Ambassador Review – Waiting for Godot

What are you waiting for?

Waiting for Godot 
Written by Samuel Beckett
Directed by Ross Jolly
at Circa Theatre until 1 June 2019
Reviewed by Maddie, Wellington Home Education Network

Waiting for Godot is one of those play names you often hear bandied around. Any version of the famous (some would say infamous) mid-century play has a lot to live up to, but Ross Jolly’s production certainly does.

While it deals with the subject matter through an absurdist lens, I think what makes this play so captivating to watch is that it is fundamentally human in nature.

We can all relate to the feeling of waiting. Samuel Beckett uses that to his advantage, immediately placing us in the shoes of Vladimir (Andrew Foster) and Estragon (Jeff Kingsford-Brown) as they wait for someone, or something, that may never come.

The play thrives in the grey area between a humorous tragedy, and a dark comedy, and all of the performers tread that line very cleverly. Their exchanges switch back and forth between existential crisis and childish games continuously throughout the piece, and the actors handle both with great skill, taking the audience on an emotional rollercoaster over the two hour duration of the play. I found that the young audience members in particular seemed to have a strong response to the piece, and I was left wondering why that might be.

Did the play strike a chord with my generation because we know that we can’t simply wait for something to change? Did we find it funny because young people can see the childishness within adults much clearer than other adults can? Or do young people not feel that same pressure to be ‘proper’ at the theatre? I am still not entirely sure, but elicit a response it did all the same.

If the character of Vladimir is what pulls the audience into the story with his direct address and existential musings (Foster’s delivery of his lines is fresh and witty), then we are held there by Estragon’s humour and adorable carrot munching (Kingsford-Brown has a wonderful handle on the physicality of his character). Together these two actors form an unbeatable, very human comic/tragic duo, and their onstage camaraderie echoes the very comfortable relationship that the characters have.

While these two actors have to do lots of heavy lifting in terms of stage time, the other performers are just as captivating. Peter Hambleton and Jack Buchanan’s Pozzo and Lucky burst onto the scene part way through act one, and again in act two, providing Vladimir and Estragon with some much needed distraction from their waiting.

The choice to cast a much younger actor in the role of Lucky is an effective one, and makes their master and servant relationship very interesting. With Lucky dressed in his very punk attire, next to Pozzo’s tweed suit, is it a comment on an older generation trying to control a younger one, or is the enslaved Lucky a metaphor for the downtrodden? Buchanan plays the part of Lucky superbly, and I know I felt a twang of pain as Pozzo literally stamps out his free will with the line “That’s an end to his thinking”.

Pozzo is not a particularly likeable character to start out with, pompous, with little or no regard for anyone else, however, Hambleton’s portrayal is an extremely deft one, leaving you feeling an uneasy sense of pity for him by the time he leaves stage. He had great connection with the audience, and was a very engaging character to watch.

The final character, a goat herd who brings a message from Godot, known only as The Boy, is performed by Alex Buyck and Alex Usher on alternating nights, both of whom hold their own alongside the adult actors surrounding them.

Aside from the actors, I also have to give a huge hand to the visual design of the production, which was just superb. Marcus McShane’s powerful lighting illuminates Andrew Foster’s barren, war torn set, and casts eerie shadows against the high concrete walls that enclose the stage (Foster is a multi-talented individual, also appearing onstage as Vladimir). Sheila Horton’s costumes leave the characters stuck outside of time, reminiscent of many periods, but belonging to none, which helps to heighten the timelessness of the piece. The show really was something to behold.

Get along to Circa before 1 June to catch this compelling and thought provoking show.
As they say in the show “Nothing happens. Nobody comes, nobody goes. It’s awful.” Awfully good I’d say, so what are you waiting for?

Ambassador Review – Conversations with Dead Relatives

Heartfelt Stories from The Spirits Above

Circa Theatre; May 2nd 2019
Reviewed by Chantelle, Aotea College 
Written and performed by Phil Ormsby and Alex Ellis
Director: Jennifer Ward-Lealand
Duration: 60 minutes

Conversations With Dead Relatives explores the ideas of our ancestors’ influence and makes us question how much of an effect they should have on our own choices. The script is well-written, interesting and at times breaks the fourth wall which keeps the audience engaged and entertained.

The play is said to be a comedy, however I think it is much more than that. There is romance, heartbreak, adventure and drama throughout their journey through time. These additional genres add to the charm of the play, while not losing any of the comedy.

One of the most memorable and outstanding parts of the play was the Viking story. Phil Ormsby and Alex Ellis cleverly work together to tell this, committing to their accents and facial expressions from the very beginning, and while their incredible acting skills do help, their clear enthusiasm to be acting and working together is what really makes this scene fun to watch.

The exaggeration of body language, facial expressions, great articulation and commitment to accents as they retell multiple different stories with new characters is really what makes this play enjoyable and a stand-out performance overall. Through the play, we are introduced to multiple characters, which all have their own unique body language and accents. These character changes are made cleary to the audience thanks to the efficiency of their acting.

The interesting use of props (suitcases, plates, cups, etc) alongside the photographs/picture frames of family members helps to tell the story of these ancestors visually and utilises the setting.

Overall, this play makes me question my role in continuing my bloodline (as someone who doesn’t want children, it really shocked me to feel like I may have a duty to my ancestors to continue my bloodline), forced me to think about how much of our history is true or has been changed, and how much of an effect our ancestors have. I strongly recommend watching this heartfelt, thought-provoking and genuinely entertaining this wonderful piece of storytelling art.

Ambassador Review – Micronation Street Play Reading

Circa Theatre, April 6, 2019 
Reviewed by Xanthe, Wellington Girls 

Micronation Street, was a story of fighting for what you believe, in the face of obstacles – which is something that is very prevalent in our world today. The cast had amazing physicality, which was particularly useful as the 6 of them played about 30 characters.

While this was only a reading, and not the final polished play, it was really interesting from a drama student perspective, because it showed some of the creative process of creating a performance and I could relate to this process because of past drama experiences. 

Ambassador Review – The Children

Circa Theatre; March 31, 2019 
Reviewed by Piper, Heretaunga College 

The Children by Lucy Kirkwood and Directed by Susan Wilson is a play performed in Circa Theatre Wellington, with a duration of 1 hour and 45 minutes and at the cost of $25 – $52.

The Children is a dramatic, humorous and sorrowful play.

From entering, John Hodgkins’ set has taken my eye. The old fashioned living/dining and kitchen area are filled with light and small details grabbing you by its blue coloured cupboards and colourful walls.  

The theatrical piece is well performed by the three actors. Each actor has outstanding skills and performs the sad and deep performance brilliantly. The performance had you on the edge of your seat wanting more. They engaged physically as well as vocally with great power.

The sound and lighting were brilliantly executed. The sound and lighting contributed to the production to make an amazing outcome. They worked well together and made you feel like you were watching a TV show or movie. 

My overall impression of the play was breathtaking. I came away feeling shocked and sad but also relieved. Questions began to be answered throughout the play and the foreshadowing was greatly executed. At first, I thought this play wasn’t going to be my cup of tea but as I sat there on the edge of my seat watching the fantastic art in front of me it became my cup of tea. This show is definitely on a to watch list! It is a huge hit in London, New York and Australia stages and deserves the recognition. The beautifully performed and made performance is a wonderful watch and is well recommended. 

Wellington, NZ. 27 March 2019. Circa Theatre. The Children. By Lucy Kirkwood. Directed by Susan Wilson. Opens at Circa One. 30 March to 27 April 2019. Photo credit: Stephen A’Court. COPYRIGHT ©Stephen A’Court

While this play may not be directed towards the younger generations, it did not fail to entertain and resonate with this viewer. Thought provoking and beautifully acted – a piece for any lover of quality theatre.

Morgan, Hutt Valley High School

 

Introducing the I Am Māori Cast!

Meet the cast who will be touring I AM MĀORI around Aotearoa! 

Celeste De-Freitas

Celeste De-Freitas (Ngāti Porou) grew up in Perth, Western Australia but has been back home in New Zealand for nine years. Celeste studied drama in year 13 at high school but it was an epiphany during her first year of tertiary study that led her to try acting.

She completed a diploma in performing arts and then found Massive Theatre Company, Auckland. She has been a part of the Massive family for four years and has appeared in two of the company’s annual shows, Chance to Ignite in 2017 and Sighting‘ in 2018. In her spare time, Celeste loves to chill out and be with her beautiful family. 

James Forster

Hailing from Naenae, Lower Hutt, James Forster (Ngāti Porou) is a Graduate of Victoria University’s theatre programme, where he also studied English Literature, as well as primary and secondary school teaching. James’ flare for drama was first ignited during high school lunches spent stage-fighting with his mates. His time onstage has since grown to include seasons throughout Wellington with Young & Hungry, Summer Shakespeare, Wellington Fringe, and various projects with his university peers.

He greatly values the many moments and experiences shared with the individuals and communities he’s been lucky enough to meet – Who have pushed him to grow, while also reminding him to stay patient, light-hearted and not to take things too seriously. He hopes to continue doing so with the many he is yet to meet.

Jonathan Morgan

Wellington based Jonathan Morgan is of Māori (Ngāi Tāmanuhiri), Irish and Samoan (Magiagi, Sapapāli’i) descent. He holds a Bachelor of Applied Arts: Performing Arts (Singing) and a Diploma in Performing Arts (Musical Theatre) both from Whitireia Performance Centre and a Certificate in Screen Acting from Wellington Performing Arts Centre.

Career highlights for Jonathan so far have been ‘Puss’ in Puss in Boots – The Pantomime at Circa Theatre, ‘Tama T’ in Destination Beehive, touring Aotearoa with Capital E’s production of Songs of the Sea – Waiata o te Moana, ‘Mabel Fa’afafine’ in the upcoming feature film Upstage and cruising the Pacific on-board P&O’s Pacific Dawn last year, as a Youth Counsellor. When not on stage or in front of the camera, Jonathan’s hobbies include reading, swimming, Kapa Haka, watching and playing sport, and spending time with friends and family.

Piimio Mei

Piimio Mei (Tuhoe ruapuni raua ko Ngāti Kahungunu) made her debut in screen acting in 2017 starring as the lead in an independent comedy horror feature film, My Lover My Lazy Boy (working title, release 2019). She has since been working on film sets both in front and behind the camera; sets including the Māori Side Steps, commercials and short films. Through I am Māori, she returns to theatre for the first time since 2010, when she played the lead in her primary school production.

Although Piimio’s focus and main devotion is now acting she has an extensive background in dance, including a short term contract in an American Ballet Company, a Diploma in Commercial Dance and a Bachelor of Applied Arts in which she studied Siva Samoa, Cook Island and Maori Performing Arts. She has also danced with renowned Pasifika contemporary companies – Black Grace and Le Moana. 

We are so excited to have these four young actors on board. If you would like to find out more about the I AM MĀORI tour and how to book a performance for you school, click here

Playwrights confirmed for I Am Māori

The playwrights and plays that will be included in the in the 2019 have been confirmed!

In the 50-minute no-tech programme brought directly to your school by Y&H Tours, I AM MĀORI, directed by Nancy Brunning, showcases extracts from plays by Māori playwrights.

The plays and playwrights included are:

  • AND WHAT REMAINS – Mīria George
  • TAN-KNEE – Maraea Rakuraku
  • WOMAN FAR WALKING – Witi Ihimaera
  • TANIWHA WOMEN – Nancy Brunning
  • WAIORA – Hone Kouka*
  • DEATH OF THE LAND – Rori Hapīpī
  • ASTROMAN – Albert Belz*
  • NIGHT MECHANICS – Mīria George
  • NGĀ POU WAHINE – Briar Grace-Smith*
  • HUI – Mitch Tawhi Thomas

*NZQA Prescribed Playwright

The programme will touch on topics such as family issues, politics and land rights, with a common thread being ordinary people doing extraordinary things to change their world, no matter who they are or their background. It is the connection to their culture that gives them great strength to fight their battles and find the hero within.

Auditions for Y&H Tours 2019

We are looking for four up-and-coming professional Māori actors for the 2019 Y&H Tour to secondary schools, I AM MĀORI.

Directed by Nancy Brunning, I AM MĀORI showcases extracts from plays by Māori playwrights.

The programme will touch on topics such as family issues, politics and land rights, with a common thread being ordinary people doing extraordinary things to change their world, no matter who they are or their background. It is the connection to their culture that gives them great strength to fight their battles and find the hero within.

Confirmed excerpts include scenes from Hone Kouka’s Waiora, Briar Grace-Smith’s Ngā Pou Wāhine and Astroman by Albert Belz.

Available roles: two male, two female – all Māori

Rehearsals: 7 April – 29 April, 2019 – in Wellington

Tour dates: 30 April – 22 June, 2019 (see calendar)

We are looking for:

  • Confident speakers of Te Reo
  • Can hold a tune/ sing a waiata – playing an instrument is a bonus but not necessary  
  • Open, talented (whether from training or experience), be strong in your own opinion but also able to create a safe and supportive team spirit
  • A willingness to muck in and get along are essential
  • Full drivers licence desired – the cast tour by themselves with the support of head office and a minimum of two full licences required for health and safety  

Auditions Dates:

Auckland: Saturday 2 February, 2019             Wellington: Saturday 9 February, 2019

On registration, a script will be sent out in preparation for the audition

How to apply

To audition: please send your C.V. and a separate photo to Natasha Thyne – [email protected]

Let us know which audition centre you’d like to attend and your preference for a morning or afternoon session.

For any queries please contact Natasha at the email address above or call 04 385 8227

**Y&H Tours recommends EQUITY New Zealand

I AM MĀORI; announcing first 3 plays

I AM MĀORI to include three playwrights from the NZQA prescribed playwrights list

We are pleased to confirm excerpts from playwrights Hone Kouka, Briar Grace- Smith and Albert Belz will be included in I AM MĀORI.

The programme will feature scenes from Hone Kouka’s Waiora, Briar Grace-Smith’s Ngā Pou Wāhine and Astroman by Albert Belz, which recently had twin premiers at The Court in Christchurch and the Melbourne Theatre Company.

In the 50-minute no-tech programme brought directly to your school by Y&H Tours (A Country of Two Halves, OUTLIERS), I AM MĀORI showcases extracts from plays by Māori playwrights.

We are thrilled to have Nancy Brunning as the director and dramaturg of what will be another excellent show for your students.

Nancy selected these scenes because they all deal with change – whether that change is bad, liberating or challenging. 

“As artists each of the writers have used pathos, debate and imagination to highlight how their protagonists experience the status quo, ask more of the world they live In and endeavour to understand what is real, to find release or to remember what is good about being Māori in an unforgiving New Zealand”

About the Plays and Playwrights

Hone Kouka’s Waiora is set in 1965 and tells the story of a Māori family, who have recently migrated to the South Island from the East Cape, preparing to celebrate a birthday with their Pakeha guests.

Hone (Ngati Porou, Ngati Raukawa, Ngati Kahungunu) is an acclaimed Māori writer, winner of the Bruce Mason Award (1992) and multiple Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards. He became a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Contemporary Māori Theatre in June 2009.

A recent reviewer said of Waiora; “It is a beautifully written play that merges Greek tragedy with classic post-war plays like Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. It is funny, carefully observed, well-crafted and with a pleasingly old-fashioned feel.”

Ngā Pou Wāhine was Briar Grace-Smith’s first play and earned her the Bruce Mason Playwriting Award in 1995. The debut season was directed by Nancy Brunning and starred Rachel House.

Briar Grace-Smith (Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Wai) ONZM has written for stage, television and film as well as short stories.

Ngā Pou Wāhine brings to life the journey of a young, working class wāhine, as she discovers her true spirit through the fabulous stories of her whānau and the dramatic history of her ancestor, Waiora.

The NZ Herald said of the play; “Briar Grace-Smith’s uniquely poetic vision achieves universal appeal through its vividly detailed focus on a particular rural community that presents itself like a hologram composed from an accumulation of luminous fragments.”

Astroman is a flashback to the 80s and tells the story of Jimmy, a gifted boy genius who escapes life’s pressures at the local Astrocade. With the help of his resourceful mother and the elderly Scottish owner, he battles bullies, stops space invaders and grabs an extra life.

“It’s an endearing, physical and nostalgic coming-of-age drama,” Stuff review, October 2018.

Albert Belz (Ngati Porou, Nga Puhi, Ngati Pokai) has been a professional writer for television, film and theatre since 2001. He has been nominated for and won several Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards during his career including Best New Zealand Play and Most Original Play amidst many others.

Book today

I AM MĀORI will be touring to schools around New Zealand from April 30th to June 21nd. 

Booking information and a proposed tour route are now available on the website.  

Booking enquiries can be made directly via programme administrator Natasha at [email protected] or 04 385 8227

A full list of excerpts will be announced at the start of Term 1, 2019

Nancy Brunning to direct Y&H Tour ’19

We are thrilled to have Nancy Brunning as the director and dramaturg of the Y&H Tour 2019; I AM MĀORI

I AM MĀORI will be touring schools around New Zealand from April 30th to June 21nd.  For more information about booking the tour; click here

Nancy Brunning

Producer/Director/Writer

Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāi Tūhoe. Nancy has been involved in professional theatre since 1992. She trained at Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School in 1990-1991, established herself as a theatre actor, director and dramaturge with Māori Theatre/Production Company Taki Rua Productions for well over 15 years.

She has acted for theatre throughout New Zealand and has directed theatre in English and Māori.  She also works as an actor and has assisted with dramaturgy with some of New Zealand’s most celebrated Māori Playwrights such as Briar Grace-Smith, Witi Ihimaera, Hone Kouka and Albert Belz to name a few.

In 2011, she wrote her first play which was produced in 2014 in Wellington, later that year she was selected as the first Indigenous NZ Writer at the Banff Indigenous Writers Residency in Canada 2014.  Hīkoi was then premiered at the 2015 Auckland Arts Festival. Nancy is also an actor recently playing Ramona in “Mahana” ”Directed by Lee Tamahori based on the novel “Bulibasha” by Witi Ihimaera.  She is cast in the TV drama In Dark Places, the story about Teina Pora and the latest season of Brokenwood Mysteries. 

She has recorded many plays and short stories for Radio NZ, was casting manager and kaitautoko for Documentary/Drama film “Belief” about the tragic death of Wainuiomata resident Janet Moses.  Most recently she directed Albert Belz’s Astroman for The Court Theatre.

Hāpai Productions was co-founded by Nancy and Tanea Heke in 2013. Nancy took on the role of Producer/Director and Writer in their project Portrait of an Artist Mongrel celebrating the writing of Rowley Habib which was presented at this year’s Auckland Writers Festival.

2019 tour announcement – I AM MĀORI

Young & Hungry is pleased to present its theme for the 2019 tour;

I am Māori

Ordinary People changing the world

In the 50-minute no-tech programme brought directly to your school by Y&H Tours (A Country of Two Halves, OUTLIERS), I AM MĀORI showcases extracts from plays by Māori playwrights.

We are thrilled to have Nancy Brunning (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāi Tūhoe) as the director and dramaturg of what will be another excellent show for your Drama and English students. 

Nancy is an actress, writer and director who has won awards in film and television and has made a major contribution to the growth of Māori arts, including acting as a dramaturg for some of New Zealand’s most celebrated Māori playwrights.

Nancy says she would aspire her storyteller super power to be matakite/seeing into the future.

“Ki te kahore he whakakitenga, ka ngaro te iwi – without foresight or vision the people will be lost”.

The programme will touch on topics such as family issues, politics and land rights, with a common thread being ordinary people doing extraordinary things to change their world, no matter who they are or their background. It is the connection to their culture that gives them great strength to fight their battles and find the hero within. 

I AM MĀORI will be touring to schools around New Zealand from April 30th to June 21nd.  

The programme will feature at least one extract from a playwright on the NZQA prescribed reading list, with all extracts confirmed by early term 1, 2019.

Booking information and a proposed tour route are now available on the website. Booking enquiries can be made directly via programme administrator Natasha at [email protected] or 04 385 8227

Stay tuned for more information being released in the coming months.

Curriculum support

Along with the performance at your school, your booking includes a study guide with:

  • A master script
  • Playwright bios and play synopses
  • a digital filming of the work which can be accessed anytime throughout the year after the performance,
  • notes and information from the creative team,
  • and pre and post show activities and exercises tailored to exam requirements.

Y&H Tours (Formerly EnsembleImpact: A Country of Two Halves, OUTLIERS)

Y&H Tours takes New Zealand theatre to secondary schools, universities and youth theatre groups around the country. Created to support the drama curriculum, it showcases a themed collection of New Zealand playwrights, tells New Zealand stories, addresses issues that are relevant to New Zealand youth, and employs young New Zealand actors at the start of their professional careers.

Performed in traverse by four young professional actors, the show requires no lighting or sound set up. It is ideally suited to Drama students in years 10 -13 and has a 5-minute Q and A built into the programme.