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February 19, 2007 | by  | in Theatre |
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Theatre Venues

The low down on Wellington theatre.

Downstage

Corner Courtenay Place and Cambridge Terrace
www.downstage.co.nz

One of the two mainstream theatres in Wellington (the other being Circa), Downstage does roughly a show per month, with their yearly season usually including a Shakespeare/Chekhov, a NZ classic (something by Roger Hall) and ‘new plays’ (something successful in England or the US). They’ve recently put their prices up (from a standard $15) to $18 – $25, with a two-hour standby. Always bring your student card when you pick up your tickets

Circa

1 Taranaki Street (on the waterfront next to Te Papa)
www.circa.co.nz

Circa has two theatres; the ‘Mainstage’, which shows a similar fare to Downstage, and the recently renamed ‘Circa 2’ which shows work appealing to a younger audience. ‘Mainstage’ shows are $28 for students, or $18 if you manage to pick up a ticket an hour before the show. ‘Circa 2’ prices can vary, although in an effort to attract a younger crowd, under 25s are treated to a fl at rate of $20.

BATS

1 Kent Terrace
www.bats.co.nz

BATS showcases New Zealand work and new and experimental work. Focused around the major festivals (the Fringe Festival, Dance Your Socks Off, and the Young and Hungry Festival), they also run their own festival, STAB, which commissions daring new work by Kiwi writers. Prices are great value for students at $12 or $15. This is the place to go for cutting edge theatre at an excellent price.

St James

77-87 Courtenay Place
www.stjames.co.nz

The St James is an grand old theatre, usually staging productions by NZ Opera, the Royal New Zealand ballet, and travelling big-budget musicals. Opposite on Manners Street is the Opera House, a slightly smaller venue that hosts international comedy acts and musicals. Bookings through Ticketek, prices $40 and up (way, way up).

Te Whaea

11 Hutchison Road, Newtown
www.tewhaea.org.nz

The national dance school and national drama school complex. The directing (or MTA) students direct their own projects in second-year, which usually makes for some exciting theatre. Tickets are normally $5 for students, or sometimes even just a koha.

The Wellington Performing Arts Centre (WPAC)

36 Vivian Street
www.wpac.org.nz

Another training ground for young actors. Shows are often less publicised than Te Whaea’s shows, but you can see some exciting work there for just a few dollars.

Studio 77

77 Fairlie Terrace, Kelburn

Our very own theatre: Vic students put on several shows here throughout the year. The lack of commercial constraint in the acting environment can make for some rather experimental work. Bookings can be made on 463 5221.

Things to look forward to:

If you’re like me and plan the rest of your schedule around your theatre viewing, this section should help you out. I’ve selected my top picks from the programmes released by Circa, Downstage and Te Whaea.

The Graduate by Terry Johnson

Downstage 31 March – 28 April

The novel and the fi lm were both hits. Terry Johnson also wrote Hitchcock Blonde, which is fantastic. Plus, the excellent Julian Wilson will be starring in the title role. The Graduate is hilarious and hey, it’s iconic.

Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov

Circa 28 April – 2 June

Chekhov is the safest bet in the world for a hit show, and there’s a good reason for that. His writing borders on comic tragedy and his character observation is magnifi cent – enough to make even a cynic like myself feel a bit tender. So the story goes, “On a crumbling Russian country estate, Vanya, his niece Sonya, and the local doctor, Astrov, fi nd the calm of their lives thrown into disarray by the arrival of Vanya’s brother-in-law, an ailing professor, and his beautiful wife.” I can feel my heart moving already. No violins required.

Angels in America; Part 1: Millennium Approaches by Tony Kushner

Te Whaea 29 September – 6 October.

This is an absolutely classic play, for all the right reasons. Kushner mixed reality with fantasy, politics with humour, and managed to make having a giant angel in a serious play not seem ridiculous. It’s set in 1980s conservative New York, and through a raft of characters, the play tackles huge issues, including the AIDS crisis.

Top five ways to get cheap theatre tickets

• Review for Salient (I’m serious – opening nights, mingling with the stars, free tickets – if it sounds like you e-mail me at eleanorbishop@gmail.com)

• Be a starfucker and date an actor (start by hanging out at Matterhorn)

• Show up an hour beforehand at Circa or Downstage and pick up $18 tickets, or just go to BATS ($10/$12 for students normally)

• Read Salient theatre pages – I’ll endeavour to report weekly on cheap and exciting shows coming up and advise of any special student nights

• Go to London and spend on average £20 seeing a show ($60 NZ). Theatre in New Zealand will seem a lot cheaper when you get back.

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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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