Cultural highlights – October / November 2015

A relatively quiet three weeks, thanks in part to a new job, with only two books read. Did however fit in six trips to the theatre, three to the cinema (in one day), a long weekend in Sydney, sculpting an owl from a concrete block, and a few other things…

Things I’ve seen

Culture Blog November TheatreHuge kudos to everyone involved with the Young and Hungry productions at The Basement. The double bill of 21st Narcissus and The First 7500 Days of My Life for $25 has to be the best value evening this year. 21st Narcissus made me feel old, being built around social media references in a slightly obvious but successful attempt to capture the zeitgeist. What held it together was the emotional connection with an adolescent pair who met online, a touching reminder of when life was simpler. The First 7500 Days of My Life was a brilliant example of how good theatre can be, insightful, engaging, unpredictable, and frequently hilarious.

The Lesson was a good example of an average show at the Basement. Quirky, with some great moments, but overall could have been twenty minutes shorter without losing much. Social Climbers was the female equivalent of Auckland Theatre Company’s Heroes, a cosy comedy / drama, if better than the Pumphouse’s reputation had suggested (first time I’ve been there). My main takeaway was the strong desire to go tramping and stay in huts again.

Based on the title and blurb I was expecting The Last Man on Earth (Is Trapped in a Supermarket) to be a comedy. However despite some comic moments involving talking vegetable puppets and boxes of raisins, the general theme was one of existential tragedy and loneliness. Well done though with some nice quirky theatre moments, particularly liked the miniature puppet of the main character exploring the supermarket shelves. Hiraeth was quite a relief after that, though also concerned with loneliness and personal discovery, but with other people involved and far more comedy and singing. Very entertaining, and apparently quite accurate according to my Welsh friend.

Culture Blog November CinemaSaw The Desk on my way back from Sydney, an unexpected and unexpectively good documentary billed and initially about Paul Henry’s attempt to break into American late night TV, but soon became an intriguing insight into the New York Times and modern media, and the perils of hasty twittering. Bridge of Spies was overly simplistic but well crafted cinema, very evocative of the period. Listen To Me Marlon was quite astonishing really, not seen a documentary about a famous figure as insightful for some time. A welcome reminder of a genuinely impactful figure in the history of cinema. The Walk was slightly annoying in tone but redeemed itself with dazzling visuals, inducing a real sense of vertigo, even seen in 2D, with a beautiful finale.

I’ve been to four or five National Geographic Live events and they are very good but I’m over familiar with the format now – beautiful photography, stories of working in some of the most remote places on the planet, and an ecological plea. Ocean Wild with underwater photographer Brian Skerry ticked all these boxes, but not much more.

IMG_2476 IMG_2487Not someone I’d probably have seen in the UK but for $110 and with the ability to get home afterwards in half an hour thought it was worth seeing Robbie Williams at Vector Arena. It was an entertaining evening, finishing his eight month tour, with high energy and high production values. Two issues for me though. It felt a bit like karaoke at time with covers of Oasis, U2, Queen (twice), Joan Jet, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Lorde (not as good as Bruce Springsteen’s), and the (admittedly understandable given sales) absence of songs from Rudebox, his magnum opus.

Things I’ve read

Culture Blog November BooksOne downside of my new five minute commute to work, and evenings out, has been the lack of time to read. Have found time though for In Siberia by Colin Thubron, travels through a fascinating part of the world, though glad he’s done it and written about it so I don’t have to. Also Timescape by Gregory Benford which is more memorable than when I read it eight years ago, something I didn’t realise until I was a quarter of the way through it!

Things I’ve done
Second time I’ve done the soft stone sculpture course at Selwyn College, working with a concrete like material. Made a owl mate for my first attempt back in May. Surprisingly exhausting work, concentrating for 3-4 hours and carving into a material that gets progressively harder. Clay would be a lot easier and more forgiving but there is something quite satisfying about the texture and physicality of the block.

IMG_2534 IMG_2536Ran a couple of my regular Urban Sketching for Beginners MeetUps at French Bay and Orakai Basin, nice to have some relatively reliable weather at last for being outside!

IMG_2439 IMG_2512Also started a new term of life drawing at Studio One (Ponsonby), continuing to fill my black paper sketch book, so much better than white paper for creating atmosphere.

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Places I’ve been
As usual Labour Day Weekend was spent in Sydney catching up with friends and doing lots of coastal walks, covered in Sculptures by the SeaCoastal Walk, Sydney Royal National Park and Sydney Day Walks. Also enjoyed a great day walking 20km around Whatipu in the Waitakere’s, only an hour from home.

DSC_0091 DSC_0060Te Uru is one of the top three art galleries in Auckland, housed in a beautiful new building next to the historic Lopdell House. On 1st November it celebrated it’s first birthday, with an fascinating Q&A from the architects involved, and a less interesting Q&A with artist Seung Yul Oh, though it was entertaining (if noisy) to watch his work being reinflated with a leaf blower.

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Coming up
New Zealand goes to the beach in December / January so there’s not a huge amount of cultural events coming up, other than lots of summer festivals. Few theatre highlights still to come though including Guys & Dolls at Q Theatre, Hudson & Halls Live at the Herald Theatre, and lots of cracking shows at the Basement, culminating in their famous Christmas special, this year Jesus Christ Part II!

Author: jontycrane

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