Dance, Physical Theatre

Movement of the Human

transformed the Auckland Town Hall Concert Chamber into a multi-level, surround sound and light-altered space. Twenty performers occupied every available niche in and around a raised central platform. At the far end of the space, a second raised stage held a six-piece band augmented by dancer-musicians.

Eden Mulholland's music was a multi-layered mix which created shifting moods and kept everything moving along. A mix of quiet and loud, cycling drones and propulsive rhythms, sultry bass and chirpy table, with soaring vocals from Hannah Lynch, at times it was relaxingly dreamy.

The dancers moved around the space, lined the walkways, soloed under the stage scaffolding, slithered over vertical surfaces and climbed up to the high platform for ensemble passages and quick trios. Stellar duets from some of New Zealand's leading dancers featured, poignant and tender, brief narratives of desire and argument.

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The immersive combination of light, sound and movement created a dance party feel with the audience free to roam and mingle with performers, socialise with one another, or find a place to sit and absorb the goings on. Digital projections across the walls and the bodies inside the room made everything one large work of art.
Reviewer Raewyn Whyte:

Music

"Does this spark joy in you?" Cherie Moore and Sheena Irving asked at the beginning of their thought-provoking new work, The Space Between. Here, Marie Kondo's maxim on how to simplify life is applied to relationships: if the answer is no, discard it but it's harder to rid ourselves of the people in our lives than it is clutter in our homes.

The audience experience, like the play's central relationship, was fractured, with the Auckland Town Hall supper room divided into sections and the audience split into three and rotated throughout the spaces. Thus we gain a cubist's impression of the story, experienced from incomplete viewpoints, all the while Sheena and Cherie's interactions become increasingly fraught.

Does this spark joy in you? For Sheena and Cherie the answer is complicated. For me, it was mostly yes.
Writer Richard Betts:

Meanwhile, Love, Light and Dark Energy showed how percussive flamenco is. Dancer Amira Brock, well-known in Auckland flamenco circles, was her own drum kit, thigh and chest slaps accompanying the constant slam of her tack-heeled shoes.

Where Brock was solid, a bull pawing at the ground, Spanish visitor Ana Lloris Ortero was fluid: a sway of the hips, a come-hither shrug, her fingers tracing elaborate fan-like patterns. Her siguiriyas were the evening's highlight.

Tapac's odd acoustic heard Sandy Schock's and Richard Aylett's guitars amplified, with the result that the sound came unnaturally from somewhere above our heads. It was disorientating, but the ear adjusts, and forced our focus where it belongs: on the dancers.

Theatre

A bold concept met millennial drama in This is How We're Gonna Die. A meteorite heads for Earth but, for a group of Mt Eden-based students, the night's impending flat dinner is the only thing on their minds. The clash of ideas made for a pleasing show from relative newcomers Lana Petrovic and Kelly Gilbride. The young cast rose to the challenge of balancing their relatable characters with apocalyptic drama, particularly Zoe Larsen-Cumming as unpopular-popular girl Tiffany. But despite charming characters and sassy banter, the script wasn't playful enough to match the high concept, suggesting more fine-tuning, and perhaps a longer runtime, would better sell the idea.
Reviewer Ethan Sills:

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Things get a little hairy for the townswomen in the Salem B*tch Trials.
Things get a little hairy for the townswomen in the Salem B*tch Trials.

Comedy

Local comedian Brendon Green returned to the Fringe with Humourism 2019. With a title like that, it was a little jarring when the show began more like a poetry night at some hipster bar, Green strumming away at his guitar among a sea of fake tea-light candles. Yet Green drew us in with an earnest and philosophical sense of humour, a night of well-crafted storytelling rather than stand-up worth pondering long after the tea-lights were switched off.

All female improv returned with The Salem B*tch Trials. From the creators of last year's smash hit MacKenzie's Daughter, this year's show riffs on high school theatre regular The Crucible. The opening night performance saw the women of Salem faced with a prickly conundrum: let their chin hairs grow long and thick or wax and be branded as smooth-skinned witches. Ridiculous but delightful, the silliness sold by a cast, made up of some of Auckland's many, infinitely talented female comedians. Salem B*tch, alongside MacKenzie's, are cult institutions in the making and deserve a residency beyond the confines of Fringe.

Perhaps the most far-afield performer at this year's festival, Ireland's Mary Bourke made a strong case as to why she should be the next comedy superstar. I Can Make You Irish (on until March 2) sees Bourke analyse Irish stereotypes, history and habits in a journey that takes us from hipster-riddled Berlin to sharing a stage with pretentious American comedians. Her comedy is subtle but ingenious, producing a steady stream of stories full of witticism and sincerity that finds the funny in genocide and strokes. The show could use some editing to focus on the best stories, but even Bourke's longer rants can elicit a well-deserved snigger.
Reviewer Ethan Sills

Cabaret

After picking up an award at last year's Fringe, Triage: A Nursing Cabaret returned for one night only. Real-life nurse Zuleika Khan is a commanding performer thanks to her broad laughs, saucy sensibility, and powerfully soulful voice. Triage was the epitome of a crowd pleaser, balancing toilet humour and roof-raising ballads alongside moments of raw, intimate emotion that only made us love her more. Khan can bring down the house and stitch it back together, and hopefully this won't be her last visit.
Reviewer Ethan Sills
Auckland Fringe Festival is on until March 3. For more information go online
to auckland fringe.co.nz