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August 3, 2009 | by  | in Theatre |
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Go Solo 2009

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Go Solo is the annual season of twenty-minute self-devised solo shows from the graduating class of acting students at Toi Whakaari. There are series of very definite trends to be observed. The shadow of Krishnan’s Dairy hangs heavy—it started as a Go Solo piece and now it seems almost illegal to have a piece that isn’t clearly designed to be expanded out to an hour at the drop of a hat. These pieces become the performers’ calling cards, so there is a propensity for pieces clearly designed around all the tricks the performer has up their sleeve. This often comes at the expense of focus and story. This year the 18 pieces are divided into five groups, A through E. I saw them all. In one day. All six hours of them. This is what I thought:

Group A

Katherine McGill’s Duets, the story of Rhoda, a lonely kiwi in London looking for love. It was a hilarious comic jazz solo of solitude with only the slightly mawkish and predictable ending putting a bump in proceedings. Tim Carlsen’s Every Man and His Dog was a technically skilled and emotively presented story of homelessness in Wellington, ruined by its own condescension and pretension. Sophie Lindsay’s La Piece De Musique; Lindsay is clearly a very charming and watchable performer, but this didn’t save her tale of a teenager in Vanuatu and her ‘house girl’ from being somewhat saccharine, clumsy and over-written. Aidan Weekes’ The Chrome Series distorted and disturbed audience’s expectations with his riffing on ideas of fame, inspiration, improvisation and the blurred relationship between fact and assumption. However, his performance was at points distractingly overmannered.

Group B

Guy Langford’s Hurry! Hurry! Wait… was infectiously energetic work. His sense of the absurd was wonderfully pitched, although it wasn’t nearly as smart as it thought it was. Kay Smith’s Life is like a Mills and Boon, with its simple, single idea—a training session at a call centre that devolves into a treatise on love and relationships—shows a lot of potential but was criminally underdeveloped. It didn’t help that Smith didn’t seem wholly committed to the role. Jessica Grace Smith’s Battered, which was a rather charming exploration of her home town of Dannevirke. Juanita Hepi’s Be Sure to Write, which while noticeably shorter than a lot of the other pieces, took so much pleasure in telling its story that you treasured every moment.

Group C

Amelia Reid’s Walking Forwards Backwards, a piece of wordless, physical theatre that invoked some stunning images but required too much outside information to understand. Suli Moa’s Was The Son, a simple tale of expectation and the twisted politics of high school sport. Its story telling was too diffuse and the acting too unfocused to draw me in. Emma Draper’s The Importance of a Party was the highlight of the whole season. Draper gives a duet of simply stunning performances as a woman at two different points in her life. A heartbreaking triumph. Emmett Skilton’s This Boy, in which he, as himself, told the story of his relationship with his grandmother. Skilton was clearly quite nervous and this dragged down what was otherwise a touching and tasteful work.

Group D

Aroha White’s The Litter Box, while joyous and lively, occasionally overpowered itself with affected cuteness. Her energetic performance and mad digi-harp skills mad for fun watching. Romy Hooper’s (Insert Problem Here) Anonymous was a skilled collage of stories from her family. Her clear connection to the material and masterful control of tension—both dramatic and comic—hid well some awkward writing. Matariki Whatarau’s ‘Who’s Going To Do the Karanaga?’ was a fast paced story of Maori youth at risk. Told with powerful physicality and split-second timing, it was only the broadness of some of Whatarau’s characters that brought the show down—it was frequently hard to tell exactly who was who.

Group E

Veronica Brady’s Outside All is Still is a clever series of very striking images. The story that connected them—of a dancer with Motor Neurone Disease – relies too much on telling rather than showing. Sharon Meredith’s A Silence Profound as Stars; in telling a story clearly very close to his heart, he seems to lose his nerve and saddle the story with an entirely superfluous and rather irritating narrator. He just didn’t seem to trust his audience to stick with him. Cian White’s The Endeavour, a tale of Te Puia. While littered with amusing characters and some touching moments, the story itself is anti-climatic and very by-the-book.

Go Solo 2009
Directed by Sophie Roberts
Tutored by D’Arcy Smith
Performed by third year acting students at Toi Whakaare
In the SEEyD space, 20 July – 1 August 2009

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About the Author ()

Uther was one of the two arts editors in 2009. He was the horoscopier and theatre writer in 2010. Alongside Elle Hunt, Uther was coeditor in 2011.

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  1. alana banaghan says:

    i was apart of the audience for group E. i came in a school group, and we were all amazed and inspired by every performance we saw.

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