A project I am so proud to have been a part of, with a company of performers I have respected since my drama school days… that’s what ‘K’RD STRIP – A PLACE TO STAND’ was for me. I relocated back home to NZ for most of 2013, what with Gobsmacked touring there during Summer, and then spent the Winter dancing around in a black leather mini-skirt, but hey, the cold was worth it when I was privileged to get to perform this show every night all over the country.
THEATREVIEW.ORG.NZ: 16 JULY 2013
K Road Strip – A Place to Stand written by Jamie Burgess, in collaboration with Taane Mete, Taiaroa Royal, Simon Coleman, Jason Te Mete, Adam Burrell, Will Cooper-Barling and Jesse Wikiriwhi.
It is a unique and richly fabulous showcase for the vast talents of the cast. Simon Coleman is consummate in the director’s chair; knitting together a disparate series of scenes based on real life stories.
This is at times butoh-esque, and always statuesque cabaret ‘contemporary dance’ performance with primordial form undergoing constant transformation through the body and the power of the voice; eye-lashed warriors in leather miniskirts calling the ancestors of K Road with a karanga in big heels.
Destiny aka Taiaroa Royal says “We are the taniwha – he one minute, she the next, your fairy fucking godmother”.
He/She heralds the performance of a new genre; striking, strident, dark, challenging, provocative – stream of consciousness of gender, of place, of mythology, a mishmash stew, the lens sometimes sharp, sometimes out of focus, often sprinkled with moments of utter genius.
The chickens on the Karangahape ridge, preening, clucking, negotiating the pecking order, seeking and avoiding the strutting cocks: it is clever to pare things down to this and anthropomorphise birds for this theatrical purpose.
Queer indeed and destabilizing; the ‘sexed object’ freed from the strait jacket of restrictive sexual orientation. The performance points to the ‘culture’ of a place like K Road and the way that gender has been enabled to play out in this particular environment: the menace that lurked/lurks around the edges of this theatre of liminal sexuality. Gender a practice, requiring utter commitment to transforming into hyper feminine ‘ladies of the night’.
In the coiled muscles of Taiaroa Royal and Taane Mete there is a universe of expression; the viewer is drawn into their imaginations and a new world through their immense generosity as performers.
This kaupapa bleeds into their colleagues, leading to stellar beautifully nuanced performances all-round. There is a seamless flow between strong solos and taut, committed chorus work.
The most exciting parts choreographically – under the helm of Taane Mete – are when the movement arises out unusual action such as the hyper male posturing, chicken moves, strutting or a gaggle of giggling gals. The more conventional ‘contemporary dance’ moves seem out of place in this context, and less imaginative.
The vocals under the musical direction of Jason Te Mete are excellent and the arrangements by Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper are surprising and superb. The How Bizzare, Dirty Creature and Computer Games numbers leave us hanging out for more, whilst recorded vocals sections jar.
Jamie Burgess brings strong acting skills to the performance with his ‘pakeha-palangi-pucker–pash’ monologue and an ode to a former lover standing out. Jason Te Mete’s drunken “What the fuck are you staring at? Did you get eyes for Christmas?”- character and Who am I Today solo are also strong. Adam Burrell brings a playful presence.
There is a seductive trio that exposes the fabulous voice of the gorgeously androgynous Will Cooper Barling – he is stunning throughout, completely at home in this idiom.
I Wanna Take You Back To My Place is explicit and uncomfortable as the depth of the dark side of the street is exposed using robotic movement and pseudo mime to depict ‘alpha male’ issues of power, manipulation and exploitation.
There is a transition to a pole dance by Taane Mete. Here the body is celebrated as a work of art or fetish with glorious moko highlighting taut contours.
We are back in ‘known’ choreographic territory after the unique and surprising movements prior to this. The phallic ‘pole’ becomes, as the only set on stage, significant and fulfilled – once again subverting and making strange with a male figure impaling for a change
In the middle section of the performance, including the outstanding Computer Games number which is truly inventive; the material and segues give layer after layer of brilliant surprises.
The image of Taiaroa Royal and his pink feather fans will linger in the memory for a long time – beautifully executed, whimisical, poignant, playful and heartfelt – something to treasure.
Destiny says “I am your Turangawaewae.” And there we have it. Yet again Okareka defines a place to stand for themselves as a company and in the process enriches the cultural landscape of Aotearoa.
DOMINION POST, WELLINGTON: 12 JULY 2013
Raw, crude, joyful, outrageous, funny and sad are words that describe Auckland’s iconic Karangahape Rd perfectly.
They are also a perfect fit for Okareka Dance Company’s thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking show, which has “the strip” as its pulsating heart.
Director Simon Coleman’s tight production is a very collaborative effort. It was conceived and choreographed by Taane Mete and devised by the company with script development by Jamie Burgess. The stunning musical direction was by Jason Te Mete, with original composition by Eden Mulholland and Tui Matira Ranapiri-Ransfield.
The only thing onstage is a pole, but atmospheric lighting by Ambrose Hills-Simonson and minimalist but effective costumes by Elizabeth Whiting convey all we need to know of the strip clubs, bars, footpaths and clubs that make K’Rd a place of opportunity, hope and sometimes, despair.
Fundamentally cabaret in style, it begins with an evocation of the legend of Hape and how Karangahape Rd got its name.
The crippled Hape, left behind by his brothers, rode a taniwha to Aotearoa, arriving here before them. On their arrival, Hape called a karanga to them from the ridge above the harbour now known as Karangahape Rd. This theme of forgiveness and acceptance is the show’s backbone and gives it soul.
Taane Mete, Tai Royal, Jason Te Mete, Will Cooper Barling, Adam Burrell and Jamie Burgess all have their chance to shine, but Royal’s experience and mana are the linchpin. Time and again, after the mayhem he centres the action.
Likewise, Mete’s grave beauty and fluid movement keep it real. Cooper Barling’s lanky sex appeal, excellent dance ability and cheeky humour draw the eye.
Some arrangements are almost unrecognisable from their originals, but always apt. Split Enz’ Dirty Creature was particularly effective.
Amid the song, dance and monologues, a strange guy wearing a mask of a horse’s head staggers drunkenly and often aggressively through the mix.
Highlights include I Hope I Never (Mete), Computer Games (Company), Lost (Jason Te Mete), Jamie Burgess’ cafe monologue about his murdered lover and Royal’s fan dance like a benediction.
We all need a place to stand. Okareka Dance Company has surely found its – as one of New Zealand’s most exciting and risk-taking contemporary dance companies.