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Whangarei’s Company of Giants is getting set to sweep us away with it’s magical rendition of the classic “The Owl and the Pussycat”. Ophelia sat down with the owl, played by Victoria University’s very own Tomasin Fisher-Johnson, and spoke about devising, empty churches, and all things Whangarei.
How did your company begin?
Laurel Devenie (director), Katy Maudlin and Ash Holwell (director) decided to branch out from the Northland Youth Theatre Company and make their own, and it just kept growing. We are becoming quite well-known in Whangarei, people are beginning to get used to us.
Company of Giants specialises in “space activation” and “community focused processes.” Can you elaborate on this?
This sprung from our set designer/guy that’s always there, Ash Holwell, finding spaces that aren’t being used for us to take over temporarily for rehearsals. We currently occupy an old church, that we’ve got for a year. It’s nice. We have created it into a community space, and have a number of people coming through. There were live bands, and Stu Devenie has even done Charles Dickens readings and all sorts of other weird things.
Where does the company begin with devising?
Usually Laurel comes up with the ideas. She just said, “let’s do a kind of children show that can be for adults too.” I don’t even know how we began devising. It’s such a huge process. I guess we started by sitting in a circle and Laurel asked us to “say a word that you can think of to do with love” and it just starts from there.
What is Laurel Devenie like as a director?
She’s awesome. It’s hard to put into words. We are all part of the process, it’s definitely a collaborative one. She doesn’t feel like a director—she is just there with us.
Do you think that theatre practitioners should have formal training?
Yes. I do. Maybe not Toi Whakaari. But some kind of training just gives you a chance to explore new theatre forms that you’ve never seen before. And it forces you to push yourself. It’s that thing of being involved in acting every single day.
Were there any difficulties in the devising process? How did you combat them?
It was really difficult at the beginning to find the form of the show. Laurel said that we seemed to work better when we were in a small space, so our rehearsals were confined to a drawn out circle. I think it kept us more focused and narrowed down what the feeling was.
A little plug for the upcoming show?
Expect magic. And music.
The Owl and the Pussycat
1–5 March, 7.00pm
BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace
www.bats.co.nz or 04 802 4175
Fringe Festival Review: How to Romance a Human (produced by Dog With Ball)
Devised by Victoria theatre students Adeline Shaddick, Liam Kelly, Ruby Hansen, and Keegan Bragg; the play explores whether robots have the ability to have meaningful relationships with humans, and how technology can affect the intangible notion of feelings.
The rectangular, stark white set becomes the clinical canvas upon which the actors dissect everything from sexbots, to Grace and Theo—the perfect couple-bots. The audience’s reception moved from suspended intrigue to cackling laughter. These emotions are cleverly produced by play’s grapple with modern issues, whilst simultaneously reflecting on their folly when in practise.
Vignetted and decidedly unconventional in its approach, the high-energy performance entertained, informed, and begged the question: could robots ever be a substitute for real human experience and interaction?