30 January 2012

Esencia del Flamenco

Jill Tanner-Lloyd, Artistic Director of the Desde Sevilla Flemenco Dance Company talks to drama on the waterfront about Esencia del Flamenco, opening tomorrow in Circa Two. Paul Bosauder and Cristina Lopez Gomes, both of whom are visiting from Barcelona in order to perform in Esencia del Flamenco, also tell us a little bit about themselves and their experiences.

DOTW: Please tell us a little bit about the Desde Sevilla Flamenco Dance Company; how long has it been around, who is involved, etc?

JTL: DSFDC began in Wellington back in 1999 and has been entertaining enthusiastic audiences locally and around New Zealand ever since, with flamenco dance and music shows that really appeal to the Southern Hemisphere audiences.  The group has been in various forms: with Jessica Garland and Jamie King dancing in the early 2000's, Mark Edwards on guitar and Alan Burden joining Helene Garland and me. More recently we have incorporated other upcloming dancers - Kathryn Taylor, Pilar Villamor and Stephanie Howard.  Raymond Biggs has joined the group to add to that percussive strength and we have worked with other guitarists Paul Knight and Richard Lucy. We have worked with other artists over the years too, but for this new show feel very excited and honoured to have the opportunity to work with international  flamencos of such high calibre. I also feel very proud that we have secured support again from the Spanish Embassy in New Zealand. It is great that the embassy recognises how flamenco draws New Zealand audiences towards Spanish culture, and our shows often weave interesting stories that enhance audiences' understanding of that culture.

DOTW: What can you tell us about Esencia del Flamenco? What can audiences expect?

JTL: They should expect an enormous variety of high quality flamenco dance, guitar, rhythm and the most soulful, captivating singing (cante). The show is in two very different parts. The first is our tribute to the Spanish Civil War - with driving rhythms, explosive dance and the most haunting singing.  It is varied, emotional and I am personally very proud of what we have achieved with this work - which is woven together with intricate guitar, percussion and beautiful narration.

The second half is light-hearted, fun, fiesta and full of colour! We particularly take time in this section to showcase Paul and Cristina - they have formed a tremendous partnership and this is really highlighted in some of the pieces they have prepared for this half. We end with Tangos (flamenco, not Argentinian) and the dancers return to the stage to set the audience on fire.

DOTW: Is there much of a flamenco community in Wellington? How do Wellington audiences respond to performances of the DSFDC?

JTL: Flamenco has always been a part of the diverse cultural and artistic palette that makes Wellington special. Other forms of dance and music attract greater numbers of participants, but I have been teaching for many years here and love the interesting range of people who come to explore what flamenco might mean to them. It is not an easy artform to learn - dance or guitar - and there are no flamenco singers to be found - they are a very rare breed. I think we do incredibly well bearing in mind we are so far away from its heart.

DOTW: Is this the first time you will be performing with a flamenco singer and guitarist? How has it been to work with them?

JTL: We have been lucky to have good guitarists in Wellington, but this is the first time the group has collaborated with Spanish-based artists, and certainly the first time we have done such a complex collaboration with a singer.  I worked in Auckland in 2010 with Paul and Cristina on a small "coming home" show for the flamenco community and family, and right from the first rehearsal we knew we could easily work together again. We have very quickly developed a strong connection and that does not always happen, even in Spain. I adore dancing for Cristina - she is truly inspirational and now my other dancers and musicians get to experience that too - it has been a dream of mine since last March.

DOTW: You have performed at Circa before; what can you tell us about your partnership with Circa Theatre and the response you receive from Circa audiences?

JTL: Circa Theatre is the perfect partner for us - we love the small, intimate atmosphere that Circa Two provides and the theatre's  professional organisation and support. I truly believe that audiences should be 'close to the action' to feel the energy from flamenco - huge theatres are good for the pocket but not for the performance I think.

DOTW: What should audiences know about flamenco dance before coming to Esencia del Flamenco?

JTL: I think Paul and Cristina's comments below really provide an excellent insight to what flamenco means to them and to audiences - maybe that's enough to know before coming to the show.  We look forward to sharing this with them.

Jill Tanner-Lloyd
Director and Artistic Director

Paul Bosauder (guitarist)

I was raised as a Lebanese Kiwi, I arrived to New Zealand before I knew how to walk and grew up in a cultural mosaic of Lebanese and New Zealand culture. Later, I returned to Lebanon to seek out my roots and understand better the culture of my parents. I found work in singing in a club called the Music Hall where musicians from Palestine, Romania, Lebanon, Spain, Cuba and New Zealand (me) were working together three nights a week in a fusion of music of their respective parts of the world. When I heard the Spanish guitarist playing backstage before the show I was mesmerized the power of the rhythm and the cante (song) which seemed so close to arabic song I had listened to as a child. I left the gig and decided to head to Spain and began what has been an incredible journey.

Flamenco for me has a magical quality and a pureness that is difficult to describe. It is a music that is demanding and inspiring. The first few years in Spain were so challenging and at first it seemed almost impossible to understand the language of flamenco. But with time it has become something that is now almost second nature. It has been a journey filled with challenges and doubts but also many moments of euphoria. But one thing was clear, I was infatuated with flamenco and whenever I heard the cante (flamenco song) I knew I had to be a part of those moments. Flamenco is more than a music - it is a journey, a journey that is best shared.

Cristina Lopez Gomes (cantaora/singer)

I want to say first of all that flamenco is a way of life and mode of expression. It is the language that I have found to best express myself and in the most sincere manner. I don´t have a single story or moment that I can say that I discovered that I want to sing flamenco. In a way it has always formed a part of my life and so it was something that I have been discovering naturally over the course of my life. I love the social part of flamenco and it is a music that is to be played in a group and shared. This for me is one of the greatest pleasures to be able to share this art with people. I feel very lucky that the culture of my country is loved all over the world and this makes it even more special to be able to share this with people in New Zealand. Now flamenco is becoming something universal - it is a language that people all over the world begin to understand and share.

We would also like to give thanks to all of the people who have helped bring this show to Wellington. Thank you to Jill Tanner-Lloyd, Ann Edge, Alan Burden and Annabel Hensley for looking after us so well during our stay.

Esencia del Flamenco opens in Circa Two on Tuesday, 31 January and runs until Sunday, 5 February. To book, call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz.

24 January 2012

Meet the Circa Council: Neville Carson

This week, we’d like to introduce you to another Circa Council member, everyone’s favourite man about the admin office, Neville Carson.

DOTW: Tell us a little about yourself.

NC: I was born in Dunedin, raised in Greymouth, moved to Nelson at 13, and went on to the University of Canterbury. I came to Wellington at the end of 1971 to work for the N Z University Students Association. Then worked as Production Manager for Pacific Films before using my legal training with the Department of Social Welfare and the State Services Commission. In the mid-80s I set up an actor’s agency, Plumb Personnel, and worked at that, and some film production, until I pretty much retired.

DOTW: What is your history with Circa Theatre? How long have you been involved in the theatre and in what capacity?

NC: I’ve been involved in theatre since Drama Society days at university, and followed keenly the Wellington scene from my arrival. I knew some of the founders of Circa pretty well, though was away overseas when things got going. I’ve been involved with Circa as a Councillor and in the specific roles of Treasurer, Secretary and Coordinator on a number of occasions, and also in earlier years did some performing, a little bit of design, and a lot of set building. I’m Treasurer again at present!

DOTW: How long have you been a member of the Circa Council? How did you come to join the Council?

NC: I joined Circa Council in 1977. My friend John Reid, who was on the Council, asked if I would join and take over the role of Treasurer, as the foundation Treasurer had resigned.

DOTW: What has been a highlight event/production/moment for you in your time at Circa?

NC: There have been many highlights, but I am particularly proud of the production management job I did on Waitangi in 1986. I also thoroughly enjoyed playing the Cardinal in The Duchess of Malfi a few years earlier. 1994 was a huge year, getting our new building completed and meeting endlessly over what – physically, operationally and attitudinally – we wanted to bring over the road with us. And helping get our 20 years history published in 1996 was fun.

DOTW: What are you particularly looking forward to in the 2012 programme?

NC: Our 2012 programme is particularly exciting, but in particular I’m looking forward to Peninsula, Chekhov in Hell, Sunset Road and Clybourne Park.

DOTW: Finally, do you have anything to say about Circa, with respect to its 35th birthday or looking forward to the next 35 years?

NC: Sometimes I pinch myself to see if I’m dreaming that this little theatre is still going. National Super comes my way this week, and more than half of my life has been spent helping to keep Circa going. With some talented new Councillors on board there seems to be no reason it shouldn’t continue for another 35 years.

16 January 2012

The Motor Camp: Those unforgettable Kiwi camping rituals


The cast of The Motor Camp. Photo by Phil Reid.
"I predict it will soon be performed all over the country” - DOMPOST

Following a triumphant sell-out season in 2011, The Motor Camp is back to start your new year of theatre-going.

Playwright Dave Armstrong is over the moon that The Motor Camp will be performed by the Auckland Theatre Company and a number of other theatre companies around the country in 2012, as predicted by Laurie Atkinson of The Dominion Post after the premiere season at Circa last January.

“It is great that other theatres have picked it up,” Dave says “I am overwhelmed at the response.
The idea for The Motor Camp was mooted a long time ago when Danny Mulheron told me his idea for a story about two very different families sharing a site in a motor camp. I could see immediately that it was a fantastic concept. After Danny erected those first structural poles, I ended up hammering in all the pegs – and banging out a script.

Both Danny and I had fathers involved in left-wing politics and education who took their families camping, and mothers who worked hard at keeping relations civil with other families. The holidays that Danny and I remember were wonderful, though we can’t forget the terrible weather, crappy facilities, neo-fascist camping ground owners, and the almighty arguments that could occur, for all the world to hear. This shared dramatic experience was the genesis of The Motor Camp.

Camping grounds are great levellers. University lecturers read Chomsky while sitting slap-bang next to builders reading Dan Brown. Middle-class women sit listening for tui and crickets while working-class blokes drink Tui and listen to the cricket. It is this juxtaposition that attracted me to the idea of the motor camp as a sort of Pakeha marae, where issues of family, relationships, education and politics could be discussed and resolved. Just about all Kiwis have been camping at some time in their lives. The Motor Camp is a glorious celebration of those unforgettable Kiwi camping rituals.”
Apart from the success of The Motor Camp in 2011, Dave co-wrote the TV movie Billy, about the life of Billy T James, and is well-known for his witty, weekly Dominion Post column.

The Motor Camp opens in Circa One on Saturday, 21 January and runs until 18 February. To book tickets, call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz.

09 January 2012

New at Circa: Encore Bar | Restaurant | Cafe

Get to know the face – proprietress Jacinta Saeki – behind Encore, the new bar, restaurant and café at Circa.

Jacinta Saeki, while working for the Ambassador of Norway in Tokyo.
DOTW: Please tell us a little bit about your background in the food and beverage/hospitality industry.

JS: I was born in South Australia to a Japanese mother and Ukrainian father so I grew up eating food from contrary cultures. Although my father had a simple palate he passed on his love of food to us by regularly taking us to the Central Markets (in all its abundance and glory) and night fishing (where I learnt to gut my first fish). My mother is a Classical Japanese Dancer so multicultural festivals were also part of my annual diet and exposure to international food and cultural arts.

I spent four years in a convent in Sydney between the ages of 9-13 where I first learnt how to really cook. Much to the contention of the other girls I was always chosen for kitchen duty and even evaded going to mass to tend the ovens during Easter and Christmas baking phases. A talent was born.

A Jacinta Saeki cake.
After returning to Adelaide my mother bought a Japanese restaurant and at 15 I started working there as a waitress, learning all about the family business and the long hard hours that it required. By the time I hit hospitality school post high school, I pretty much knew my way around a restaurant and bar and went on to working front of house for several years in hotels, cafes and restaurants.

I wanted to be an artist. I was good at drawing, drama and music but was deflated when I failed a dance audition to get into a performing arts school. That year I started in earnest in the kitchens at work and discovered that a plate could be a canvas. By the time I was 21, I was head chef at Kibbi’s Cafe Hyde Park and never looked back. I met Matt, my dear Kiwi husband, and we travelled to Melbourne, Wellington and then onto Tokyo where I was the Chef De Cuisine for the Ambassador of Norway, who gave me creative license (the best job ever!) to cook for some very distinguished guests.

We decided to return to NZ a couple of years later to raise our 8mth old daughter away from the smog and big city living she was born into. Since then I have worked part time here and there, ran a catering outfit and worked ad hoc as a personal chef. In the last several years I have set up Motoko Aotearoa Health through Education Foundation which offers cooking and art workshops for community groups and youth at risk. The best role has been raising my three tamariki. They have certainly helped me hone my birthday cake making skills!

A Jacinta Saeki cake.
DOTW: What are your thoughts about theatre dining?

JS: I think what a fabulous opportunity to complement the performing arts with culinary arts. They share parallel values and feed the soul.

DOTW: What is your vision for Encore? What can patrons expect overall?

JS: I want to provide a place where patrons feel welcome, where they are greeted with a smile and get great service. A place that doesn’t mimic the general Wellington café service scene, but rather sets a benchmark for others to follow.

The food has to be excellent but affordable with room to be creative and complement the shows. Using local produce and healthier raw ingredients we will be making most items on the premises from scratch and supporting artisan suppliers where we can.

I’d like to support NZ winemakers and brewers and offer quality off the beaten track beverages. Fair-trade, real trade and organic will feature on our menu and winelist.

I expect the best from my staff and the best for my customers J

Chocolate box of chocolates by Jacinta Saeki.
DOTW: What do you anticipate will be some of the most popular menu items at Encore?

JS: Well, I had been making some of the counter food last year and so far my spinach and cheese rolls, apple/raspberry crumble slice and tiramisu seem to be the house favourites. Once Don (Chef Donavan Hamilton) comes on board (back from the UK working as Sous Chef in one of Peter Gordon’s London restaurants), I’m sure between us there will be a whole range of delicious things coming out of our kitchen for the restaurant, bar and cafe.

DOTW: How does it feel to partner with Circa Theatre?

JS: I am very excited to partner up with a team that has such a wide range of knowledge and experience. I’m sure that our strengths will complement our work together to enhance Circa Theatre’s fabulous entertainment with wonderful hospitality.

Encore Bar | Restaurant | Cafe opened on 3 January for the 2012 season of Aladdin, with bar service and counter food. The full restaurant will open on 21 January with the opening of The Motor Camp, and the daytime cafe will commence 22 January. For full restaurant information, including hours of operation, please visit www.circa.co.nz/site/Restaurant. To make a reservation, call 801-7996.

04 January 2012

Aladdin, the Pantomime:"all about having fun and being silly whether you’re on stage or in the audience"

Aladdin, the Pantomime is back in Circa One for its short, post-Christmas season and actor Jessica Robinson takes time from getting back into the swing of things to tell drama on the waterfront all about Princess Jasmine and the pantomime experience.

Lyndee-Jane Rutherford (L) and Jessica Robinson (R) in Aladdin. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
DOTW: You play the Princess Jasmine in Aladdin; what can you tell us about her?

JR: Princess Jasmine is a bit of a rebel. Her father, the Sultan, has high expectations of the wealth she could make him by choosing the right kind of husband but she just wants the freedom to make her own choices.

DOTW: What has been the highlight moment for you during Aladdin?

JR: From a performer’s perspective, the audience participation is the highlight of the show. My favourite moment so far was when a little boy in the audience decided to throw his shoes on stage right in the middle of a “high tension” moment. The look on all of our faces must have been priceless as we all tried to figure out how to deal with it. The little boy also got the biggest round of applause that night.

DOTW: Have you been in any of the Circa pantomimes before? What can you tell us about the pantomime experience?

JR: I played Alice in Dick Whittington and His Cat two years ago and the main thing I learned was never to take myself too seriously. Pantomime is all about having fun and being silly whether you’re on stage or in the audience.

Jessica Robinson (centre) in Dick Whittington and His Cat, Circa , 2009/2010. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
DOTW: What can you tell us about the rest of the cast and crew?

JR: It’s a great team. We all get on really well and in fact the hardest thing about doing this production is not falling into hysterical laughter on stage.  

DOTW: Is there a marked difference between performing in the pantomime before Christmas and after? Does the audience reaction differ at all?

JR: The audience is usually a bit more sober after Christmas, and like us, probably a little rounder.

Jessica Robinson and Richard Chapman in Aladdin. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
Aladdin is back on in Circa One until 14 January. To book, call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz.