SEEN : : SANTA CLAUS

If there’s one thing Auckland’s Basement Theatre is good at, it’s subversive drama. If there’s a second, it just might be Christmas.

Opening last week, Santa Claus is the Basement’s 2017 Christmas show. Not only is it a bloody good time, the annual show is the Basement’s only fundraiser, with profits going towards their artistic development programme.

Presented this year by A Slightly Isolated Dog (Don Juan, Jekyll & Hyde) and featuring a special guest each night, Santa Claus follows the sexy pseudo-French group through multiple Christmases and explores the concept of naughty versus nice. Having seen A Slightly Isolated Dog’s previous two Auckland shows, it’s clear they have a signature style. Think audience interaction, surprise engagements, copious sound effects and well-crafted fight scenes.

As much as I’m obsessed with A Slightly Isolated Dog, when I saw they were sticking with this style for the Christmas show, I was a little concerned that I was in for a repetitive night. However, the festive and amplified audience interaction, combined with the original plot of Santa Claus, quickly squashed any worries. Unlike their previous shows, Santa Claus isn’t based on any well-known text, allowing more room for gags from the cast. While this means it’s not a show for the more brooding among us, if you’re just looking for some light-hearted laughs you’ll be totally satiated.

My friend was pretty nervous about the audience interaction that was sure to come, and I had to reassure her by saying that A Slightly Isolated Dog had previously tip-toed the line of too much quite expertly. Turns out I didn’t know what we were in for. Santa Claus took this element to a completely new level, with audience members not only being pulled up on stage, but there was even a cast/viewer make-out session. Luckily, the audience on the night I attended was completely into this – and it was the middle-aged dude in front of us who turned a mistletoe peck into something a whole lot more with actor Andrew Paterson.

The guest star of Santa Claus should also not be forgotten. Rose Matafeo graced the stage the night we attended, delivering plenty of one liners all the while in a state of apparent confusion. I quite like the way Santa Claus incorporates its guests – almost as viewers themselves. Matafeo seemed as surprised as we were at the strange plot of the show, allowing for genuine reactions. I imagine this would be important on the other nights, as not all the guest stars are comedians or actors themselves – think Maungakiekie MP Chlöe Swarbrick – so I imagine a more chilled role is beneficial to all involved.

Santa Claus boasts a fantastic cast, with Hayley Sproull, Jack Buchanan and Andrew Paterson all pulling their own weight. However, Susie Berry deserves a special shout-out. She perfectly delivered the moody Mrs Claus and was the backbone of the show, linking gags and driving the loose plot.

December is a crazy busy time but Santa Claus is a crazy fun show. Not only a great way to support one of Auckland’s best theatre spots, a ticket to Santa Claus is a guaranteed good time. Definitely worth seeing somewhere between manic present shopping and summer BBQs.

Santa Claus shows at Basement Theatre until 20th December. Tickets are available here.

 

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SEEN : : BILLY T JAMS

Rebekah Philson
Rebekah likes piña coladas and getting caught in the rain. When not getting confused for her sister, she spends majority of her days glamping under the Basement Theatre bleachers. While balancing yo-yo dieting and being sufficiently dramatic, Rebekah will pretend to have enough spare time to fill you in on the latest with Auckland’s theatre scene.

SEEN : : BILLY T JAMS

 

New Zealand comedy is pretty damn unique. Generally a particular mix of self-depreciating and awkward, it stands quite separate from the American-brand humour we tend to see in international media. Given that, it was a bold choice from me to bring along two American dudes to the 2018 Billy T Jams show, held at Q Theatre. Would they like the jokes? Would they even get the jokes? It was a risk. Luckily for me, the nominees for this year’s Billy T Award were up to the challenge.

A taster ahead of the 2018 NZ International Comedy Festival, Billy T Jams sees the year’s nominees come together for a short but sweet comedy showcase. This year was hosted by former award recipient Rhys Mathewson, who offered reliable entertainment even when it wasn’t clear if he was being laughed with or at (there was a weird joke about George Clooney pooping in there that was adored by my American pals but fell pretty flat with the locals).

First up was Melanie Bracewell, who started the show strong and actually proved to be my favourite. The perfect combination of awkwardness and impeccable timing, Bracewell hooked me from the start with her not-so-casual shakas.

Following Bracewell was Alice Snedden. Undoubtedly funny, Snedden’s opening period gag didn’t quite land with the audience, and she attempted to remedy this by literally restarting her segment. Snedden was at her best when delivering her political family-based jokes, but never seemed to fully recover from her difficult start.

Former Billy T nominees Laura Daniel and Joseph Moore came next, as music-duo Two Hearts. These two offered a welcome boost of energy, delivering one-liners and gags through pop ballads and raps. I normally don’t rate this sort of flashy humour, but Two Hearts had me rethinking this opinion.

The second half of the show saw three more comedians step up, and while still entertaining, didn’t grab me as much as the first. Donna Brookbanks came first and relied pretty strongly on physical comedy.

Following her was James Malcolm, who straightaway warned the audience to not be intimidated by his masculinity. Malcolm was another personal favourite, as he somehow managed to work through his sexual content so casually and confidently that I think even my grandma would be pretty chill about it.

Last up was Angela Dravid, 2017’s Billy T Award winner. Dravid has a uniquely deadpan humour that is quite disconcerting. I found her rehearsed set didn’t get me as much as the ones before, however her impromptu response to a white male heckler was outstanding.

All of the Billy T Award nominees have their own shows on offer before Last Laughs on May 20th, which will see one winner announced. My picks would have to be Melanie Bracewell or James Malcolm, but my American pals were way more into Two Hearts. I’d urge everyone to get amongst this year’s festival, but if you can only make it to one show then Last Laughs is undoubtedly your best bang for buck.

The 2018 New Zealand International Comedy Festival runs all over NZ from April 26th until May 20th. Check out all the available shows here.

 

SEEN : : LA BELLE ÉPOQUE NZIFF 2019

It looks upon your gaze with friendly eyes, a warmth leading your way into the 51st annual NZIFF. La Belle Époque, stylised as films rose tinted wire frames and horn rims, fell out of the Cannes selection into our hands and graced the mighty civic theatre, it’s glossy starry ceiling mirroring the memoriam put before us in Nicolas Bedos’ most recent outing.

“The multiple narratives; whilst often falling thin; offer the chance to approach nostalgia each a with different lens.”

Set in the modern day, La Belle follows Viktor (Daniel Auteuil), an apparently struggling sketch artist, comic and father, as he negotiates his way through a diverging marriage, his sons Oedipus complex, and declining career health. Maintaining his lowly characteristic wit, Viktor ends up on the raw end of modern romantic drama.

In this turn, he takes impetus from his sons generous offer of a “sequence” sponsored by his good friends company Time Travelers who offer the opportunity to revisit any period and be any character, playing host to nazi re-enactors and Hemingway fetishists alike – the elite few who can afford the service can recreate any moment in history in meticulous theatrical detail.

Viktor chose to return to when he first met his wife, May 1974, and through his drawings, this was re-enacted perfectly.

As with all westworld-esque narratives, where confusion and confrontation of memory really drive the plot forwards, La Belle Époque treads a really fine line that will cause you to question the integrity of the plot, and it’s natural to pick holes at the effect of this compendium of timelines. But Bedos uses this storytelling mechanism to balance multiple storyline’s, whilst mostly host to Viktor and his nostalgia, you’re witness to the struggles of Marianne (Fanny Ardant), Antoine’s (Guillame Canet) short temper and his love for Margot (Doria Tiller), and the conflict that this presents as she portrays the young wife Viktor is longing to meet again. The multiple narratives, whilst often falling thin, offer the chance to approach nostalgia each with a different lens. Whether you’re approaching a first date, a 50th birthday, or an anniversary ending in zero, La Belle can be a more important film than first impressions suggest.

It is this method through which; seeing nostalgia in either tyranny, bliss, or terror; we can fully understand the meaning behind La Belle Epoque. Whilst Viktor tries to recapture his fondest of memories, we also trip over the errs in judgement from Antoine and Margot as they tie in with Viktor’s “simulation”, and Viktor eventually confuses his nostalgia for the real thing. If it weren’t for Marianne’s regret and eventual return, we might’ve seen a Viktor torn from his own memory and wholly lost in the fictional world his nostalgia has framed for him.

Commercially, this film has pulled off a satisfying and thought provoking attempt at unravelling the riddle of memory; La Belle Epoque hits home on one point and does it well. Tempering the nature of memory, longing, or love, in the intangible place called nostalgia, we often find less time for our own love, which is where La Belle Epoque comes to a fulfilling finish.

SEEN : : AUNTY

 

AUNTY has transformed the Basement Theatre into the classic family BBQ, and everyone’s invited. The boisterous host is everybody’s favourite Aunty, and the audience are her family. Barbeques like this are almost always outrageous affairs, and Johanna Cosgrove’s award winning solo performance channels this outrageousness into an hour of genuine entertainment.

Instead of following a plot, the show consists almost entirely of a conversation between AUNTY and her family, and as such, the audience are often expected to speak when spoken to. Shows like this can often go wrong in one of two ways. If the scripted nature of the conversation is too apparent, it doesn’t feel like the actor is engaging with the audience, but simply talking to themselves. On the other hand, if the conversation doesn’t flow, it becomes a series of isolated jokes and resembles stand-up comedy more than theater. AUNTY manages to avoid both pitfalls. The direction of AUNTY’s conversation feels natural, and Cosgrove takes the time to play off of any reactions or comments made by the audience. Some of the funniest moments of the play were created by Cosgrove having to respond to an audience member unexpectedly chipping in.

Such contributions from the audience are encouraged, and it is unlikely that any audience member will escape without some form of participation in the show. Plates of food are passed around, and at one point half the audience got on stage to dance to one of AUNTY’s favourite songs.

If you’re looking for drama, tension, or a show where you can just sit back and watch, then AUNTY likely isn’t for you, but if you’re keen to engage with an energetic and hilarious character, then you should absolutely accept AUNTY’s invitation.

AUNTY is playing at the Basement Theatre until the 16th of September. Tickets are available for purchase here.

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SEEN : : OTHER [CHINESE]

 

SEEN : : OTHER [CHINESE]

The product of a series of workshops over the last few months, Alice Canton’s Other [Chinese] opened last week at Auckland’s Q Theatre.

Evolving from her solo work White (Other), Canton’s latest show is promoted as a live documentary. Featuring a large cast all of Chinese background; Other [Chinese] is an important look at what it is to be Asian in New Zealand.

Other [Chinese]’s presentation is simple yet striking. Before entering the loft of Q Theatre, audience members are advised to remove their shoes. A simple red stage takes up half the theatre, with one-level seating taking up the rest. The stage is slightly elevated, though maybe not quite enough to stop me from craning my neck throughout the show. Despite facilitating quite a big audience, Other [Chinese] manages to be rather intimate through the personal stories, answers and confessions that are presented over the course of the show.

Throughout the show videos are displayed on screens behind the stage, which are surprisingly emotive. The show opens with a montage, showcasing and twisting Chinese figures and words in the media. As footage from YouTube is displayed (I recognise an embarrassing amount), fun makeup videos turn slightly sinister when apologies for slanted and hooded eyes are made. These screens are later used to show interviews that range from empowering – a girl who is an 8th Chinese talks about her connection to her ancestors, to confronting – a couple of elderly Chinese individuals insist on the need for assimilation.

Other [Chinese] is made up of both performance pieces and quick fire questions. While the moments of performance are powerful and enjoyable – performance artist and poet Vanessa Crofskey is a standout – it’s the opposing questions Canton asks the cast that seem to reveal the most. In these moments Canton is literally conducting her workshop on stage. She asks the cast a range of questions – from “sweet or savoury” to “should the minimum wage be raised”? The cast members move to either the left or right of the stage, or even in the middle, depending on their stance. It’s easy to judge the people who stand on the side of the stage you disagree with, and I caught myself doing so on multiple occasions. However, Canton then asks them why they feel that way, and their answers, sometimes routed in their Chinese experiences, have me reassessing my own thinking.

Despite its serious topic, Other [Chinese] is rather humorous. Particularly entertaining performers worth noting are Paul Teo, an older member of the cast who offered multiple anecdotes, and Aiwa Pooamorn, a Thai mother whose articulation is bold and explicit.

My favourite part of Other [Chinese] was actually discovered after the show, while chatting to Canton. As I waited to say hello, I listened to a Chinese mother and daughter say how much the show meant to them and ask if they could get involved. It turns out this is a response Canton has received a few times, and one she welcomes. While Other [Chinese] consists of a core ensemble, other Chinese participants are welcome to join in for a night or two and take part in the opening dance and onstage questions. I feel like this solidifies the community vibe of Other [Chinese] and really highlights its importance.

As a (very) white person this show meant an unanticipated amount to me. I would urge New Zealanders of any ethnicity to see it.

Other [Chinese] shows at Q Theatre until this Saturday. Tickets are available here.

SEEN : : VELVET

 

More of a party than a performance, globally acclaimed Velvet is currently showing at Auckland’s Q Theatre. Promoted as a “divine discotheque circus”, Velvet is part of the Auckland Live International Cabaret Season.

Directed by Craig Ilott, Velvet has received pretty stellar reviews since its conception in 2015. An international show with an award-winning cast, Velvet’s promotion sets some rather high expectations. The show starts strong, and audience members would be forgiven for thinking they were in a nightclub rather than a theatre. All flashing lights and smoke machines, Velvet instantly sets the scene.

Preshow entertainment comes in the form of Joe Accaria, who grooves and DJs above the main performers throughout the entire show. The performance proper starts with Mirko Köckenberger, handstand acrobat. An absolute joy to watch, Köckenberger delivers his unique performance with both amazing skill and genuine enthusiasm.

Velvet at first seems to follow a set formula – one acrobatic performance, then one singing performance. A wacky hula hoop sequence by Craig Reed is followed by a soulful ballad from diva Marcia Hines. Hines is backed by two supporting vocalists/dancers – Kaylah Attard and Rechelle Mansour – who prove to be a major highlight as they manage to constantly hold my attention with perfectly timed moves and vigour.

About halfway through the show, Velvet steers away from acrobatics and seems to focus exclusively on singing. This seems odd, especially since there are at least two acrobatic entertainers who barely feature on the stage. I found this rather confusing, especially because the circus element of the show had been heavily promoted. Based on trailers from international performances of the show, I’m relatively confident this Auckland edition is missing some of the aerial acts that I imagine lift Velvet to the next level.

Velvet is without a doubt an incredibly fun show. Audience members are encouraged to dance and sing throughout, and I definitely saw some people who literally didn’t sit down. So despite its missing moments, Velvet is a good time. At $65 to $85 a ticket it definitely serves as a great night out for the more bourgie among us.

Velvet shows at Q Theatre until this Sunday. Tickets are available here.

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SEEN : : AMAZING GRACE NZIFF 2019

As you look soul square in the eyes; let it fulfil you and embrace you all at once; a chance to witness one of the most glorious voices to grace this earth

In 1972, Aretha Franklin; recently crowned the queen of soul and off the back of a number of top hit albums; returned to her roots and decided to record a gospel album with Reverend James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles. Whilst never emotionally leaving the church, artistically this took her back to her childhood roots, travelling with her father Reverend Clarence Franklin, singing gospel. It was no surprise when the album immediately became the greatest selling gospel album of all time.

This film follows the two day recording of the album, through the eyes of Sydney Pollack. Unfortunately, due to technological restrictions the film was never released. Now brought back into the world, you owe it to yourself to get along at see for yourself the true unadulterated power of Aretha Franklin. As Justin Chang of the LA Times wrote; “Aretha Franklin didn’t transcend the gospel or gospel music; as first her album and now this marvelous documentary remind us, she did more than most to fulfill its potential for truth and beauty, devotion and art.

Become privy to one of the most incredible performances of gospel we might ever be audience to. Aretha fills the room with an elegance that requires no speech nor introduction, no tome nor timbre. This is a unique movie going experience that can only be met with admiration. As you look soul square in the eyes; let it fulfil you and embrace you all at once; a chance to witness one of the most glorious voices to grace this earth. A tragic loss in 2018, Franklin will forever live on as the queen of soul – and this honest and open performance is a chance to; with soft tones and a full heart; appreciate one of the greatest to ever utter a chord.

Using E Liquid Supplements To Quit Smoking

 

In the world of New Zealand, e liquid NZ is quite a popular topic. There are many reasons behind this and all valid. For starters, it is very convenient to carry around liquid vitamins as they can be carried in different flavors depending on one’s personal taste. Moreover, liquid supplements can be bought online and delivered straight to your door. Online purchases have gotten easier and safer these days so that the concerns of delivery costs have become a thing of the past.

The other reason why e liquid NZ is becoming so popular is that prices have come down considerably since it first came out. There are liquidators across the country and prices are very competitive. The most famous liquidator in the country however is GNC, which is not a liquidation company but one that sell a lot of health supplements. This is one of the major reasons why e liquid NZ has become so popular.

It is important to remember that e liquid NZ is not the same as ordinary nicotine gum or patch products. e liquid is a stimulant that does not contain nicotine but an alternative called “RTN” (roxenhydrogen peroxide). When consumed, it passes through the blood stream and then settled at the site of action, for example in the lungs, which is what causes you to get nicotine poisoning.

With e liquid distributors offering it at such reasonable prices, it is easy to see why it is so popular. Nicotine-free chewing gums and patches are convenient but they do not really provide any extra benefits. e liquid distributors on the other hand offer a good alternative that does not tat get wasted in your system. In fact, e liquid distributors often make use of natural ingredients like acai berry and goji berries to make it more effective.

When you choose e liquid NZ over regular nicotine gum and patches, you are choosing a healthy option. e liquid distributors are known to offer good quality products with high concentration of acai berry and goji berries. You would normally find these fruits in Brazil. The acai berry contains large amounts of antioxidant vitamins like vitamin B and vitamin C, which can help in burning the fat that is stored in your body. Goji berries are known for its rich source of anti-oxidants that can prevent cancer.

The only problem with using e liquid distributors to help you stop smoking is that you have to visit one of their retail outlets for it to work. They can be difficult to locate in your area though. This is why it is important to look online for a local distributor. Many online companies offer different flavours and brands of e liquid for sale. If you want to try something new, there are also liquid distributors offering it exclusively.

It is also important to remember that e liquid distributors do not promote their products. Some are associated with tobacco companies that simply sell the product in bulk, while others simply sell it as a supplement. This means that you might have to pay more for one product, but you are likely to get a higher concentration of nutrients than what you would get from buying it in its original bottle.

Finding quality of liquid distributors in NZ is very easy. Just make sure that you check their background carefully before buying from them. Most companies have been in business for years, so they are probably quite trustworthy. If you want to buy e liquid NZ, make sure you check out some of the recommended ones on some websites to help you make the right decision.