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BWW Review: OUR PRIDE GALA at Auckland Pride Festival

BWW Review: OUR PRIDE GALA at Auckland Pride Festival

Reviewed by Glenda Pearce

Diversity, Delight, Divas and Glitter

A spectacular, colourful night of exotic and extravagant Vaudevillian cabaret - this was

OurPride, the glittering GALA opening of the Auckland Pride Festival. What a wealth of diverse talent Tamaki Makaurau, Aotearoa has - a rainbow of many colours, genres and styles. The audience came prepared, dressed for the excellence of the occasion - and were NOT disappointed. We were entertained, teased, inspired and provoked. Truly this was a delicious taster for what is on offer for the next two weeks in the Auckland Pride Festival. Congratulations to the director, Freya Finch for inspired choices, co-ordination of programme, and well-executed direction. The celebration was conveyed and captured at its best.

It was clear from the opening moments that we were in for a night of diverse and undeniable talent. The purple haze through which Coven wove its beautiful traditional opening fused and exploded into superbly synchronised and powerful dance. This is an act not to be missed. Coven returned with dark brooding power to close the show, and the final words, "Life is like a boomerang, whatever you throw, it eventually comes back, so don't fuck with me" clearly connected with the sentiments of the audience.

The tantalising patter and quick wit of the MC, the incomparable HugoGrri (winner, TVNZ's House of Drag), cemented the gala's line up. HugoGrri had the audience anticipating a great time ahead and made us feel like guests who were part of the celebration and not just the audience. Ensuring that our imaginations were always firing, and our attention was always focused on what was coming next, HugoGrri made every person feel connected to the "fabulous life choices", and the "glittering, sickening, inspiring performances that leave a bit of glitter" that share and "exist in the magic with us."

The programme included captivating performances from the resonant narrative of Whaea and The Rumble, the spectacular, stunning, sassy and sizzling cabaret of Night of the Queers, the queer Bengali dance rap of the innovative Ramakarn and the outstanding voice of the songstress Bryony Skellington. Her racy number, sung to four very sexy scantily clad girls, "When you're good to Mama, Mama's good to you" had us mesmerised! Drag excellence was showcased by The Leather Lungs, Medulla Oblongata, Vanessa Le Roux and the inimitable, Ms Wednesday Blaiselle. Beautifully dressed in captivating and alluring red, blonde hair coiffured, this undeniable blonde bombshell has a magnificent top-class act. Her song, "Everybody interesting is gay" had the amused audience singing along with terrific pride.

The inclusion of the Clowns was an inspired choice. Serving as linkages between acts, they were so much more! Without saying a word, their faces and moves gave us opera sequences, dominance battles, connected glances and so much more! Superbly and skillfully combining the silent art of Marcel Marceau derived mime, cabaret and the slapstick farce of Commedia del'Arte, the audience could have watched these five all night.

Other outstanding performances came from the fabulous and unexpected cirque extravaganza, aerial performances of Alley May Marshall and Krystal Tang. Their mesmerising interweave of beautiful bodies, trustfully working together on a single suspended hoop, was the synchronicity of exquisite timing, skill and well-designed elegance. This was a love story captured with breath-taking precision. Nicole Douglas brought us a chic gravity-defying ribbon routine.

But let's not forget the writers. Short story writer, Samuel Te Kani and playwright and performance poet, Nathan Jo effectively changed the pace of the show with their well-articulated and amusing performances. As Samuel Te Kani says, "so often the stories I write are for me to better place myself in difficult situations, to find more efficient ways of thinking and feeling about things I cannot change." Too often, the glitz can dominate so it

was wonderful to see the inclusion of the spoken word in the line-up of the night. Samuel Te Kani had superb timing in his showing not telling narrative entitled I feel like a used condom but I am still alive. Nathan Jo's performance poem showed this spoken word genre at its best, with superb moments such as "there's a certain kind of Christchurch boys that make me butch" and "Everyone in Auckland tries to do stuff rather than just be".

Reputably, the best Pride Gala opening ever, this taster highlights the undeniable quality of what is on offer for the next two weeks. Take advantage of the amazing array of 154 offerings available - 75% of them FREE to attend!

For further information on what's on and where - visit the website for the digital programme overview

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