Scroll below to see the most recent reviews and updates from our company.
Images provided by Angela Elliott
Hawke's Bay Arts Festival
It is with great pride that we brought David Burton’s play April’s Fool to Aotearoa’s audiences for the first time. Originally written for Australian audiences, and the play itself being set in Toowoomba, Queensland, the contemporary and living story gives witness to very current stories that are relevant to our own homegrown community.
As a verbatim work, April’s Fool draws word for word from interviews with the people met within the context of the play. Burton has dextrously created a moving and symphonic work, beautifully layering emotional counterpoint as well as well-paced text to convey not only the message of the experience, but to shape a rounded piece of theatre based on the real lives of living people.
April’s Fool has provided lots of challenges for HaBYT this year: disrupted schedules, social distancing and rehearsing in masks have contributed to the reality of life with Covid restrictions. The students are to be congratulated for their resilience and ongoing commitment to the staging of this production. They have truly been troopers during this whole process and given generously to us and each other.
This play highlights the sometimes bumpy path of parenthood to teenagers and the mini-decisions we make everyday when dealing with the ups and downs life throws at us and indeed at our rangatahi. Critical conversations continue to challenge us especially during these Covid times. We hope that the experience of being immersed in this story will help others to reflect on those relationships and how best to take the next step when faced with an issue that seems too hard to tackle. Creatively, it has again been a joy to work as co-directors, and to turn text into motion and emotion.
Our creativity as directors has come in the shape of Peter’s actor’s development, where the performers have sought to delve deep into the lives and psyche of Kristjan’s family and friends, and to capture the layered complexity of the human experience through movement and physicality. The movement contained within the work has two functions. It both maps the emotional state and psychological journey of the characters, as well as drives the energy and force of the story forwards. There are moments where movement sequences are blown up and exaggerated to reflect the principal character’s adrenaline-fueled perception of events, and at other junctures, the movement maps the character’s changing relationships both to the events and to each other. Throughout the piece, the performers explore changes in dynamic and tension to create subtext within what is otherwise a quite literal brand of theatre.
The experiences of the Therauds family, while tragically poignant and painfully beautiful within a theatrical setting, are unfortunately an all-too-real experience for many families right here in Heretaunga, as well as in the wider Aotearoa community. We invite you to engage and reflect on the significance of this work as part of a wider discussion within our community.
Finally, to Kristjan’s family who had to endure such a terrible loss - we have come some way towards understanding the impact of what happened but will never really know what they went through. We have tried to keep Kristjan in our thoughts while preparing this piece and we hope that we have done justice to his story and that of his close family and friends.
We would like to recognise and acknowledge the continued support and expertise of our costume designer Angela Elliott, and paramedic Warren Elliott, who walk beside us constantly. We are also thankful to Juliet Cottrell and the HaBYT board - Tony, Liffey, Aslan and Wai, who continually support all that we do, including smoothing the way when we were unable to hold our major fundraiser this year. They have a huge challenge in front of them to balance the books again and we hope that you will help to support their endeavours in the current fundraising campaign. The future of HaBYT depends on it.
To give a koha, so that our rangatahi can continue to create professional theatre, please head over to the Donate page.
Ngā mīhi nui.
Harcourt's Hawkes Bay Arts Festival
Amidst the rollercoaster that was the year 2020, came an enormous undertaking for the cast and Directors of Hawkes Bay Youth Theatre's 'Everyman'.
Written in 2015 as a revival for the National Theatre (UK), 'Everyman' is a monumental morality work for the 21st century. Originally a religious play from middle ages England, this reimagined, revivified tale of life and death premiered at the Barbican with Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) in the role of the Everyman, "a libatious and licentious slick suited City boy, regurgitating from his excess into God’s waiting mop bucket at his debaucherous fortieth birthday celebrations" (Rosheen Fitzgerald).
All things considered, it seemed fitting and relevant to select this work as the focus for HaBYT's 2020 season. Amidst school climate strikes, socio-political upheaval and a general unsettling of the world-wide status quo, young thinkers are itching to have their voices heard. Theatre should always be relevant to it's audiences, so taking on 'Everyman' was a no-brainer.
Given that the entire script is written in verse, with intricate poetic discourse and rhyme sequences, the cast and directors worked diligently and consistently, (even over Zoom all through lockdown!) throughout the year. Text work was interspersed with intensive movement workshops and rehearsals to finally bring the whole together ready for the Arts Festival in October.
Every one of the cast threw themselves heart and soul into this project with a maturity, courage and trust that was incredible to witness. Their bloody, sweaty, hard work was richly rewarded with six sold out performances and three standing ovations. We here at Hawkes Bay Youth Theatre, are unspeakable proud of these powerful young people and cannot wait to follow their journeys further.
Scroll below to read Rosheen Fitzgerald's review for 'Everyman', commissioned by the Harcourt's Hawkes Bay Arts Festival.
Images by Angela Elliot
Harcourt's Hawkes Bay Arts Festival
October 13th-17th, 2020
Review by Rosheen Fitzgerald
Carol Ann Duffy’s Everyman is a challenging piece to bring to the stage for any company, let alone a provincial youth theatre group. An age old authorless morality play designed to strike the fear of god into the great unwashed, it is an Ozymandian tale of hubris, the fall, and the inevitability of death. In the hands of Duffy, who has only just relinquished the crown of British poet laureate she wore for a decade; our antihero, Everyman, is a libatious and licentious slick suited City boy, regurgitating from his excess into God’s waiting mop bucket at his debaucherous fortieth birthday celebrations. He is taken to task by a trio of razor tongued beldams in the form of God — a northern cleaning lady with housecoat and mop; Knowledge — a malodorous cockney bag woman; and (a personal favourite for obvious reasons), Death — a sharp talking, no-shit taking Irish barmaid with a corkscrew as her scythe. Faced with his demise and challenged to account for his earthly existence, he is forced to stare his sins in the face, moving through the stages of grief to humility and acceptance.
Unsurprisingly for Britain’s first openly queer poet laureate, Duffy’s adaptation challenges traditional gender and class roles, flipping the received power dynamic in a way that is wholly authentic to the spirit of mummery. The medieval festivals where the source material would have originally been performed were celebrations at which servants were served, life flipped upside down and temporary passes issued for saying and doing the things you’re not supposed to.
The cast of young HaBYT performers take the work and run with it, displaying a boldness that is heartening in an age where anxiety infects our youth like a virus. It’s a confidence that comes with practice and polish. The lilting lyrical lines are word perfect, landed with precision. The blocking and choreography has co-director, Champa Maciel’s fingermarks all over it. Dynamic devises of movement and costume pick up themes that flow through the piece like water, expertly executed. Tom Steinmann stands out in the eponymous role by virtue of the range of passion and despair he brings to the stage, but really we could be boasting in our dotage about the time we saw any one of this cast of talented performers before they were rich and famous.
Make no mistake, this is theatre by young people, not youth theatre. Any stench of am-dram is rinsed clean in a piece that stands tall beside any of the festival offerings. Gripping and intimate, by turns tragic and hilarious, this show deserves to sell out all of its five night run in a theatre twice its size. The auditorium is small. Don’t miss out.