28 July 2014

Alex Greig: A View from the Bridge - 'a wonderful story that is a pleasure to perform every night'

This week on drama on the waterfront, we talk to A View from the Bridge actor Alex Grieg.

(left to right) Christopher Brougham, Alex Grieg, Paul Waggot, Acushla Sutton in A View from the Bridge. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
DOTW: When did you decide that it was to be an actor’s life for you?

AG: I guess I've always had a desire to perform, but it was during the latter years of high school that I decided it was definitely the path that I wanted to travel.

DOTW: What was the first play that you remember seeing?

AG: Oooh Tough one... I think the first one I remember seeing was something like Red Riding Hood at Masterton Amateur Theatrical Society... Although that may be my brain playing tricks on me!

DOTW: You are currently playing the role of Marco in A View from The Bridge. That he is a newly arrived Sicilian immigrant in New York in the 1950s must have required quite a lot of research?

AG: Yeah, not much I could personally draw from for this role… I spent heaps of time reading snippets from the time online, and watched loads of movies either set or from the period... Oh and also played lots and lots of Total War: Rome II.

Alex Grieg in A View from the Bridge. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
DOTW: I believe you and the cast had advice from the Italian community here - in particular Massimo Tolve and Antonio DeMartino from Pomodoro Pizza - about how to talk and express yourselves in the way that they do. What were some of the things that came as a surprise to you about that? And how difficult was it to become a character who is so culturally different to a Kiwi?

AG: Turning off my Kiwi 'Meh' attitude and 'Hand in pockets' style acting was the hardest to accomplish in this role, I'm used to letting things roll of my back and let it go, but observing and talking with the fantastic guys that came in to talk to us, I soon realised I would have to bring some more flavour to Marco than I was used to!

DOTW: Marco has his own agenda – a good guy or not in your books?

AG: Marco is the good guy. He is certainly confused by the American way of life and how things are done, but stays true to his sense of honour.

DOTW: And working on an Arthur Miller play – what are some of the highlights about this?

AG: For me it is the way that Miller has structured the play... Your job is made a wee bit easier by following exactly what and how he has structured this play. It's very Shakespearian, if you follow the metre and stick to the words as written your job is almost done... He also crafts a wonderful story that is a pleasure to perform every night... More, more I tells ya!

Alex Greig (foreground) and cast in A View from the Bridge. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
DOTW: You have played a huge variety of roles. Have you got a favourite and why?

AG: I seem to prefer the roles that have a lot of internal (and often external) conflict, and most recently the part that has had the biggest chunk to bite into has been Shakespeare's play Coriolanus performed by The Bacchanals last year. It was a huge part and one that I jumped into eagerly!

DOTW: And finally, do you have role that you have a burning desire to play?

AG: I've always wanted to play Raoul Duke, or maybe even Timon.

Paul Waggott and Alex Greig in A View from the Bridge. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
A View from the Bridge runs in Circa One until 23 August. There will be a Fancy Dress 50s Night on 1 August - come to the show dressed in your 50s best for a chance to win fantastic spot prizes! To book, call the Circa Box Office on 801-7992 or visit www.circa.co.nz.

21 July 2014

Constellations: buzzing towards opening night!

Constellations by Nick Payne is an award-winning play about free will and friendship, quantum multiverse theory, love and honey. The NZ Premiere opens at Circa Theatre in just one week on Saturday 26th July and runs until 23 August.

Actors Erin Banks and Richard Dey and Director Rachel Lenart share some insights on the production.

Constellations is one of those plays that is full of all sorts of allusions and metaphors: stars, bees, quantum physics, multiple universes. All this amazing material, while a fantastic springboard for making theatre, has also created a fertile breeding ground for puns.  So much so that we have established a 'Pun Jar' in our rehearsal room instead of the usual 'Swear Jar'.  So every time someone says they have 'friends in hive places' or that we should 'shoot for the stars in this scene' they can expect to be fined anywhere from 20 cents to a dollar (depending on how successful the pun is judged to be). 

It feels so satisfying to finally be putting the script of Constellations on its feet, as it has been close to two years since first discovering it and wanting to put it on. It is meditative, passionate, simple storytelling wrapped in an intelligent, complex structure. The likes of which I have never seen before. I have never been in a two-hander before and the challenge of being constantly present and engaged as an actor with my cast mate has been incredibly satisfying. I have also been given the privilege to learn about all things BEES. The great architects/scientists/dancers of our time. I have read my share of books (The Bees by Laline Paull is a must read!) and enjoyed the practical experience of inspecting a live hive, even managing to see the Queen. Gaining this knowledge has been a buzz (20c) and sharing the play will be a joy as it is universally (20c) accessible. Can't wait to see you there!

Richard Dey during his day as acting beekeeper.
There are so many things about this project that make me want to jump around in excitement. The script is the richest and most exciting I've come across in years  in its scope, its depth and even its very structure and exploring it has been a real privilege. Its a play where the everyday becomes profound in its simplicity and manages to find the very essence of what it is to be a human being. And this is only one of its many layers.

The collaboration with Richard, Erin and the designers has been a real treat. Everyone has come to the work with their own reading and ideas but consolidating this vision has been a surprisingly organic process. The work has a voice of its own that no one entirely controls, but everyone can hear, see on the edge of perception and our work together is pulling it into being. A fusion of elements (20 cents). The talents and perspectives brought by every single person on board is making the process so rewarding and full of pleasure.

As we head from the rehearsal room into the theatre next week, I am only a little daunted by the enormity of what waits for us in the cue lists, mostly I am bursting to see the final pieces of our puzzle fit together. Can't wait to open on Saturday with a big bang (20 cents).


14 July 2014

Acushla-Tara Sutton: A View from the Bridge - 'drawn into the detailed world that Miller created'.

This week on drama on the waterfront, A View from the Bridge actress Acushla-Tara Sutton talks about working on the next Circa One production and her newfound love of Arthur Miller.

DOTW: Is A View from the Bridge your first Miller play?

AS: It is indeed. And what a piece to start with! I’d never read any of Millers plays - contrary to popular belief, I actually studied commerce, not theatre, so the last four years were spent reading textbooks on marketing, human resources and tourism, not Shakespeare, Williams and Miller. I was, however, lucky enough to see The Price last year, which I really enjoyed, and after seeing A View from the Bridge appear in the 2014 Circa programme I managed to find a script online and fell in love with it. He has such a great way with words and I now understand why many believe him to be the best Western playwright of the 20th century.
Acushla-Tara Sutton
DOTW: What are the things you have found most interesting about the play and Miller as a writer?

AS: The main thing that attracted me to this particular play was the language. It’s written dialectally so even just on the page you’re drawn into the detailed world Miller has created. It was also first written as a one act play entirely in verse and some of that poetic intention is left behind, which enhances the dialogue Miller has written in the version we have today. I also enjoy Miller’s focus on relationships: what they should be and what they can be … but you’ll have to come see the show to understand what I’m talking about.

DOTW: And the most testing?

AS: Hands down the passion of the piece. I’m playing a young Italian-American woman who has been raised in Brooklyn, New York, just emerging from puberty. Each one of those components affects the scale of her emotional responses, so altogether it is an extremely passionate piece. Being a New Zealander the key challenge has been embodying that passion, jumping far out of my comfort zone.

Acushla and Jude Gibson in the A View from the Bridge rehearsal room.
DOTW: When you first read your role of Catherine what was your first reaction?

AS: I fell in love with her beautiful naïveté and identified deeply, as any woman can, with her struggle and confusion as she attempts to navigate the adult world for the first time. I dislike the word ‘tragic’, but I think it describes her situation best. A sweet young girl, falling in love for the first time, confronted with an unexpected hurdle. She’s tragically sweet.

DOTW: Last year was very busy and successful for you. What were some of the highlights?

AS: In total I did 5 shows and a directing piece for Victoria University, as well as full-time tertiary studies. Finishing my studies was amazing. I finished in November, half way through the run of Con in Circa Two. After four years of juggling performance and studies it was great to be able to focus purely on my first passion. I also toured for the first time, performing in festivals in Wanaka and Christchurch with NZ Site Specific shows Salon and Hotel.

Alex Greig, Acushla and Paul Waggott. Photo by Laura Kavanagh.
DOTW:  And this year seems, so far, pretty busy too.

AS: It’s my first year ‘in the real world’ so it’s been a little nerve-wracking, especially in an industry known for its risk. It has been pretty busy, which I am so thankful for. I’ve worked behind the scenes on a couple of films, performed in the return season of Kings of the Gym, a development piece called 2080 and am now working on this show. I also recorded my first audiobook reading for RNZ and worked on a commercial. Long may it continue!

DOTW: And after A View from the Bridge – have you any plans?

AS: I’ll be heading up to Auckland after we close this show to see my sister perform in Hairspray. Aside from that (and a well-deserved rest!) I do not have anything booked in for the year yet. Time will tell I guess. For the meantime I’m just keen to get this show up and running and for the public to experience the intensity we’ve been living with for the past four weeks.

The A View from the Bridge cast on the 4th of  July.
A View from the Bridge opens on 19 July and runs until 23 August. There will be a $25 Preivew on Friday, 18 July and a $25 matinee on Sunday, 20 July (although the matinee is nearly SOLD OUT!). To book, call the Circa Box Office on 801-7992 or visit www.circa.co.nz.

07 July 2014

Hīkoi: driving change and challenging perceptions

Audience response to Hīkoi shows the power of theatre to drive change and challenge perceptions.

With themes of growing up Maori in NZ, family and sibling relationships, and the feeling of separation from culture, Hīkoi has resonated strongly with Maori and Pakeha audiences alike.

"... it made me laugh, cry and remember" L.A. of Wellington

"Very thought-provoking show about so much. ...I will be thinking about this play for a while." M.E.

Hāpai Productions Tapui Limited, a Wellington based theatre company founded by Nancy Brunning and Tanea Heke, is creating theatre works with Te Ao Māori (Māori world view) themes for audiences in Wellington, throughout Aotearoa and around the world (eventually)!

Nancy's debut play is based on her own experiences growing up Maori in NZ in the 70s and 80s and gives insight into not just her own generation, but also her parents'.

It is this personal connection and understanding in Nancy's writing that has audiences most intrigued as they follow two generations through the 70s and 80s and remember their own childhood – the good, the bad and the hilarious.

"I know your characters like my life." L.S. of Auckland

"... a delicious reflection of our youth" P.M. of Rotorua

"You made me laugh (a lot)
You made me cray (a little)
... you got so much right that I was there again." N.P.

Hikoi only has five performances left so book today to ensure you don't miss out. Book online at www.circa.co.nz or call the box office on 04 801 7992