You Can’t Surf in Aotea Square

BATS Theatre, Wellington

08/08/2006 - 12/08/2006

Production Details

Devised by Unitec-Acting Year 3 students
supported by Ros Gardner and Heath Jones

A collage of characters that move in and out of Aotea Square, bound together in a story of death, love, and Auckland City.

It’s skateboarders on sculptures, seagulls versus lawyers, sushi eaters, hamburger eaters, lovers and the lost walking through a place that claims them.

Performed by:
Ali Foa’i
Nora Aati
Henderson Simmonds
Kate Simmonds
Daniel Coppersmith

Theatre ,

Another gem from Unitec

Review by John Smythe 09th Aug 2006

Extremely well written and engagingly performed, You Can’t Surf in Aotea Square is a gem of a show, alternating at Bats with La Creduta Morta, the other Unitec Year Three Acting performance (see below for remaining schedule).

Some initial confusion didn’t bode well. With publicity promising “a collage of characters that move in and out of Aotea Square”, I guess I was expecting an Auckland version of David Geary’s King of Stains (Young & Hungry 1996 & 2004) which depicts a Friday night in Courtenay Place.

But the actors are all dressed as Auckland City Cleaning Crew and while some dynamically executed rap and dub sequences do suggest the milieu of Aotea Square, the monologues that form the substantive part of the show have nothing to do with it – and none of the characters are likely to be working for the Council. Their uniform costuming didn’t do it for me.

Nevertheless the characters and stories that emerge are memorable with many offering fresh new twists in both perception and presentation. The first three, are performed by their writers (or vice versa).

In Mindsex, Ali Foa’i, recounts stoned love for a girl who betrays him with his younger brother but hey, “Bro before ho!” Yo. Sophie Henderson’s Fantail also involves a younger brother, Pi (short for Piwakawaka). She captures the dreams and experiences of a stroppy young country girl working at a Service Station in the big smoke, before delivering a king hit, story-wise.

As Lani From the Block, Nora Aati plays a Samoan girl attempting to navigate her way out of an arranged marriage to a Minister, fresh from the Islands. Playing out her mother’s dream doesn’t exactly fit her own one, of being a professional dancer. Besides, she’s in love with a palagi rapper …

Three of the remaining five pieces are written by students who also perform in La Creduta Morta. Julia Hyde cryptically entitled K95239 is an ingenious sketch about three bitches in the lock-up for street fighting, with Fao’i, Henderson and Kate Simmonds relishing their roles.

Simmonds goes on to play a homeless South African immigrant in Fight or Flight, written by Myles Tankle (who hails from Johannesburg), recalling the veldt, where anything can happen – and does. A stunning effect with invisible face paint tags this sequence effectively.

The fifth member of the ensemble, Daniel Coppersmith, joins the women in Spoken Word, a devised character collage. The Nora Aati honours Morgana O’Rielly’s extraordinary writing in Seeking Ordinary, deconstructing a lonely heart advertiser with the skill of early Alan Bennett.

The most inventive showcase device is left to last where, in his It’s a Comic Life, Coppersmith plays a cartoon character who is attempting to talk his creator into giving him some dignity. As the others shine lights on him, then at us in the creator role, he segues through a range of characteristics in his search for a credible and admirable self. Great stuff.

Again I urge you to get down to Bats and see one, either or both shows:

Thursday 10th
11am La Creduta Morta, 1pm You Can’t Surf…, 7pm La Creduta Morta

Friday 11th
11am You Can’t Surf…, 1pm La Creduta Morta, 7pm You Can’t Surf…

Saturday 12th
2pm to 4pm: Info and Expo, 6:30pm Double bill performance of both shows


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