Thirteen hours in Auckland

Just the right amount of time to spend, really.

At 7am on Saturday, people are still drunk, and the Sky City area is filled with dazed problem gamblers and other wretches. I walked to the waterfront, which is impossible to do in a straight line*, past some very expensive apartments. In Wellington, people want to live where there’s a view. In Auckland, they want to live where they are the view. There certainly wasn’t much to do at that time of morning. I eventually trickled up to Auckland University to clean myself up. There were nervous students everywhere about to sit an exam, so I mingled as best as I could, and went upstairs in the library to check out their cartoon section, which I do every time I pass through. I also looked at their copy of Ronald Searle’s The Rake’s Progress, which is the only immediately accessible library copy in New Zealand.

Have you ever had that dream where you’re in a low-ceilinged windowless room with a group of pretty young women who are singing songs you’ve written? Weird, isn’t it? They were blocking out the last dance number before a run-through, and I got to meet the vivacious set designer Rose (who has plans for a 1.9m Fatboy-type nuclear missile covered in sparkles which folds flat so they can get it through doors). The girl playing Alex is brunette, but I think I’m the only person in the audience who’s going to find that weird. Enderby Hedgehog is being performed as Truman Capote, complete with lisp and little glasses, which is something I’d never conceived of.

There’s about 12 people in the cast, so there’s less doubling-up of parts. Half the cast are immediately and strikingly professional. By contrast, some of the others aren’t trying very hard and treating the whole thing as a bit of a laugh. It’ll be brown-trouser time for them in a few weeks. They’re basically halfway through the rehearsal schedule, so their grasp on the (admittedly complicated) lines is a bit hazy – there were many fine joke-killing improvisations during the run-through. As director Simon points out, they’ve sketched out the basics, now they have to fill in the gaps. Musical director Robin plinked away determinedly despite a cold, and one of the actresses’s boobs popped out during a dance number. If she can do that on opening night, we’ve got a hit.

One of the actors had to leave before the run-through, and he was roundly ticked off for disrespecting me… it was quite embarrassing.

It’s being staged in a curious manner – to accommodate the needs of the other two Young & Hungry plays, the audience is being seated in two tiers on opposite sides of the stage, so the actors work in the centre and have to watch where they’re facing. In practice this means that they spend a lot of time facing each other from extreme stage left and right, so the best place to sit so you can see everyone’s faces would be in the centre of the aisles.

I filmed the musical numbers to cut together for a YouTube trailer. At the end some expectant faces turned my way, and it was only too late I realised I should’ve given a speech of encouragement! I was too hazy after the bus trip to think of anything, but I handed out copies of Brunswick: Rat In the System (“Did you write and draw all this yourself?”) and went with Simon and Robin to the cafe at The Epic, where we thrashed through the entire play very, very thoroughly for a few hours, so I think ATC got their money’s worth from me.

I was catching the 7:50pm bus home, so I went shopping for a few hours. On High St at Jason’s Books there was a handsome display of Ronald Searle books that had just arrived. I was talking to the store owner about The Rake’s Progress when she casually said “There’s a copy right there, you know.”

Glurk!

So, for $35 I’m now the proud owner of a first edition copy, in better condition than any of the other three I’ve seen. I could take it as a Sign, but the rational interpretation of that Sign is: Jason’s Books is an awesome bookstore.

After a quick meal at Wendy’s and a trawl through Real Groovy’s sale bins I was in a great mood and perfectly happy to get back on the bus. Auckland is a dreadful place in many ways, but it’s obviously doing something right. Just as America signifies where the rest of the Western world is headed, Auckland signifies where the rest of New Zealand is headed. We’ll all be acting like them in five years. Who knows how Auckland will be acting by then, but it’ll probably involve knives.

*Many cities are just awkward to walk around, but Auckland seems actively hostile to pedestrians.

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4 Responses to “Thirteen hours in Auckland”

  1. Bit unprofessional posting a blog about the show whilst we are in rehearsals dude.

  2. Really? Why?

  3. David Thomsen Says:

    Little-known theatre etiquette, I guess. Or a new theatrical superstition for the digital age.

  4. Rhinocrates Says:

    Listening to Kim Hill interviewing Ian McKellan the other week, I heard him offer another explanation of why actors cannot bear to have MacBeth mentioned: it’s always a crowd-pleaser and brings in the money, and therefore if the company is doing badly, they’ll drop whatever they’re performing and put on a few performances of MacBeth to top up the funds. In other words, “Let’s do MacBeth ” is heard as “Well, we’re broke… and you’re about to be unemployed” and the fear of that name is not exactly based on superstition, but economics (not to say that much of economics isn’t superstition…).

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