Composer Profile: Gilbert and Sullivan

Modern Major General.jpgSo closely linked are the names of William (W. S.) Gilbert (1836-1911) and Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900) in the minds of most that I figured there was no point in discussing them separately. But although their professional partnership was incredibly fruitful the two men, who had very different personalities, were never personally close. Continue reading “Composer Profile: Gilbert and Sullivan”

Local Culture: Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘Iolanthe’

Iolanthe 1

If Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and 1980s BBC political comedy ‘Yes, Minister’ had a baby, the result might well be something like Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘Iolanthe’ (Eye-oh-LAN-thee). It’s a comic opera with a plot which is cheerfully ridiculous and punctuated by musical numbers. Continue reading “Local Culture: Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘Iolanthe’”

Shakespeare at the Pop Up Globe

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The Pop Up Globe, as seen on the walk from my hotel to the conference venue.

Earlier this month work sent me to a conference in Auckland. This isn’t something which would normally make the pages of this blog – which I intentionally keep quite separate from my working life – except for the fact that the conference in question was being held at the Ellerslie Events Centre in Auckland. The hotel at which I was staying was about five minutes’ walk away, and in between lay something which I’d longed to visit ever since I first heard of it – the Pop Up Globe. Continue reading “Shakespeare at the Pop Up Globe”

Local Culture: The Pohutukawa Tree

Pohutukawa-tree.pngFirst produced in 1957, New Zealand play The Pohutukawa Tree by Bruce Mason, tells a similar story to that of Patricia Grace’s Potiki. It’s the story of a proud matriarch, Aroha Mataira, the widowed heir to the chieftainship of the Ngati Raukura tribe and the mother of the last Maori family living on their traditional lands at the small township of Te Parenga. The rest of the tribe have long since sold their land to the Atkinsons, the Pakeha (White) landholding family who have dominated the area for three generations, and Mrs. Mataira and her two children, Johnny (18) and Queenie (17) work for the Atkinsons. Continue reading “Local Culture: The Pohutukawa Tree”

Playtime: The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie

“Keep the secret of whodunit locked in your heart.”

The Mousetrap 1.jpgThe longest-running West End show ever (it opened in 1952 and has just kind of kept going) is actually quite hard to track down online, especially if you’d like to be able to hear what the actors are saying and not get seasick from shaky camera action. The version I eventually settled on was pretty good apart from the person who coughed all the way through. And the rather hit-and-miss efforts of the American actors to affect British accents, but then I am British so I know the difference. Continue reading “Playtime: The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie”

Playtime: ‘Waiting for Godot: a tragicomedy in two acts’ by Samuel Beckett

Waiting for Godot 3My latest area of exploration is the classics of theatre and, as with opera and ballet, I’m using the internet to compensate for the lack of conveniently live performances. My first ‘outing’ is Waiting for Godot, a play by Samuel Beckett (1906-1989), which premiered in 1953.

It’s a play where nothing happens. The two main characters, Vladimir and Estragon, are waiting for Godot. He did not come yesterday. He will not come today. But tomorrow, assuredly, he will come. Except that that’s the way it was yesterday, and the day before that, and, odds are, the way it will be tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after… Continue reading “Playtime: ‘Waiting for Godot: a tragicomedy in two acts’ by Samuel Beckett”

Local Culture: Pantomime at the Rep

pantomime-poster**Please note that all pictures in this post have been ‘borrowed’ from the Wanganui Repertory Theatre Facebook page, with the exception of the final shot which comes from local paper the Midweek**

When I was a child in England a trip to the pantomime was a Christmas tradition. Mum would take us to buy a big bag of pick and mix sweets, and we’d spend two blissful hours lost in the world of a fairy-tale gone slightly nuts, booing the villain and informing the hero/ine that “he’s behiiiiind you!” before all ended happily and we went home, hyped up on drama and sugar in roughly equal proportions.

This year this wonderful Christmas tradition made its way to Whanganui with the local Repertory Theatre’s production of Little Red Riding Hood. Keen to get my Christmas comedy fix I headed along and was not disappointed. Continue reading “Local Culture: Pantomime at the Rep”

Local Culture: Wanganui Repertory Theatre’s ‘Stir Crazy’

stir crazy posterMy colleague, Reuben, has been more-than-usually busy of late, preparing for the opening night of his first ever turn as stage manager at Wanganui* Repertory Theatre. The play was ‘Stir Crazy’, by New Zealand comedy duo David McPhail and the late John Gadsby. As a teenager in the late 90’s I watched their political satire show ‘McPhail and Gadsby’ with my family, so when Reuben offered me a complimentary ticket I was keen to take him up on the offer.

All the action takes place in a single set: the interior of ‘Starvation Hut’, so named, we are told because in the early 1900s four surveyors descending from nearby Mt. Horror were stranded there when heavy rain caused the river to swell. First they ate their supplies. Then they ate the packhorse. Then… well, four men went up the mountain, but only three left the hut. Continue reading “Local Culture: Wanganui Repertory Theatre’s ‘Stir Crazy’”

Much Ado About Joss Whedon

If you’re sitting there thinking ‘Joss who?’ you’re probably not alone, but Joss Whedon is the reason I was never able to take the Twilight series of books and movies seriously. Because Whedon is the man behind the 1990s TV hit show Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Buffy would have kicked Edward Cullen’s arse. Don’t believe me? Someone made it happen), as well as spinoff show Angel; cult sci-fi shows Firefly and Dollhouse; and the trope-tastic horror movie The Cabin in the Woods. He’s been involved with a number of other big name movies as well, but what I didn’t know, until very recently, is that in 2012 he adapted for the screen, produced, and directed a movie adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

Continue reading “Much Ado About Joss Whedon”