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October 15, 2007 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Highlights (and Lowlights) From a Year as Theatre Editor

It’s been a funny old year of theatre. Nearing the end of six months in London, I started writing my theatre copy from an internet café in Prague, hurriedly looking up the Fringe website to see what to recommend. I caught the tail end of the Fringe Festival, loving the return season of Dean Hewison’s Brain Power, and (controversially) loving Paul Rothwell’s Deliver Us. Heleyni Pratley’s A Volcanoes are Awesome scored a minor coup over the Fringe staff at the Chit Chat Lounge (who knew a rogue ‘A’ could cause such a fuss?); Hotel scooped all the prizes at the Fringe awards and sparked debate about whether a show with loads of sponsors, and heaps of money really was ‘Fringe’…

Circa tried to get political with Australian play Two Brothers, which most hated, but I liked. Jean Betts’ production of Falling Petals did it better. Theatre Militia socked it to everyone with A Bright Room Called Day, and made us wonder why this stuff wasn’t being professionally programmed. Eleanor got her Chekhov / tragi-comic fix with Circa’s ace production Uncle Vanya.

The Comedy Festival followed. Salient Theatre reviewer Phil Luke went ga-ga over Steve Wrigley. Dylan Moran gave more lousy interviews and disappointed fans with recycled material from last year’s show. Eleanor was glad she hadn’t shelled out $70 again. Putting a comedian on TV proved that Kiwis can do comedy (Dai Henwood’s (from C4’s Insert Video Here) show Dai-namic Scenarios was a sell-out hit). People went nuts for The Lonesome Buckwhips and The Hunting of the Snark proved alliteration can be funny (and heart-warming). Later in the year, when Kiwi comedians Flight of the Conchords got big in the US, we all had to eat a bit of humble pie about not supporting Kiwi comics (except me, cos I was front row and centre at their gigs in Indigo back in ‘03).

Studio 77 rocked the end of the trimester with a great production of Enemies, and a superb Beckettian interpretation of Twelfth Night, which totally restored my faith in theatre. Winter arrived, Circa programmed the brilliant play Blackbird.

Nobody went to see it because the marketing was so bad, more debates raged on Theatreview. Young and Hungry was the best season of new plays I’d seen in years. The Royal Shakespeare Company came, Ian McKellen got his bits out and theatre-goers and reviewers everywhere got tall poppy syndrome. I loved it, and as it was the first theatre all year in which I didn’t have to write a review – I sat back and enjoyed the sumptuous-ness of a theatre company who actually had heaps of money and knew how to spend it.

Trimester two consumed all our reviewers with keeping up with the mass of theatre happening at Studio 77 on campus, including the excellent directing seasons, the awesome Asian theatre production Snow in Sweet Summer, and I even popped along to see some second years doing German expressionism.

The Cape totally rocked at Circa, and proved that young people + cool play = box office success (and more importantly, audience development). The Dance Festival was soon upon us, and I made my reviewers go and review dance. It wasn’t too hard when it was faux dance like the kick-ass (literally) FootBallistic. Phil Luke went ga-ga over that one too. Amateur theatre proved yet again to be expensive and terrible (Jackson Coe slammed Stagecraft’s Titus Andronicus). The Hollow Men proved they deserved their controversial Creative NZ Grant.

It’s important to note that I didn’t see everything in Wellington this year. Unfortunately I’m not on the Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards Panel, the main criteria that I don’t meet being that I’m not middle aged. I’d be interested in finding out how the panelists are appointed and if we can get next year’s Theatre Editor on there. I know loads of students who go to theatre and they deserve to have their views represented. To the few that read the theatre pages, thanks heaps, and thanks to all my writers this year (Phil Luke, Jackson Coe, Jen Howes, Sherry Elbe, Sarah Kuiken and Karin Reinholt). Salient Theatre will be in good hands next year.


About the Author ()

Well hello there. Eleanor was the Theatre Editor in 2007, now she writes the Women's Column and just generally minces about the Salient office. Eleanor is currently an Honours student in Theatre (with a touch of gender). She also has a BCA in Marketing but she tries to keep that on the d-low (embarrassing, because she loves academic integrity and also perpetuating the myth that she's a tad bohemian). If you've got a gender agenda, woo her by taking her a BYO Malaysian. She lies, if you show any interest at all she'll probably tackle you in the street and force you to write a column.

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