When I got to Wellington, I hadn’t seen a play in over a month (and a month in traveller-time is a long long time), so I was psyched that I was within walking distance of at least three theatres. If that (plus the fact that I refuse to even think about any of the extreme activities that people do when they come to New Zealand and go to bed at 8pm every night) makes me a nerd, well then.
After checking into the YHA, I booked a ticket to Music and Me, a new play by young Kiwi performer (Victoria Schmidt), playing at Bats Theatre (across the street!) about all sorts of disenfranchised people in South Auckland (which, I learned from two different plays, is a tough part of town- theatre can be educational and edgy). It was a good for a first full-length play and I forgave the ungrounded stage presence of some of the actors because of Schmidt’s skills as a writer, performer and (mostly) spoken word artist. There were only about six people in the audience (including a texting-girl in the front row and a pen-clicking girl behind me), but it was really cool to feel like I discovered a bit of young artists doing their thing.
The next day, I walked to the Downstage Theatre (three doors up the street!) to see Flowers from My Mother’s Garden. Not having done my research and my cultural reference points for New Zealand culture ending at Heavenly Creatures and Katherine Mansfield, I didn’t know that I was about to experience a unique piece of theatre by the legendary theatrical family of Harcourt (the poor man’s Richardson-Redgraves?). It was apparently a first in the autobiographical theatre genre when it was staged 14 years ago, but to me it was quite a lovely, straight-forward, funny, touching piece of not-too-avant-garde theatre. A look at a mother-daughter relationship that subtly teaches you a thing or two about New Zealand’s history and culture.
There was a talk-back afterwards and the lighting/projection designer was really good-looking (and his work was too).
After having written off Circa Theatre because of ticket prices (student tickets are $38), I realised that Manawa was opening the next day which meant they had a more affordable preview, which I booked straight away. And maybe I should stop with my unacknowledged and hypocritical rule that I don’t pay more than $25 for a ticket. Because then maybe I’d see gems like this one a bit more often. A fascinating story (that was so precise and convincing that I wasn’t sure was based on real events or not. It’s not.) about two prisoners negotiating the New Zealand justice system, media, and obsession with the protection of native birds. The music, writing, performances, seamless transitions (and this was a preview) and challenging topic made this play one of the best I’ve seen in the past few years.
Other performances I attended that week include:
Sadly, my week did not include attending Bret Mackenzie’s Q&A session (I missed him by 8 hours- damn non-changeable ferry-tickets!). I still cry myself to sleep 2 weeks later.