A Christmas treat for the Barbarians!

We got the best Christmas Present ever this week at Barbarian HQ - a letter from Jacinda thanking us and all our young helpers for our mahi! Prime Minister… Minister for Child Poverty… Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage!

TFW the PM gives you props for your work…

The Reviewers 2

Reviewed by Jo Randerson

Some things that you can do in a review:

  • Write how you were feeling when you went to the show and at what point you got bored/tired
  • Suggest which bits should be cut
  • Describe the plot, set and ‘quality’ of the actors
  • Pick out the best bits
  • Judge how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ it was on your own spectrum of ‘successful’ theatre NB. your reasoning may be subconscious
  • Find witty ways to criticize the performance to show your superior knowledge
  • Try to convey through language the sentiment/intention/thrust of the performance
  • Critique the performance within the context of the artists’/makers’ history

We came into a dark room with many little tables and chairs. Performers in white face paint ushered us to our seats and poured us water. Anvil House was transformed into a mini theatre which was a pleasurable change for this reviewer.

The show began on a high stage – a parody of a little known medieval play. It was played ’badly’. What is ‘bad performance’?  It was very enjoyable to watch. After a while, some older white male ‘reviewers’ appeared and criticized the show. They showed the performers how to do it better. What is good theatre? They loved being on stage and we were taken through their memories of how important art was to then. Pity was aroused for these vulnerable men and their rigidity. Whose voices do we give credence to when criticized? If a particular set of voices have had the mic for too long, should we ask them to sit down? Get another mic? Ignore them? Criticize them? 

This show was successful because it had a real anger to its core, but never indulged it. It worked like crazy to entertain us, and the ‘performers’ were always several steps ahead of the ‘reviewers’. It danced its complaints to us, it transcended the bitterness into compassion and forgiveness through the medium of performance. 

Someone in a white face paint gave me a card which said; ‘which performance do you like more – this one or the other one?’ Soon Liza Minelli was singing to us and I really wanted her to sit on my knee (it was not the real Liza Minelli). She spoke to us of amateur work - what is wrong with amateur – which derives from the latin ‘to love’ (amare)? Performers who ‘do it for the love of it’.

The Reviewers felt to me like a triumphant and exuberant punch in the air: as if some old patriarch had tried to pin a delicate insect down but the insect resisted by singing cabaret and poof! It escaped. The performers were joyful and very strong in their own selves, the integration of the sound and light and of the whole team in the performance gave me a sense of being surrounded by a piece that had a real heart and purpose. As we left, someone said ‘ isn’t it timely, with the Chapman Tripps tomorrow night.’ And I thought ‘oh, are those awards on again?’ The best bit was about halfway through. There was one scene which should definitely have been cut because I felt a bit tired at that point. Rating: 113 points. A must-see for young or old mixed race city or rural dwellers or art lovers everywhere, or people who like being with others in a small gathering which makes them laugh and think.



The Reviewers

Reviewed by Thomas LaHood

There’s been a conversation going on forever in this town and all around the world about critics, reviewers, and what gives them the right to judge a show, what are their credentials, who the hell are they?  Are they, like the old adage about those who can and those who can’t just bitter also-rans venting their pent-up frustrations?  Are they empiricists?  Pseudo-journalists?  To whom do their loyalties lie – are they there for the audience, the artists, or themselves?  And if they are there for the audience, are they there to speak for the audiences who saw the show or to educate those who didn’t?


Into this swamp of boggy, fartsy questions thunders the meteor of Sherilee Kahui’s Major MTA work The Reviewers: A question within a critique within a process within a play within a play.


It would be so easy to simply mock the stereotypical white male reviewing voice of death and Kahui does this but she also sympathises with it, also lays vulnerable the craft of theatre from every angle.  Her company The Wimple Players lampoon the amateur world where everyone muddles along with their diverse and conflicting opinions of what makes for a good show, they also present the worst of pretentious spectacle theatre, performance art, everything is sacred, everything is profane.


There were so many aspects of this production that gave me thrills.  That audience members were offered free entry in exchange for a review (of which this is one).  That all the little cabaret tables were all different sizes and shapes and had totally perfect chintzy black tablecloths on them.  That the white-face dumb-waiters who brought questions to the audience on cue-cards were in fact Sherilee and her MTA classmates.  The work was alive with deft little touches that showed that the questions guiding the making of the work were being held with a real thoroughness.  The work felt layered and substantial, even as it was messy and chaotic.


I have submitted reviews for Theatreview in my dark past and every now and then I grapple with an urge to add my voice to the forum.  I feel really sensitive to questions about the value and integrity of self-elected reviewers.  The whole question of subjectivity vs objectivity – which I think Journalism has never adequately tackled – is very confusing.  I could ramble on forever about it.  But that is so boring.  So much of all of the critical response to art is boring.  So much art is boring.


Finally, I always find it’s easy to find things wrong with shows that are boring, and to objectively dismantle them. But a show that is intriguing – like this one – invites a bubbly, subjective response.  There might be things wrong with it but you can’t be bothered pointing them out, because the work as a whole has provoked a more interesting, bigger discussion.  As a reviewer, as an artist, and as an audience member I like best the kind of work that makes me respond with questions, and like least the work that makes me think I know the answers.

Source: https://www.facebook.com/messages/conversa...

Chittin' and Chattin' with Jo Randerson

An extract from an interview between Jo and Elizabeth Ashby, conducted as part of her Anthropology Hons. research project:

J: Um and so I just kept pursuing that but I think that um perhaps my work always really had an interest in the voice of the outsider, or someone unusual um and I guess the real importance of that voice, that is not the mainstream voice um

E: mmm

J: and I’ve always really enjoyed that in the people I know and in a way I think that term ‘outsider’ is a problematic term because there isn’t really an inside actually

E: yep (laughs)

J: we are all those and freaks, which is always really funny in relation to how National always campaigns that there is a mainstream New Zealand, because

E: yeah

J: yeah, I just think that there actually isn’t

E: mmm



It's OUR STORY...!

OOOOOOH!  It's a new Ann Bogart book!  And it's so PERTINENT!

"During the course of the past several years we have experienced a seismic shift in the way the world functions.  Any notion of a certain or stable or inevitable future has vanished...
...The moment is ripe to activate new models and proposals for how arts organisations can flourish in the present climate and into an uncertain future.  Can we begin to think of ourselves, rather than stagers of plays, as orchestrators of social interactions in which a performance is a part, but only a fragment of that interaction?"
-Ann Bogart, What's The Story?
In the Bookworm's Den.jpg

Ah, Tussy!

A quick book recommendation from Thomas:  Eleanor Marx, A Life by Rachel Holmes.

How did I not know about this amazing youngest daughter of Karl?  Reading this has been a real epochal eye-opener for me.  Fills in lots of gaps about socialism, feminism and even... theatre!


"Within the twelve months between the summers of 1885 and 1886 Tussy started and finished the first English translation of Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary; revised a new edition of Lissagaray's History of the Paris Commune; put on the first performance of Ibsen's A Doll's House in England; championed the programming of art and education in the Socialist League; produced a body of journalistic work on prostitution and sex slavery; became a ghostwriter and finally completed the English translation of the first volume of Capital... if this were not sufficient, she and Edward completed and published 'The Woman Question: From a Socialist Point of View'."


Festival Reviews

So, the Festival has just finished here in Wellington. Ursula Martinez was a highlight for me - and in response to a review saying 'questionable whether it should be included in a festival context'  - why don't you ask the many young performers who had their minds blown open as to the kind of work they could make. Plus getting splattered with water in Midsummer Night's Dream in the opening chaos is an unforgettable moment in theatre history. Long live anarchy, silence, thoughtfulness, clown. A reviewer said it was 'about nothing'- like life I guess. Just love, pain, injustice and puppets. 'Nothing'.  P.S. We need more diverse reviewers in Wellington.

Working with the Swedes!

Jo has been working with the Swedish performance art duo Goldin + Senneby again, this time on an entry for a European journal.  It's the third collaboration in a year between Barbarian and these guys - a real love affair!