The Year in Review:
The Best of Auckland Theatre in 2014

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

img_theysawathylacineBest Shows

They Saw a Thylacine (Sarah Hamilton/Justine Campbell) Read More
Two Australian women and an unassuming set didn’t prepare for one of the most intellectually engaging and rhythmically powerful works I’ve seen this year. A proudly environmentalist work, and an even more assured theatrical one. Utterly essential.

Daffodils (Bullet Heart Club) Read More
The best new New Zealand work to premiere this year by a country mile, Daffodils was as much a celebration of a certain generation and their music as it was a condemnation of their “she’ll be right” mentality. Stunning music, performances, and direction is just the icing on the cake.

360 (Nightsong Productions/Theatre Stampede) Read More
If all theatre that took this many risks could be so accomplished and downright pleasant. As much about the simultaneously loving and destructive nature of family as it was about its own spectacle, 360 – A Theatre of Recollections is the kind of show that deserves to run for ever.

Angels in America (Silo Theatre) Read More
One of the best plays of the last 30 years given a production it truly deserves, and that Auckland theatre deserves. A marathon just for an audience to get through; the first time I was struck into awe by the sheer magnitude of the production, the second time I was caught off guard by the precision of it. The achievement of the year.

The Wilderness (Blackbird Ensemble) Read More
Blackbird Ensemble’s larger show The Night Sky was the bigger, flashier spectacle, but The Wilderness is what lingers in my mind. Wondrous, engaging, and gorgeous in equal spades, it’s the most adventurous and brave blend of music and theatre that I’ve ever seen.

When The Rain Stops Falling (The Court Theatre)
In on a technicality, this production staged by The Court Theatre remains one of the most wondrously huge pieces of theatre I’ve seen this year. It takes Andrew Bovell’s elephantine text magnified four hundred percent. Beautiful visuals and a committed cast complete the package.

Both Sides Now (Auckland International Cabaret Season) Read More
Julia Deans does Joni Mitchell. That’s all you should need. But more than just a great singer recounting the hits of a great songwriter, Deans delved deep into the back catalogue and soul of Mitchell for one of the most emotionally engaged shows of the year.

Belleville (Silo Theatre) Read More
A horror for the millennial set, Silo gave us Amy Herzog’s deeply unsettling treatise on the problems with our generation, and Oliver Driver’s production lifted it into body-shaking horror. It stuck with me.

Mana Wahine (Okareka Dance Company) Read More
I know next to nothing about dance, but my own visceral response and the response of those around me told me that Mana Wahine was not only a special world, but an angry, stirring and profoundly human one. Dance for the soul.

Lies + What Have You Done To Me (Stephen Bain/Nisha Madhan)
If there were two shows that made me believe more of what theatre could be, it was these. The former was a performance of courtship that was like watching somebody cut a raw nerve onstage, the latter was a tribute to the performances that we all take quietly without questioning. Both reminders of theatre’s continual growth; both triumphs in every sense of the word.

img_angelsinamerica2Best Performances

The cast of Angels in America Read More
Where other plays asks a cast to reach out to the audience, others ask them to reach for the heavens. To get through the eight hours of Angels in America is a mammoth task in its own right, but to do it with the grace, elegance, and emotional clarity that this cast did, it’s an outright miracle.

Lara MacGregor, When The Rain Stops Falling
A large amount of the weight that falls in When The Rain Stops Falling does so on MacGregor’s character, and this actor rose to the challenge as she embodied the dark, damaged soul of the play with dignity and power.

Robyn Malcolm, The Good Soul of Szechuan Read More
This production fell to its knees for Robyn Malcolm, and she delivered in spades. A star performance from one of the few stars we have left, but also a display of an actor in full command of both craft and charisma, giving us a human within the machine.

Renee Lyons, Soo Young
Lyons’ brings the craft and humour she brought to her triumphant Nick to the story of an immigrant nurse from Korea. There’s not an ounce of condescension, and it’s a tremendously intelligent and heartfelt performance where you could expect a caricature. Another triumph for Lyons.

Lady Rizo Read More
Previously known only to me through YouTube, Lady Rizo in person is an absolute fireball of charisma and talent. From her Kabuki-inspired entrance to her flawless closing medley, Rizo gives as full-bodied and developed a performance as any I’ve seen on stage this year, playing both her established character and an entirely real person.

Colleen Davis + Todd Emerson, Daffodils Read More
Two very different, but no less impressive performances, Davis is a raw nerve the entire time on stage while Emerson’s shift from open youth to restrained middle-age is heartrending. Both rise to their material, both written and musical, and their rendition of ‘Fall At Your Feet’ needs to be recorded as soon as possible.

Sophie Henderson, Belleville Read More
In a play that dares an actor to fall into dualities, playing both generation and human, monster and victim, Henderson instead finds the shades in a woman on the edge. Raw, genuinely terrifying, and profoundly distressing.

Lara Fischel-Chisholm, Terror Highway Read More
A great example of an often unrecognised style of acting, not only does Fischel-Chisholm totally get the earnestness of B-grade horror films, she understands how to parody it while paying it deserved love. A beautifully physical, intelligent performance where a cipher could’ve existed.

Andi Crown, The Motherfucker with the Hat Read More
In the most thankless and least flashy role in a thankless and flashy American play, Crown’s world-weary and man-wary performance has held onto the corners in my memory. She illuminated the haziest edges of this play with low-key grace, the complete opposite of her star turn in last year’s Abigail’s Party.

Tim Carlsen, One Day Moko
You can tell that Tim Carlsen has been refining this character for years when he’s able to improv with a sometimes not particularly helpful audience without letting the seams show, but it’s his tremendous skill in showing Moko’s transformation that is truly impressive.