27 September 2010

Ye best be comin' to this show: PIRATES

by: First Mate Dicko Fortuna

Arr Me Hearties!

T’is with great warmth of heart that I be here to announce that we be nearin Port Circa, with our pirate show all about pirates which we be callin PIRATES. 

We been at full sail fer some time now, with all hands on deck, either busy in the riggin, or rehearsing our jigs and learning our lines.  Learning lines has been tough as many among the crew ain’t clever with books an the like, so often we find we just has to make it up on the spot.  In fact given that the only one in the crew who can read is Jones, the cook, we may be forced to make it up the whole time, as Jones is usually busy making us Biscuits.  You see the biscuits Jones makes us are diffrent to the biscuits you lot might know...  Jones don’t got much in the way of eggs and such with us at sea most of the time, so he has to find other sticky things in the bottom of the ship to stick ‘em all together, like mooshed up snails and worms and weevils.  We try to get him to save the weevils though (they are much yummier as a side). 

We realised the other day that we don’t got much in the way of costumes, so we done what we done best.  Pirated!  The Mogul of India happened to be floatin past in a Caravel so we done hopped on board, tied ‘im to the mizzenmast and poked ‘im wiv spoons till he done agreed to lend us some fancy britches (Britches is like pants, but with puffier legs, like if normal pants were short pastry and britches were puff pastry, if ye get my drift).  So we might have to do a show about how we come about gettin such fancy britches.  We have had so many adventures recently I think we’s going to have to tell lots of diffrent stories. 

Like last week, Bosun Moon done lost his hand on the poop deck.  He put it down for a second to have a cup of tea and just like that a cheeky albatross whipped off with it and we haven’t seen it since.  It’s not too much of a worry though, Moon still has his normal two hands, he just likes to have a spare around in case things get busy.  And all the crew put our grog money together in Madeira and bought him a right nice hook, which he’s right over the moon about (actually that’s why we done re-named him Bosun Moon... He wanted to be Bosun Hook, but we thought Cap’n Hook might have something to say about that, so we started calling him Moon instead to keep his spirits up).

Also a few weeks back we noticed a lot of barnacles on the bottom of the ship, so we pulled in at Madagascar to careen her for cleaning.  We beached the ship at high tide, got all the crew off and dragged her up on shore as much as we could, and she was almost right out of the water when the tide went out.  But then, just as soon as we’d scraped all the barnacles off a pirate hunting privateer round the bay!  There was no way to escape so had to just pretend we was innocent bakers, not devilish pirates.  This worked a treat until he asked what a bunch of sailing bakers was doin with such fancy britches.  By this time though the tide had come in, so we just tied him to a coconut palm and sailed away in our nice clean ship!

Anyway, I can hear the Cap’n cursin’ me so I better get to work or we won’t make it in time to tell you rest of our adventures!  Just before I go...  People been asking what a bunch of ferocious pirates be doin making a theatre show fer kiddies.  Why you ask?  We just arrrrrrrrrrrrr!

PIRATES runs throughout the school holiday in Circa Two, with performances at 11 am and 1 pm Monday-Friday, and 11 am on Saturdays. To book tickets, call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or visit www.circa.co.nz.

20 September 2010

Fun for actors and audiences: My First Time

After enthralling audiences as the intriguing, would-be stamp-seller Jackie in Mauritius, Danielle Mason returns to Circa One in My First Time. She tells drama on the waterfront all about the current production, a show with “rock ‘n roll” element.

DOTW: What can you tell us about My First Time?

DM: My First Time is a unique piece of theatre in that it began as an American website [www.myfirsttime.com] set up by two guys who wanted to see if other people’s “first times” were as “bad” as theirs were. The response to the website - not just in America, but universally - was overwhelming, and savvy producer Ken Davenport realised the potential for a theatre show in which the real life stories, conveying the vast spectrum of “first time” experiences, could be woven together to provide an entertaining and provocative journey for an audience. The term “verbatim” theatre is a useful description, in that the words and stories are not made up but are the authentic testimonials of everyday people. Adding to the charm of the show is the fact that the “fourth” wall is broken, meaning the actors directly address the audience. Perhaps the most unique and appealing feature of the show is that the audience are invited to fill in survey cards pertaining to their own “first” experiences;  the comments and statistics of which are incorporated into the show in an anonymous way. It is a fun, refreshing, and totally inclusive piece of theatre that anyone can relate to.

Danielle Mason

DOTW: You play a range of characters with a variety of accents and experiences; what was the most challenging part of the preparation process?

DM: The most challenging part of the preparation process was creating specific and varying back stories for the multitude of different stories that must be portrayed. Each actor has several longer monologues which provide more clues and insight into to the background of the person, but there are also many “montage” type sequences, where we are firing off one-liners in quick succession. Conjuring a strong sense of somebody’s character in as little as three words requires clearly defined accents and mannerisms. The show has a sustained rhythm and pace which demands the actors to be “on the ball”; it is a wonderful work-out for any actor.

DOTW: Which of the stories you tell is your favourite?

DM: It is really difficult to settle on a favourite story, as they are all so different and the fact that they are real words from the mouths of real people is always resonant. One story where I portray a woman in a relationship with her wheelchair-bound tutor is definitely special, and another woman whose first experiences involved using a coke “douche” is always bittersweet.

DOTW: What can you tell us about the rest of the cast?

DM: The cast of My First Time are truly fantastic. Jude Gibson is a veteran of NZ theatre and brings a wealth of experience and a great sense of humour to the piece. Simon Vincent is also a seasoned performer who is currently involved in the multiple roles of acting, directing and producing theatre. Aaron Alexander adds a long history of improvisation to his acting repertoire which lends wonderfully to the piece, and he has recently become a dad for the second time! All are brave actors with a sense of adventure and huge respect for the stories that are being told. As an ensemble we have a great amount of fun that I think translates really well to the audience in this piece.

(left to right) Aaron Alexander, Danielle Mason, Simon Vincent, Jude Gibson

DOTW: You were last at Circa in Mauritius. How was it working on My First Time, in comparison?

DM: These two shows are so completely different in terms of style and the process required, but are equally challenging! Mauritius is a beautiful written quite classical albeit modern piece, whereas My First Time is built on the real, unembellished phrasings of real people; it is the way the stories are put together that the poetry becomes evident. In Mauritius the audience are drawn into and moved by this world that is independent of them, whereas in My First Time, the audience are as much a part of the show as the actors, and the more energy they breathe into the show, the more the show blossoms and transforms. I have absolutely loved having this opportunity to explore theatre and performance through both of these pieces.

DOTW: Audience members have been rather responsive during this show. What is the funniest thing that has happened during the show thus far?

DM: Audience members are indeed rather responsive during this show, which lends a rather “rock n’ roll” element, and a sense that anything can happen, which is part of the excitement shared by the cast and the audience! My First Time is the type of show that goes well with a couple of drinks at the bar beforehand, therefore it also means that people often require the restroom at some stage during the show. This in itself has provided some of the funniest moments, such as when a gentleman got lost on his way to the toilet and ended up backstage where our wonderful stage manager Isaac Heron was busy operating the slides! There are a couple of segments in the show where the theatre almost goes to blackout, and I think the audience senses this as a prime time to make a comfort stop, but it also means that they may receive a little heckling from the cast as they negotiate their way to and from their seats. Luckily there is nothing that can’t be incorporated into this show, and that is part of the fun of it, for the audience and actors alike!

The cast of My First Time.

My First Time runs until October 2 in Circa One. To book your tickets, call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or visit www.circa.co.nz. Tell us about your first time for a chance to win a great time! Go to www.myfirsttime.weebly.com for more details.

Photos by Stephen A'Court.

13 September 2010

“Like Theatre Heaven”: Shipwrecked!

Acclaimed actor Nick Blake takes a break from amazing audiences as the fabulous fabulist Louis de Rougemont to tell drama on the waterfront all about what a “joyous experience” it is to work on Shipwrecked!.

DOTW: Please tell us about the story of Shipwrecked!

NB: Shipwrecked! is based on the story of Louis de Rougemont who became very famous worldwide when his life story was serialized in a magazine in 1898. His life was a breathtaking Boy’s Own adventure of shipwreck in the south seas, encounters with a giant octopus, deep sea turtles, courage in the face of adversity, marriage with an aboriginal princess, and rather too may acts of heroic bravery. Eventually his story wilted under scrutiny of experts and he was written off as a fraud. He was a resourceful man who made numerous failed attempts to restore his good name. He died penniless in the 1920s. To this day the truth or otherwise of his exploits is still debated.

DOTW: What are your thoughts on your character, Louis de Rougemont?

NB: I am very fond of this man! If, as is believed, his story is only partly true, then he is right up there as one of the great storytellers. He had a great zest for life, self belief and, despite being a real Victorian imperialist in his views, had genuine respect for the abilities of the Aborigines to survive in what seemed to him an unremittingly hostile environment. In the play he is recreated as a showman in the vaudevillian mould, a show off and charmer who underlines the truth of his narrative at every opportunity. I relish every moment I spend in his skin. I love how he uses gymnastics to impress people- I do the same.

Nick Blake

DOTW: The part of Louis is a huge role in this play – how did you prepare?

NB: First I made sure I was fit as a fiddle as I figured stamina would be needed. I do yoga on an almost daily basis and mix in a bit of pilates and swiss ball to keep myself in condition. Also this role features some acrobatics. Back in the day I was an acrobat, having trained at the National Circus School of France, so I was able to dust off a few of the less life-threatening moves for Louis to do. I had fears my brain would blow a gasket learning all the lines so I launched into that task weeks before the rehearsals and did so well I rehearsed without the book in hand which freed me up to interact with the other actors and work on the rapport with the audience (a row of empty chairs most of the time!).

DOTW: What was the rehearsal process like? How was it to work with director Peter Hambleton?

NB: Without trying to sound ingratiating it was a fabulous process. Peter was very rigorous about what was part of the world of the play and what was not. We settled on the idea that Louis has just bowled into town that afternoon, found a couple of people interested in performing at  Work and Income, may or may not have gained permission to use the stage at all and is whipping through the performance at speed so he can take the money and run. So there are no stage lights, no fancy sound systems, and a few random props that have to serve everything in the story. I believe the more restrictions you place on an idea the more imaginative the solutions are likely to be- so this approach is like theatre heaven to me.

DOTW: What can you tell us about your fellow cast members, Jackson Coe and Darlene Mohekey?

NB: These two are jaw-droppingly talented. Right from the auditions with them I knew they would be great playmates in this world. They bring effortless skill to the multiple roles they play. Shipwrecked! would be unbearable if people only had me to listen to all night. Darlene has vocal abilities like no-one I have ever met- and what she does in Shipwrecked! only scratches the surface. Jackson brings such soul to my dog Bruno that I am gutted when he dies each night.

Blake with co-stars Darlene Mohekey and Jackson Coe

DOTW: I understand that Gareth Farr composed the music for Shipwrecked! What do you think the music adds to the production?

NB: Gareth has enriched the style of the production very subtly by using the abilities that we each have on a range of instruments to create a range of atmospheres and haunting melodies. He taught Jackson and Darlene to play Balinese Gamelan and that is used to magical effect. He encourages creative exploration then shapes it very precisely. Though the style of the production is apparently simple, Gareth has woven musical motifs through it with great skill.

DOTW: Finally, what else should audiences know about Shipwrecked!?

NB: An audience member said it was a joyous experience and I can’t think of anything better than that.

Shipwrecked! is on at Circa until 25 September. To book tickets, call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or visit www.circa.co.nz.

06 September 2010

Trouble on the Waterfront: Multi-Media Theatre Show

by Chris Prowse

The main inspiration for the songs in the show is the stories in David Grant’s book The Big Blue. This book is a fascinating collection of accounts, comments and insights into the 1951 waterfront dispute by a variety of people like – Rona Bailey, Ken Douglas, Sandra Lee, Dick Scott, and Jock Phillips.

Historically it was an interesting time. It was the beginning of the cold war. The world was divided by competing political ideologies. There was the “free world” and the “not-so-free world”. In fact, even the so-called free world wasn’t that free, for there was little tolerance of non-conformist views in either worlds.

When I released the album in October last year I thought I would follow the usual practice of doing gigs at music venues. But the content lent itself to something more. It has been a heap of fun for all us developing the content into a multi-media theatre show. It is as if the songs have taken on a new life. In fact a couple of new songs have been written specially for the show.

Chris Prowse

A nice thing about this project is that it involves musicians, broadcasters, sound designers, and visual artists. Between us we span several generations. A few of us were babes in arms in 1951. For the remainder of us these are stories that never made it into the school history books.

The Waterfront Collective

Trouble on the Waterfront happens at Circa for two nights only: September 12 and 13. Book your tickets by calling the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or visiting www.circa.co.nz.

Wharfside Restaurant:Wild about Wine #1

Hi, I’m Martin from Wharfside Restaurant at Circa Theatre. I have provided the food and beverage at Circa for the past 15 years or so. I have been asked if I could have a chat about wines in this and future editions of drama on the waterfront. I hope to introduce some basic information, maybe answer some queries or thoughts and have a little fun along the way.

It is interesting how we get caught up in our lives and can neglect ourselves in the process. Wine can be a great hobby and one that you only become more and more knowledgeable about, develop an appreciation for and, the best part, put in a glass and enjoy. Even while writing this I realise just how much I enjoy that aspect of wine, it’s a fantastic reason for socialising with likeminded wine enthusiasts.  

Martin Halliday

There are, of course, some standard tips with wine.  For example, you won’t find New Zealand’s examples of quality wines in bargain bins. Good wine does need to develop its own personality and that takes time. A lot of cheaper wines are produced to drink now, so do that and enjoy, but also get some interesting more expensive wines and put them away to develop, in other words make sure that you have some quaffing wine so that you don’t find yourself short and tempted to dig into your cellar of more expensive wines before they are at their best.  Important though, remember to drink the cellar wines – that’s part of the fun. Don’t leave them too long waiting for that special event as they will eventually pass their “best by point”. 

About four years ago I hosted the Breeze Chardonnay Club at Circa.  This was held at Wharfside for close on 2 years. Once a month we would have a tasting and chat about different wines and I would talk about either the vineyard and/or the wine style and what we had in the glass. It was a lot of fun and to me that is what wine is all about. 

The Breeze Chardonnay Club at Wharfside

Wine is such a vast subject. So much so, that a lot of people find it very daunting. There can also be a “snobbery” aspect to it and people can feel intimidated by what they perceive they should know about wine.  My belief is wine is to be sipped, enjoyed, talked about, developed; oh, I could go on. But I believe it should simply be fun. It could be argued by some that this view in some way devalues the wine experience. Hmmm.   However, in my book, wine and a person’s views tend to be a very personal thing. We like what we like and at the end of the day, it’s usually you that is paying for it so your view is the most important. Find what you like, maybe keep notes on what you like, if you come across a wine that interests you, investigate further, find out what vineyard produces it, purchase other wines from that vineyard and compare, perhaps even plan your next trip away to include a visit to that vineyard and find out even more about it. Make it fun. Remember there is never a right or wrong time to develop an interest in wine. It’s a fantastic and interesting pastime.  In fact sitting here writing about this reignites my passion and interest in this hobby.

At Wharfside we have a New Zealand-only wine list. Why? Well it’s simple; I like to support New Zealand produce where I can and New Zealand does make great wine! As the wine choice is so vast, I limit the wine options to wines that the average person is familiar with. There is a vast and often complex range of wines, the choice just in New Zealand is very extensive. There is representation in our wine list from my favourite vineyards: Kumeu River Auckland, Te Mata Hawkes Bay, Ata Rangi Martinborough, Mudhouse Marlborough, Kahurangi Nelson, Pegasus Bay, Main Divide Canterbury. I haven’t really developed a favourite in Otago yet. Why are these my favourites? Well for one, they produce excellent wines.  I have visited these vineyards and have stories about all of them and oh did I say they produce excellent wines!!!   It is nice also to have a range of wines from all over the country. We are very fortunate in this country that we have great wine selections available to us. Over 420 vineyards, some with histories going back over 100 years. Phew ... with such choice why not keep the wine list totally NZ made. 

My standout wine choices would be Te Mata and Pegasus Bay. Like a lot of wine producers in this country, the products they produce are good to excellent across the board but they excel in Reds. The Awatea and Coleraine Range of wines are some of New Zealand’s best Reds.  It is a great wine to collect, let it age, then drink, discuss and enjoy with friends. Pegasus Bay in Canterbury again, produces excellence across the full range, but their Reislings are to die for. Main Divide, Pegasus and Aria Reislings are fantastic, age well and are great to sip on weekend afternoons, again in the company of other wine enthusiasts and if you get the chance to visit their restaurant, it is constantly picking up awards and would be one of the best meals and dining experiences I have had.  

I’m going to wrap up now.  Keep an eye out for future blogs where we will get a bit more into specifics about wine and what I find so enjoyable about it, maybe answer some questions and get you thinking a little more about what’s in that glass you are drinking.  Heck we may even look at getting our own little wine club going at Wharfside. Why not, it’s all a bit of fun.

Cheers and have a great month.
Martin Halliday
Wharfside Restaurant
at Circa Theatre

Wharfside Restaurant is open before and after most performances at Circa Theatre. For any enquiries or to make a booking, please call 801-7996. For more information about Wharfside, visit http://www.circa.co.nz/circatheatre/Restaurant.