Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

16/07/2016 - 30/07/2016

Auckland Theatre Company's NEXT BIG THING 2016

Production Details

What will you fight to the death for?  

An eclectic ensemble of radical performers explore protest and revolution in a mighty mash up that is part riot and all party.  

AUCKLAND THEATRE COMPANY’S NEXT BIG THING – YOUTH THEATRE FESTIVAL – 2016: A wild ride of faith, love and revolution  

Auckland Theatre Company (ATC) will send audiences on a wild ride through the Basement Theatre for this year’s Next Big Thing (NBT) from 15 – 30 July.

The dynamic 12-night festival will feature three original works, live music, new writing and fresh stories in a season focused on faith, love and revolution. Involving over 60 young performers, creators and crew, NBT provides a dynamic platform to foster, develop and showcase vibrant new talent.

The ATC youth company, which provides a bridge between training and the professional industry for up-and-coming young practitioners, is celebrating its eighth anniversary this year. It has grown from strength to strength, this year bringing in some of the industry’s most daring, bold and experimental professionals.

Exciting young professional actors Jordan Mooney (Once on Chunuk Bair, Hillary, Westside 2, Ash vs the Evil Dead), Kalyani Nagarajan (Polo), Caleb Wells (Lord of the Flies, Westside 2) and Arlo Gibson (Shortland Street) were all involved in NBT just before their acting careers took off. 

Actor, director and playwright Ahi Karunaharan (Tea, The Mourning After, Mumbai Monologues) will lead Shoulda Woulda Coulda; a devised piece exploring protest and revolution in a mash up that is part riot / part call-to-action. Ahi asks of his young cast, what will you fight to the death for?

Bronwyn Bradley (Go Girls, Sons, The Good Soul of Szechuan) will direct Angels (Reborn), an adapted version of the Samoan play with songs, Angels, by Tanya Muagututi’a and Joy Vaele.

Funny, heart-warming and ultimately touching, this rollercoaster story of the rise and fall of a teenage band is set in 1993 and features retro tunes, diva hits and gospel standards. During its world premiere in 2009, it was described as, “A voice of its own for Pasifika women and leaves us with food for thought as well as remembered laughter.”

Benjamin Henson is the mastermind behind Bravado! – the third show in the NBT line up. The award-winning director has been shaking things up since his arrival from London with his experimental company Fractious Tash. Most recently, they presented a sell-out season of an all-male take on The Importance of Being Earnest (Earnest) at Q Theatre and an all-male production of Titus at the Pop-up Globe.

He will be working alongside director Naomi Cohen (Lysistrata, Puss) and a full-female writing team of up and comers, including comedian Natasha Hoyland and Beanie Maryse-Ridler, whose debut play Defending the JJ Mac recently had a successful season at the Basement. Bravado! will also feature live band Galaxy Bear who will create a bold new musical experience.

Actor, director and playwright Ahi Karunaharan (Tea, The Mourning After, Mumbai Monologues) will lead Shoulda Woulda Coulda; a devised piece exploring protest and revolution in a mash up that is part riot / part call-to-action. Ahi asks of his young cast, what will you fight to the death for?

In March, over 100 young people auditioned for a role in NBT, and the cast will be announced in late April after they have undergone an intensive workshop.

Don’t miss out on the chance to experience these three original works, overflowing with lively music, razor-hot talent and laughs a-plenty, you might even find something worth fighting for.

Venue: Basement Theatre
Dates: 15 – 30 July, 6pm
Tickets: or (09) 309 0390  

Set design: Dan Williams
Production Manager: Jamie Johnston

Youth , Theatre ,

1 hr

Start Strong

Review by Matt Baker 26th Jul 2016

Devised with the cast under the direction of Ahi Karunaharan,Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda is the most earnest and self-effacing theatrical portrayal I’ve seen about what it means to be young. Theatrical deconstruction can be ostentatious at best when used by practitioners who are still learning its rules, but Karunaharan never allows his cast to waste it, providing content as the fundamental necessity above form. [More


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Energetic insights into life of young #1

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 18th Jul 2016

With 60 young people working alongside seasoned practitioners ATC’s celebration of youth theatre has thrown up three plays that coalesce into a wildly energetic, multi-vocal snapchat on what it is like to be young and alive in these troubled / muddled times.

Shoulda Woulda Coulda is a devised work embracing the random nature of everyday experience as it samples a bewildering array of personal and political issues. [More


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Provokes laughter and tears

Review by Leigh Sykes 17th Jul 2016

Ahi Karunaharan’s Director’s Note in the programme describes the show as a “theatrical mixtape [which is] a tribute to the act of protest, a celebration of revolution, a collage of small acts of stepping over the line.”

Signs of some of these small acts are seen in the visually interesting and endlessly useful set (designed by Daniel Williams) in the small Basement Studio space, where we encounter a brilliantly white floor and a wall filled with interesting items, pieces of paper and signs. The pieces of paper seem to signal sections of the show: ‘spray can runners followed by respect’, ‘Raven’s Solo’ and the hand-made cardboard signs signal some of the viewpoints to consider, including: ‘write slam not status’.

There are also items of furniture, loudhailers, many pairs of goggles and many other items, all of which may suggest content to come. At this stage, we don’t know and so already there is a sense of anticipation in the sold out audience. 

The Director’s Note goes on to tell us that the show has been devised with the cast, that is has grown out of “the need for political theatre by and for a young audience” and that the process has involved “much theatrical revelry”. We are invited to “let the party begin!” – and it certainly does begin with a bang once the cast fills the space.

Although my first thought is one of sympathy for the show’s Stage Manager (Raoul Shahil), who spends a few moments trying to tidy the items on the back wall before the rest of the cast appears, once paper streamers and metallic confetti start to fill the air, the mood of joy is infectious as the cast claims the space and I find I am very ready to join in this party. 

The structure of the show quickly becomes apparent with Nathanial Tan delivering the first solo section, supported by the attention of the rest of the cast who, like us in the audience, listen intently and respond to his monologue. From this point on the show becomes a fast-moving feast of group and solo items using many different forms to deliver many different messages.

There are items which use movement, items which use song, items which use slam poetry and items that use audience-suggested improvisation. In all of these items the solo performers are fully committed and engaged, while having the rest of the cast on stage to support them enhances and intensifies each item for us as an audience. 

Each item investigates a subject that has great meaning to the performer, including dyslexia, a battle with self-esteem and self-image, bullying and the difficulty of being a victim, the way that words can oppress us, flatting politics and the way social media statuses can shape our perception of each other while masking the reality of what is actually happening.

While on occasion the very importance of a topic veers its delivery towards the earnest side, what shines through for each and every performer is their personal integrity and belief in their subject matter.

Although it is difficult to discuss the show without giving too much of the content away (and I don’t want to do that because I fully encourage you to go along and experience this show for yourself), there are many moments, many of them visual, that stay in the memory long after the show has finished:
The cast passing around a variety of cardboard signs, perhaps trying to find the one that makes the most sense to each of them, one of which asks ‘scrabble later, anyone?’;

Raven-Leigh Faifua-Young’s ferocity in delivering her message, backed up by other cast members with ‘reassuring’ signs;
a group of young people with spray cans caught in a beam of light before scattering;
Iana Grace’s literal exposure of herself;
the cast sitting in strict rows as one person moves among them;
Ivanha Heynes movement-led sequence;
party balloons flying around the space;
Niamh Swannack entering with a bright pink sticker proclaiming ‘Urgent’ pasted across her mouth before ripping the sticker off and using her voice to wonderful effect;
Isaac Kelly’s stirring haka;
the cast partying and dancing individually and together;
Anita Ericson in a carrot costume;
Tessa Rao, back to the audience lit only by a lamp;
Raoul Shahil introducing himself as our Stage Manager and using that to launch his solo piece;
a variety of very funny door-knockers disturbing the evening for the engaging and joyful Nathanial Tan and Michael Lough as partners, and Michael’s extremely funny audience-dictated ten second improvisations presided over by Alex Dyer’s authoritarian ringmaster. 

In between moments of high energy and passion, there are moments of stillness that are extremely effective, and which force us to contemplate the questions we are being asked. Sound (engineered by Ahi Karunaharan) is used effectively, particularly in the use of voiceovers that draw our attention to other protests in other places, and which lead us to the over-arching question of ‘What would you protest for?’ 

At one stage the audience is directly asked this question, and the answers are improvised into a song which walks a very fine line between honouring and mocking the sentiments of protest.

In the end, all of the many and varied moments are woven skilfully and effectively together to create a show that is satisfyingly structured and which throws light on important themes. I am impressed by the skilful and passionate performers; I understand the message that we all need to stay engaged with this life and not give up on it, and I wonder how far some of these young people would go for their causes.

The final section of the show, where the performers create a candlelit vigil to music, is incredibly moving, as each cast member tells us which cause they would hold a vigil for. Some of these causes are pulled directly from events that are happening in Auckland and the rest of the world today, and some move me to tears. I laugh uproariously and cry with this cast, and on the evidence of this clever and thought-provoking show, I believe these young people would follow their causes all the way.

I love this show, and judging by the remarks I overhear from other audience members on the way down the stairs, I’m not the only one. 

Links to other Next Big Thing reviews:
Angels Re:born


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