The Year in Review:
The Best of Auckland Theatre in 2013

ARTS, Features, Theatre & Performing Arts
Auckland Theatre Editor Sam Brooks selects the year’s ten best plays and performances.

img_abigailspartyTop Ten Plays

Abigail’s Party (Vibracorp Productions) Read More
The most excruciating 90 minutes in British comedy and the most fun 90 minutes of my year, so much so that I went twice. A fantastic ensemble, a show-stealing set, and a still relevant script by Mike Leigh gave us a production that could do no wrong.

Battle of the Bastards (David Ladderman) Read More
This little comedy show I walked into without knowing anything about it stunned me. David Ladderman’s retelling of King Lear is one that I wish hit bigger—anybody studying King Lear should see it and anybody who hates Shakespeare should see it. Hilarious and unexpectedly engaging.

Chicago (Auckland Theatre Company) Read More
One of the highlights of the year, as anybody who is trying to book tickets at this late point in the game knows. An explosion of sex and spectacle, Michael Hurst’s production turns a musical that maybe isn’t as great as its reputation into one of the best two and a half hours of the year.

Cloud 9 (Good Company)
A surprisingly lush production of Caryl Churchill’s best play took centre stage at the Basement this year. Loud, intelligent, and angry, this was the best thing I saw at the Basement all year and that’s a high bar to clear.

The Glass Menagerie (Auckland Theatre Company) Read More
This is the best of what a company of Auckland Theatre Company’s size can do. An A-list cast at the height of their ability (especially Elizabeth Hawthorne and Antonia Prebble), an international director injecting vibrancy into a 2013 season, and a sumptuous, lavish production of one of the best plays of the 20th century. The one ATC has to beat in 2014.

Kiss the Fish (Indian Ink Company) Read More
Another brilliant Indian Ink show. Ingenious use of mask, pitch perfect performers, and a touching, everybody-friendly script. A treat to see this new show premiere, and hopefully tour across the country (and the world) like it deserves to.

Outsider’s Guide (Chris Parker/Hayley Sproull)
The karanga in this show is hands down, no contest, send all other competitors home, the funniest thing I’ve seen all year. Chris Parker and Hayley Sproull’s collection of weird people is jagged, rough and weird, but entirely engaging and had me in stitches both times I saw it. The gem of this year’s Comedy Festival.

Pitchfork Disney (The Moving Theatre Company) Read More
Philip Ridley’s most famous script + the hottest director of the year (Sophie Roberts’s Midsummer came close to this list) + the best production design of the year (Dan Williams) is a no brainer. Chilling, and one of the most memorable shows I saw this year.

Snort (Basement Theatre)
A new, and hopefully permanent, addition to the Basement’s roster, Snort is a weekly improv show with a rotating cast of Auckland’s cleverest and most game actors and comedians. I’ve been almost every week and I’ve had a blast every time I’ve gone. In a year of some very dark, and very prestigious shows, it’s nice to cap every week off with a round of fun, and occasionally rough, improv.

Speaking in Tongues (Silo Theatre) Read More
I said this was world-class theatre at the time, and it’s something I stand by. Andrew Bovell’s script may come off a little bit schematic and clever for some, but Shane Bosher’s direction blew it to smithereens and reconstructed it as the incisive study of trust and relationships that it is.

img_anneboleynTop Ten Performances

Anna JulienneAnne Boleyn Read More
A perfectly pitched performance with a fittingly off-putting energy, Julienne stamps her own definitive take of a character who has been performed on screen, stage, and page many times. Equal parts fragile and intelligent, and entirely unforgettable.

Brendon GreenEverything Is Alright (*Citation Needed)
Not a play, but a stand-up comedy show that I decided to go along to on a whim at 10pm one night and then went along again the night after because I was so taken aback by this comedian. Green is a charming, self-effacing, and incredibly intelligent performer whose nervous energy still manages to be comforting. He had the audience in the palm of his hand, and nailed the dark, Maria Bamford-esque ending to his show like it was the easiest thing he’d done. Definitely one to watch.

Colleen DavisChicago Read More
Davis doesn’t have the biggest part in Chicago but she makes the biggest impression. Her rendition of ‘If You’re Good to Mama’ needs to be recorded and stored in some archive for preservation. A voice to blow the walls of Q’s Rangatira down, and the presence to match it.

Eli MatthewsonTitus Read More
The original production of Titus was on my best list last year (a reason I didn’t include it here because of my own list-making compulsions), but I left off Matthewson’s incredible performance, which has only improved in the return Q season. He dug deeper into the shattered Lavinia, uncovering new vulnerabilities and lifting the entire production up as a result.

Hannah BanksPanicdotes
This is a cheat, considering it was a Wellington show that I saw when I went down there for a weekend. At the end of a group of horror-themed plays, Banks’s monologue is what stuck in my head when I went back to Auckland. Disarmingly forthright with understated gravitas, it makes me want to see this actress do something up in Auckland. Immediately.

Natalie MedlockThe Yeti Trilogy Read More
Another work of comic genius. In the supremely silly Yeti Trilogy, Medlock’s titular Yeti emerges as an expected highlight. Adorable, endearing, and compelling for the considerable length of the trilogy, but Yeti is such a precise and clever creation that’s all the more impressive for how easy Medlock makes it seem.

Sophie Roberts and Andi Crown, Abigail’s Party Read More
It’s hard to pick who was the best out of this pair in the impressive Abigail’s Party, so I won’t. Crown’s Beverly is a star performance, pure and simple, matching her own charisma to the character’s own room-stealing habits, while Roberts’s Angela wrings the biggest laughs out of the tiniest character moments and habits. Two laudable, entirely different performances in one great production.

Trygve Wakenshaw, Squidboy
This award-winning performance has already been lauded by everyone who has seen the show, and deservedly so. Wakenshaw’s metamorphosising bird-eating character is a work of dark, comic genius, and still the weirdest, most engaging thing I’ve seen all year.

Yvette ParsonsJaneece Gunton: Herstory Read More
When I saw this back in June, I compared it to Charlize Theron in Monster, and it’s a comparison I stand by. Parsons turned in a performance so dark that you didn’t see the light go out in her eyes; the light was never there to start with. Deadpan, brilliant, mortifying.