Ambassador Review – The Atom Room

Circa Theatre; June 27, 2018
Review by Ben Shea, Wellington College

It is often the case with our cool little capital of Wellington we are so spoiled for choice by the abundance of culture that we miss the little gems which don’t come from an ‘Award winning Broadway season’ or ‘Straight off the West End’.  Philip Braithwaite’s new play The Atom Room is one such production which should by no means be missed. From the promotional material it seems like a Kiwi attempt to jump on the long departed dystopian train, but it’s more than a dystopian tale, or in fact a science-fiction one. For the most part it is in fact a love story, telling the story of a couple’s struggle to stay together while separated by 54.6 million kilometres of space and connected only by the wonders of the Atom Room. As Clare Waldron (Margret) touched on in the post show Q&A the story could take place anywhere, anytime, in any kind of long distance relationship. The Martian setting is merely another way of exploring a universally applicable idea.

The small cast all deliver, the dynamic between Sarah (Harriet Prebble) and Danny (Taylor Hall) is strange and almost distorted which adds to the audience belief in the separation of the two lovers. We feel Danny’s longing to be with his wife again, this helps to add to the believability of Danny’s actions at his lowest point in the play. Prebble truly captures the feeling of being torn between career progression and wanting to be with her loving husband. Sarah’s boss, Margret helps to drive the show forward, she is the catalyst which drives the story forward, she also provides some of the funnier moments in the story. Overall it is a very well-acted production with the small cast all feeling important and contributing only what is necessary to the story without overstuffing the show.    

The play deals with a variety of themes, from the haunting future of Wellington as climate change begins to take effect, to whether our technology driven lives are destroying the power of true love. It even briefly discusses the death of so called “soft skills”, or non-technological/scientific talents. It is the kind of play which makes you think but is not dependent on this to be successful. It is a love story which raises questions about humanity and where we (particularly in NZ) are going.

I think it was the fusion of the show with the music of New Zealand electronic band Minuit, which gave the show it’s unique feel. In the small space of Circa Two, the music soars and lifts the show to an almost cinematic level of engagement. Using three large LED screens, the simplistic set is transformed from apocalyptic Wellington, to a rare hill where the air is breathable, to the titular atom room and to various other locations in between. I was sceptical as I came into the theatre, having had bad experiences with AV in the past but the tech more than delivered. It was a welcome addition to a show which lifted the standards that our stage technologies should reach.

My only criticism of The Atom Room is the pre-show VR experience which feels slightly tacky and really doesn’t contribute anything to the show itself. Otherwise this production was a delight from start to finish and I would fully recommend anybody to do experience a wonderful and thought provoking night at the theatre.

 

Mid-tour catch up with the ACOTH cast

The cast of Young and Hungry’s A COUNTRY OF TWO HALVES have been touring around schools across New Zealand, from Dunedin in the south all the way up to Kaitaia, before heading back down to Wellington for public performances at BATS Theatre. Along the way they have performed to thousands of students, who each take away something different from the show.

We caught up with the cast and asked them about the tour so far:  

  1.  What has been the best feedback you’ve had from students?

Pat: For me it’s their big laughter. I can tell they’re enjoying the show. Also students who are just keen on advice and open to it as well.

Laura: We overheard some students in Nelson saying that the show had completely changed their idea of what theatre is, which is so exciting!

Liam:  Probably the best feedback is a hi-five from one of the “cool kids” who at first don’t seem interested but by the end are fully engaged.

  1. Favourite moment/ highlight of the tour so far? 

Pat: Seeing the beautiful South Island! 

Laura: I’ve been blown away by how engaged the students have been with the show. I didn’t know how they’d respond to live theatre – I wondered if they’d lose interest or find it a bit strange because it’s different from a lot of the entertainment they usually consume. But all of the students have been so invested, which has been so rewarding and which I am very grateful for!

Liam: The highlight of the tour for me has been seeing parts of the country that I have never seen before. I’m moving overseas in September so it’s a nice send off to tour around our backyard. 

  1. Low point of the tour?

Pat: Schools cancelling shows. Booo!

Laura: We’ve had a few schools that have had to cancel, which has been disappointing. The show is definitely strongest when we’re performing consistently and working with students almost every day, so too many days off can actually be a bit disorienting!

Liam:  The low point for me is when a bunch of schools cancelled for whatever reason (mainly due to mock exams I imagine) and we were left with a lot of free time in a place where there wasn’t much to do. 

  1. What message from A Country of Two Halves resonates with the students?

Pat: I think we give them an insight into different lifestyles and perspectives through the characters and their stories.

Laura: I think the students really take away from our show that theatre should and can be for everyone. Our show doesn’t have lavish props or sets, and we’re working in school halls, so I think there’s a real element of, hey, I could do this! We’re also sharing New Zealand stories from a diverse range of voices, which again encourages the students to dream about their own stories being told. I think it’s helped them to see theatre as something that is accessible and relevant.

Liam:  A message that resonates the most seems to be that everyone has demons and that no one is perfect. The show really highlights different perspectives throughout New Zealand and allows the kids to empathise with a whole range of people and cultures without a sense of being “taught” or spoken down to. It’s up to them what they take from the show, and I think that’s the most important thing. 

A COUNTRY OF TWO HALVES: The Cast!

Cast of A COUNTRY OF TWO HALVES, from left, Ariadne Baltazar, Laura Thompson, Liam Hughes, and Patrick Tafa.

Four talented actors will be touring to schools across New Zealand with the Young and Hungry National Schools Tour.

Ariadne Baltazar, Laura Thompson, Patrick Tafa, and Liam Hughes make up the cast for A COUNTRY OF TWO HALVES, and started rehearsals this week in Wellington.

Director Patrick Davies said each actor brought something unique to the table and an openness with their acting style which suited all of the eight play extracts.

“I’m thrilled to be directing the Y&H Tour. It’s an exciting opportunity to rake through the rich history of New Zealand playwrights in presenting polarised aspects of our culture.”

The tour runs in the second term from May 15 to July 7, 2018. If you would like to have these actors perform at your school, check out the tour details here.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE CAST:

Laura Thompson grew up in Titirangi, West Auckland, and is of Ngāi Tahu descent. Laura completed a Bachelor of Performing Arts at Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School, and upon graduating spent 16 months on Shortland Street playing the villainous Dr Victoria Anderton. Since then she has continued to work in television and on a number of short films. Laura is also an educator for Rape Prevention Education, teaching high school students about consent and promoting healthy relationships. In her spare time, Laura loves writing, kickboxing and getting outdoors.

Liam Hughes is a recent graduate of Unitec’s Performing and Screen Arts Bachelor Course and an actor at Auckland Actors. He has always been into acting since he was little, but it wasn’t until he went to Northcote College and joined the Drama Class that he knew he was obsessed. Liam took part in the 2013 Young and Hungry Festival at The Basement Theatre, has acted in a number of web series and is currently on your screens in an ad for a ‘finger-lick’in-good’ product.

Ariadne Baltazar began seriously pursuing acting as a career in Yr 11 at Sacred Heart College, Lower Hutt. She participated in the O’Shea Shield, school productions and community productions such as Jim Moriarty’s The Battalion in collaboration with Te Rakau during her final year. At the end of Yr 13, she was awarded the Juliet Howard Cup for Drama and went on to study at Toi Whakaari: NZ School of Drama in Wellington, and graduated with a Bachelor for Performing Arts: Acting. Named after the Greek princess who became a goddess, Ariadne (pronounced Aryadeen – like Aria and Dean together), or Ari as she goes by these days, has been learning Korean for 2 years which led her to become an ‘Army’: an avid fan of the trending South Korean boy-band BTS.

Patrick Tafa first gave acting a go in high school. After gaining lots of laughs and positive reactions from the audience during his first performance, he knew that’s what he wanted to do. Hailing from Onehunga in Auckland, Pat joined Massive Theatre Company at 16-years-old when his mum enrolled him for an acting workshop, he absolutely loved it and has been with the company ever since. Last year, he got a taste of touring life when he went on the road with the company’s devised work The Wholehearted. You may recognise Pat as Falani from Westside, the prequel series to Outrageous Fortune, which he has just finished filming the fourth season.

Fun fun videos!

The 2017 Young and Hungry Festival of New Theatre publicity mentees, supported by mentor Brianne Kerr, have been super busy creating three awesome new videos to promote the festival shows.   The shows are on 14-29 July at BATS Theatre, Wellington

(Thanks to Capital E for filming these in their amazing MediaLab for kids).

 

One Night Only by Finnius Teppett. Info and Tickets 

You’re in for one hell of a night!

The world’s most famous boy band, FourEver, is nearly ready to take the stage for their only New Zealand show. All that stands in their way is each other, their fans, the media, and the ghosts of their dodgy past…

 

Fallen Angels by Emily Duncan. Info and Tickets

Max Angelis has made his fame and fortune with his reality TV show Max’s Angels. But when two fallen angels arrive to take revenge? It’s the most heated episode of Max’s show ever!
 

Attila the Hun by Abby Howells. Info and Tickets

War, peace and a side of grease! A comedy set in a late night fast food restaurant, featuring terrible customers, disgusting food, Tom Cruise, a new duty manager… Oh, and also ATTILA THE HUN, he’s there too.

Festival of New Theatre: Book Now!

Young & Hungry Festival of New Theatre 2017!

14-29 July 2017
BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington  
Tickets: www.bats.co.nz / [email protected] / 04 802 4175

Young and Hungry is your chance to celebrate and support young talented theatre practitioners in three amazing new kiwi plays! Our 24th year sees a pop-tacular descent to hell, real reality TV, and an epic comedy about a Mongolian warlord flipping burgers!

6.30pm on Propeller StageOne Night Only
8.00pm on Heyday DomeFallen Angels
9.30pm on Propeller StageAttila the Hun

6.30PM – ONE NIGHT ONLY
Written by Finnius Teppett / Directed by Stella Reid

You’re in for one hell of a night!

The world’s most famous boy band, FourEver, is nearly ready to take the stage for their only New Zealand show. All that stands in their way is each other, their fans, the media, and the ghosts of their dodgy past. Making it out of the green room alive would be a miracle, let alone lasting the rest of the tour…

8.00PM – FALLEN ANGELS
Written by Emily Duncan / Directed by Rose Kirkup

When the cameras stop rolling who will stick to script?

Max Angelis has made his fame and fortune with his reality TV show Max’s Angels. However, beasts and demons are released in his celebrity perfect home when two fallen angels arrive to take revenge and reveal explosive truths about his family. It will be the most heated episode of Max’s show ever. 

9.30PM – ATTILA THE HUN
Written by Abby Howells / Directed by Patrick Davies

War, peace and a side of grease!

A comedy set in a late night fast food restaurant, featuring terrible customers, disgusting food, Tom Cruise, a new duty manager. Oh, and also ATTILA THE HUN, he’s there too. 


Y&H SEASON PASS: see all three plays – any night/s that suit you – for just $51 full price or $36 student/concession!

 

$20 Full Price or $51 Season Pass (to see all 3 plays)
$15 Concession or $39 Season Pass (to see all 3 plays)
$15 Group 6+ (per person)
$10 School  or $25 Season Pass (to see all 3 plays)

For 24 years Young & Hungry and BATS Theatre have been providing talented young people with a platform to perform, produce and create great theatre. With the Y&H Playwright Initiative producing three new kiwi plays a year and the annual Festival of New Theatre at BATS Theatre, Y&H feeds the theatrical hunger and quenches the creative thirst of younguns’ under 25.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/younghungrynz
Twitter / Instagram / Snapchat: @YANDHWGTN
Web: www.youngandhungry.org.nz

OUTLIERS – public shows!

 The tour is under way and we’re already getting great feedback!

“They were amazing!!! My students buzzing!!!’ – St Margaret’s, Christchurch

‘Loved the monologue from Queen, my kids just adored the whole collection of scenes. … every single student had one particular excerpt that resonated with them – definitely a something for everyone show.” – Heretaunga College, Wellington.

‘Physical performance is one of the strengths of this show with dance routines, intimacy, aggression and physical metaphor.’ – Zoe Joblin Theatreview

We’re going to almost 40 schools in 7 weeks from Queenstown to Kataia! There are spare performance slots in just a few North Island locations. See if we can fit you in:  Tour Calendar

How to catch a public show:

Just have a small number of drama students? Need an inspiring night out immersed in contemporary NZ Theatre? Want to check us out to see how it works?

If you’re in Wellington, Whangarei or Auckland then you can catch one of our public evening performances.

 – Wellington – 6:30pm, Thursday 25 & Friday 26 May at BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Tce  Get Tickets.

 – Whangarei – 7pm, Friday 2 June at OneOneSix, 116a Bank St, $10/ $5 on the door

 – Auckland – 7pm, Friday 9th & Saturday 10th June at TAPAC (The Auckland Performing Arts Centre), 100 Motions Road, Western Springs. Get Tickets

Kim Bonnington

Kim Bonnington has agreed to write our study resources. Read more about her below.

The resources, the Q&A and a digital filming of the work form part of Young & Hungry’s commitment to provide more curriculum support for the EnsembleImpact National Schools Tour.

The resources will include pre and post show activities that will explore drama techniques, conventions etc.   

Not booked yet? See tour information for the I AM MĀORI tour calendar and content.

Kim Bonnington works as an accredited Arts Facilitator for Education Support Services for the University of Otago.  She has most recently been an Arts facilitator on the Secondary Student Achievement Contract, working with Secondary School teachers on developing Culturally Responsive practice within Teaching as Inquiry projects.

She has a long history of service on the Drama New Zealand Executive and has held a number of different contracts in the development of NCEA.  She is particularly interested in how students respond to theatre according to their own language, identity and culture and will be using this as her core pedagogical practice in her work designing the education packs and workshops.​

Comments from teachers on the 2018 resource kit: 

“I have looked through the resources and will be using all of them at different times of the year/s. I am very grateful for them.”

“Very helpful.”

“EXCELLENT!!!!”

“Great to have more in depth resources to embed the learning and the film will help remind the students before exam time.”

 

OUTLIERS All Playwrights confirmed

The playwrights whose work is in the 2017 EnsembleImpact National Schools Tour are confirmed!

OUTLIERS will include an extract from Manawa by Jamie McCaskill. Jamie was awarded the Bruce Mason Playwrighting Award in 2012, the year Manawa debuted. His current projects include Tikapa productions and the The Māori Side Steps webisode series.

Also included in the tour is a monologue from A Cripple Talks About Anatomy by Henrietta Bollinger, The play was shortlisted in 2012 for Playmarket’s b4 25 competition. Henrietta’s current projects include the Token Cripple column for Salient magazine.

The rest of the playwrights are Greg McGee, Briar Grace-Smith, Sam Brooks, FME Desmarais, Nathan Joe, Ralph McCubbin Howell and Lori Leigh. List of all the extracts.

Curriculum support materials include free digital access to a filming of the work, online study guide and the chance to add on an UNPACK IT! workshop at low cost.

Tour route, pricing and key information

The EnsembleImpact National Tour is a 50-minute bare bones programme of quality NZ theatre that comes direct to your drama room or auditorium. Touring 9 May – 23 June.

The tour is going to nearly 30 schools so far, with Wellington, Christchurch, Timaru, Queenstown, Waikato, Northland, Auckland, Whakatāne and Hawkes Bay confirmed. There are still performance slots in all those areas available. Don’t see your area represented yet? Get in touch to make it happen! [email protected]

2016 Bruce Mason playwright: Sam Brooks

OUTLIERS Updates

We’re back into our Wellington office this week after a structural all-clear. Our hearts go out to everyone affected by the latest seismic activity.

The other major event on Sunday 13th was that NZ Playwright Sam Brooks received the 2016 Bruce Mason Award. We’re including the fabulous ‘Beyonce’ monologue from Sam’s Queen in the 2017 EnsembleImpact National Schools Tour. 

Sam is already part of the Young and Hungry family. His play The 21st Narcissist was commissioned in the 2014/15 Playwright’s Initiative and in the 2015 Festival of New Theatre.

The EnsembleImpact National Tour is a 50-minute bare bones programme of quality NZ theatre that goes direct to a school’s drama room or auditorium. Touring 9 May – 23 June. 

The tour is filling out with over 20 schools in Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch, Timaru, Queenstown, Waikato, Northland, Auckland, Whakatane and Hawkes Bay confirmed.  There are still performance slots available in those areas and areas not yet represented.

Tour route, pricing and key information 

“At the end of it, that’s what we do. We make people feel a little less alone in the world.”- Sam Brooks, 2016 Bruce Mason Playwright

OUTLIERS – Prescribed List playwrights confirmed

We’ve confirmed two NZ playwrights from the NZQA prescribed list who will feature in OUTLIERS, the 2017 EnsembleImpact National Schools Tour.

The cast will perform the outgoing monologue from Greg McGee‘s Foreskin’s Lament and an extract from the work of Briar Grace-Smith.

Kerryn Palmer (Director) and KC Kelly (Dramaturg) are busy reading a a range of modern NZ plays which reflect the OUTLIERS theme. We’ll be sharing more confirmed playwrights in late November and the finalised list of extracts will be available to teachers in January 2017.

The EnsembleImpact National Tour is a 50-minute bare bones programme of quality NZ theatre that comes direct to your drama room or auditorium.  Touring 9 May – 23 June. 

Tour route, pricing and key information 

Or email Clare Kerrison [email protected] to make a booking enquiry now.

OUTLIERS features extracts from modern NZ plays that voice what it is like in the out-groups and in-groups of a normalising world. Whether punk, hoon, goth, geek, queer, nerd or whatever, this show can open discussion about the labels we identify with and the ones we’re stuck with.

Excellent use of dramatic conventions which relates clearly to the external NCEA exam – very easy to write about. – Havelock North High School

Again our students were inspired by the ‘coolness’ of NZ theatre – a great achievement, thank you! – Selwyn College