The Salient Theatre Awards 2016
Wellington has been graced with a heap of theatre this year: from good, to interesting, to ugly. The stand out shows for us were bold and ambitious; they were challenging and reflective of the times. We believe that theatre which leaves the wider community buzzing with conversation is theatre that WINS! We want to congratulate these shows and highlight how each one has encouraged us to keep making art that catalyses conversation. Here are our top picks for 2016!
by Ophelia Wass, Ruby Hansen, and Adeline Shaddick
Best Theatre Experience
Jekyll and Hyde Director: Leo Gene Peters
Vanilla Miraka Playwright and Performer: Hayley Sproull Director: Jo Randerson
Hold onto your hats (or your picture-frames) because this show will not let you recline leisurely in your seats! From the minute we stepped into the theatre we were showered with affectionate compliments and tantalising offers of wine. This was a seductive 21st-century spin on the 19thcentury novella that included the entire audience hiding under a blanket of tulle and audience members being asked to play crucial on-stage roles in uncovering the blonde-wigged, and evil, Mr Hyde.
Vanilla Miraka was on at BATS during late September. Hayley Sproull engaged us from start to finish. Fully present, she embraced her flailing awkwardness as she scrambled to connect with her Māoritanga. Using stand up, sketch, and original song, Sproull’s honest and very brave storytelling had us feeling uplifted; a sentiment that she herself found through sharing her journey with us.
The quintessential Kiwi father-and-son relationship is presented from a fresh perspective. The play is structured as a series of 18 stanzas that traverse the playwright character’s (James Russell) quest to understand his father (John Landreth) and all the idiosyncratic, rugby bloke, stuff that comes with him. Knighton, a VUW Graduate, interprets Finnius Teppett’s poignant script by offering both the awkwardness and the warmth of this father and son connection. The play is honest and explores common themes in a new light.
This show was a stand out on many levels and the blend of Te Reo Māori and New Zealand small-town jargon resonated with many. Each technical element complemented the performers and their powhiri-like introduction to the mythical narrative. The ensemble beautifully and intensely danced a haka-like sequence on the real grass that coats the floor, all punctuated by the sound of purerehua and drums. Later a shadow screen invited us into the magical-mundane realm. Jason Wright’s sound design was impeccable and Glenn Ashworth’s lighting design sung. Winner.
Best Audience Interaction
Perhaps, Perhaps…Quizas... Playwright: Gabriela Munoz Performer: Gabriela Munoz
If There’s Not Dancing At The Revolution, I’m Not Coming. Creator and Performer: Julia Croft Director: Virginia Frankovich
Using no words, only her facial expressions, gestures, and sound effects, Gabriela Munoz chose a different audience member each performance to be her groom for the evening. We followed Munoz and the lucky fella around through the wedding ceremony. What is most special about this piece is that Munoz captivates the audience from the get go and manages to make the groom (whoever it may be) appear as if they have rehearsed together months prior to the performance. It’s magical! If Gabriela Munoz is ever performing somewhere near you, DEFINITELY GO!
In a world bombarded with pop culture and misogynistic bullshit, Julia Croft exploits the male gaze and turns it into a loud fuck-you celebration of women’s endurance. It made us angry and excited in the best kind of way. Our personal favourite moment was when she danced to Sia whilst pumping confetti through her vagina gun. Best piece of feminist art. Hands down.
The Fence Playwright: Fran Olds Director: Luke Hanna and Fran Olds
My Dad’s Boy Playwright: Finnius Teppett Director: Ryan Knighton