Q Theatre, 305 Queen St, Auckland

10/02/2017 - 10/02/2017

Auckland Pride Festival 2017

Production Details

After a one-year hiatus – and in response to overwhelming public demand – The Auckland Pride Gala returns to the glamorous environs of Q Theatre on Queen Street for the official champagne cork-popping opening of Auckland Pride 2017!

The Auckland Pride Gala is a best-of-the-fest black-tie extravaganza, showcasing the most dramatic performances and devastatingly talented performers whose full-length works feature within the Auckland Pride Festival programme – plus a pantheon of guest appearances from rainbow community icons.

In keeping with Auckland Pride’s kaupapa of progress and change in 2017, this year’s Gala will be hosted by New Zealand’s beloved trailblazing transgender politician and superstar Georgina Beyer – accompanied by the voice of a new generation, respected young Fa’afafine performance artist, community worker and Auckland Pride Board member Jaycee Tanuvasa.

This completely unique and magical occasion will commence with a moving pōwhiri from Ahakoa Te Aha, and features special appearances from heroic dancer and choreographer Michael Parmenter; multimedia all-star Mika; and award-winning show-stopper Jay Chasland performing with Auckland’s rainbow community choir, GALS.

Outspoken performers from the 2017 Auckland Pride Festival programme will include Eli Matthewson from The Great Auckland Pride Debate and Bear New Zealand Week Comedy Night; Rock & Speir; Cole Meyers from Same Same But Different; Eddie Elliot from Intuition for Aroha ’17; as well as enticing excerpts from CAMPING, Legacy Project 4, Pardon Me Alan Turing, Ze: Queer As Fuck ¬– and more to be announced!

This year’s Gala is directed by Borni Te Rongopai Tukiwaho from Te Pou Theatre – a community-focused facilitator of safe spaces for authentic, empowering storytelling – who also directed the popular trans-musical People Like Us during last year’s Auckland Pride Festival.

The 2017 Auckland Pride Gala is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the LGBTIQ+ people of Auckland to show up, show off and show their love for the remarkable Georgina Beyer, who has been a shining light for progress and the physical embodiment of change in our communities for so long.

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Theatre , Stand-up comedy , Spectacle , Performance installation , Multi-discipline , Maori contemporary dance , Contemporary dance , Comedy , Dance-theatre ,

2 hours

Talent-rich celebration of difference and struggle

Review by Leigh Sykes 11th Feb 2017

The foyer is very crowded and many hugs, kisses and greetings are exchanged as we wait for the doors to open. The energy is high and the glitter is bright in this diverse audience displaying a wide range of size, shape, age, gender identification, sexual orientation and formality of dress.

We are called into the Gala with a moving pōwhiri by Ahakoa Te Aha, to find our hosts mixing and mingling and greeting old friends. We are then welcomed by Mika Haka, whose opening remarks touch on events in the US, without ‘you know who’ being named. This topical reference is taken up by our host, the beloved Georgina Beyer when she tells us tells us we will be seeing lots of alternative talent tonight, and thankfully very few alternative facts. She presides over the event like a benign monarch, resplendent in a leather wingback chair, while co-host Jaycee Tanuvasa sits on the steps at her feet.

The theme of this year’s Pride Festival is ‘Pride and Progress’, and the necessity for further progress is referenced a number of times during the evening. Kirsten Sibbit, chair of the Auckland Pride Festival Board references the diversity of different the communities represented by the Festival and suggests that sometimes they are all grouped together like sweets in a paper bag. She acknowledges the dichotomy between progress and struggle and urges us to rip open the paper bag and honour the progress made for some communities, while continuing to make further progress for other communities. Taken together, many of the opening remarks reflect a sense of unease about the world we are entering with the 45th President of the United States, and in some ways this seems to subdue the audience.

Cole Meyers’ spoken word poem from Same Same But Different at the LGBTIQ Writers Festival is a heart wrenching and affecting piece of poetry about transition that hits the audience in the gut, leaving us even more subdued as we process the pain that informs this raw and genuine performance.

Callum in the Aftermath, an excerpt from Legacy Project 4, written by Prior McCrae and directed by Meyers, explores similarly painful territory, but here the performers have to work harder vocally, and due to the audience configuration, it is sometimes difficult to hear the dialogue.

Eddie Elliott and Kosta Bogoievski’s performance of Intuition from Aroha ’17 Festival of Ideas is stunning in the speed and suppleness of the movement between the two dancers, with an overall sense of longing that continues the subdued atmosphere so far.

It is fitting that the early performances reference struggles that continue to occur, and it is with Michelle/Ryan’s performance, “Ze”: Queer as Fuck, that the energy starts to lift. The performance starts quietly and risks being drowned out by the background sound, but soon gains momentum to become a rallying call, claiming this festival for all of the ‘weirdoes’ and encouraging all of us to be ‘aggressively, relentlessly’ what we are.

From here on, the performances become more upbeat and celebratory. Eli Matthewson’s comedy touches on awkward conversations about Disney characters and other aspects of being gay, while Sir Dame Judy Ginger glitters aggressively in delivering the anthemic ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade’.

The first act finishes with Hot Brown Honey, whose ability to fuse many different musical styles sends the audience energy soaring. We are asked to join in and do so enthusiastically before spilling into the foyer for a well earned breather.

We are called back into the second act by the Auckland Pride Marching Troupe, who continue to entertain as we make our way back to our seats, before almost being blown out of them again by the skill and talent of Hope One The Beatboxer, from Hot Brown Honey.

Christopher Olwage and Cameron Mason’s dance performance, ‘Sweet Dreams’ from Coco for Roccoco, is stunning in the strength and connection on display. Both dancers are able to achieve some amazing balances and lifts, while alternating between desire and connection.

The next act is one of the highlights of the show for me, with the cast of CAMPING performing an extract from the show taking place in the Loft at Q. It is a perfect extract for a show like this, allowing all four performers to shine, while being beautifully self-contained. Despite being fortunate enough to have seen the show already, I still howl with laughter along with the rest of the audience at the antics of Les, Fleur, Francis and Connie. 

The energy of this scene is a tough act to follow, but Cissy Rock and Anne Speir’s scene riffing on a couple trying out for MKR generates laughs of recognition from the audience. The extract from Pardon Me Alan Turing that follows also generates laughs, mainly at the sheer bitchiness of the character of Alan’s mother. The performances show promise, although the short extract isn’t as self-contained as it could be. I am interested to see the full show.

From here, we are treated to some wonderful examples of singing (and lip-synching) to draw the evening to a close. The GALS’ rendition of Pompeii is enthusiastic and energetic and warmly received. Jason Chasland performs a medley of songs from Impostar: Who Does He Think He Is? showing incredible range and vocal ability. As our hosts draw the evening towards a close, Georgina Beyer is persuaded to perform, gaining a standing ovation for her lip-synched rendition of Whitney Houston’s ‘The Greatest Love of All’, with its themes of pride and diversity making it a perfect summary of the evening.

The finale, with Jason Chasland and GALS performing ‘Somebody to Love’ displays wonderful vocal acrobatics and has the audience joining in gleefully to bring the show to a close. Heartfelt thank yous from Director Borni Te Rongopai Tukiwaho complete the evening and suddenly it is all over.

Overall, I find the most effective moments in the show are those that are self-contained and highly polished (such as CAMPING and Hot Brown Honey) or full of revolutionary zeal and enthusiasm (such as Michelle/Ryan and Cole Meyers). Some excerpts struggle with in their ability to play to an audience in this configuration or to project in the space, but everything earns its place in this celebration of difference and struggle.

The gala is a great advertisement for the talent and creativity to be found in the festival, but I find the audience somewhat subdued. Perhaps the references to ’45’ and the state of the US betray a sense of unease that the battles which were thought to be won will in fact have to be fought again. On the evidence of this evening, however, it seems that there is still plenty of energy and appetite for the struggles to come, and plenty of excellent entertainment to be found in the Festival to come. 


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