Reviews, News and Commentary

Auckland Arts Festival International Theatre

John Daly-Peoples

Auckland Arts Festival Theatre

Among the dozen theatrical works being presented at this year’s Auckland Arts Festival will be a few international pieces including works from Japan, Australia, and South Korea.

Sydney Theatre Company’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” comes to the festival after sold-out Australian seasons.

Kip Williams reimagines the Oscar  Wilde novella in a play about a deal with the devil. His novel approach to theatre follows on from a career of innovative interpretations  including a  2013  reimagining of  Romeo and Juliet focussing the text on  as well as an all-female  production of William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies”  

The story revolves around a portrait of Dorian Gray  painted by Basil Hallward. Having sold his soul Dorian is able to pursue a libertine lifestyle while only the portrait ages. This is a one woman show with the actress playing  where 26 characters linking on stage performances and video character combinations.

The Guardian review of the work said “It is ambitious, exuberant and whip-smart; it is an embrace of theatre’s past, present and future; it is in fluent conversation with our screens, with our feelings, with our fears, with our collective obsessions”.

Australia’s The Age noted that “Blending cinema and theatre requires utmost care, lest the immediacy of live performance be lost. This production takes that risk with daring creative intelligence, and audiences are rewarded with gloriously innovative, forward-looking hybrid performance that stands alongside the best in the business.”

Many will recall the Innovative dance/theatre work Betroffenheit, created by  Jonathon Young and Crystal Pite at a previous festival. Now they return with  “Revisor” a sensational hybrid of contemporary theatre and dance.

Young’s text derives from Nikolai Gogol’s 1836 play The Government Inspector” (Revizor in Russian), a farce about petty bureaucracy, mistaken identity and conflicting motives.

A review in the Guardian said “Revisor finds Pite’s phenomenal dancers performing a kind of physical lip-syncing to scripted voiceovers by Young’s actors. The result is astonishing not for its imitation, but for its exactitude: the rhythms and intonations of speech drive every gesture, stance and step. Choreographically, it’s riveting, both for the inventive articulation of individual bodies and for the fine-tuned dynamics of the ensemble, as responsive as conversation itself”.


Skyduck; A Chinese Spy Comedy is written and performed by Sam Wang and Australian who trained as an actor at Toi Whakaari Drama School. It is set in 1993 with China undertaking Operation Skyduck. Captain Yan and Agent Chang are sent to steal America’s most prized flight simulation software, when they find themselves trapped by NSA agent, Commander Kendrick who intends destroying China’s military ambition.

This is a bilingual (Mandarin with English surtitles) solo show with Sam Wang, playing seven hilarious characters in a rollicking tale of international espionage – and half the story is in

The show combines lo-fi with high-tech, utilising projection, puppets, musical numbers, and handmade gadgets,

An Australian Arts Hub review described Wang as “a profoundly charismatic force on stage, with his versatility lying at the heart of the success of Skyduck. He plays an ever increasing number of characters, each detailed and enjoyably distinct. He dances, sings, speaks multiple languages, and can perform a commendable Matrix-inspired back bend.” And This production weaves Sam Wang into a rich, multicultural tapestry, often drawing on the humour that arises from viewing familiar cultural icons with fresh eyes.

From Scotland comes “The Chosen Haram” featuring   the Edinburgh born  Sadiq Ali as the lead actor in an emotionally candid work about sexuality, faith, addiction and connection that’s also a clever take on circus.

Something that is ‘Haram’ is forbidden by Islam. “The Chosen Haram” tells the story of two gay men and their chance meeting through a dating app, portraying the highs and lows of their relationship and the social, cultural and personal barriers they face in seeking happiness and fulfilment.

The work is based on Ali’s experience, combined with interviews with members of the LGBTQ+ community who identify as (ex) Muslim, with the work exploring the struggles faced by many people whose upbringing contradicts their personal truths, and how this can lead to self-destructive behaviour.

A review in The Voice noted that. “There is no dialogue in the show, except for a few grunts here and there, but it really doesn’t need it. The two characters are so expressive with their bodies, facial expressions – and each other – you can hear every word they are saying.

Homosexuality in Islam is a difficult subject to approach, but this done in a way that did not desecrate the religion. It’s a human story about trying to be the best version of yourself, but can you really do that if you’re suppressing a huge part of who you are.”

From Japan comes “Scored in Silence,” a solo theatre performance which tells the  story of the Deaf survivors of Hiroshima using beautifully crafted animation, movement and sound.

Through research, interviews and the study of original film footage, London-based Deaf Japanese artist Chisato Minamimura unpacks the hidden perspectives of Deaf people from the small number that survived the horrors of the atomic bomb atrocity in Japan in 1945.

Minamimura brings the untold narratives of survivors of the A-bomb – known as ‘hibakusha’ – into stark relief, touching upon the atrocity of the event and its aftermath, including the layers of discrimination experienced by these isolated members of Japanese society. Scored in Silence is available to stream online with English captions and/or Audio Description.

This stunning solo theatre performance tells the story of the Deaf survivors of Hiroshima using beautifully crafted animation, movement and sound.

A Canadian review said of the work “Scored in Silence is gorgeous in its rejection of any one single aesthetic — it’s dance, it’s animation, it’s mime, it’s spoken-word. A universe of performance styles meet in a fifty-five minute symphony of remembrance: it’s stunning work.”

“Minamimura, though firmly at the apex of her solo show, does not act alone: she’s joined by Dave Packer’s dreamy projected illustrations, which morph to represent planes, fields of grass, and, chillingly, the bomb itself. The illustrations are whimsical and gnarled, complicated and pure: they’re everything at once, a whole world in drawings projected upon a delicate, gossamer screen, behind which Minamimura can perform. Videos of Hiroshima survivors appear intermittently, framing Minamimura’s work with more tangible contexts and personalities.”

Scored in Silence will be available to stream online at Vidzing (March 12 – 16) with English Captions and/or Audio Description

There will be a screening and post-show talk with Chisato Minamimura at the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent, Aotea Square on Saturday  11 March, 2.00pm

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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