Ambassador Show Reviews

Young and Hungry Ambassadors attend about 20 free performing arts events each season.  They are encouraged to research the shows, learn about the different genres and performance styles, and develop their appreciation and critical thinking as audience members.  Throughout the season the Ambassadors are required to write a minimum of three reviews for three shows of their choice.  Below are examples of some of this year’s show reviews; here’s what our Ambassadors had to say…

Bloody Hell Jesus (Get Your Own Friends) – Young and Hungry
Dust Pilgrim – Red Leap Theatre
The Elephant Thief – Indian Ink
Hotel Europa – Toi Whakaari
Jekyll and Hyde – A Slightly Isolated Dog
Joyful and Triumphant – Circa Theatre
My Dad’s Boy – Finn Teppett
The Magic Flute – NZ Opera

Bloody Hell Jesus (Get your own Friends)

By Lucy Craig, Directed by Jane Yonge
Young & Hungry Festival of New Theatre
Duration: 60 minutes
Venue: BATS Theatre, 6.30pm, 15-30 July, 2016

Reviewed by Rory Kane, Rongotai College

You would think that a play about a girl whose friend converts to Christianity would focus on why people should join said religion – but no. It focuses on making your own choices in life, friendship and a biblical proportion of other themes.

The unpredictability of Bloody Hell Jesus is what makes this play a delight. Just when you think the play is going where you expect it to be going, it takes a sharp left turn and ends up going someplace else. But instead of making the sudden changes unpleasant or unwelcome, Craig turns the unpredictability into a major running point which is what makes this play so unique.

That, punctuated by several great performances and plenty of laughs (Hipster Jesus is a nice touch) makes Bloody Hell Jesus 60 minutes of heartwarming, heartbreaking and, of course, brilliantly funny holy delight.

Dust Pilgrim

Devised by Red Leap Theatre, Directed by Julie Nolan and Kate Parker
Duration: 60 minutes
Venue: Te Whaea, 7 July, 2016

Reviewed by Claudia Zuba, Aotea College

Entering the theatre, we the audience are introduced to a stage camouflaged in sand laid out in a peculiar rectangle formation. Sand bags are dangling from above and one is already intrigued for what is yet to come.

Out comes running a stressed ridden Panuelo (Ella Becroft) who is miming washing dishes, beating the dust from curtains and partaking in various other chores in a repeating ongoing action. The ongoing ‘beat’ of deep inhales and exhales being played externally really encapsulated Panuelo’s need for release from this lifestyle and the audience can understand there must be a higher power encouraging Panuelo’s suffering.

Panuelo’s mother (Alison Bruce) who comes into the scene riding upon a gentleman’s shoulders who is hidden under her antique poofy skirt to emphasis her almighty power, is responsible for holding Panuelo ultimately hostage and restricting her from a life of freedom. When Panuelo finally does get the courage to make a run for it, she finds herself on a journey to freedom filled with crazy antics and the discovery of people who help her find herself.

The ‘Box scene,’ in which Panuelo is involved in as a part of a ringmaster’s (Thomas Eason) act and then onto a rhythmic pattern of boxes turning as Panuelo interacts with the back of a man, looked especially difficult to block and execute as many times the actors had to hide their boxes and be turned in various directions while still managing to be concealed.

The back of the man hiding in a box, whom Panuelo was trying to interact with helped add to the concept of this being Panuelo’s first time discovering the outside world, and the complications of not entirely knowing what to expect from strangers as she has been emotionally/physically for the vast majority of her life Her anxiety towards interacting with the man made Becroft’s acting all the more astounding.

The use of chalk as a symbol of heartbreak was something I had never seen done before. I felt in awe by how fantastic the undertaking of Panuelo cracking a piece of chalk against her mother’s chest to convey all they had been through together and how the story had almost become full circle as now Panuelo seemed to have the control over her weak mother.

I would also like to give mention to the lack of talking, as it definitely added more to the narrative, to know some things need to be shown and not spoken. When a character did speak, I felt entranced on every word as each piece of dialogue was clearly carefully structured to be said with a purpose and intention.

Overall Dust Pilgrim is a ravishing and intelligently told tale of one girl’s plight for freedom and the struggles she must face along the way. This show is one I would recommend to someone with an interest in history or anyone who enjoys artistic or avant garde themes.

The Elephant Thief

by Justin Lewis & Jacob Rajan, Directed by Justin Lewis
Indian Ink
Duration: 120 minutes
Venue: Hannah Playhouse

Reviewed by Abby Wutzler, Wellington Girls College

The words ‘a serious laugh’ has never rung more true in the case of The Elephant Thief. A show that makes you laugh and think is so hard to do. But Indian Ink seemed to have hit the nail on the head with this piece.

The Elephant Thief drives us 50 years into the future. Where global warming, war and human greed has made the world a barren place. Leela Devi is from a small village in the mountain sheltered from the cruelty of the word. Her need for adventure forces her to get out and see the world. As she travels she sees the worst of the world. Organ traffickers, poachers, corrupt cops, dirty politics and the last elephant.

There is only a handful of actors. But they all play a multitude of roles with conviction. All of the characters were able to perfectly blend the comedy into the seriousness of what they are saying. Vanessa Kumar is one of the few actors who only plays one role. But she is one of the strongest characters. Able to make us laugh and cry throughout the entire play. She was the driving force of the production and the range of emotions she went through also influenced the audience.

The use of audience interaction also makes a massive impact on the play. At first the play had no audience interaction, but as it progressed they began to rope us in more and more. As the moral of the play became clearer the audience began to have an impact on the play. By voting for fates of characters and helping with different objectives. This showed how we have an impact on the future like we did on this play. #SeriousLaugh

Hotel Europa

By Goran Stefanovski, Directed by Anna Marbrook
Toi Whakaari, New Zealand Drama School
Venue: Te Whaea, 15-22 of June, 2016

Reviewed by Ethan Painter, St Patrick’s College

Hotel Europa was a very interesting play that addressed many issues currently in the spotlight of not New Zealand, but also the rest of the world.  Some of these include migration and homelessness.

Upon entering the theatre where the play was being presented, the actors had already gotten into character and were greeting the audience as their characters as the rest of the audience walked in and took their seats. I thought the play was very absurdist and drew on many elements from that including over exaggerated actions, minimal dialogue (somewhat), and a range of others.

Hotel Europa is set in, as the name suggests, a hotel. I believe that this ‘Hotel Europa’ represents not only a hotel, but also Europe as a whole. The play tackles issues like mass migration from the east due to geopolitical instability, and the challenges that many refugees face when making the perilous journey west. I also feel that the play incorporates the idea of ‘East meets West’ and two somewhat but not totally differing cultures and peoples having to come together and support one another.

Finally, I thought the play was extraordinary. The way it tackled issues that are relevant to today was fantastic and informative. I put my hands together for the Toi Whakaari students and say Bravo! It is a must watch.

Jekyll and Hyde

A re-imagining of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Devised and presented by A Slightly Isolated Dog
Directed by Leo Gene Peters
Venue: Circa Two, Circa Theatre, 3rd April 2016

Reviewed by: Katie Watling, St Oran’s College

As soon as I walked into the theatre I knew the play was going to be like no other I had seen before. The first thing that I noticed was that the stage was very small, with only two rows of seating for the audience. This made me think it was going to be quite a new experience for me in the audience. I had never seen a stage like this and I believed it was going to be a great show.

There were shiny black cloths draped over the back rows of the raised seats, making sure everyone was close up and involved with the performance. The set was very basic, yet captivating, which made the performance full of life and allowed us as the audience to focus solely on the actors on the stage, rather than being distracted by the set.

Jekyll and Hyde followed the funny and mysterious story of two men, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The play itself was very comical and amusing, however at times it was also quite intrusive to your own thoughts. This allowed us as the audience to connect with the story on a more personal level.

I absolutely loved the way that Blair Godby, the sound designer, utilised different sounds to make the performance have great impact on the audience. When sounds such as ‘the suspicious sound’ occurred in the show it made the audience intrigued by what will happen next.

As for the overall performance I thought it was very well performed and developed. I thoroughly enjoyed the way that the actors were so attentive and listened to all of the details that you gave them. If they asked your name or a detail about yourself at the beginning, they remembered it the whole course of the show; it was incredible!

I also enjoyed how they had very different/contrasting characters and this made the show more diverse and interesting to see how they all interacted. The way that the actors were able to show such different qualities in their characters, yet they were all loved a lot by the audience.

This was an incredible and an eye opening new experience for me, as I have never been in the audience and felt as though I was an actor as well. It was as if I was creating the play with the actors as we went along. By being heavily involved in the acting it made you feel as though it were real and you can understand the play more as a whole.

The sounds were utilised in a great way in order to have impact on the audience, and it definitely did that. I thoroughly enjoyed when a sound came on and all of the actors had a sharp head turn and looked right into someone’s eyes. This created impact on the audience and made them feel as though they were a part of the Mr Hyde mystery.

The most memorable part of the performance, for me, was when Mr Hyde ran out onto the street and then another actor comes back up to the door slowly. The sound design chosen for this specific part easily showed what had happened to Mr Hyde and the sound effects conveyed the emotions that the audience should feel.

Overall Jekyll and Hyde is an amazing all round show. It will leave you rolling on the floor laughing and then make you feel other emotions too. It is a great performance with a lot of energy radiating off the actors, which then also rubs off on the audience. The small amount of set and seating made it a more personal performance and you could really connect with the actors as they felt like your very good friends. I believe that the response from the audience was great and heaps of people would recommend it to others.

I would definitely recommend this as a ‘must see’ play for anyone who is looking for a show that they have never experienced before, a very well thought out, improvised yet structured performance. If you want a laugh, this is definitely the show to see. Everyone who sees this will get something out of it, and you will not go the whole show without laughing.

Joyful & Triumphant

by Robert Lord, directed by Susan Wilson
Circa Theatre
Duration: 2 hours 35 minutes
Venue: Circa One, Circa Theatre

Reviewed by Kendall Tatham, Queen Margaret College

Walking in to the theatre at Circa, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Coming from an outsider who moved to New Zealand only a few years ago, I have little knowledge about the history of New Zealand, let alone the coming of age of the nation throughout the years. The set was intriguing with the thrust stage inviting the audience amongst the typical family Christmas atmosphere – assisted by the Christmas tree tucked upstage.

The theatre style of the piece faithfully captured the realism of the different perspectives over time. This realism was what, in the end, successfully communicated the struggles, failures and successes of New Zealand over the years. National and Labour party jokes were made, the Māori fight for equality was included and of course, there is no New Zealand play without the mention of rugby. Looking at the demographic of the audience, the majority were mature which thus explained the reason as to why when several of the references went over my head, the rest of the audience seemed to be laughing and were amused: the play portrayed the transition of our country over time. The realisation then occurred to me that only a mature audience would understand this as they experienced this transition for themselves.

The actual performance was separated into sections each representing a different time. During each performance, the aspect that I found made the transition of time the most believable was the actors ability to change their posture and movements as if they aged 10 years in that 2 minute transition. Particularly in Jane Waddell’s performance as Lyla, a grandmother in the piece, her transformation from a lively, traditional grandma to a blunt pessimistic character was extremely entertaining and also shockingly truthful to the reality of aging.

The lighting was one of my personal favourite production elements in the show, the twinkling of the white spotlights during the transitions not only emphasised the beauty and magic of Christmas but also created a sense of rhythm within the audience that satisfied the ease into the next scene. The music was an aspect not to be forgotten – used both in transitions and during the piece, the specific music helped to emphasis the time of the scene and specifically, the Māori song at the end was a heartfelt touch to conclude the play for reasons expressed through Raewyn’s (Lyndee-Jane Rutherford) moving life story.

Thus, my overall conclusion of the play is Joyful and Triumphant accurately depicts the historical progression of New Zealand over time in an enticing manner, and although sometimes only understood by an older demographic, the themes were widely understood making the play a pleasure to watch. Surprisingly, despite the performance time that made me inwardly groan when I first found out, the time was hardly noticed during the piece and although I must admit this play would not have been my typical cup-of-tea, the night will be held in high regard.

My Dad’s Boy

By Finnius Teppett, directed By Ryan Knighton
Venue: The Propeller Stage, BATS Theatre

Reviewed by Tyla Ahern, Aotea College

Being greeted by the main actors of a show, was a very interesting way for the show to be established as something we don’t see every day. But of course, we do not go to the theatre to see the same thing again and again.

If the writer and director’s idea for the play My Dad’s Boy was to take an audience of all ages, and make them laugh, smile, frown, think, and relate to the piece, then they absolutely succeeded. The play, following a young man as he recollects memories of his father, makes the audience absolutely and completely understand both the father and the son. The feeling of understanding both characters so completely is a real rarity in plays, both directors and actors finding it hard to create a character that is more 3 dimensional than 2 dimensional, but in ‘My Dad’s Boy’, as an audience member, I definitely felt like the characters weren’t characters at all, but real people with real experiences and feelings.

The two main characters, ‘Dad’ (John Landreth) and ‘Me’ (James Russell) shared a very real connection, to the point where many audience members were asking themselves if the actors were in fact father and son. To convince the audience so thoroughly of a connection between two characters that they begin to wonder if it is a real life connection, is a very sure sign of amazing acting and commitment to character.

Next to this deep connection between the characters of ‘Dad’ and ‘Me’, we have the character ‘Everybody else.’ The actor who played the character ‘Everybody else’ (Freya Daly Sadgrove) played many smaller, yet still vital characters, ‘Dad’s’ wife, and then mistress, ‘Me’s girlfriend, and then of course Helen Clark, among them. Daly Sadgrove was immensely talented in her ability to switch from character to character so convincingly, that you could tell merely from her body language and connection to either ‘Dad’ or ‘Me’ which character she was playing at any given time.

The use of set, that is one table and two chairs, was extremely effective, to the credit of the actors and directors manipulation of them. Through simple things, such as a change in lighting, or even a simply folding a tablecloth in half, the audience completely believed that the characters were now in a completely different setting. Also a clever manipulation of setting was the tool the writer used of splitting the entire show into different segments; for example, at the very beginning of the play, ‘Everyone else’ stepped up to a microphone and stated ‘part 1- Rugby’. The simple use of a microphone located in the corner of the stage, made the mood change between scenes that much more effective.

The goal of My Dad’s Boy was, I’m sure, to shock audiences. It did just that. Through simple yet effective things right from the beginning, such as ‘Dad’ and ‘Me’ greeting the audience as they walked in, to splitting the entire play up into small segments, right through to characters who were so relatable and honest that the audience genuinely related to them, and the connection that they shared, My Dad’s Boy truly shocked audiences in the best way possible.

The Magic Flute

By Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Directed by Sara Brodie, conducted by Wyn Davies
NZ Opera
Venue: St. James Theatre

Reviewed by Feodor Tarrant-Hill, Wellington College

The Magic Flute gives a beautiful New Zealand spin on Mozart’s classical piece, with actors all over the globe taking part in this spectacle.

As a first time opera-goer, The Magic Flute was a breath-taking experience that has instilled the beginnings of a love for opera in me. After the end of it, I was left yearning for more and wishing it would continue. But alas this was not the case.

I would highly recommend people who haven’t gone to the opera to jump at this opportunity. If the idea of a just musical performance scares you like it did for me, do not worry as The Magic Flute is the perfect mixture of music, song, dance and acting.

The only negative aspect I found was sometimes the lyrics became a bit hard to hear when they hit the high notes but this did not matter as they had subtitles to accompany them (although sometimes they did fail to keep up with the opera).

All-in-all it was an amazing experience to which I would definitely go again to see and would recommend it to opera-lovers and people who have never been to an opera alike!