28 November 2011

I, George Nepia: Rugby's first global superstar

Playwright Hone Kouka talks about his play, I George Nepia, which will return for a second season at Circa 8-17 December.

DOTW: For those who weren’t able to see I, George Nepia the first time it was at Circa, what is the story?

HK: I, George Nepia is the story of a country boy who, after the All Blacks 1924 tour of the UK, became rugby’s first global superstar. It also follows parts of his life after rugby in particular his relationship with his eldest son and wife.

DOTW: What made you decide to write this play? What is your connection to this story?

HK: The decision to write the play now was due to the 2011 Rugby World Cup, it was also that nothing had been written about this man. My connection to the story is that he is a great uncle to me on my mother’s side of the whanau and that I was brought up on the legend of the great George Nepia.

DOTW: What can you tell us about actor Jarod Rawiri? What do you think of his portrayal of your script?

HK: Jarod Rawiri is an established stage and screen actor based in Auckland, he was recently nominated for best actor in a television series for the 2011 AFTA’s for his portrayal of Hone Heke.

Jarod’s portrayal of young and old George is “fabulous,” this is the word used by one of George Nepia’s family members who attended the opening of the play during the first season at Circa. Jarod has also been nominated for a best actor award at the 2011 Chapman Tripp Theatre awards for his portrayal of George Nepia.

DOTW: Tell us a bit about the development process; when did you begin working on it and how did it get from there to here?

HK: I thought about the story and how to tell the story of George Nepia, not long after it was announced that NZ would be hosting the 2011 RWC. The early sketches were workshopped in June of this year at the Matariki Development Festival and the script that is seen on stage is what was created. It was a relatively short amount of time to actually write the work.

DOTW: George Nepia’s whanau attended the play during its original season at Circa – what were their reactions to the play?

HK: The reaction for the Nepia whanau who attended the opening night of the original Circa season was excellent, some members called out to the character of George during the performance, most grabbed those involved with the project to give thanks of a wonderful picture of their grandfather, uncle, father. It was a privilege for us also to work so closely with George Nepia III in the development of the work.

DOTW: Finally, I, George Nepia enjoyed a sell out season at Circa in September – what has been the general response from the audience?

HK: The general response has been very positive, a nice surprise for us is that the theatre and rugby community have both responded similarly, both very positive.

To book, call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz.

Aladdin, the Pantomime: Don't miss it!

Actor Nick Dunbar takes time from Aladdin to tell drama on the waterfront all about playing an evil villain and a polygamist Sultan.

"I play two characters in Aladdin: Abanazar, the villain of the piece, who has the hots for the beautiful Princess Jasmine (I mean, who wouldn't?), daughter of the Sultan. He is also bent on eventually ruling the country and also of course becoming rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrich! It's all easily done, as long as he gets that magic lamp back. His friend and companion Kebab, played by himself, is a demon, literally. They're pretty close and are experts in magic (real) tricks. Abanazar and Kebab could tell you how the magic tricks are done, but they would have to kill you afterwards, and that's just one example of how evil they are.

Nick Dunbar as the evil villain Abanazar. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
I also play the Sultan, the supreme ruler of the land, Old Arabee. He's Princess Jasmine's dad, and would like to see her married off to someone with lots of cash, squillions in fact. The laws of old Arabee decree that unless a woman is betrothed by the time she is 20, she is doomed to live the rest of her days single. He spends most of his time partying at the palace with his seven wives and chopping peoples heads off with his Big Chop machine. It's lots of fun. He has a wide screen tv in every room at the palace, even in the toilet, and owns 143 luxury cars, none of which has been driven.

 It's been a blast working and playing with everyone involved in Aladdin, and if the audience's response in the first week is anything to go by, it's going to be a great season ... Don't miss it!"

Aladdin runs until 23 December and then comes back in the New Year for a two week season 3-14 January. Pre-Christmas performances are filling up fast, so get your tickets quick! To book, call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz

21 November 2011

2011 Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards Nominations

Circa Theatre is very excited to congratulate the talented artists who have been nominated for the 2011 Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards for their work in Circa productions. We are very proud of all of the nominees and wish them all the best for the awards presentation on 4 December.

And the nominees are ...

Downstage Theatre Award for the Most Promising Male Newcomer of the Year 
Anthony Young - The Motor Camp

Anthony Young in The Motor Camp
Circa Award Donated by TACT for the Most Promising Female Newcomer of the Year
Chelsea Bognuda – Eight
Lauren Gibson - August: Osage County
Florence Mulheron - The Motor Camp

(Left to Right) Chelsea Bognuda in Eight, Lauren Gibson (with Christopher Brougham) in August: Osage County, Florence Mulheron in The Motor Camp

Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School & Victoria University of Wellington Award for Most Promising Director of the Year
Jason Te Kare - I, George Nepia

I, George Nepia
The Absolutely Positively Award for Costume Designer of the Year
Sheila Horton - When the Rain Stops Falling

Grouse Lighting Award for Lighting Designer of the Year
Marcus McShane - When the Rain Stops Falling

The cast of When the Rain Stops Falling
Weta Workshop Award for Set Designer of the Year
Andrew Foster - The Lead Wait
John Hodgkins - When the Rain Stops Falling

Park Road Post Production Sound Designer of the Year
Chris Ward - The Lead Wait

The Lead Wait
Constance Scott Kirkcaldie Award for Outstanding Composer of Music
Gareth Hobbs - When the Rain Stops Falling
Miriama Ketu-McKenzie - I, George Nepia

Peter Harcourt Award for Outstanding New Playwright of the Year
Sponsored by Bats Theatre & Taki Rua Productions
Paul Baker - Meet the Churchills 

Meet the Churchills
The Playmarket / Capital E National Theatre for Children – Outstanding New New Zealand Play of the Year
I, George Nepia - Hone Kouka

The Orbit Corporate Travel Award for Supporting Actress of the Year
Sophie Hambleton - When the Rain Stops Falling
Jane Waddell - August: Osage County

(Left to right) Sophie Hambleton in When the Rain Stops Falling, Jane Waddell (with Jeffrey Thomas) in August: Osage County

Chapman Tripp Award for Supporting Actor of the Year
Christopher Brougham - When the Rain Stops Falling
Simon Vincent - Our Man in Havana
Jason Whyte - August: Osage County

(Left to Right) Christopher Brougham in When the Rain Stops Falling, Simon Vincent in Our Man in Havana, Jason Whyte (with Jeffrey Thomas) in August: Osage County

Emerging Artist Trust Wellington Accolade for Outstanding Performance
eCaster Accolade for Outstanding Performance
Chapman Tripp Theatre Award for Actress of the Year
The ProActors and Gail Cowan Management Award for Actor of the Year
Michelle Amas - August: Osage County
Jennifer Ludlam - August: Osage County
Jarod Rawiri - I, George Nepia
Jason Whyte - When the Rain Stops Falling

(All nominated for all four categories)

(Left to Right) Michelle Amas in August: Osage County, Jennifer Ludlam in August: Osage County, Jason Whyte in When the Rain Stops Falling

The Museum Hotel Award for Director of the Year
 Jason Te Kare - I, George Nepia

Chapman Tripp Award for Production of the Year
 I, George Nepia - Tawata Productions
When the Rain Stops Falling - Circa Theatre

When the Rain Stops Falling
Tickets for the 2011 Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards are available now! To book, go online at www.downstage.co.nz. The ticket price is $70 per person (includes event passes for show, light supper and beverages). 

14 November 2011

Aladdin, the Pantomime: It should be a Les Mills class!

Actor Gavin Rutherford talks about taking on the role of the most famous pantomime dame of all, the Widow Twankey, in Roger Hall's adaptation of Aladdin, the Pantomime.

“The big one. When it comes to pantomime dames there is no more famous character than Widow Twankey and it is my privilege to be playing her this year. Roger Hall places us firmly in old Arabee (which is closer to Wellington than one might think) and lets us into the weird world of Twankey's laundry full of 'the noble classes’ dainties and the neighbours' old grundies.'

As anyone who knows me will attest, these are grounds on which I thrive. Having played Mother Hood last year, the challenge comes from making Widow Twankey a different person while still retaining the fuller figure elements that made Trelise Hood so appealing. Widow Twankey is a bit more worldly-wise in her machinations as she struggles to attain the upper middle class status she so richly deserves - and, of course, in her pursuit of a man!

This year's panto is packed full of Wellington's best (and some might say) biggest performers so the energy in the rehearsal room is frantic and hilarious. Audiences will get on a fast-paced carpet ride of song, dance and silliness filled with romance, magic and 'blimmen good-night-outness!'

The magic and characters are a huge hit with the kids and some of the best experiences we have during a panto are when the children are allowed to come up onstage. The shrieking adult laughter at the usual naughty jokes and subversive satire and the joy of the kids makes our large amount of sweat and energy more than worthwhile.

It's a great work out for us on the way to the summer months. It should be a Les Mills class!”

Roger Hall's Aladdin, the Pantomime
Aladdin, the Pantomime opens on 19 November and runs until 23 December, returning after Christmas for a short run in the New Year: 3-14 January. There will be a $25 Preview performance on Friday, 18 November and a $25 Special Matinee on Sunday, 20 November. To book, please call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz

07 November 2011

Drowning in Veronica Lake: Come along and be transported back to the glamour of the golden age of Hollywood.

Playwright Phil Ormsby talks to drama on the waterfront about Veronica Lake, the writing process, and society's 'casual way of disposing of celebrities'.

DOTW: Please tell us a bit about Drowning in Veronica Lake. What is the story?

PO: The play is based on the life of film star Veronica Lake who enjoyed a short reign as a major celebrity in the early 1940’s before being dumped by Paramount and virtually disappearing overnight. For ten years she provided tabloids and movie magazines with gossip and scandal most of which was carefully managed for full effect by the studio’s publicity machine. After she left Hollywood (or was dumped depending on who you want to believe) her career rapidly declined but she never gave up believing she would come back.

Alex Ellis in Drowning Veronica Lake.
DOTW: What made you want to write a play about Veronica Lake?

PO: I liked the idea that hers is a story that repeats itself throughout the entertainment industry – a performer unprepared for sudden fame finds themselves isolated and ends up in self medication and denial. In the end the gossip and scandals overshadow the performer’s actual career. See Michael Jackson, Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, Amy Winehouse…..

DOTW: What can you tell us about the writing process? What kind of research did you undertake?

PO: There is a ton of material online and the best thing about Veronica is for every story there seems to be a conflicting version. She published a biography in her later years rehashing some of the old magazine stories from her glory days with the benefit of hindsight and adding a bit of tell-all gossip. After her death her mother also published a biography which contradicted much of Veronica’s but with the passage of time neither is verifiable.

Alex and Simon (the Director) would workshop the script and give me their notes and I would rewrite as they went. Having a bit of distance from the process gave me a much better perspective; if I can find someone to actually write my next play for me I’ll be off the hook altogether!

Alex Ellis in Drowning Veronica Lake. 
DOTW: Have you written other plays? How does this one differ/compare?

PO: This is my fifth play and the first about a real character (insomuch as a celebrity can be ‘real’). It’s the first play where the story already existed and I just had to come up with a way of telling it that did it justice. It’s also the first play for which I haven’t been involved in the production process except as the writer. In the past I’ve been director, tech, designer, builder or actor but for Drowning in Veronica Lake I had the luxury of a brilliant team to do all these things and I just had to write. Fantastic!

DOTW: What can you tell us about performer Alex Ellis? What does she bring to the script/this character?

PO: Because Alex bears no actual resemblance to Lake it meant we could abandon any pretence of a faithful impersonation of her and Alex’s intimate connection with the audience makes the story much more personal than just another tale about a fallen star, she brings an emotional honesty to her performance which is very moving and for which I am hugely grateful.  

DOTW: Finally, what should Circa audiences know about Drowning in Veronica Lake?

PO: It will make you laugh, it will make you cry (or choke back a manly sniff) and hopefully it will make you think about the casual way we dispose of people we call celebrities. But most of all come along and be transported back to the glamour of the golden age of Hollywood.

Alex Ellis in Drowning Veronica Lake.
Drowning in Veronica Lake is on until 12 November in Circa Two. To book, please call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz