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Sunday, September 18, 2022

Tahi Festival: The Shit Kid - Sarah Harpur (Bats Theatre 16 & 17 September)

There’s a ‘shit kid’ in every family. In Sharni’s case it’s her. Her twin, Nige got to be a champion rower. He wins big at the Olympics and gets recognized everywhere he goes.
She ain't.

Sharni, once married, once divorced, parent of one (oh yeah, two) kids, is not interested in sibling rivalry. Well, ok just a little. She’s on a mission to get back her horse from the rich horse breeder neighbors next door. She trades in black market pony poo and teaches posh kids to ride. She has a plan to get her nag back. 

The only thing standing in her way is her baby, a lack of intergenerational wealth, her temper, and an actual plan. 

After a five-year hiatus from the comedy scene, award-winning writer and funny woman Sarah Harpur (101 Dates (2010), 7 Days (2009) and Everybody Else Is Taken (2017), returns with her hilarious one-person play. She’s built it all on sibling rivalry, Olympic ambition, some very dodgy Mark Todd fever-dreams and a very sexy horse. 

Some people dream of success, winning, taking it all. Sharni is all about being the best at being mediocre. 

To pull it off Harpur has summoned all the ghosts and energies of Lynn of Tawa, the Topp Twins and Sharon from the takeaways down the High Street to bring you the most Sheila-ish character she can muster. 

The laughs come thick and fast. Her anecdotes and punch lines a re course and crass at times. Farm humour, perhaps. Subtly and wit is not called for here. 

The story goes from the sublime to the ridiculous as she reveals clanker after clanker. Such as everyone calling her a bad mum for taking her daughter, Mitzy Evo, to the pub at 1.00AM. Or Mistaking horse semen for ice-cream. Or accidently, on purpose getting a Kaimanawa Wild Mare pregnant to a thoroughbred in a midnight rendezvous. 

Harpur’s execution is part actor/part standup comedian and it totally works. It’s a totally hilarious 55 minutes of quality comedy. 

This is a complex, layered and ridiculous performance. Shortlisted for the 2022 Adam NZ Play Award this is pure fun. Harpur is also responsible for Dead Dads Club, which has also had rave reviews. 

Behind the comedy is a serious message. She told the press that the initial inspiration for Play was the world of equestrian and the lack of access to anyone without a trust fund.

“During the kōrero following the Tokyo Olympics,” she told the NZHerald, “I started to wonder if the Olympic dream is a flawed concept." 

Because of the pressure American gymnast Simone Biles pulled out of the Games.  Then there was the untimely death of Kiwi cyclist Olivia Podmore due to other pressures.  And so many more athletes were sharing their experiences of the destructive power of the Olympic Dream. 

Harpur started to question why the dream was important and the toll that achieving it had on the mental health of competitors. She wondered about the short time the athletes get to be at the top before their body gives out or their mind cracks. 

So, writing it, her story became more about the character's motivation for trying to get into the Olympic world and discovering, through Nige’s experience that maybe it's not all it's cracked up to be. 

Extra credit goes to award-winning and multi-talented Carrie Green (Ngāti Porou), for some clever stage direction, especially the incorporation of a toy hobby horse into a steeple chase race against a Kawasaki farm bike. 

This was laugh out loud, high energy, and thought provoking. I loved this show. If it comes back, make sure you go. You are in for a treat.

Tahi Festival, at Bats Theatre and Circa Theatre is a celebration of solo artists, a 10 day Festival dedicated to showcasing the finest and most engaging solo performance from around the motu.  Check Out the Tahi Festival 

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Tahi Festival: Gag Reflex - A Scanderlous Solo Show (Bats Theatre 16 & 17 September )

Internationally renowned festival performer Rachel Atlas most definitely has a complicated relationship with danger and the extreme. Some may know her from her act with former husband, Charlie called Til Death Do Us Part'.

This show, 'Gag Reflex' debuted back in March and was a huge hit. It won the Fringe Festival. Once you’ve seen it you'll understand why. 

Beginning in darkness, standing atop a rostrum veiled and crowned like a chaste queen from Henry IIIV’s court, she soon strips down to a corset and knickers and reveals her true side. Not innocent in the least. Her exotic, sexy, thrilling tale is her real-life journey from teenage stripper to high class kinky Madam to Vaudeville Circus performer to legalised sex worker, university student and contented bride to be. 

Along the way she’ll tell us about body shaming in her pubescent days, violent controlling boyfriends and a toxic marriage. 

She’ll also add in a few cringe-worthy, gasp-out-loud ‘excretiating’ anecdotes about her time working as a ‘poop specialist’ in the sex industry in New York and a coined operated stripper in London. 

Along the way she thrills us with her sword swallowing (not a singular but a ‘triple penetration’) and knife throwing - with Ms Atlas, herself as the target! 

She’s assisted by a mysterious hand that produces props and costumes from underneath the stage and a 7th foot Death Metal rocker in a gimp mask. The latter throws knives at Atlas with such brutish abandon, I genuinely feared for her life. 

She tells us that she's the only female sword swallower in the motu.  I believe that!  It's incredibly dangerous.  And she does so confidently, like it's nothing more than knitting a scarf.   

Her act pivots from narrator/actor to circus performer.  Throughout the show the capacity audience whooped and cheered her on - in all the sad, outrageous, funny and downright hair raising moments. The woman next to me was so taken, gasping in anticipation every time she saw a dangerous moment or dark swerve in the narrative approaching. I was afraid she’d either wet herself or faint overwhelmed! 

The music and sound were clever. It fitted perfectly with the story and created an instant mind picture of the exact time and date she was talking about – London in the 90’s, the rave culture she indulged in.  Or the bird life of Banks Peninsular which became so prominent during her escape from the Big Apple to a COVID isolation sanctuary in Canterbury. Here and there the cues failed and this was a bit distracting but that’s minor in context of the whole package. 

Credit should also go to costume designer Go Go Amy for the ‘Elizabethan’ shawl, stunning gold crown and velvet dress, a wedding dress, with veil, and especially the raunchy (yet only just modest) corset and underwear. 

Sabrina Martin directed Atlas perfectly, keeping the action close to her audience and ‘real’, as she smashed the fourth wall to talk directly and even engage occasionally with audience member to hold focus. It was like she was speaking right to you and that greatly increased the intensity and honesty of the piece. 

Bekky Boyce quietly and effectively controlled the lighting and projections. One especially effective moment was a text message that came up on the veiled back drop. One tiny criticism was the length of the text, which was just too much to read in the time allowed before the action moved on. But that matters little, overall. 

It was clear that this story runs a parallel between Atlas’ own life, the weight of shame that comes with her chosen occupation and stigma attached.  Her mission was to overcome and detroy that stigma.  And she succeeded. 

She completes with a simple statement: never be ashamed of what you do for a living and your body is nobody’s business but your own. Never let anybody control you or your body or determine how you use it. Atlas reveals at the end that she remains a sex worker. She does it on her terms, and I believe it. 

What a way to begin.  This is her debut show but it was done as if it was but one of many.  Atlas is well rehearsed and a natural on the stage.  She may have been nervous but she won the audience over, and quite rightly. 

I celebrate her honesty, flare, skills and sheer guts. We need more people like this on our stages and in our lives! If you get the chance, make sure you see this production. 

It’s excellent on all levels!

Tahi Festival, at Bats Theatre and Circa Theatre is a celebration of solo artists, a 10 day Festival dedicated to showcasing the finest and most engaging solo performance from around the motu.  Check Out the Tahi Festival 

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Tahi Festival - Agent Provocateurs by Jo Marsh (Bats Theatre 14 & 15 September)

Tahi Festival, at Bats Theatre and Circa Theatre is a celebration of solo artists, a 10 day Festival dedicated to showcasing the finest and most engaging solo performance from around the motu.  

Tonight we were treated to a bit of historical cabaret with a twist.  Australian born, now Wellington based burlesque performer Jo Marsh aka Jo Jo Bellini can be seen on red light stages around town but tonight she was a secret agent in waiting. 

She told us that, like some of her idols in this show, she too had wanted, from an early age to be a spy.  She wanted the romance, the sex, the adventure.  She wasn't too keen on the executions part though. 

Her show mixes wit and wisdom, song a salacious, saucy snippets of history as she profiles 5 amazing female spies and one transgender provocateur.

Cheeky and full of attitude she struts about her simple stage of archive boxes and manila folders whipping out facts on the lives of WWI agent Mata Hari (did you know she was a wife and mother as well as an exotic dancer?), Yoshiko Kawashima (who defied the onset of Mao's Cultural Revolution in the Sino Japanese War), Ace Spy Nancy Wake (better known as the White Mouse, and a Kiwi to boot), Mary Bowser (who's photographic memory helped the Union to win the American Civil War), the outrageous Madamoiselle Chavallier D'Eon de Beaumont (who was really a man, but became a woman) and the WW2 spy Noor Inyat Khan (a woman of colour who spied for the English, right under the noses of the Gestapo).  

Marsh liberally flaunts her favourite playlist ditties - Kim Carnes' Betty Davis Eyes, Blondie's One Way Or Another, a bond theme - Nobody Does It Better - and more, rearranging the lyrics to suit her characters, of whom she inhibits during each number.

My favourite scene was when Jo is talking about Nancy Wake (who was a Wellingtonian - did you know that?) and she reaches into her file box and pulls out a cat puppet with a swastika armband and a mouse puppet who will sneak off with the cheese (a metaphor for stealing war secrets) all performed while doing her best Debbie Harry impression.  

There are other magic moments along the way, too.  Her brash impression of Kawashima 'kicking against the pricks' as a punk rebel hero was also memorable.

If anything Marsh was a little bit let down by her own small falters.  A line missed here, a spill there.  But nothing major.  

Director and former flatmate Sameena Zehra keeps the action simple and effective, relies on the usual flourishes of cabaret, costume play and dance moves but also acknowledges Marsh's own personality and body movement.  She doesn't get her to do anything that looks too posed or unnatural.  This is Jo Marsh onstage, after all. I loved the show, the concept and the very idea of bringing history to life, especially HERSTORY like this is a very worthy thing.  Can't wait to see what comes next from Jo Marsh et al!    

Read more about Jo Marsh at  Blog On The Tracks  

Book and see Agent Provocateurs

Book a Tahi show here:

Thursday, September 08, 2022

Others Way is back!

As the old saying goes, if at first you don't succeed, dust yourself off and try again. So after countless setbacks and last minute lockdowns... the giant is once again awakening from its slumber.

That's right, The Others Way Festival is back!

Save the date! Saturday October 22, when thirty of some of the finest live acts we know are set to play multiple local venues across Karangahape Road!

The full line-up will be unveiled in the weeks to come, but you know you there's going to be a batch of local gems, legends, luminaries and next-big-things! We think you'll be pretty dang happy!

Plus it's all happening on the Saturday of a long weekend, so you've got two whole days to recover. Let's party like it's 2020, 2021, and 2022!

Friday, August 26, 2022

WOMAD is Back: 20 Year anniversary - announcing the line up on 20 October

WOMAD 2023 will be announcing their line up on 20 October - Official Programme launch, plus we've got some teaser Music Announcements, STEAM, World of Words, Book Club, and so much more!

Get ready to celebrate #20years with us at WOMAD NZ 2023

As part of the World of Words programme, the WOMAD Poetry Slam 2023 showcases performance poets, putting them in the spotlight on the World of Words Stage, Kunming Garden.

A much-loved part of the festival programme, the Poetry Slam competition is all about poetry as a performance, a celebration of beats, verse, quips and rhythms that take poems from the page to the stage.

To celebrate National Poetry Day, organisers are opening up Poetry Slam Applications for 2023 with a message from the delightful Penny Ashton to all WOMAD’s wordsmiths.

The Slam Schedule 

Saturday, March 18 - 4 pm, Kunming Garden

The contestants, festival-goers, will deliver their original spoken words in the hope of being crowned the WOMAD Slam Champ. WOMAD audience response plays an essential role in the judges’ scoring - so get along and cheer on this poetic fiesta.

Sunday, March 19 - 4 pm, Kunming Garden

The WOMAD Slam Champ will perform their winning piece, followed by a slam session from our world-renowned judges and seasoned slammers.

Prepare to be surprised, entertained and provoked by their lyrical genius moments, passionate prose and rhythmic rhymes.

The 2023 Poetry Slam Champ will take home a double VIP WOMAD 3-DAY PASS for 2024!

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Kiwi singer Margaret Urlich, 57, dies after living with cancer for over two years

“She had a level of sophistication that marked her out,” he said. “Marg was super stylish, she oozed confidence but underneath, she was a female who had to overcome her shyness to try to make it in a male-dominated industry. And she did.” - Peter Urlich

Aria award-winning singer  Margaret Urlich and one of Aotearoa's most successful musicians, has died aged 57.  

Born in Auckland, Urlich died on Monday of cancer at her home in New South Wales’ Southern Highlands.

Urlich’s condition was known to her friends and colleagues, but kept private from the public ey at her whanau's request.

She came to our attention in 1985, fronting the new wave outfit Peking Man, before gaining even more fame as a member of the all-female pop group When The Cat’s Away. 

'Melting Pot' went to No 1 on the New Zealand charts and sealed their fame as a go to live act. They were was inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame in December 2021.

“Margaret was a true and rare talent,” Dianne Swann (When The Cat’s Away) told “She lit up any room, and if you were on stage with her you had to lift your game. She was a uniquely gifted person, and I will always miss her.”

Urlich moved to Australia in 1988, to pursue her solo career.  Her debut solo 'Escaping' made her the first female solo artist to top the NZ charts, and her debut 'Safety in Numbers' netted her an Aria award in 1991 - Best breakthrough artist.

That same year, her vocals were featured on Daryl Braithwaite’s megahit 'The Horses' (12 weeks in the Australian top 10).

Monday, May 30, 2022

Anthony Tonnon wins the 2022 Taite Music Prize

Whanganui-based singer-songwriter Anthonie Tonnon won the 2022 Taite Music Prize last night, for his critically-acclaimed third album Leave 'Love Out of This', picking up a $12,500 cash prize into the bargain

The annual award, which honours outstanding music releases from the previous calendar year, was a live event again, presented at Auckland’s Q Theatre last night. Tonnon, fresh off a nationwide tour, won over nine other finalists, including Luke Buda and Reb Fountain.

In his acceptance speech he thanked his wife Karlya Smith, his parents and “people and places that this album belongs to”.  He said he wasn't expecting to win because the “quality of the other contenders’ was so strong.

“The album is the pinnacle of what I’ve aimed for as a musician. It’s the novel to us musicians,” he said.

He's spoken about the album previously, saying that it was about being part of the first generation growing up in the economic experiment New Zealand launched into during the 1980s.  "This is a constant theme for me," he told RNZ, "it's been what I've banged on about through all my albums."

More than 300 artists, media and industry members packed out the Auckland theatre for the ceremony, hosted by NZ On Air’s Sarah Thompson. 

The ceremony was opened by 2021 winner Reb Fountain performing 'Sampson' and 'Don’t You Know Who I Am' from her last album, self-titled.

The award, named after the late journalist Dylan Taite, honours outstanding Kiwi albums. Judging is based on artistic merit, rather than chart success or popularity. Previous winners include Lorde, Reb Fountain and Ladi6.  

Sir Dave Dobbyn was also there, to present the Independent Spirit Award, which went to broadcasting veteran Karyn Hay, honoured for her trailblazing work on the 80s TV series 'Radio With Pictures', her career with Kiwi FM, documentary work and current host of RNZ National’s 'Lately' show.  Hay says that this work is "just a part of who I am. Being proud of something you have championed isn’t how I see the world. I just do it, and hope the end result will hit home.”

There was also a special commendation made by Rolling Stone editor-in-chief, Poppy Reid, to Alison Mau for her important investigative work with Stuff, focussing on New Zealand music industry practices and the link with sexual harm and prevention. She said Mau’s work “is an outstanding contribution to the industry.  John Tait, Dylan's son said "Her important investigative work for Stuff shone a light on unacceptable behaviour that has been ignored by the music industry for too long.  Ali’s powerful journalism gave a voice to the victims and started a national dialogue that's driving systematic change.”

There was also the inaugural Outstanding Music Journalism Award, which was presented to RNZ Tony Stamp, who took away $2500 cash to spend on his record collection. 

The Auckland Live Best Independent Debut went to Jazmine Mary for their debut album 'The Licking of a Tangerine'. The Independent Music NZ Classic Record award went to producer Alan Jansson for the 1994 Urban-Pacific street soul compilation, 'PROUD'.

Taite Music Prize 2022 winner Anthonie Tonnon's speech

Sunday, May 08, 2022

Review - 'Stranded Pieces' by Roaming Bodies (Bats Theatre 7 May 2022)

See Video on Vimeo

“Stripping back to Artist Matt Pine's connection to land/environment in his work grounds the work in uncovering possible connections. 

Finding what were before, the 'Stranded Pieces'.

In this multidisciplinary work, dance, music and theatre forge new contexts to relate to the work of Matt Pine. Inspired by Matt Pine's ‘Placement Projects’ that took place at Auckland's City Arts Gallery in 1978 and revisited in 2016-2017 at Te Papa

I most recently saw Caspar Ilschner in collaboration with fellow dancer Otto Kosok, musician Martin Greshoff, Designer Hollie Cohen, and Co-Producers Monique Gilmour and Isaac Kirkwood at Te Auaha as part of February’s NZ Fringe Festival 2022.  Their show, The Professio(nah), was a vibrant and absurdist take on the old adage ‘stop mucking about and get a job!’ 

Under Red Light settings, it was a bizarre, isolationist experience to attend, but as a dance piece, still highly creative and entertaining. 

Tonight’s piece, ‘Stranded Pieces’ is a different beast.  Performed in the sumptious dome room upstairs in Bats, it felt like a more 'polished' art piece.  

It appears like the solo work of Ilschner but is definitely a collaboration, this time under the moniker 'Roaming Bodies'.  Most are recent Toi Whakaari graduates.  It is a thought provoking contemporary piece, in search of the missing connections between the multitudes of self within community and environment.

In our current world, with the recent politics of vaccinations and masks, isolation, society divisions, working from home, social distancing, it is necessary to find the time and space to process our options as a community. Where are we going.  How do we ‘normalize’ the ‘new normal’?  and where does theatre sit in this? Dance and theatre is the mirror we hold up and we look at the fragmented light, searching for meaning and clarity.  How can this work in our modern society?

As a performance, each ‘piece’ is presented, like laying down a piece of a puzzle, to be shuffled and reshuffled.  They are bridged together through Ilschner’s own body moves in a combination of distorted shapes, expressions challenging and drawing you in.  There with sound, spoken word and live music build the picture.  Like Pine’s work, there are circles and, angles, segments and sections.

Roaming Bodies Stranded Pieces’s set and costume design are inspired by Matt Pine's ‘Placement Projects’ that took place at Auckland's City Arts Gallery in 1978 and a new installation at Te Papa in 2016-2017.  The company, Roaming Bodies, takes the ingredients for tonight’s incredible pot pouri of choreography, lighting and music from Pine’s work.

To begin, and dressed completely in a white (of purity?) Ilschner opens, playing what appears to be a modified trumpet, the sound lingering, haunting.  It’s like an old fashioned Roman regalia, announcing the start of something spectacular.  But then the lights dim and Hollie Cohen’s intricate, abstract Audio Visuals come on to create the first scene (Cohen also did the projections for The Professio(nah)). 

The visuals feature organic cells (or digital elements like a motherboard) mutating, expediential replication of themselves, like a virus – is this a reference to Covid, of the spreading of Fake News? 

Ilschner rotates his body in a prone position, he appears to grow like a cell, multiplying into a greater life.  Is this an artificial or organic body we are witnessing? 

With a sense of deliberate action, the bizarre and organic world reveals its self, as if its growing like an amoeba.  This man, creature, organic or digital body starts to create his environment then goes about ordering it, arranging, labelling and taming it like a garden from weeds to beauty. 

There is a direct reference to the minimalist work of Pine, like the architecture of Mies Van De Rohe, creating order in the simplicity.  Clear away the clutter, the noise of multiple ‘fake’ voices, the media noise of our Covid times, the anxiety of our times, breaking down the mayhem, the inevitable destruction. 

Ilschner changes to a white plastic suit with black stripes.  He tentatively puts it on, as if it’s an alien cloak of some sort.  Immediately I thought of our own reactions to having to put on PPE or masks.  There is a brief moment of hilarity as he clumsily tries to put his arms in to the sleeve holes, a strange mash up of music plays – a mix of tape loops, Tiny Tim and Ferris wheel music.  A candy coating to hide a more sinister, or clinical purpose for the clothing?   

His dancing becomes violent, frantic punching as if he’s attacking, or is he defending.  The lights become intensely blue.  Are we underwater?  Are we hurtling through space?  Is the blue calming? Or is it a symbol of sorrow?

Perhaps this was a storm, a tempest climaxing.  This white suited about, like an explorer. His arms seem to form a radar, and aerial, a searching device.  Either way, he appears lost, bewildered.

Is this where we are now?  Our place, in this world, is a place of uncertainty? 

Ilschner’s performance is mesmerising.  It’s so much more delicate than the clowning, clumsy expressions he chose for the ‘The Professio(nah)’.  The paper that was so prominent on the set of that show is here , too.  If a little bit less prevalent as it lines the back wall like an Otago plains landscape. 

But this is a different work, for sure.  He goes well beyond the simple vocabulary learned from his years at Toi Whakaari, and the natural flow that comes over is easy to interpret, even for someone like myself who is not familiar with the intricate world of dance.  That makes this show both even more enjoyable and accessible.  His method of plying each phrase, disrupted by a spring-like lurches or twitch breaks up the journey of movement, as if our very lives has been disrupted – and indeed they have.  Occasionally we get a surprise, with a moment or two of humour, shattering the serious mood. 

Sound artist Jackie Jenkins has been inspired, it seems by the sounds of water, organic matter, digital machinations.  The soundscape is a wash of blips and bops, scritching, samples from songs and EDM, also seemingly random, like a DJ scratching and mixing live, but in fact carefully curated to match the action on stage.

As needed for dance, particularly in this long, narrow space, is a minimal set, the ‘set’ mainly constituted by visuals and a few small black boxes, the ‘stranded pieces’, which become tangible and occasionally malleable props.

When Ilschner finally speaks, he gives voice to our own interpretations of the actions so far.  It’s a revelation that won’t fit neatly into a box.  These are the boxes that he’s just so neatly lined up in the previous segment.  Small black paper boxes.  One for emotions.  Another for friends, another for foes – way over there.  Things we understand, defined and categorised, suddenly smashed under foot.   And there are more, that will all be mixed and mashed.  Order will become chaos.  A swirling mess.  A metaphor for every day assaults on our mental health from distorted information, twisted realities, climate change and other impacts on our reality.   

You can see Pine's ideas coming through, especially in the way  Ilschner lays out his boxes in geometric patterns, like Pine's art (e.g Brick Work - see below) or the circles in works like 'Line Circles'.  Even in colleague Ralph Hotere's geometric shapes, which in turn inspired Pine.   

Colour is important, helped by the dramatic, textual visual affects of Grace Newtown, Max de Roy intern and the addition of Kaitlyn Johnston’s graphic design.

 I mentioned at the beginning that this was like a solo work.  Clearly it isn’t.  Perhaps there is only one man on stage.  But the imaginations of create this multiple layered narrative. There’s a logical arc to this piece, it takes us through to a messy and chaotic conclusion.  Not necessarily positive, but realistic all the same.  I really enjoyed tonight, it made me think, I was challenged and as a theatre goer I wanted more.  Its the second time I’ve seen Ilschner and his collaborators and I’m well impressed.  Watch this space.  

Once again thanks to Roaming Bodies for inviting me to review.  

They are a company of Wellington based artists:

Caspar Ilschner: Performer and Choreographer

Jackie Jenkins: Sound Design

Grace Newton: Lighting and Set Design

Max de Roy: Costume Design and Assisting Intern for Set and Lighting Design

Hollie Cohen: Projection Design

Kaitlyn Johnston Graphic Design


Brick Work

Matt Pine (1941–2021)

Matt Pine was born in Whanganui, attending Whanganui Collegiate School, and later, graduating from the University of Canterbury School of Fine Art (now known as Ilam School of Fine Arts) in 1959.  He went on to also attend Elam School of Fine Arts, graduating in 1962.

Following graduation he gained a scholarship to Hornsey College of Art and the Central School of Arts & Crafts between 1962 and 1964.  During hi time there Pine was involved with the installation of minimalist works by artists such as Sol Le Witt, Carl Andre, Donald Judd and Dan Flavin at the Tate Gallery.  That had a huge influence on his own practice.  He took inspiration from the constructivist and minimalist movements.

He travelled through Asia, Russia, Africa and Europe before returning to Aotearoa in 1974.  He worked on site specific mahi, while observing the formal aspects of Māori architecture and ancestral sites. In 1979 he met Ralph Hotere during a Frances Hodgkins Fellowship artist in residence in Dunedin.  Both artists were operating at the intersection between Te Ao Maori and minimalism.

Pine later became an art teacher and tutor around Whanganui region from 1976 to 1999, establishing Te Wa / The Space (which moved to Palmerston North in 2011). 

Pine’s art reflects his experience of international artistic movements, alongside Te Ao Māori. He made an important contribution to contemporary Māori art and the wider art of Aotearoa’.

CoffeeBar Kid

Friday, May 06, 2022

We say farewell to Rural tv broadcaster John Gordon

Photo: Stuff

Broadcaster John Gordon, famous in many households for his work on television programmes like 'Country Calendar' and 'A Dog’s Show', died at his home in Otautau last week, at the age of 78.

He worked on 95 editions of Country Calendar from 1976 to 1984 as as writer-director and occasionally in front of the camera.  But he became famous on small screens when he presented and commentated the sheep dog trials show 'A Dog's Show' for 17 years - 1977-94.

After leaving the show he became a freelance journalist contracting to television and radio, alongside other commercial companies.  During 1982-83 he directed five documentaries for TV, under the name of  'The Southlanders', featuring the province’s people, places, and events - 'Peg's Place (Taylor's Hotel, Ohai)', 'The Wyndham Anglers (Wyndham, Mataura and Mimihau Rivers)', 'The Forgotten Coast (Progress Valley-Waipapa Point and people who live there)', 'Married to the Place (views of Southland through an artist's eyes)' and 'The Settlers (new settlement in the Te Anau basin)'.

He also wrote a number of books including 'People Places And Paddocks', 'Mountains of the South', 'Three Sheep and a Dog, Out of Town', 'What's Its Name (dog names)', 'Fresh Fields' and 'Going There (about Gordon's time in Vietnam)'.

Gordon was a keen member of the Thornbury Vintage Tractor Club and their project – 'Southern Lands, the history of farming in Southland', which he supported up to his death.

Gordon also led two refugee welfare teams for the New Zealand Red Cross in South Vietnam, utilising his skills as an agriculturalist to people grow vegetables.

He worked for Volunteer Service Abroad through the early 1990s, as a farm manager and teacher in agriculture at a secondary school in Bougainville Island, Papua New Guineas.  Later he took a commission for VSA in Cambodia and developed a radio programme for Cambodian farmers.

John Gordon was a passionate Southlander, broadcaster and humanitarian and we will all miss him here at Groove.  Our lives were enriched by his Television, especially the way he brought rural New Zealand into our homes every Sunday night.  It expanded our young minds and made us all the better for it.  

Photo: Stuff

  See more clips from John Gordon at NZ on Screen

  See more episodes of 'A Dog's Show'  

  Other classic Kiwi TV moments

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Troy Kingi wins the 2021 APRA Silver Scrolls

Troy Kingi (Te Arawa, Ngāpuhi, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui) has won the 2021 APRA Silver Scroll Award | Kaitito Kaiaka for his funk-laden song ‘All Your Ships Have Sailed’ (published by Loop Publishing | Kobalt Publishing) taken from his nostalgia-filled record The Ghost of Freddie Cesar - the fourth album from Troy Kingi’s 10 10 10 series (10 albums in 10 years in 10 genres). 

'The Ghost of Freddie Cesar' is a deeply-personal record inspired by memories of Troy’s biological father who disappeared in 2005. While going through his father’s belongings Troy found a mysterious cassette tape with the name “Freddie Cesar” scribbled on the front – an exceptional yet relatively unknown African-American funk musician. Pulling from retro 70’s sounds, Troy Kingi and his band The Clutch bring to life a character inspired by his missing father and the music discovered on this mysterious tape. 

“Freddie Cesar gave me the memory blueprints or the spiritual blueprints for these waiata. And this particular one, I don’t 100% know what it’s about, but I feel like it’s about seeing your dreams pass you by, and not being able to retrieve them, but remembering you still have love for your whānau and love for your children and that’s enough purpose.” 

On the song, 'All Your Ships Have Sailed", Kingi told RNZin 2020 that "part of the song is mine," about his children. "Maybe it's a bit daddyish. I don't know if that song fits with the rest of the story, but I wanted to say it. "The rest of the song sounds like a drug deal is going down on a corner, but I added the bit about myself to give a reason for why he's doing drug deals; to support his family."

“I’m humbled and honoured to receive this award. Thank you to APRA and the wider community for allowing it so, for deciding I was worthy of this award. Much gratitude.” 

It is the third time Troy has been a top five finalist for the Silver Scroll Award | Kaitito Kaiaka, and the win (which is decided by votes from APRA members) is a wonderful acknowledgment from his songwriting peers on the impact of his work. It recognises his outstanding work, and will see his name engraved alongside other Aotearoa musical luminaries like Aldous Harding, Marlon Williams, Bic Runga, Ruban and Kody Nielson, Scribe and P Money, Chris Knox, Dave Dobbyn, and Shona Laing.

A special version of the song was performed by Dival Mahal and a band of nine wāhine toa to mark tonight's win.

Maisey Rika (Te Whānau-a-Apanui) and Seth Haapu (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Atihaunui a Pāpārangi) were recieved the Maioha Award for 'Waitī Waitā' from Rika's album Ngā Mata o te Ariki Tāwhirimatea. The waiata spotlights Waitī and Waitā, two stars that form part of the Matariki cluster, expressing their connection with each other and tangata whenua. 

Rika's song Hiwa-i-te-rangi was also in the running for the top award, which was the first time in 26 years a bilingual song had been included in the top five finalists. 

David Donaldson, Janet Roddick, and Steve Roche, who also perform as Plan 9, took out the 2021 SOUNZ Contemporary Award for 'The Bewilderness'. The Wellington-based trio released their album of the same name in June 2021 in response to the strangeness of Lockdowns and Covid, and the moments of calm amidst the ongoing chaos and displacement. 

Composer Arli Liberman's work in Sam Kelly's movie 'Savage' and New Zealand/Swedish composer Karl Steven's arrangements for a five-part fictionalised story about the Bain family, 'Black Hands', both got a 'nod' in the awards. 

All winners and finalists of 2021 APRA Silver Scroll Award:
Winner: Troy Kingi - All Your Ships Have Sailed
Maisey Rika - Hiwa-i-te-rangi
The Beths - Jump Rope Gazers
Anthonie Tonnon - Leave Love Out Of This
Tipene - Turangawaewae 

 2021 APRA Maioha Award 
 Winner: Maisey Rika and Seth Haapu - Waitī WaitāHaami - He AioMara TK - Toroa 2021 

SOUNZ Contemporary Award 
Winner: The Bewilderness by Plan 9 (David Donaldson, Janet Roddick, Steve Roche)
So flamed in the air by Neville HallKlein Fountain by Reuben Jelleyman 

APRA Best Original Music in a Film 
Winner: Arli Liberman for Savage
Ewan Clarke for The Turn of the Screw
Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper for Shadow in the Cloud 

APRA Best Original Music in a Series 
Winner: Karl Steven for Black HandsRhian Sheehan for The SoundsTom McLeod for Fight for the Wild

The full Top 20 list was chosen from over 250 entries by a judging panel of 10 fellow songwriters, who have each made wonderful contributions to the NZ music community. 

The judging panel were (in alphabetical order): Anji Sami (She’s So Rad), Finn Andrews (The Veils), Hollie Fullbrook (Tiny Ruins), Marika Hodgson (Sorrento, Troy Kingi, Kora, Teeks), Natalia Sheppard (MC Tali), Phil Bell (DJ Sir-Vere), Sarena Close (Mousey), Sean Donnelly (SJD), Tom Scott (Avantdale Bowling Club), and Tyna Keelan. 

2021 APRA Silver Scroll Award Top 20

'All Your Ships Have Sailed', written and performed by Troy Kingi (Published by Loop Publishing | Kobalt Music Publishing Australia)

'Anna (On My Life)', written and performed by Adam Tukiri and Rizván Tu'itahi

'BATHSALTS', written by Clark Mathews, Daniel Vernon, Christan Pianta, Hakopa Kuka-Larsen, performed by DARTZBrains, written by Madeline Bradley, performed by deryk

'Broken Chains', written by Tyree Tautogia*, Sidney Diamond*, Fred Fa'afou*, Ché Ness, Willie Tafa, Solo Tohi, Wasim A. Hussain, Darryl Thompson, Angus McNaughton, performed by Smashproof (*Published by Woodcut Productions)

'Don't Run', written by Sid Diamond* and Nathan King, performed by Sid Diamond (*Published by Woodcut Productions)

'Dragon Fruit (Feat. Louis Baker), written by Tony Sihamau, Lance Fepuleai, Harry Huavi, Louis Baker, performed by Team Dynamite featuring Louis Baker

'Guilty Love', written by Phillipa Brown*, Georgia Nott**, Tommy English***, performed by Ladyhawke and Broods (*Published by BMG Rights Management Australia, ** Third Side Music Inc |Gaga Music and ***Powerteam Tom Songs / These Are Pulse Songs (BMI). Administered worldwide by Concord Music Publishing | Native Tongue Music Publishing)

'Hey Mom', written and performed by Reb Fountain (Published by Native Tongue Music Publishing)

'Hiwa-i-te-rangi', written by Maisey Rika*, Callum Rei McDougall, Chris Chetland, performed by Maisey Rika (*Published by First Nation Music - Aotearoa)

'Jump Rope Gazers', written by Elizabeth Stokes*, Jonathan Pearce, Benjamin Sinclair, Tristan Deck, performed by The Beths (*Published by Gaga Music obo Carpark Publishing)

'Laps Around The Sun', written by Mark Perkins, performed by Merk (Published by Native Tongue Music Publishing)

'Leave Love Out Of This', written by Anthonie Tonnon and Jonathan Pearce, performed by Anthonie Tonnon

'Lightswitch', written by Mona Sanei, Frank Eliesa, performed by CHAII (Published by Big Pop Music Publishing | BMG Rights Management Australia)

'No Flowers', written by Dallas Tamaira and Devin Abrams*, performed by Dallas Tamaira (*Published by Universal Music Publishing)

'Periphescence', written by Daniel McBride, performed by Sheep, Dog & Wolf

'Stand In', written by Deva Mahal and Aaron Livingston, performed by Deva Mahal

'Tangaroa', written by Henry de Jong, Lewis de Jong, Ethan Trembath, Niel de Jong, performed by Alien WeaponryTurangawaewae, written by Stephen Harmer, Maisey Rika, Troy Kingi, Tenei Kesha (10A), performed by Tipene, Troy Kingi, and Maisey Rika.

'Your Deodorant Doesn't Work', written by Stephanie Brown, James Fenimore Ikner, performed by Lips

For more information head over to APRA AMCOS NZ

Friday, March 11, 2022

REVIEW: Aotearoa NZ Festival Of The Arts: Adam Chamber Music Series - Concert 1: Voice of the Whale (Online until April 3 2022)

Adam Chamber Music Series – Artistic Directors, Helene Pohl (MNZM) and Gillian Ansell (MNZM) Concert 1: Voice of the Whale

Performers: Helene Pohl (Violin), Rolf Gjelsten (Cello), Nicola Melville (Piano), Bridget Douglas - Flute

The Chamber Music Series is a set of five separate concerts that artfully balance the familiar and the out of the ordinary.  The brief was to bring together works that were rarely heard works with the more familiar, such as the beloved Bach Chaconne, and to juxtapose them with other masterworks to enhance the emotional impact of each programme.

The series covers quintets for string quartet, taonga pūoro with a Romantic piano quintet, a performance of Mozart’s epic Gran Partita and the Enescu Octet in Chamber

Music spectacular, world music celebrating nature and emotion (‘Voice of the Whale’) and solace in a troubled world with Bach by Candlelight.  Sadly, in these Covid times we cannot attend in person. But if we did, then we’d all be crowded into the Michael Fowler Centre, wine in hand and buzzing with anticipation.  Alas, only the musicians were ably to step inside.  As a compromise, though 

‘Tonight’s’ concert was a digitally streamed event featuring the groundbreaking 'Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale' by Pulitzer Prize and Grammy award winner George Crumb, Brazilian composer Heitor 'Villa-Lobos’ Assobio a Játo (Jet Whistle)' , Bacewicz’s Violin Sonata No. 4 and Rachmaninoff’s 'Trio elegiaque  No.1 in G minor'. 

George Crumb: ‘Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale)’

George Henry Crumb Jr. was an American composer of contemporary classical music, who early in his life chose to reject the modernist usage of serialism, popular at the time, instead developing a highly personal musical language which ranged from peaceful to downright nightmarish.  

What Crumb has written gives a distinct musical voice to the cause, whilst providing a richly vivid seascape and endearing empathy with these magnificent creatures.  At the heart of the piece is the contemporary relationship between humans and whale.  It’s something of a chronological journey touching on science, especially studies in underwater audio, and nods to whaling history and asks moral and ethical questions. 

For ‘Vox Balaenae’, Crumb was deeply influenced by the environmentalism movement of the 1970 particularly “save the whales” campaigns.  While inspired by recordings of humpback whale song, he avoids using tapes and asks the three musicians with their instruments.  

And it’s intriguing to watch as much as it was to listen to.  Flautist Bridget Douglas not only plays but also sings into the mouthpiece of her instrument while pianist Nicola Melville 'engineers' sounds from hers by manipulating and plucking the strings the strings like a harp or striking them gently with a tuning mallet.

Cellist Rolf Gjelsten emulates the high-pitched squeaks and squalls of whales calling to each other. 

Even more challenging, the performers must whistle, play bells and timpani, against a swelling tide of string, piano and flute that recalls the graceful movements through the waters and a juxtaposition to the anarchic squeaks of the whales' voices.

As the flagship piece, this experimental work was delightfully executes, with the performers clearly relishing the chance to push their instruments, and themselves, to the limits.

All players wear black half-masks and (in Crumb’s own words) efface “a sense of human projection, [the masks] will symbolize the powerful, impersonal faces of nature”.  

This particular performance includes hints of the oft-used blue lighting, which unfortunately isn’t very obvious on the small screen, to provide a visual immersion into the sea.  

I really enjoyed the way the piece begins with these individual whale conversations moving into a cacophony of chatter space, with the nose of the commercial sea threatening the harmony of the solitary.   

Grażyna Bacewicz – ‘Violin Sonata No. 4’

The following a Violin Sonata by Grażyna Bacewicz, an icon of Polish composition in the early 20th century, and a virtuoso violinist in her own right.  It is believed she wrote this for herself to play, as an evocative challenge of wilding swinging moods that range from highly gestural witty and even flirtatious.

Bacewicz was admired by Witold Lutosławski as ‘a distinguished Polish composer of the 20th century and one of the foremost women composers of all time’.  As a former pupil of Kazimierz Sikorski and then Nadia Boulanger, she then studied in pre-war Paris.  She referred to her music as falling into three periods: Period 1 - youthful, very experimental; Period II - atonal’; and ‘Period III ‘absolutely avant-garde in nature’.  This piece falls into that third category but remains accessible, even to new ears.  

In the first two movements, ‘Moderato’ and ‘Andante ma non troppo’, you can hear hints of gypsy dance and throughout ‘Scherzo: Molto vivo’ there’s a contrast between marching and Nationalist bands and mischievous tip-toeing, as a child would be sneaking through the backstreets during a parade.  The ‘Finale’ is a tension of nervous energy, like a secret about to explode out of the mouth. 

I don't really know the background of this work or the composer but now I'm very keen to find out more about her.

I found Helene Pohl's violin playing simply mesmerising.  Not only technically brilliant but just so commanding in the way she inhabited the very soul of the person I now know is ‘Bacewicz’.  I feel like I’ve just had a fleeting conversation, an introduction I need to return to.

Heitor Villa-Lobos - Assobio a Játo or Jet Whistle

Created for flute and cello by celebrated Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos ‘Assobio a Játo’ beautifully juxtaposes the flute and cello.  Described as "the single most significant creative figure in 20th-century Brazilian art music", Villa-Lobos was a prolific composer, writing numerous orchestral, chamber, instrumental and vocal works - over 2000 works by his death in 1959.  

True to his style of combining Brazilian melodic and rhythmic elements with Western classical music.  This is a voyage of discovery, expertly led by the flute of Bridget Douglas who literally flies across the notes, starting with a Hovering, as if in a slow rumba then building with a passionate defiance, as a tango and a samba combined. 

Sergei Rachmaninov – ‘Trio élégiaque’

The concert finished with Rachmaninov's ‘Trio élégiaque’, composed while he was still a student.  At the time it caused a sensation, due to the departure from the styles of the day.  The music was lost for many years, only to be rediscovered until well after his passing.  Even in his early days he was exploring the romantic, and this features sweeping melodies and depth of feeling for which the he will become well known for in his later years. 

Played as a Trio of violin, cello and piano, this has the old world cut crystal elegance we know and love. It's unashamedly romantic. Sweeping gestures, envelope you in satin cloaks of sounds, separated by voices on contemplation, angst, melancholy and jubilance. 

It's easy to see why it was eye opening at the time.  Today it would work well in the cinema as much as in the parlor, perhaps set against a vermillion sky.  This may be a remnant of Imperial Russia, hints at folk dancing, skating on ice at Gorky Park, perhaps, fur hats and mittens.  Dreamy scenes.  Lives long departed.  This is what came to mind. 

If the advantage of a festival is to educate and enlighten then this certainly achieved that. 

I am in awe, not only of the skill but of the amazing repertoire of this group and their knowledge and understanding.  It is difficult to shine a light on lesser known works, let along bring an audience into the auditorium. And to remain so compelling and engaging under pandemic/digital conditions is truly incredible. 

Hats off to this ensemble and to the production crew that have captured them so well. 

Full Programme 

George Crumb - Voice of the Whale (1971) for flute, cello and piano

Grażyna Bacewicz - Violin Sonata No. 4 (1949)

• Moderato

• Andante ma non troppo

• Scherzo: Molto vivo

• Finale: Con passione

Heitor Villa-Lobos - Assobio a Játo (The Jet Whistle) (1950) for flute and cello

• Allegro non troppo

• Adagio

• Vivo

Sergei Rachmaninoff - Trio élégiaque No. 1 in G minor: Lento lugubre (1892)

Available to digitally stream from Monday 7 March – Sunday 3 April 2022 

Saturday, March 05, 2022

REVIEW: Fringe Festival - Disenchanted: A Cabaret of Twisted Fairy Tales – Eliane Morel - Online

'Disenchanted' is a collection of songs that take the side of fairytale characters who feel they’ve been misrepresented and whose real stories have been overlooked by history and folklore.  This is their chance to put the record straight. 

For this show we visit the 17th Century of salon of Madame d’Aulony, known as the ‘Godmother of Fairy Tales’, for a subversive reinterpretation of some of old favorites (Madame d’Aulony was the one who originally coined the phrase ‘fairy tales’ or contes de fees). 

As a one woman show, Morel carries the plot and the music by herself, switching costumes and scenes with the help of her partially slightly unreliable ‘magic mirror’ (effectively a Renaissance version of Zoom, complete with glitches and Wi-Fi outages).   Normally, this show would all be on the stage  (as it was in Fringe Festivals in Adelaide and Sydney) but because of you know what, it’s all online.  She must instead, perform to a screen that gives back nothing, which must be hard for an actor used to a live response.  She delivers a plenty of witty one-liners and throwaways that, on stage would bring the house down.  Alas, on video they do fall a little flat, with no interjecting laughter or audience response, it does feel a little flat.  Morel has to engage her audience with an exaggerated effort, a bit like the way presenters work on children’s TV like ‘Play School’, leaving space for silent laughter.  We saw this recently on tv programmes like the Late Show with Steven Colbert, who was forced to perform from his apartment instead of the studio during Lockdown.  Without people, it fails somewhat.  Comedy like this really needs warm bodies to shine. 

Still the music helps, and once you get over the initial format cringe you can really settle I and enjoy.

Morel’s mission is to bring these well known fables into the 21st century – and we are reminded of the sad realities with must that we must all now live with.  She very cleverly dispels the myths of these fairytales with her often debauched modern twists.  It should be pointed out that these are not for children.  There are some R16 moments. 

She plays all the characters with more than feminist touch.

“In my stories, girls are trying to escape Aristocratic beast, not chase after them!’  Madame d’Aulony tells her own story of how she escaped an arranged marriage by getting her intended sent to the Bastille for treachery and tax evasion.  She has skin in this game.

It’s funny how some of the real-life fairy tales like the Weddings of Charles and Diana or Andrew and Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew have now been dissolved over time, as we learn the truth behind them.  It seems the facade hides what really happened when Cinderella married her Prince Charming.  On that, Cinder’s story is told from the perspective of Olga, a disgruntled stepsister, who bears more than a passing resemblance Samantha Markle and her madcap ramblings about Megan on cable TV. Olga and her sister, it seems are pipped by the activities of their stepsister, who after the wedding, instead of welcoming them to the palace has employed them as the Royal’s laundry mistresses.  We see a disgruntled Olga explaining this in song (sung to the tune of ‘Those Were Days, My Friend’), whilst sitting in a trashy backstreet laundromat, commenting about the golden couple’s recent abdication to escape the paparazzi and wondering if Prince Andrew is still available to date.    

Jack and the Beanstalk also gets a bit of a twist, with puns intended.  As the liberated goose that lays the golden eggs, Morel assumes the personality of the ‘egg-cited’ bird and sings (in egg-ceptional voice) about how Jack climbed the beanstalk to rescue her and her loudmouthed mate, the Magical Harp.  In the process she fills us in on what really happed during Jack’s escape and how the giant really dies.  As this ‘eggs-pose’ unfolds we learn how the recently liberated goose ditches Jack once the big guy s out of the way to set up her own golden egg laying business.  She figures she’s sitting on a goldmine, why not exploit it! 

What could be next.  Of course, it’s Mr Wolf (oddly from Transylvania – no explanation why) and that pesky girl – Red Riding Hood.  This time, she’s re-appropriated the song ‘Perhaps, Perhaps’ to argue why this wild canine is misunderstood. Wolf wasn’t eating Granny at all.  Well, not literally.  More carnally, if you get my drift.  There’s a scandalous cover-up that hides the truth behind the Wolf’s murder.  It turns out the wood-cutter is innocent after all! 

It’s all deliciously playful and subversive.  But watching this with the backdrop of the Ukrainian invasion feels particularly uncomfortable right now.  The Russian/Middle European accents hammer home the point - Is the Wolf Putin or Trump?  Or Us? Did we let him in win, despite his charm and big ears? 

Then there’s the ‘date rape’ #metoo version of the “Sleeping Beauty” fable seen through the eyes of a comatose princess molested by her future prince.  Prince Charming turns out to be a creep who takes advantage of girls sedated under the influence of charms and spells.  Is this Prince Andrew, Harvey Weinstein, or any male in a position of power turning a vulnerable situation to their advantage? 

The art, backgrounds and animations bring this performance to life, and there’s a real hint at the theatre that Morel was aiming at when she performed the show live.  They’d done their best with the high-quality production, and that softens the blow.  She uses all the familiar tropes of pantomime and story telling to deliver.  While the online version doesn’t really show Morel at the height of her powers Disenchanted is still a brilliant show and a nice distraction from reality for an hour – and a talking point for the next virtual water conversation.

CoffeeBar Kid