24 November 2014

2014 at Circa Theatre!

We are nearing the end of the year and are just about to launch our programme for 2015 (on 7 December at the Thorndon Fair), so we thought it was time to take a look back at all of the fantastic shows that have graced our stages throughout 2014. It's been a great year!

As usual, we started off the year with the post-Christmas season of the pantomime, Mother Goose - a golden egg of a show, well worth a gander!

Next up was the demand return season of Dave Armstrong's hilarious comedy, Kings of the Gym - PC VS. PE! You loved it in 2013, so we just had to bring it back.

We hosted a NZ Fringe Festival show in February: A Play About Fear by My Accomplice, in which all of your favourite parts of the horror and thriller genres were thrown together in one lo-fi, high-energy, extremely theatrical production.

A Play about Fear
Later we enjoyed the biographical Miss Bronte, performed by Mel Dodge and directed by Lyndee-Jane Rutherford. This one-woman show delighted audiences with its look at the life and work of Charlotte Bronte and her siblings.

Our contribution to the NZ Festival was the dazzlingly theatrical Pasefika by Stuart Hoar, which was a re-imagining of French artist Charles Meryon's struggle to survive in 1860s Paris after his time in New Zealand's French colony of Akaroa.

Helen Moulder brought her futuristic new show, Gloria's Handbag, to Circa Two in March, which was described by audiences as 'funny, poignant and thought-provoking'.

Next up was the exciting sell out season of Armstong Creative's Rita and Douglas, a production that presented the words, music and images of two of New Zealand's greatest cultural icons, Rita Angus and Douglas Lilburn.

Jennifer Ward-Lealand in Rita and Douglas
Ross Jolly directed the award-winning Other Desert Cities by Pulitzer Prize finalist Jon Robin Baitz, a play that taught us that some family secrets cannot stay buried forever.

Show Pony Productions brought us the uproariously funny The Pianist for a season in Circa Two. There is a rumour that this delightful production will return for a 2015 season, so grab a copy of the new brochure on 7 December to see if it's true!

Long-time Circa partners The Improvisors presented a trio of shows for young and old throughout the year, starting with the crowd-favourite Theatresports, followed by the brand new The Improvisors go to the Movies, and finishing up with the school holiday entertainment Improv for Kids.

In May, youth theatre company 1st Gear Productions presented a double bill of plays written and directed by Sarah Delahunty: 2b or nt 2b and 4 Billion Likes!

Next, we had the New Zealand premiere of Bill Cain's Equivocation, directed by Peter Hambleton. Shakespeare and Guy Fawkes, it was a blast.

Paul McLaughlin and Tom Eason in Equivocation.
The Matariki Development Festival 2014 debuted the development season of Aroha White's 2080, as well as rehearsed readings of new writing by Moana Ete and Hone Kouka.

Circa also hosted the Te Kakano season of Hikoi, written and directed by Nancy Brunning. Hikoi followed the lives of two generations dealing with a radically changing world and their way of saying something about it.

The Road That Wasn't There by Trick of the Light Theatre delighted audiences of all ages in July. Playwright Ralph McCubbin Howell was recently awarded the Bruce Mason Playwriting Award for 2014. Congratulations Ralph!

Susan Wilson directed the Arthur Miller classic A View from the Bridge in Circa One, a passionate and gripping drama about love, family, loyalty and revenge.

Erin Banks and Richard Dey starred in the beautiful Constellations, a play about free will and friendship, quantum multiverse theory, love and honey.

Erin Banks and Richard Dey in Constellations. Photo by Yael Gezentsvey.
Next, Danny Mulheron directed A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay about the Death of Walt Disney by Lucas Hnath, a supersonic portrait of a man who tried to abolish reality.

Lorae Parry and Pinky Agnew brought us the hilarious Destination Beehive, a sharp-witted satire of the flip floppers and name droppers, the backsliders and backstabbers, the naggers, the knockers, the pleasers and the sleazes in the race towards Elections 2014.

A late addition to the 2014 line up, An Unseasonable Fall of Snow by NZ playwright Gary Henderson was a family affair, starring father and son Jed Brophy and Riley Brophy.

The Dominion Post Season of The Pitmen Painters was a hit with audience members, who enjoyed the heartfelt true story of a group of ordinary men who did extraordinary things.

Another Lucas Hnath script was presented this year, this time by director Paul McLaughlin - Isaac's Eye re-imagined the contentious, plague-ravaged world of Isaac Newton and established scientist Robert Hooke, as they wrangled over the physics of light.

Neenah Dekkers-Reihana and Andrew Paterson in Isaac's Eye. Photo by Paul McLaughlin.
Finally, we return to the Circa Christmas tradition of a holiday pantomime with Roger Hall's Red Riding Hood, on now in Circa One until 21 December. Red and her family and friends will also come back in the New Year for a short run of post-holiday hilarity!

Rounding out the year on a musical note is Michael Nicholas Williams' Dead Tragic. This variety show of woe is a toe-tapping, riotous night out and runs in Circa Two until 21 December.

To book for Red Riding Hood or Dead Tragic, please visit www.circa.co.nz or call the Circa Box Office on 801-7992.

17 November 2014

Dead Tragic: "If it's half as much fun to watch as it is to perform, you're going to have a great night."

Dead Tragic creator Michael Nicholas Williams tells drama on the waterfront all about his next show at Circa, opening in Circa Two on 22 November.

DOTW: I understand Dead Tragic arose from vocal warm ups? 

MNW: I used to bring in songbooks for a sing-along after we'd warmed our  voices.  During a show at Centrepoint in 1988 I played "Honey" and one of  the cast got very upset and wanted to know what had happened to Honey.  Another cast member said she hated Honey and preferred songs with guts like "Delilah".  I hadn't ever listened to the lyrics and didn't realise Delilah was murdered.  We then started listing songs where people died.  Dead Tragic was the result.  

DOTW: Dead Tragic has been part of your life for over 20  years – what is that like? 

MNW: So comfortable. And so much fun.  You're never far away from a Dead Tragic song - when driving home after pitching the show  to Circa last year there were 3 songs from the show on the radio.  I took it as a sign.  

DOTW: Your family has grown up around this show? 

MNW: Emma [Kinane] found out she was pregnant a week before the show opened.  We did a season in Palmerston North after our son Barnaby was born and it was because he put a clip on Facebook that the show was revived 4 years ago. He also designed the new poster and the concept of the set.  Claire (our daughter) was really no help whatsoever but she's fun to have around and she  knows all the words.      

Michael Nicholas Williams.
DOTW: What are new elements in this Circa production?  

MNW: Lyndee-Jane Rutherford.  And fabulous costumes the Partridge family would  love - thanks Maryanne Cathro.  We're also taking the time to fix those bits that we put in until we got a better idea - only took 23  years... 

DOTW: What is your favourite element of the show? 

MNW:  I love the close harmony singing - all the random oohs and ahhs.    

BOTW: Describe Dead Tragic in five words: 

MNW: Killing you unsubtly with song  

DOTW: Would you like to add anything else?  

MNW: If it's half as much fun to watch as it is to perform, you're going to have a great night.

Dead Tragic opens 22 November, with a $25 Preview on Friday, 21 November and $25 Matinee on Sunday, 23 November. To book, visit www.circa.co.nz or call the Circa Box Office on 801-7992.

10 November 2014

The Grand Dame of the Circa Pantomime

This week on drama on the waterfront, Gavin Rutherford, who will don the dress for the 5th time this year as Grandma Hood in Red Riding Hood, takes us down memory lane of his time as Dame.
Photo by Stephen A'Court.
This year for the famous Circa Christmas Pantomime, we are remounting Roger Hall’s Red Riding Hood. This was the first pantomime that I appeared in at Circa back in 2008. I played the bad guy, Sir Roger Bounder. The amazing and hilarious Julian Wilson was Grandma Hood and I have large happy memories of crying with laughter at his inventiveness and skill in the rehearsal room and on stage. Julian then moved up to Auckland with his beautiful wife and have lived happily ever after (as is fitting).
Robin Hood rehearsals started the next year with me, wig in hand and up to my knees in a frock (to be factually correct it reached a little higher). Robin Hood was full of the usual Roger Hall hilarity and I loved that the two quintessential English heroes (Robin Hood and Maid Marian) were played by the incredibly talented and proudly Maori, Jamie McKaskill and Kali Kopae. I was very nervous stepping into the Dame’s shoes on opening night, but with love and help from Susan Wilson and Paul Jenden (and even some great words of support from Jennifer Lal (it hasn’t happened since)) AND with a script close at hand at the side of the stage AND with Michael Nicholas Williams giving me every trick in the book I managed to get through it and experience the true meaning of sweat. In the end I had to fall in love with a large blue Viking dragon thing. I should have chosen Jeff Kingsford Brown (who played the evil Sherriff) but sometimes things don’t work out the way you want them too.
Aladdin was a reworking of a very successful season in which Julian Wilson played Widow Twankey. I had to have a different costume and I am a few sizes larger than Mr Wilson. His corset would not have covered much. Richard Chapman was our Aladdin and Jessica Robinson was Princess Jasmine. My daughter Mikayla was now becoming accustomed to the pantomime and after watching an early rehearsal, promptly fell in love with Jessica’s princess. Nick Dunbar was the villain of the piece and was lithe and ridiculous and all round excellent. One time, at panto, he was bending me over a bench in front of two hundred people and I couldn’t find the magic lamp (a rather important prop). I had to leave him onstage and (whilst shouting such helpful things like “It’s not in the toiiileeet”) madly search backstage. After a minute I had to give up and go back onstage, very white faced (more so than usual) and try to improvise a way out! Luckily enough Richard Chapman had found the lamp and it came sliding out onto the stage to many laughs and gasps of relief from us. As a side note to this season, Sir Ian McKellen (who once famously played Widow Twankey) came to see a show. We were all very nervous. As I started singing my first song I saw a tall elderly man in a pink cardigan elegantly walk down the aisle of the theatre and leave the auditorium. He never came back. He probably just realised he’d seen it before or something, ay. (uncomfortable pause)
Photo by Stephen A'Court.
Cinderella was actually my first pantomime, but I originally did it Dunedin when the fat ugly sister was named Obetia. Roger Hall has now changed it to the more politically neutral, Bertha. I remember on the opening night in Dunedin doing a big high kick during a number and one of my delicate little jazz slippers flying off into the audience. I thought, “Oh no. They’ll think it was a mistake” (which of course it was), so I decisively kicked my other slipper off. I was shoeless until interval. That was a trick for young players! Lesson learned. At Circa my sister was the hilarious Jon Pheloung. It was great to have someone to bounce off literally and figuratively. Our ‘other’ sister was Chelsea Bognuda (an even bigger girl crush for Mikayla) who was a charming and talented Cinderella. This pantomime was marked mostly by the great Johnny Wraight and his amazing sailing skateboard (it made the 6 o clock news one night) and by jumping off the diving platform outside Circa between shows one hot sunny day. I had had enough after one leap! It is a bigger fall than it looks. Our esteemed stage manager Eric Gardiner (all of 70 years old) jumped off twice!
Mother Goose was the first pantomime written by Michele Amas and one of my favourites. I loved how brave she was to have an openly gay and fully accepted family member character in what was already a very camp show. Simon Leary was fantastic in the role and trying to keep up with the improvisational comic talents of him and the wonderful Kathleen Burns, was a challenge and a joy every night. I was thrilled that we received no complaint letters about Simon’s character. Can’t beat Wellington on a good day!
Mother Goose was our first pantomime at Circa that Paul Jenden wasn’t a very committed member of the rehearsals room, production team and creative drive. Rest in peace Paul.

Red Riding Hood. Full circle? No wonder I am dizzy. As I write this we are just about the head into production week. The show is in excellent. Simon Leary is making me laugh so much it hurts. Awhimai Fraser is the sweetest Red Riding Hood with an incredible voice. Carrie Green is all curls and pouting. Patrick Davies is brilliant with physical comedy and his timing is immaculate. Jane Waddell and Jonathon Morgan are the perfect clown duo. And Tom Truss? Let’s just say Bring on the Full Moon!

03 November 2014

Join us for the 20th Anniversary Celebration of our waterfront building!

On 5 November, 1994, the new Circa building on the waterfront opened with a performance of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. This year, we’re celebrating 20 years of fantastic theatre in this building with a night of brilliant theatre followed by a glass of bubbly while watching a wonderful fireworks display over the harbour! (Ok, the fireworks are for Guy Fawkes' Night, but we’ll pretend they’re for us since this is such a great spot to watch them from.)


- Saturday, 8 November

- Attend a performance of The Pitmen Painters at 6.30pm or Isaac’s Eye at 7pm

- Stick around after for a complimentary drink and nibbles (hold onto your show ticket from the evening!), and then watch the fireworks from our prime location on the waterfront

Booking in advance is recommended: visit www.circa.co.nz or call the Circa Box Office on 801-7992