Sunday, June 19, 2016

All Blacks vs. Wales

Whenever the All Blacks come to Wellington, we try to get along to see them. Wales are touring with a three-match test series at the moment, and, having come unstuck in Auckland last week, are in Wellington this weekend. I’d got tickets some months ago when it was first announced.

Another thing that’s happening in Wellington this week, for the first time, is Night Noodle Markets. This is a concept that’s been around in Australia for a while, and even Auckland, but for the first time here in the coolest little capital in the world. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a bunch of restaurants do an open-air stall. As the name implies, it’s mostly Asian-style cookery, “street food” type stuff (although how you’re supposed to eat pho whilst walking down the street is a mystery to me). We thought it would be a good idea to try it out, then walk up to the stadium.

And so, apparently, did everyone else! It was heaving! We joined a queue at Nam D to get some dinner. The queues were all pretty long, with the exception of TJ Katsu, who had the misfortune to receive an unfavourable review that very day in the Dominion Post. After obtaining some Vietnamese spring rolls and garlic & chili chicken, we took a brief side trip to the Tiger beer tent, then walked up to the stadium along with several thousand other people.

Thoroughly Modern Millies that we are, we had our tickets as QR codes on our phones, which you then place under the scanner. I can haz technologies? You bet!

We found our seats, equipped ourselves with some beer, and awaited the introductions, anthems, and haka. Then it was game on. As expected, it was a tough physical match, and there were two injuries in the first half – one of which, Aaron Cruden, turned out be not as serious as first feared, as they spent 10 minutes on the field administering to him before stretchering him off to hospital on a medicart.

Cruden’s injury brought Beauden Barrett to the field earlier than expected, however, and he was soon making an impact on the play. Although the half-time score was even at 10-10, it’s those long bruising encounters where no points are scored that take their toll later in the match. In the second half the All Blacks ripped out and scored three tries in quick succession, then a fourth with no reply. In the final 10 minutes Wales pulled back some of those points – one try as a result of a careless kick, charged down. Barrett hared off down the field after the ball carrier, tackled him, tackled the support player, but was unable to take down the third. “Guys, a little help?” he could’ve reasonably asked. A final run in the last play of the game would’ve been a further try for the All Blacks if Ryan Crotty hadn’t carelessly put his foot down in touch whilst scoring – to be fair, there was a giant Welsh player tackling him at the time.

As it was, the final result probably flattered the Welsh a bit. With the series won, they’ll play again in Dunedin next week, where the ABs will be intent on building their unbeaten test run of 10 matches.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Shakespeare's Will

Shakespeare’s will is notorious for the bequest of the second-best bed to his wife, Anne Hathaway. The actual document is quite short, as most of the will is about the entailment of his property to his sister and her family.

How did Anne Hathaway feel about that? No-one knows, but this play is an imaginary take on what may have been. It would be fair to say that she’s not best pleased.

Shakespeare’s Will was written by Vern Thiessen in 2005. It is a one-woman play with Anne Hathaway in the lead role, set on the day of her husband’s funeral. She is handed the will, to her surprise. What follows is a speculative rumination on her life with William Shakespeare, culminating with the reading of the will, and her reaction to it.

The performance was a play reading, rather than an actual acting of the play, which was a little bit odd. I can understand why you might do a reading if there was more than one personae in the dramatis, but in this case, it was essentially a monologue. It’s not even a dress rehearsal – the actor still has the script in her hands. There doesn’t seem to be a plan to actually perform the play. It was read at Circa Theatre on the same set as King Lear is performed on, with a table and chair added as props.

It’s quite a good play. I wouldn’t mind seeing it actually being performed.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Magic Flute

Saturday night was the last night of NZ Opera’s production of The Magic Flute, some opera or other by a chap called Mo Zart. We went along cos that’s just the kind of people we are.

Dinner was at the estimable Zibibbo, which I still call the most under-rated restaurant in Wellington, even though they keep winning awards and stuff. They’ve taken to serving some of their food on boards instead of plates, which is very hipster-ish of them. I would rail against hipsters, but apparently that’s pelvist.

Food on a board
It being Queen’s birthday weekend (the renowned monarch, not the renowned rock group), they were making a celebratory cocktail, Gin Save The Queen, which I felt duty bound to sample. As well as gin, it contained various herbs and was mixed (by yourself, it’s one of those DIY jobs) with cucumber sorbet in a separate glass, to the required sweetness/sourness. I can’t be doing with that, so I just chucked the whole lot in. It was fine.

We were running a bit short of time as we hotfooted it along Taranaki St to get to St James Theatre. We made it with a couple of minutes to spare. The lights went down, the orchestra started up, and we were away!

The Magic Flute is a bit mad. The story  revolves around the daughter of the Queen Of The Night, and her supposed rescue from Sarastro, an evil sorcerer. But he turns out to be not so evil as all that, and the whole thing seems to revolve around "he said, she said". Though the Queen of the Night does order her daughter to murder Sarastro or she'll never speak to her again, which isn't very nice. Also, Sarastro has some very medieval attitudes, which is perhaps unsurprising given that it was written in 1790. I'm not going to go into all the masonic symbolism, cos, well, you know all that.

The staging and performances were all very polished, and it was an English version too, which helped. A lot of the humour of the original was well translated, particularly Papageno's part. 

Is that enough culture for now? Hell, no! Wait until next week's thrilling instalment!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

King Lear

OK, comedy festival is over. Time for some tragedy.

Circa Theatre is celebrating 40 years with its flagship production of King Lear, running for a month between May and June. Everyone who is anyone in Wellington theatre seems to be in it. We went along for the ride.

First up, a dinner stop at favourite venue Jano Bistro, who put on their usual great fare. I started with a quail, followed by the veal, which included a veal tartare, a slow-cooked croquette and a medium-rare fillet. Nicola had started with the tartiflette – usually provided as a savoury third course, but also available as a starter – followed by the catch of the day. I puddinged on feijoa whilst Nicola had the lemon pie. Nice.

We drove around to park on Wakefield Street as we were up t’other end of town, and arrived in good time to take our seats. The staging was very bare, with just a wall (graffiti’d with the word “Nihil”), a window and a door as the stage set.    

Most of the productions we see at Circa have a limited cast, usually between one and four. But for this they pulled out all the stops and had a full cast of around 20 people, so no need to do the doubling up that often happens in Shakespeare. There were a few faces we recognised as well as the lead, Ray Henwood. Andrew Paterson was there as well, seen in such productions as Isaac’s Eye, Gavin Rutherford, and others. Pretty much anyone who is anyone in the Wellington acting scene.

What to say about the play? Well, they stuck to the script, although the clothing had been updated to modern times, and the soldiers were armed with rifles and pistols, but the language didn't go through the "updating" that some directors do, which was a relief.

As with a lot of Shakespeare, it goes on and on. With an 8 o'clock start, it was nearly eleven by the time we poured out of the theatre. It's at times like this that you consider donating your entire retirement pool into arts funding so that they can buy some comfortable seating. Of course, then you wouldn't be able to afford the tickets...damn. Need to think that one through.