27 January 2015

Demolition of the Recording

Musician Sean O'Brien (aka Joe Blossom) talks about Duncan Sarkies and The Demolition of the Century.

In film, people talk of method actors. I think of Duncan Sarkies as a method writer. His prose is first person narrative and one of the ways he dials up the world through which his characters bumble, stumble and crumble is through music. Each character has a carefully curated soundtrack – much in the same way anyone born post 1950 has their own personal life soundtrack. Life remembered in 4/4… 6/8… or 7/8.

When you come to The Demolition of the Century you hear the music that moved Duncan into mode. You hear the yelp of Charlie Feathers, the sexual howl of Gene Vincent and the tender confessions of Nina Simone. The music frames each piece of the show and speaks of the subconscious stream flowing between the characters speaking.

I’ve always enjoyed Duncan’s taste in music, as he’s an avid mix-tape maker. So I knew working on this show would take me into new territory and help me grow as a songwriter.

What I love about doing this sort of thing is delving into the craft of someone else’s songwriting. Because I’m performing these pieces solo, I have to strip away all signature elements of a recorded work, but in doing so find what seems to be the essence of a writer’s intention. Looking for deconstruction and hopefully not demolition of the recording.

The spoken word and the sense of theatre enrich that experience for me. Lends a unique purpose.

The Demolition of the Century opens 31 January and runs until 21 February. To book, visit www.circa.co.nz or call the Circa Box Office on 801-7992.

19 January 2015

Composer Gareth Hobbs on the music in Seed

Seed opened at Circa Theatre over the weekend to a ‘rapturous reception’. Publicist Debbie Fish talks to musician Gareth Hobbs about creating the original score for the show.

Gareth Hobbs at work.
DF: Where do you start, when you’re creating music for a show?
GH: Generally I read the script and the first thing I do is create what I would call ‘sketches’ – so just short bits of music. Often if there’s a key moment of music in the script I’ll try and make an example of what that might sound like. Partially as an experiment for myself to see what works to get what I would think of as a palette for the show: what the different sounds are, what the instruments are and sometimes that just takes a little bit of experimenting, trying different things and seeing what I like and what sounds good. In the case of Seed, I arrived relatively early on, on the idea of doing a lot a lot of saxophones, saxophone quartet kind of style. One of the first bits of music I made was using those instruments and I liked how it sounded in relation to the play.

Tess Jamieson-Karaha and Holly Shanahan in Seed. Photo by Paul McLaughlin.
DF: How would you describe the music for Seed?
GH: One of the big things I was going into with the music was that this was a comedy and I wanted the music to be fun, I wanted it to be lively and I wanted it to be exciting. We talked early on about it having a cinematic, TV sort of feel in that it’s fast-paced, with lots of cuts between scenes, so that’s another thing that inspired the music early on. And that was also one of the things that attracted me to using saxophones in this orchestration, was that they could do that – they could have a really big, fun lively sound, but at the same time they could sound very soft and mournful and melancholy sometimes. Jake Baxendale plays multiple saxophones – three quarters of an actual saxophone quartet, so Jake recorded all the saxophones and the rest of the instrumentation is myself.

Holly Shanahan in Seed. Photo by Paul McLaughlin.
DF: You spend a lot of time in the rehearsal room – how do you find the action in the rehearsal room inspires or informs your process?
GH: Particularly in the case of Seed, the music is very scored to the action in a lot of places, a lot of quick transitions and stuff like that so it’s the kind of stuff that’s very difficult to judge in terms of timing and how it actually works, until you see it working with the action. I think that’s true of a lot of things, at least the way that I work in theatre is that I can make things and I can imagine them working in a certain way, but until I actually try them out in rehearsal I’m not really sure if it’s the right thing or not. So that’s always a part of the way that I like to work is to be in the room, to be throwing stuff in, trying to decide whether it works or not.

Tess Jamieson-Karaha and Jamie McCaskill in Seed. Photo by Paul McLaughlin. 
DF: What else are you working on this year?
GH: I’m working at the moment on All Your Wants and Needs, which is touring to New York as part of the New Zealand New Performance Festival, so that’s very exciting. I’m also working on Beards! Beards! Beards! with Trick of the Light Theatre Company, which is going to be at Circa as part of the Capital E Children’s Festival.

Visit garethhobbs.bandcamp.com/music to listen to some of Gareth’s original music.

Seed runs until 14 February. To book, visit, www.circa.co.nz or call the Circa Box Office on 801-7992.

12 January 2015

The Kitchen at the End of the World: 'takes place in a surreal place somewhere between Samuel Beckett and C.S.Lewis!'

The Kitchen at the End of the World is set in an empty hotel on the edge of the Great Vastness, the unchartered lands beyond the stretch of marionettes' strings. On a snowy evening, a poet, a mathematician and a musician find out that there is only one original song left before all the combinations of musical notes and words have been used up. The same night, a penniless traveller is smuggled into the hotel kitchen and the almost forgotten secrets at the edge of the world begin to emerge. This magical marionette show brought tears to the eyes of sell-out audiences at the Greytown Arts Festival in 2012, and is set to premiere at Circa on January 16. Stage manager, Anke Szczepanski, interviews writer and puppeteer William Connor about the play and its origins.

AS:  How did the “Kitchen” script come about?

WC: The script for the play has been in my creative subconscious for years now. I had this idea of a poet, a mathematician and a musician meeting in an empty hotel and working out that there is only one final original combination of musical notes and words before the reservoirs of collective creativity have been exhausted. Another image in my head was of this song being performed in front of crowds on a stage as a dramatic comic apocalypse! I told my partner Steffen about the idea and we planned it as an illustrated children's storybook. After working with marionettes during his Masters degree, I decided that the concept would suit marionette theatre beautifully and this gave me the impetus to write the play.

AS: What / who inspired you?

WC: Because this play has been hanging around in my head for ages, it has had a lot of time to steep and gather flavours of other works. I was inspired by Ronnie Burkett's “Ten Days on Earth”, particularly his harnessing of marionettes to tell sad and sometimes dark stories. Other than this, I think the play takes place in a surreal place somewhere between Samuel Beckett and C.S.Lewis!

AS: How does it feel to puppeteer your own script?

WC: The line learning and puppeteering processes are just like for any other play. Since completing the final edit, I have completely lost any sense of authority or ownership over the script and feel I guess like a parent does when their child grows up and starts their own independent life. The lines have a distinct family resemblance to the thoughts in my head, but I have to give it space to live and grow and be cut up by my fellow director and puppeteers!

AS: Who’s your favourite character as a writer and as a puppeteer?

WC: As a writer, I am really fascinated by Cook, the wise gentle matriarch of the Hotel at the End of the World. In the latest rewrite, she has gained more dimensions and a vulnerability that has made her a really compelling character for me. As a puppeteer, James, the traveller and narrator is my favourite! He is a beautifully made marionette - I really feel him and love the transfixing way his face can express sadness and hope just with the gentlest tilt of the control. Puppetry is such a strange and thrilling art! I never get tired of these two characters!

The Kitchen at the End of the World opens on Friday, 16 January and runs until 25 January. There is a $20 Preview on Thursday, 15 January. Tickets are booking quickly for all performances, book now! Visit www.circa.co.nz or call 801-7992.

05 January 2015

Red Riding Hood: 'an entertaining show, filled with romance, comedy and drama'

Red Riding Hood herself, Awhimai Fraser, talks to drama on the waterfront about the panto experience for the first post of 2015!

Awhimai Fraser in Red Riding Hood. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
There is nothing more rewarding than watching a young child trying to tell you out of pure desperation that there is “a wolf behind you” or with cheeks turning red out of exertion after “booing” the villain off the stage. Of course, that doesn't beat the moment when the adults in the audience discover the multiple meanings of jokes in this pantomime.  

Patrick Davies and Awhimai Fraser in Red Riding Hood. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
Being a member of this cast has been an absolute honour, leaving me with many fond memories; sharing stories around the dinner table, completing chocolate calendars leading up to Christmas, singing “Let it go” at the top of my lungs with the cast as a ‘pre-show warm up’ or meeting the children after the show and seeing their new found love for the Arts. 

Awhimai Fraser and Simon Leary in Red Riding Hood. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
After having a lovely Christmas break with my family, I am ready to get back into the second season of this exciting show! So book your tickets NOW and be prepared for an entertaining show, filled with romance, comedy and drama. Even better, it’s suitable for all ages! Why not make a night of it and have dinner at Circa’s very own bar/restaurant Encore – they make the best chicken pot pies.

Red Riding Hood, the Pantomime runs until 10 January. To book, visit, www.circa.co.nz or call the Circa Box Office on 801-7992.