Review: HYPERSPACE at ASB Waterfront Theatre, Auckland

Follow your dreams – no matter what!

By: Feb. 11, 2024
Review: HYPERSPACE at ASB Waterfront Theatre, Auckland
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Superbly directed by Tainui Tukiwaho, and skillfully choreographed by Jack Gray, HYPERSPACE by Albert Belz brings a range of powerful Māori stories that need to be shared through an established oral tradition but in a new form. These are real and relevant mana-enhancing stories that need to be heard. This collaboration between Te Pou Theatre (a Kaupapa Māori Performing Arts venue) and Auckland Theatre Company showcases the boundless possibilities of NZ Theatre and celebrates the tangata whenua of Aotearoa.

HYPERSPACE gives life, soul, and mana to the overarching story of growing up Māori in New Zealand. The script itself is a generous gift to the performers who bring it so vividly and poignantly to life. Award-winning scriptwriter Albert Belz has a unique voice and the dialogue rings with truth and emotion.

This is a story that unfolds with flair, and precisely executed staging, sound, and lighting.  Natalie Te Rehua (Te Ao o Hinepehinga) lives to dance. In fact, she tells us that life is simply not worth living if she can’t. Indeed, we understand this! It’s her lifeblood. Creatives can definitely understand her driving force, her wairua. Her one and only dream is to become a professional dancer, but her hopes are despairingly dashed after her audition for Toi Whakaari NZ Dance School. Pamela Sidhu embodies the elegant, disciplined perfection of the ballet tutor, Crystal, who ridicules Natalie and turns her away.  Excellent work from the kapa (Edward Clendon, Josh Harriman, Pamela Sidhu, Te Ohorere Williams, Haami Aukusa Chen-Faung, Salmanzadeh, Myra-Mei Clarke, Paku Fernandez, Makanihi Tohu, Anna-Maree Thomas Mia Van Oyen) throughout the production. They adroitly create a range of acting and dance roles: those auditioning for the dance school, those attending the aerobic classes, and dance a range of other ensemble pieces.

Not one to give up, Natalie tries to find another way to fulfill her dream. She moves back to Auckland, where she goes to live with her brother Sonny (Kauri Williams) and best friend Hiona Mohi (Mele Toli). These two talented actors immediately bring laughter and lift the energy of the production. When on the stage, they own it. They love watching GLOSS – one of THE programmes of the time. VHS tapes are a must to record when you can’t watch it! Their love and lust story resonates with us and their more tender moments are punctuated with moments of truth, jealousy, insecurity and love.

Natalie is hired as an aerobics instructor. Of course, in the late 80s, aerobics was a popular new exercise form and a burgeoning industry, and many in the audience identified with the pink leggings, the vibrant colours, the fringes, the outrageous metallic lycra and high-cut thong leotards! So many clever and deft touches from the wardrobe design (Alison Reid) – oh those shoulder pads and suits!

At the studio, conflict erupts with Tawhai Patai (Kruze Tangira), former Haka Queen and fellow instructor. His class “Beautiful Bodies Breaking Out” for beginners collides with Natalie’s more advanced one. Their dance-off to win the allocated studio space is an audience favorite! Later Kruze Tangira captivates the audience in his poignant, realistically delivered heartbreaking intimate recall of his life as a schoolboy wanting to dance ballet. Yes, sadly we are all too familiar with his story too.

Act Two brings the training for – and the explosive - 1990 Timotei, Miami Wine Cooler Aerobics Championships. Somewhat shy Sonny (Kauri Williams) in his enthusiasm to slim down for proposing to Hiona is attending aerobics classes and is grabbed by receptionist Jennifer (Anna-Maree Thomas) as her duo partner. Congratulations to Anna-Maree Thomas in this largely comic role, angry and efficient receptionist but oh-so-patient tutor and supremely talented dancer!

As Hiona says, the cliché of conflict is broken down by teamwork when Natalie and Tawhai reluctantly team up to enter in the duo section. This is a story of courage, commitment, and teamwork.  However, Hiona also says that the choreography will provide a chance to showcase the future, life, hate, love, and passion. Whilst still completing all those famous aerobic requirements, they find a way to bring their own contemporary touch.  The result is Haka Fusion! Lisa Chappell and Peter Elliott cameo as themselves to host the event. The various championship “entries” are superbly genuine, dance dynamic, and the audience in the theatre are entirely drawn in to become the competition crowd – and we love it!

Congratulations to the creative design and production team (Filament Eleven 11 – Rachel Marlow and Bradley Gledhill). The set is clever and crafts levels and spaces for visual variation and character interaction. All scene changes are slick and effective, so the pace of the episodic-styled production moves without unnecessary pauses. Perhaps moments of pathos could be held longer at times. The audience was always drawn in, and light and shade within the script provided the potential to create moments of truth and tragedy. Superb lighting captures the atmospheres, and locations and highlights mood changes.  The sound quality (Crescendo Studio, David Atai, James Zambucka, Ryan Fairweather) is perfect.

Congratulations to all the cast, and the director, for the natural delivery,  and realistically paced dialogue. Convincing performances from all the engaging and skilled cast who all have more than one side to them. Every character has emotion to be “read” in the subtle touches of expressive faces and bodies, the looks, the eyes, and the position of hands. That’s what makes live theatre so impressive.

Mauri tau, mauri ora!

Book early – you could easily miss out. The production runs until Feb 24th. Help keep live theatre alive!

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