Five reviewers give their reflections after week one of the Auckland Fringe Festival.

1. It was an exceptional pleasure to sit in the vast Aviation Display Hall at Motat at dusk watching Josie Archer and Kosta Bogovieski in Dance, Danced, Dancing. Dwarfed by the gleaming fuselage of a restored Sunderland hanging above and the oversized bronze statue of Sir Keith Park behind them, they nevertheless seemed larger than life and distinctly present. They moved smoothly and sinuously through a richly detailed, intricate series of manoeuvres, dressed in mechanics' overalls. The painted concrete floor gleamed under their feet and reflected their bodies, doubling their presence. Space was explored; distance and scale played with. Provocations became performances without pretension, yet there was no doubting their passion for movement, so clearly communicated, crisply articulated, precisely delivered, never spectacular but always purely movement. You could sense their bodies thinking.

- Raewyn Whyte dance reviewer

2. Sometimes it's nice to go to theatre to be reassured you're not alone in your thinking. After The Polar Bear Chronicles, I know I'm not the only one vexed by the madness of having polar bears - animals from the Arctic where it's cold (although not as cold as it should be) - in zoos in countries where the climate is tropical. At first it seemed this was a delightfully silly romp about Singapore Zoo's polar bears with cutting comedy and madcap manoeuvres from Jack Ansett, Kate Sullivan (head of dance at Auckland Girls' Grammar School) and Susannah Smith-Roy (Ghost on Shortland Street). Without ever losing the comedy, it became something much more sobering as it asked profound questions about the nature of captivity and the crazy things we do to our planet. Impressive set, too. I look forward to seeing more from Frolic Theatre.

Advertisement

- Dionne Christian Arts editor

3. There were moments that were quite beautiful in Ladylike: A Modern Guide to Etiquette and Salonica. These included some rough ideas which gleamed with potential; others touching but undeveloped. Both productions toyed with the idea of truth and its various iterations - occasionally successfully, other times, not so much. Louise Beuvink's Ladylike included some interesting moments: a cooking class on a budget (you'll never think of chicken pate in the same way), an exploration of modern feminine hygiene technology involving heat (worth googling if just for the images) and a fascinating finale drawing upon kabuki. There was plenty of promise here but it blurred genuine storytelling with faux and some flimsy character constructions. Salonica, on the other hand, with its multiple languages (Serbian, New Zealand Sign Language and English) suggested a more authentic experience as it examined war and friendship. Although the storyline was conventional in its plotting, it's delivery and characterisation were profoundly touching. There were excellent performances from Shaun Fahey and Mihailo Ladevac but the deeply personal journey has a strange, almost prosaic, twist towards the end - one that, like Ladylike, forced the truth of the performer to rub awkwardly against the world created by the performance.

- Dione Joseph dance and theatre reviewer

4. Parodying something that everyone knows, like the talk show format, is easy in theory but hard to make unique. That was the challenge facing The Jenny Taylor Show, a promising riff on 90s, Ricki Lake-type TV shows. Ideas were certainly sold convincingly by the talented cast but the star of the show, Jenny herself, was left with little to do. The sardonic host had several cutting put-downs but most of the play was dedicated to lengthy musical numbers that, while entertaining, lacked the lyrical wit or memorable notes to make up for the absence of a leading character. An amazing idea in the making, it needs finetuning to let Jenny find her voice. Elsewhere, it took only the first few minutes of Mackenzie's Daughter to make a strong case for making the soap opera riff a regular fixture. A cast of many of Auckland's most talented young actors and comedians tore apart the soap opera genre in an hour that was consistently funny. The entire thing was improvised and the whole cast fully embraced the ridiculousness and madness that comes with that. Alice Snedden, Hayley Sproull and Lana Walters bounced effortlessly off each other as the warring family members who would give Joan Collins a run for her money. A slightly different cast and premise is on next Saturday at the Basement.

- Ethan Sills theatre reviewer

5. Ana Chaya Scotney's evocative vocals in Contours of Heaven were wonderful: breathing became waves, then a storm, beatboxing and seagull cries in fluid metamorphosis. She created beauty from documentary by using these sounds (and dynamically lit stylised movement) to respond to the real voices she channels verbatim, of rangatahi struggling with brutal class lines in Hawke's Bay. The show was affecting; the directed audience conversation afterwards was unnecessary. Saraid Cameron, in her solo bar show Drowning in Milk, surprised herself by bursting into brief tears while thanking her mother, in the audience, for helping to shift New Zealand perceptions of south Asian people before Cameron was born. Like Desiree Burch in Tar Baby and Alice Canton in White/Other, Cameron discussed interpersonal racism. Her point of difference: she gave the audience two drinks within the 30-minute show and discussed difficult intersectional decisions while we drank. As a child she had to decide whether or not to report an older boy's physical sexual advances. The dilemma? She didn't want to make trouble for someone whose skin colour was similar to her mother's.

- Janet McAllister theatre reviewer

More to see

This week, there's a whole lot more Fringe to see. We're checking out: Triage! A Nursing Cabaret; Judge, Jury & Cookie Monster; The Plastic Orgasm; The Race; Watching Paint Dry; Wigging Out;Question Time Blues; Two Gentlemen of Verona; Pūmanawa and Side B.