Friday, October 16, 2009

All cultured out!

I'm feeling very cultured this week. Not only did I go to the theatre on Saturday I also went to the ballet on Wednesday!

My mum came to visit me last weekend and for a change we decided to go and see a play on Saturday night. She lives out in the sticks and hasn't been to the theatre for years. I must admit I haven't been very much since I moved to NZ - although it is something I try to do whenever I visit Christchurch or Wellington. I've only seen one other play in Dunedin in my 3yrs here, and that was a couple of months ago. That was Emma, and by coincidence the lead actress in that was also in the play I saw on Saturday.

The play was called Glorious - and it was played down in the Studio Theatre, which I didn't even know existed!

Glorious is a modern play by a local playwright, Richard Huber. It only had 2 actors, a male and female. Unlike Emma, the play only had these 2 characters. In Emma, the 4 actors played several different roles.

The female lead, played by Anya Tate-Manning, is Gloria. Gloria is a wealthy socialite who decides to annoy her father by announcing she is marrying a writer-slash-waiter she met at her father's birthday party. She moves into his dingy apartment and takes a job as a waitress. Jimmy, played by Daniel Coppersmith, reluctantly puts up with her (although he isn't exactly indifferent to her charms). Both actors had a great grasp of an American accent and their chemistry really sparkled. I think Daniel stumbled on a couple of lines, but honestly the script is so fast paced who wouldn't miss a beat every now and then?

The play is based on the Screwball comedy genre of Hollywood films such as those starring Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant. It is gloriously fast paced, the 2 characters continually sparring with quick-witted comments. I really enjoyed the background music too, the 1930s theme came through really well.

The intimacy of the studio theatre works really well for small plays such as Glorious - you feel as though you are right in the action and can almost reach out and touch the characters. The set itself never changed, and yet was able to be two completely different locations. I've always had an interest in set design, indeed I would have opted for that part of 'A' Level Drama if one of the other girls hadn't hogged it every time we did a play (so I was stuck with acting or make-up).

My only complaint was Gloria's wardrobe. I don't know where they got those dresses from, but I think they for an actress who was a couple of sizes bigger than Anna, they did nothing for her figure at all!

Glorious has been short-listed for this year's Playwright New Play Award, and deservedly so. I'd recommended everyone to go see it, if that showing had not been the last one!

On Wednesday, my friend and I went to the Regent Theatre to see Swan Lake. We'd bought our tickets ages ago and so I'd been looking forward to it for a while. I think I've only been to see the ballet once before, years ago, although I've seen a few on TV.

Swan Lake was performed by the Imperial Russian Ballet Company. They are world renowned, but I must admit I don't know an awful lot about ballet.

It was performed following the traditional version, but with the happier ending decreed by the Soviet Rule (I wonder if anyone does the original ending these days?) The ballerinas were hypnotic and did an excellent job of telling the story through dance and gesture. You don't need a script to understand the feelings they convey.

I loved the way the ballerinas resembled swans, not just through their costumes but also in their gestures - the slight move of an arm could instantly evoke the elegant arch of a swan's neck or wing. All the costumes were magnificent, although Prince Siegfried's white tights left little to the imagination!

The principal ballerina playing Odette, the Queen of Swans, was mesmerising - she could move in ways I didn't believe were entirely humanly possibly. I felt that the Prince faltered a little in places but otherwise he was very good too. I wonder how uneven the Regent Theatre's stage is - it certainly looked it from where I was sitting, which presumably must affect a dancer's ability.

My only problem was that I was exhausted from working a morning shift and the ballet was quite long, and the theatre very warm, so I almost felt like I was being lulled to sleep by the music and the dancing. That meant I didn't enjoy it quite as much as if I had been wide awake, but it can't be helped when I have to work.

The Imperial Russian Ballet Company will be returning to Dunedin next year, and I plan on seeing them again. I think they will be performing Snow White. I'm quite tempted to see Peter Pan next month, but to be honest I really need to start saving my money for my foray into house buying!!

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