30 July 2012

West End Girls: A World Premiere

Playwright Ken Duncum on West End Girls, Barbara Tate and a bittersweet odd-couple relationship.

Playright Ken Duncum in the South of France.
I read the West End Girls book two years ago more or less by chance. It was recommended to me by a friend who thought it might have interesting possibilities as a stageplay. I wasn’t looking for a new project as I already had more ideas queued up than I had time to deal with. Nevertheless I read the book - and found that I could not stop thinking about it afterwards.

I responded to the honesty, clarity and humour of Barbara Tate's writing and experiences, her vivid evocation of the secret world of a vanished time and place - 1940s Soho - and the way she showed us that world through her own eyes, the eyes of a naive and unworldly girl whose innocence slowly evolves into self-knowledge and wisdom. At its heart it is the story of Barbara's coming-of-age, and the story of the first and most intense friendship of her life - with the irresistible and dazzling Mae, the Queen of Soho. That real-life friendship brought joy, comedy, frustration and tears, and ultimately was a relationship Barbara had to leave behind in pursuit of her own destiny - but Barbara never forgot or regretted it, it was in many ways her first love.

It was Barbara's character (the virgin in the midst of a sexual tornado), the character of Mae (the sexual tornado herself), their bittersweet odd-couple relationship, and their hilarious and eye-poppingly frantic working life that convinced me I had to adapt West End Girls for the stage.

The story is refreshing in treating the full panoply of sex as a normal human pursuit and prostitution as a commonsense aspect of that. There is no great moral lesson about prostitution to be found in it - hopefully there are several about life and relationships.

Barbara died shortly before the publication of her book, but there is a website - barbaratate.co.uk - which has much about her life, art and Soho experiences. It's well worth a visit.

Since its publication in 2010 there has been a flurry of tv, film, radio and stage interest in adapting the book, but this Circa production of West End Girls will be a world premiere of the story in any dramatic form.

As with any adaptation, the challenge for me has been what material from the book to include and what to leave behind, and how to find effective ways to dramatise the stories and characters. I have been able to work from a longer manuscript version of the book, and it was invaluable to be able to go to the source and find there new details, events and context.

Early on I made the decision that the play would be stylized rather than trying to represent place and action naturalistically. The script demands a lot from its performers as it is intensely physical at times, seeking to create a kaleidoscope of energy and movement in order to represent a cast of thousands and the pace and movement of a crowded hectic day in these women's lives. The actors must also be able to switch into a more dramatic mode when required.

Jessica Robinson as Mae and Victoria Abbott as Barbara.
I think West End Girls will appeal to a broad audience who will respond to its humour, its strong female characters and friendships, bold staging, vibrant acting and colourful non-naturalism, light treatment of a subject of enduring fascination (sex) and glimpse into a secret (and crazy) world we know little about. The fact that it all happened and these characters really existed is another plus.

West End Girls opens in Circa One on 4 August and runs until 1 September. There will be a $25 Preview on Friday, 3 August and a $25 Special on Sunday, 5 August. To book, call the Circa Box Office on 801-8137 or go online at www.circa.co.nz

23 July 2012

Spector - Inspired Specticle

Don't miss this "Superb Spector - Inspired Spectacle"
Only one more week!

The BeatGirls are bringing the beat back to Circa with a sensational look at the magic and mad life of musical producer Phil Spector!

Reviews have been glowing for the show and with only ONE MORE WEEK left in the season, we hope to see you at Circa Theatre soon for a swinging good time!

THEATREVIEW - Virginia Kennard

“Spector is an impressive range of some 21 well-known hits that showcase the incredible vocal range and talents of the BeatGirls: Andrea Sanders, Caroline McLaughlin and Kali Kopae.”

“The arrival on-stage of honorary BeatGirl Jason Chasland ups the energy levels, the BeatGirls demonstrating their prowess as back-up dancers during ‘Pretty Little Angel Eyes' then sublimely pulling back focus with ‘Spanish Harlem', ‘That Loving Feeling', ‘Don't Worry Baby' and ‘I Can Hear Music'.

Jason is easily a limelight-stealer with his spectacular charisma and universe-filling voice, not least with Ray Charles' ‘What I'd Say' in which The Beatgirls' choreography is well-crafted and Jason's superb waddling physicality a crowd favourite.”

“Overall: a superb Spector-inspired spectacle.”


“ . . . although it is a factual biography of his life in reasonably chronological order, the humorous and almost irreverent way it is told, with many delightfully animated gestures supplementing the dialogue, makes the telling of the Spector story engaging and very entertaining.”

“If the music of the 60's was what you grew up with, then this show is a great nostalgic trip. For those who didn't, go and see it anyway and experience one of our greatest musical eras.”

LUMIERE - Michael Boyes

“The Beatgirls (Sanders, Caroline McLaughlin, Kali Kopae) excel in every particular; voices are crisp and clear, and can grow and diminish in intensity with ease. Even more impressive is each member’s capacity to perform lead and back-up vocals, to the credit of their skill, professionalism and dedication.”

“I would be greatly at fault not to mention the brilliant Jason Chasland, who for the duration of the show has been dubbed an honorary Beatgirl. A voice of remarkable scale and breadth, any attempt at description seems more infomercial than observation; he croons a lullaby one moment and discharges a power ballad the next. His impersonations are hilarious for their accuracy and comic timing, whilst his natural stage persona is staggeringly confident.”

“This is a good night out, quite frankly. Quirky, fun, upbeat. So if you feel like a sing-a-long, or maybe just have a hankering for nostalgia, pop along and enjoy the ride.”

KIWIBLOG - David Farrar

“I saw the Beat Girls for the first time in 2010. They were great. So how do you beat the Beat Girls? Simple – you add in Jason (Jay) Chasland.

Chasland was a rock and roll star. At first glance you might think he is an unlikely star being not very tall and slightly chubby. But my God he was a great performer. He sang and crooned the songs marvelously, and had a real charisma and presence about him. His Ray Charles parody was side sidesplittingly funny. Chasland alone would be worth going to see.”

“The performance is effectively a recital of the life of Phil Spector – from his early genius success through to his conviction for murder. In between numbers, they tell you about his various groups and songs. He may have been a demented misogynistic bastard, but he was a hell of a talented one.”

“It was a great night’s entertainment and I just can’t imagine anyone not enjoying the performance, unless they have been genetically modified in some way.”

17 July 2012

Nuclear Family

Divided we fall apart, united we might blow up.
24 July - 4 August

Come and see this "tour de force performance" at Circa Theatre.

Set in green New Zealand on the eve of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, Nuclear Family is a comedic drama that illuminates the journeys of a colourful bunch of Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Union and Venezuela as they are forced to question whether freedom and control over one's destiny are only illusions.

Winner of the 2011 Moondance International Festival Atlantis Award for Best Stageplay, Nuclear Family features actor Yael Gezentsvey in a 'tour-de-force performance' as she takes on twelve multi-cultural characters in this 'riveting' solo-show written 'with heart, tragedy and a fair balance of true comedy' by playwright Desiree Gezentsvey (Fringe Review/Theatre Guide).

For more information please visit http://www.circa.co.nz/

09 July 2012

Spector: The phenomenon of The BeatGirls

Honorary “BeatBoy” Jason Chasland chats about the phenomenon of the Beatgirls . . . 

Jay Chasland.
About seven years ago I had my first BeatGirl experience. The sequinned costumes had me hypnotised, the choreography was slick, the voices were big and the hair was bigger! I was hooked! Cut to five years later and I meet Andrea Sanders after the opening night of the Circa production The Nero Show I was doing at the time. Our mutual love for all things music and pizazz was like fireworks and thus began my eventual  inauguration as the honorary "BeatBoy". I had my first taste as a BeatBoy performing with the girls at Toast Martinborough, after which I practically begged and bribed them to let me do more with them. When I was contacted to perform in SPECTOR I said "Yes!" before Andrea had finished asking. The music is from my favourite era,  when music was real music and the songs had real singers. Although, in saying that a lot of current and great music since has been inspired by Phil Spector most notably the late, great Amy Winehouse whom I love just as much. 

The BeatGirls. . . these woman are as lovely as they are talented, as funny as they are, well, bloody hilarious; rehearsals are a playground and a creative joy! I cannot wait for us to share this wonderful theatrical concert which features one of my favourite songs. I get to sing  'Unchained Melody' every night in a killer costume, how am I not the most fortunate guy around right now?!

Spector opens 14 July in Circa One and runs until 28 July - that's only a two week season and tickets are going to go fast, so get yours right away! Call the Circa Box Office on 801-7992 or go online at http://www.circa.co.nz/. 

02 July 2012

The 3 Bears ... and Goldilocks: Trouble in Fairyland

Break In Gives Bears Paws For Thought

A recent break in has prompted the Three Bears family to move away from Fairyland.

On Wednesday last week the family returned to their Woods, Fairyland address to find their house in disaray after a home invasion. Although nothing was taken, they discovered their cooling porridge had been eaten and Baby Bear's chair was broken. Further investigation revealed a sleeping human child in Baby Bear's bed upstairs. On awakening, the child screamed and fled through the bedroom window and was last seen running deeper into the the woods in the direction of Old Mother Hubbard's shoe.

Fairyland police sergeant, Abner Twinkletoes, says there appears to be no motivation for the intrusion.
"There appears to be no motivation for the intrusion other than the wanton destruction of a chair and, perhaps, extreme laziness or fatigue," he said.

"I no longer feel safe in my own home," Mother Bear was quoted as saying. "What has Fairyland come to, when a bear can't just take an early morning walk in the woods without their home being violated?"

"Rrrooooaaaaaarrrr rrr argh grrr!!!!" said Father Bear, clearly upset.

The perpetrator of this heinous crime is still at large. She is described as a human girl of about 10-12 years of age, of slight build and with long, blonde hair. It is not known if she is dangerous but police have advised against approaching her. Anyone with information can contact Sergeant Twinkletoes on 0800 CATCH HER or leave details at the Fairyland Police Department.

Find out if Sergeant Twinkletoes catches the perpetrator and how the Bears family copes in the aftermath of their home invasion, when The Improvisors bring you their latest school holiday show The 3 Bears ... and Goldilocks, 2-14 July in Circa Two. To book, call the Circa Box Office on 801-7992 or go online at http://www.circa.co.nz/.

Sunset Road: A peek behind-the-scenes

A photographic montage of the rehearsal process for Sunset Road.

Thank you to Andria Daphnee and Challen Wilson for all your hard work on this photographic montage.

Sunset Road runs until 7 July in Circa Two. To book, call the Circa Box Office on 801-7992 or visit http://www.circa.co.nz/.