28 February 2011

flect-Re-flect: An appreciation of the genius of Alan Brunton and Sally Rodwell

Just before opening her New Zealand Fringe Festival show in Circa Two, Michelle Scullion sits down to tell drama on the waterfront all about flect-Re-flect.

DOTW: Please tell us a bit about  flect-Re-flect. What can audiences expect?

MS: flect-Re-flect is a show full of vibrancy, wit and pathos based from the writings of the late Sally Rodwell and Alan Brunton of Red Mole Theatre Company. The show is being performed by an eclectic group of people from a wide range of artistic disciplines in a semi cabaret style.

flect-Re-flect is totally music driven from a wide range of styles – ethereal to country, blues to rock, elements of torch song, classical and funk, and features a five piece band, two singing dancers and three singing actors.

I have gathered many of Alan’s poems and scripts from a variety of their published books and have included monologues of characters created by Sally Rodwell. In a Dadaistic way, I have woven these works together, like a mosaic tapestry and found there were some recurring themes evolving throughout the work. At times it is very Goon Show-ish, with a blend of song, monologues, dance, and with fast moving silly dialogue sequences by a group called The Twits.

I have written music to Alan’s poems turning them into songs, and the band supports the monologues being presented by the actors. All throughout the work, two male dancers interpret visually the thoughts and feelings of the words, which are very powerful, political and at times just plain silly.

DOTW: I understand that a personal item of Bob Dylan’s features in this show; what is the story there?

MS: I met Bob Dylan’s guitar “wrangler” during one of their tours of New Zealand years ago. After the concert at Athletic Park, I was invited back stage and Charles said – “Here, have this!!” I could not believe it – he was giving me one of Bob Dylan’s blues harps – in the key of Bb. I have treasured it ever since, and felt it was totally appropriate for me to include this in the show. I only learnt recently that the Blues Harp or Harmonica was Alan’s favorite instrument, so it was totally appropriate for me to use it somewhere within the score to the show. It has its own moment along with a Jew’s Harp.

DOTW: What was your inspiration for the creation of this show?

MS: I had the pleasure and honour of working with both Sally Rodwell and Alan Brunton in their theatre company Red Mole, when they returned from New York in 1989.  The show we were working on was called Comrade Savage, based on the life of Michael J Savage. I had been a firm fan of their work, so it was fantastic when I answered the phone to hear, “Michelle, this is Sally Rodwell. We are performing a show – would you be interested in being the musician of our new work?” I met them pretty much straight away in the Newtown Community Centre, where they were preparing to present the show.

Over the next 15 years, I continued to work with them both on many of their projects, both in Red Mole, and on other individual projects they created.

Last year I was in a show at BATS Theatre, a devised show based on the characters Sally had created – Rhonda Gonne, Stella Strange and Charity Cartwright.  I wrote music to the show, and turned some of their writings into songs, and support music to the monologues.  Jenny Stevenson, producer of the show, and I had discussions about developing some of the material into a full opera.  I decided to make a start by developing the concept and using much more of their text into a 75 minutes show, and to pull together musicians, singers and dancers to help realise my vision.

DOTW: What can you tell us about the other musicians/artists performing in flect-Re-flect with you?

MS: I am very proud of the people who agreed to be in this show. Some I have worked with for years and others are brand new to me. 

Sally Barratt-Boyes has sung on my scores for theatre, dance and film for over 3 decades. I find her classically trained voice rich and inspiring.  It is wonderful to be working with her again.

Grant Sutherland is our bass player, who I met in one of the bands Alan put together for some of his shows, over fifteen years ago. We have been friends ever since, and worked together on several of Alan’s projects including recording an album we created around his voice and poems. He is also our Graphic Designer, and has designed our logo and vibrant poster and flyers.

Scott Simpson is a guitarist who I have known for years, but have never worked with before. I actually rang him up to be my keyboard player – and his answer was, “Michelle, there is one problem – I don’t play piano – I play guitar”. To which I replied “I wanted a guitar player – will you still be in my show?” We have not looked back.

Peter Pritchard is our keyboard player, who I used to play jazz with way back in the ‘70’s.  He self publishes his albums he records in his home-studio. It is wonderful to be working with him again. He also has interest in with the Classical Music genre.

Alé Acevedo and I met about 5 months ago on a band-stand I had been invited to join some musicians from Chile, and there he was, with his beautiful instrument – The Hang.  This is a new instrument invented and released to the world in 2000, from Switzerland. We made an instant connection and I knew I wanted him to be the percussionist of the show. He performs an interesting collection of ethnic percussion instruments.

Mathew Pike is a newcomer to me. Jenny saw Mathew in a production of Cabaret late last year and told me about him. I went and saw his performance and knew I wanted him as part of the show. We found him on Facebook, met, talked and Presto!!! Another member of the company was born.

Jacquie Fee, LéRoi Kippen and Sam McLeod were known entities to Jenny, as recent graduates from the Wellington Performing Arts Centre, but strangers to me.

Jacquie has a passion for music theatre.  We met one lunchtime, and she sang for me in the open foyer of the Old Telecom Building on Cable Street – I instantly loved her voice and she is now part of the show.

Léroi Kippen and Sam McLeod are both superb dancers and have captured the concept immediately. As a person who loves dance, it is a pleasure for me to have these two wonderful artists as part of the show.

DOTW: What do you hope that audiences will take away with them after seeing your show?

MS: A really good fun night out at the theatre, watching original work created especially for the Wellington Fringe Festival 2011, and the want to see it being developed into a contemporary opera, as an appreciation of the genius of Alan Brunton and Sally Rodwell.

flect-Re-clect opens in Circa Two Tuesday, 1 March and runs until 5 March as part of the NZ Fringe Festival. For tickets, please call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz.

Wharfside Restaurant: February 2011

Wharfside has had a very busy start to the year with Circa’s sellout show The Motor Camp, the restaurant has been buzzing. The next show at Circa is also shaping up to be very popular and we recommend that if you are thinking of dining before the show, you book early.

Due to popular demand, we have now extended our daytime café fare to include an a la carte brunch/lunch menu. We have also introduced a limited children’s menu which is great value at $12.50 for two courses plus a drink. Please see below for new Menus.

Toast and Preserves - $6.00

Eggs on Toasted Ciabatta Poached or Scrambled - $8.00

Eggs Benedict on Lightly Toasted Ciabatta, with Bacon or Wilted Spinach - $15.00

Main Bill – Eggs (Poached or Scrambled), Free Range Pork Sausage
& Free Range Bacon, Sauteed Mushroom, Grilled Tomato &
Homemade Hash Brown - $19.00/$15.00 (light option)

French Toast with Berry Compote or Maple and Bacon - $16.00

Vegetarian Moussaka, smokey Chargrilled Eggplant, Potato, Zucchini, Mushroom
layered with fresh Tomato Provencal, topped with cheese - 17.50

Bread Selection Lightly toasted, served with homemade dips (for two) - $14.00

Roasted Capsicum filled with Wild Rice Risotto, served with Parmesan
& Basil Pesto - $17.50

Salmon Niçoise salad with Baby Potato, Beans, Olives, Egg, Tomato
& a Caesar dressing – 19.50

Chicken open Sammie on Lightly Toasted Ciabatta with Summer Salad, Aioli and
Tomato Chutney, served with Chunky Chips - $17.50

Minute Steak Burger, Mesclun, Onion Relish, Beetroot, Aioli and Cheddar
served with Chunky Chips - $17.50

Creamy Seafood Chowder with toasted bread - $17.00/$12.00 (light option)

Fish of the Day – Pan Seared, served with Fresh Mango Salsa, Salad Greens
and Chunky Chips - $19.50

               Free Range Bacon                        $5.50         Free Range Pork Sausage             $5.50
               Sautéed Mushrooms                     $4.00         Hash browns                                 $3.00
               Grilled Tomato                             $4.00         Wilted Spinach                              $4.00
Chunky Chips :            Regular - $5.50      Large  $8.00

Also Available:
A selection of sweet & savoury counter food, including sandwiches, wraps, pot pies, quiche, bacon & egg pies, vegetarian risotto cakes, scones, muffins, biscuits, salads, and more.
Alcoholic & Non-Alcoholic Beverage
Ice Creams

(For under 12s)

Main Options
Chicken Strips
Crumbed Fish 

(all mains served with salad or fries
and includes one soft drink or water)

Ice Cream Sundae

Most of my involvement with Wharfside is that unexciting behind-the-scenes stuff: administration, marketing and general day-to-day business paper trail stuff, but occasionally I do get on the “shop floor” to help out with functions and the like. 

I do enjoy the flexibility that having my own business gives me to be involved in other worthwhile activities. I think being part of a community means helping out where you can within that community. Several times a year I take donated ingredients and my cooking/baking services and head to a Lower Hutt retirement home to work with the residents to create a culinary masterpiece – well, we think it is anyway.  We have made everything from meatloaf and custard tartlets, to mini quiches, biscuits and cakes, grandma’s shortbread and much more. The residents have an absolute ball returning to yesteryears when so much of their time was spent in the kitchen cooking up a storm. I am also an Age Concern visitor and volunteer at a couple of other Elderly Care Centres when they need an extra pair of hands. The reward for giving just a little is so enormous.

Receiving flowers from a grateful resident.
Wharfside likes to donate to the community via several valuable charity organisations during the course of each year.  We also help out with onsite Charity fundraisers. Without these charities, which are predominantly run by volunteers, a huge hole would be left in the community and we therefore like to offer our support where we can.

Just a reminder that our restaurant is open from 5pm Tuesday to Saturday, and if you are coming to see a show at Circa, why not make an evening of it and dine with us first. If coming in on Tuesday or Wednesday, where the shows start at 6.30pm, you also have the option of pre-booking to dine after the show.  

Until next time.

Dee Ryan & Martin Halliday
Owners, Wharfside Restaurant & Café 

21 February 2011

Our Man in Havana: Fast, furious, funny and sharp as a tack

After playing the evil Sheriff Rodney Hyde (with a “y”) in Robin Hood, the Pantomime earlier this year, actor Jeff Kingsford-Brown will now take a turn in the ‘thrilling spy-spoof’ Our Man in Havana. He tells drama on the waterfront all about this “rollercoaster ride of a play”.

DOTW: What is the story of Our Man in Havana?

JKB: Our Man in Havana is the story of Jim Wormold, Expat Englishman and struggling vacuum salesman living in Havana, Cuba in the last days of the Batista regime, who is recruited by the British Secret Service. Even though Wormold is entirely unsuited to the cloak and dagger world of spies, secrets and lies, he allows himself to get involved because, as he puts it, he ‘needs the money’. While Jim thinks it is relatively harmless making up fictitious agents and imaginary top secret military bases, just to keep the SS happy, things start to go awry when an informant Wormold thought he has made up turns out to be real after all and is gunned down by the ‘other side’. As things spiral further and further out of control and then his closest friends is also assassinated, Wormold has to make some hard decisions about his role in the murky world of espionage and counter espionage.

DOTW: What can you tell us about your character(s)?

JKB: Jim Wormold is and Englishman in his late 40s whose marriage has broken down some time back, but has a 16-year-old daughter Milly, who he brings up in the Catholic faith (because he promised her mother he would just before she ran off with an American). He spoils Milly rotten and as a result his meager wage as a vacuum cleaner salesman is never enough. So he has this huge constant financial pressure on him, so when the British Secret Service approach him, even though Wormold thinks the whole thing is ridiculous and has not the slightest idea how to go about being a spy, he reluctantly agrees to become part of the spy network. But it is harder than it looks, and he finally takes the advice of his best friend, Mr Hasselback, and starts ‘making stuff up’ and receiving large sums of money. In order to justify his increasing demands for money, Wormold concocts an outrageous scenario.

DOTW: I understand that most of the cast plays a number of different characters; what has the rehearsal process been like so far?

JKB: One of the challenges of this piece, because of its multi-character nature, is to achieve precision in segueing from one character to another, using gesture, voice, costume to achieve that transition theatrically. While I mostly play Wormold, I also play the chief of the intelligence agency back in London, so it been interesting differentiating between the two. One second I’m the Chief, a gruff old spymaster in his late 60s, and the next Wormold, a very self-effacing chap indeed.

DOTW: What has been the most challenging aspect of this show?

JKB: To be perfectly honest, so far it’s been getting on top of the lines, its just an enormous challenge. I’m also only off stage for one scene in the entire piece so it’s a real test of stamina, making sure your energy is there from start to finish and getting the rhythm firmly established. The challenge is to make the character move believably from ineffective vacuum cleaner salesman to cold-blooded killer by the end.

DOTW: What has it been like to work with director, Ross Jolly?

JKB: Ross is just bursting with creative ideas both for the play and the characters, with a strong sense of the style required by this piece. Of course, having done a fair bit of stage-work in his time, he has a really great feel for what works and what doesn’t work, on the floor.

DOTW: Finally, what can audiences expect from Our Man in Havana?

JKB: A rollercoaster ride of a play, fast, furious, funny and a sharp as a tack, the sounds, the looks of 1950s pre-Castro Cuba with its brothels and casinos, agents, con-men and hookers lurking around every second street corner.

Our Man in Havana runs in Circa One from 25 February to 26 March. Tickets are available at the Circa Box Office: 1 Taranaki Street, 801-7992, www.circa.co.nz

Colourful Cuba Dress Up Night, Friday 4 March
Come along to Our Man in Havana as a colourful Cuban character:
Spy - Exotic Dancer - Policeman - Pimp - Hooker - Castro - You Decide!
It's a dangerous time, so dress to kill and spike your evening with colourful Cuban cocktails. Spot prizes for the daring and the exotic.

Book your tickets on 801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz

14 February 2011

The gloves will come off when The Improvisors present IMPROV CAGE MATCH at Circa Theatre

FROM The Publicist Feb 1st 4.43pm

Hi Pete and Greg,

So my idea for our Circa Blog post is to put up a improv slag match!

So gentlemen, you have from now until Friday to write a Cage Match insult tirade of epic proportions here in this Facebook message box - I'll copy it into a printable blog when you're done!

And . . . GO!

X The Publicist

FROM Greg Ellis Feb 4th 8.13am

It is quite clear to me, Pete Doile, that you are ducking me. I had already expected to see some insults here but you've had nothing to say for yourself and I know why....

You fear me

Simple as that.

Sure outside the ring you can break boards and pull off one inch punches but inside the Cage at Circa Theatre you know that not only will I break you like a cinder block but I'll sweep you up and tidily and conscientiously put you in a council rubbish bin and leave you out...

with the trash

FROM Pete Doile Feb 4th 3.59pm


I wasn’t ducking you, nor do I fear you, your assumption will be your down fall.
Come The Improvisers Cage Match not only will you be defeated but also you will finally realise that it will be I that “sweeps the floor” with you for the only sound that you will hear from the audience will be that of uncomfortable silence and the odd shuffle of feet.

I may not have the skill set you offer but I do have something that will match and overwhelm any attempt you have to overthrow me.

Greg, your time has come, your number is up, the people have spoken.

Your %$#@ is mine

The Improvisors Present:

22-26 February, 7.30pm
Circa Two, 1 Taranaki St, Wellington
Bookings: 04 801 7992 or www.circa.co.nz

2 Teams + 3 Rounds x 40 Minutes Each - No Rules = Improvised Hilarity!

Wellington’s best improv comedians go head to head with no rules and only a stopwatch to separate them!

Each night two teams of top improv comics clash to showcase their own styles of improvisation in a show that promises to be truly unpredictable.

Theatresports mixes with WWE RAW, music and satire sits alongside silliness, in a combustible brew that spills out of the ring and into the audience.

21 years ago this month The Improvisors staged their first show at the original Circa Theatre and they begin their 21st birthday celebrations in raucous style this February with Improv Cage Match.

In certain parts of society, no 21st birthday party is complete without a bit of a scuffle so The Improvisors decided to get this out of the way first up with a show that is improv comedy at its rawest, no-holds barred best.

There are a few egos among the folk here at The Improvisors,” says Artistic Director (and possessor of one of the bigger Egos) Greg Ellis. “And this will be a chance for those performers to really show whose best by tailoring their part of the show to suit their strengths perfectly. In most of our shows performers are out of their comfort zones trying things they may not be totally at home with, say singing, dancing or Shakespeare. Not this time.

Be part of the action, fuel for the scenes, decide the overall winner and laugh till it hurts! The gloves come off from 22 – 26 February. Don’t miss it.

Proud to be part of the 2011 Fringe Festival

07 February 2011

Heat: The future of power generation in New Zealand

Unlike other conventional theatre shows Heat uses self-sustainable energy means - powered off-grid with lights, sound and electronics from low drain and sustainable energy. This Spacewise unique energy installation on site at the theatre is a world first. 

Graeme Ebbett, Director of Ebbett Automation Ltd, tells drama on the waterfront all about his unique alternative energy system and its innovative partnership with a live theatre production.

DOTW: How did this unique energy system come to be partnered with a live theatre production?

GE: This system came about from a desire by the playwright, Lynda Chanwai-Earle, to simulate, as much as possible, the real-life conditions of the play.  We were approached as designers and suppliers of renewable energy systems for remote locations and the live theatre transportable package system grew from there.

DOTW: Can you tell us a little about the power generation system that is being used for HEAT? How does it work in the theatre?

GE: The power generation system replicates a typical hybrid system for a base camp hut in a remote arctic location as it would be today.  It uses renewable energy generated from the sun or wind and as back up, a small fossil-fuel burning generator when necessary.

In the theatre production mains power from the utility supply can be connected as a backup instead of the generator, but this is not necessary because, unlike the arctic location of the play, there is ample sunshine all year to power the show in New Zealand.

The entire power system is housed in a shipping container which opens on location to reveal four 125W solar modules on the roof and a 300W wind turbine on a pole clamped to one corner.

Energy generated by the sun and wind is stored in a 24v battery- bank.  A 2000W power inverter-charger converts the DC power in the battery to normal mains-quality 230v power which is supplied to the stage set via an aerial power lead.  Alternatively the inverter- charger can accept power from a backup generator (or mains).

DOTW: Do you see this production as the flagship for the future of interactive power generation in New Zealand?

GE: Yes, because the application is the perfect example of a typical domestic or small commercial renewable energy power system and the show gives it great public exposure throughout its Australasian tour.

DOTW: Are there any limitations to this type of power usage in a theatre production?

GE: Yes, there are.  Pivotal to the whole scheme is the ability to get the normal power usage of conventional theatre lighting down to manageable levels.

In this case lighting engineer Marcus McShane was able to use modern LED stage lights which consume less than 5% of the conventional lights. That made all the difference.

DOTW: What do you think having the alternative energy system adds – aside from power – to the production of Heat?

GE: It is my belief that the alternative energy system gives credibility to the production.  It adds authenticity to the stage scene and validates the various acts within the play such as having to turn off lights to conserve power and going outside to start the backup generator during a sunless winter.

Heat is on in Circa Two until 19 February. To book your tickets, please call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz