BWW Review: ASTROMAN at Q Theatre Auckland
It was an absolute treat to attend the opening of "Astroman" as part of the Auckland Arts Festival yesterday at Q Theatre.
Written by Albert Belz, 'Astroman' captures a kiwi slice of life from the '80's; a heartfelt and energetic piece highlighted with humour, struggle and plenty of 'ah-ha', 'ha-ha' and 'awww' moments in all the right places.
Astroman' is quirky, cool and delivers great entertainment all packaged up in a nostalgic joy that is delightfully carried off in fluoro and some great '80's hits.
Debuting in Christchurch last year, two hours later it opened in Melbourne with both performances well received.
What makes this production unique is that Auckland Theatre Company has partnered with Te Rehia Theatre Company to present the longest running theatre show of this scale by an Auckland Maori theatre company for more than a decade.
Director Tainui Tukiwaho has honoured the script and illuminated its joy and meaning with an infused energy in all aspects of the production. He has crafted the action with cleverly placed and paced entrances and exits.
This slice of kiwi culture is not only entertaining but with all good theatre, the underlying struggles of the human condition are well represented in an authentic, entertaining and identifiable piece.
Set mostly in the Whakatane Astrocade Amusement Parlour the reproduction of the favourite games of yesteryear are both live and electronic - fun!
We, humans, are rattled by our fears, young and old alike; our losses, our uncertainty and our battles with external circumstances. It is through our connections and love from others that we find our resilience. This sits strongly within the story and is brought before our eyes entwined in a jolly good yarn.
Central to the story is 14-year-old Jimmy played by Levi Kereama. Kereama is a firecracker of charismatic energy. He has remarkable strength and emotion in his voice and is perfect in his timing and reactions.
Jimmy's relationship with Astrocade Amusement Parlour owner Mr Macrae (Gavin Rutherford) becomes more than that of venue owner and frequenter.
There isn't a mother or person who has a mother who couldn't identify with Jimmy's Mother Michelle played by Miriama McDowell. She is driven by aroha for her family and determined to get through their struggles. Her plight and strength of character touch the heart along with her humorous moments and you can't help but love her.
Kauri Williams plays out his self-absorbed, food orientated, rugby playing world as Jimmy's twin brother.
Sassy older sister Natalie (Rickylee Russell-Waipuka) is a victim of everything that does not serve her personal interests and town bully Mick (Aaron McGregor) is stopped in his tracks at the sight of her.
They are superb as stereotypical teenagers, along with Mick's sidekick Dallas (Tyler Wilson Kokiri) and Natalie's buddy Dynasty (Tatum Warren-Ngata)
Nicola Kawana is cleverly subtle as teacher Mrs Mahara until she gets the opportunity not to be and is hilariously funny.
Anything but subtle is "Takanini Fulla-Girl' Brady Peeti. I'm not going to digress, you need to come to see for yourself. Great fun!
The creative team have collectively merged colourful and clever ideas to create an awesome canvas for this story. Accolades to John Verryt's original and clever set design, (loved the shapes and levels) Harley Campbell's Motion Graphics Design, Jane Hakaraia's lighting, Louise Davis' costumes and Justin Haui's fun choreography.
As we filed out of the theatre at the end of the show the mood was one of warmth and joy and I couldn't help but think of our wonderful and connected Maori saying:
He aha o te mea nui o te ao? He Tangata He Tangata He Tangata
What is the most important thing in this world? It is the people, the people, the people.
Go see 'Astroman'. Feel good fun with a great message.