The Other Side of the Fence
27/02/2006 - 02/03/2006
based on 3 stories from Pounamu Pounamu by Witi Ihimaera, adapted by Rick Loos and Amanda Dennis
directed by Rick Loos
“Don’t any of you set foot over this side of the fence again, do you hear?”
A stage adaptation of 3 Stories from Witi Ihimaera’s Pounamu Pounamu.
Performing Arts graduates and students of Te Wananga o Aotearoa [Rotorua]
Review by John Smythe 28th Mar 2006
As Witi Ihimaera graces the front of the latest Listener, draped in a lissom ballerina bride (to publicise his about-to-premiere ballet, The Wedding), it is interesting to be reminded where the never-ending story of his stellar career began.
For students of the School of Performing Arts at Te Wananga o Aoteroa ki Rotorua, tutor Rick Loos (also director) and artist Amanda Dennis (also set designer and props person) have created an ideal performing exercise from three short stories in Ihimaera’s debut short story collection, Pounamu Pounamu (first published in 1972, then revised to give them a more contemporary edge and republished 2002). One Summer Morning (E Tetahi Ata Raumati) and A Game of Cards (He Kemu Kari) are blended into the over-arching story, The Other Side of the Fence (I Tua Atu o te Taiapa).
Guitarist Barry Smith deftly establishes moods and accompanies a variety of waiata as the ensemble of nine performers bring 27 characters alive in a fluid show. With understanding, humour and various levels of skill they depict archetypal characters and situations that were a revelation to many New Zealanders 34 years ago and have since become extremely familiar.
The dynamics of family life, the boy wanting to be a man then realising too late what he’s lost when confronted with adult responsibilities, the card-playing aunties, all serve to enrich the central them-and-us story. The questions remain: can the Heremaia Family on one side of the fence, and the flash Simmons family on the other, ever co-exist in harmony and understanding or will tensions always prevail? Do either or both have a vested interest in maintaining the conflict? Has anything changed? If so, has it been for the worse or the better?
Doubtless the experience of bringing The Other Side of the Fence from Rotorua to the Fringe, and having the chance to see other shows in the process, has added great value to the students’ studies.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Barry Smith March 6th, 2006As a colleague of Rick Loos I can testify to the frustration he faced settling on a final casting. I add this point not as a defence against John's very reasonable comments on standards, but to confirm that for both Rick and myself there is clearly the need to emphasise more during the course the essential matter of individual and collective responsibility required of those who perform on stage, particularly when in a public environment. I too appreciate the considered observations by both John and Michael. They have raised some key issues that deserve serious consideration and exploration in class and elsewhere.
Barry Smith March 6th, 2006With my crude editing the delete function outdid itself removing an entire phrase - my comment was of course referring to responsibility for all aspects of indi
Rock Loos March 5th, 2006Thanks John for the review, and Michael for your comments. Michael, well done for absorbing my 'external voice' into the pattern of the show, but there really should be no need for it. We had some serious personnel problems during rehearsal, and in the end actors had to take on extra roles in the last few days of rehearsal. I agree with John that a performing arts school should be better prepared, and this is part of the learning curve for our students. But both of you, thanks again for your comments. As artists shouting into the void it's good when someone hears you.
Michael March 4th, 2006We attended on Monday 27, which I think was their first night. I don't know which night you attended, but on the Monday the performers were obviously affected by nerves and required prompting for lines several times - about 10 times in all. The prompter was also a musician and sat to the side of the guitarist with a script in hand, presumably Rick Loos? Initially, the prompting felt distracting and we feared for the composure of the actors. After the third or fourth prompt however, we absorbed this external voice into the pattern of the show and returned to the normal audience condition of "suspended disbelief".
John Smythe March 4th, 2006I went Wed 1 March. Rick Loos had to prompt once - the first time I've heard a promt in many a year. I've been brooding a bit on this show. Had it been a high school, fair enough. But as a School of Performing Arts I think higher standards or preparedness, at least, can be expected.