an extra, running and screaming, on a big budget American film;
The stunt trainer working on the film who has a soft spot for the passionate Pacific Islanders he’s worked with;
The impoverished Kiwi with nothing to do but drink, grow abs and watch his Piha being slowing eaten up by rich overseas buyers;
The overseas traveller who loves the loving women of Piha;
The cock-sure American big shot actor, here to star in a feature, who ends up revealing more than he should on social media, who then rants and raves about what NZ needs to do to fix itself, when he’s in front of the media, talking about his social media faux pas. Toa uses the American as if he is the long lost leader of the opposition we are still searching for.
Ian’s stand out cameo for me, is his portrayal of Paul Henry as a failing try-hard right-wing shock-jock; he captures Henry’s ability to say nothing of substance or show any measure of talent: just inflated self-importance, arrogance and pomp.
We also meet two American environmental commentators who go head to head, trying to decipher whether the present is the enemy and if the environment is electronic. I confess, I am lost. I hope that’s the point.
Back to our central characters, where it all began:
There’s an overwhelming sense that Dave and Venus are lost. He seems to be searching for the meaning in life and she’s tossing and turning with complex grief. Both seem unable to decide where to go. They are searching, yearning, looking, escaping, dreaming, wishing, longing… Both are looking back and projecting forward, and both are finding it too hard to just breathe, sit, watch, learn and be – in the present.
As Venus retells a great (YouTube) story about an orca and a trainer, she dreams of finding the ultimate survival tool in this complex world: constant calm.
Pure and Deep has great substance and wonderful comedy. In a country struggling to articulate many issues and concerns, through Pure and Deep, (aka Bare Part 2014), Toa Fraser says what needs to be said. It is illuminating, confronting, honest and upfront. Yet there is melancholy at the end… I look forward to a third instalment of Venus and Dave: one with hope and enlightenment. Please Toa?
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