Article Title:Review: K' Rd Strip is a triumph
Author or Credit:Jay Bennie
Published on:12th June 2013 - 11:20 pm
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Story ID:13479
Text:K Rd Strip Okareka Dance Company Conceived and choreographed by Taane Mete Directed by Simon Coleman Starring Taane Mete, Tai Royal, Jason Te Mete, Will Cooper-Barling, Adam Burrell, Jamie Burgess Q Theatre, Auckland: until 11 June, 2013. Mangere: 19-22 June, Dunedin: 28 - 29 June, Hamilton 2 - 3 July, Palmerston Nth: 6 July. There may not be a heaven but somewhere there is a K' Rd.* Of course Auckland's Karangahape Road is not everybody's idea of heaven. It's not perfect, it's only occasionally beautiful and it all to often eats its own. But unlike the heaven promoted by those of limited vision, the true spirit of Karangahape Road, of the Hape of legend, welcomes everyone, even the strange, the fallen, the round pegs who don't fit in society's square holes. Even the undeserving. When nowhere else feels like home, when earthly comforts and heavenly promises are denied to you, K' Rd is a place to stand. In a 90 minute blast of bravura dance, song and sensuality the Okareka Dance Company, centred on gay dancers Taane Mete and Tai Royal, tonight powered through an unflinching tits and all, mythical and real, portrayal ("We're all black sheep... We are the taniwha") of New Zealand's gayest street. This is a magnificent ensemble piece, carefully structured and choreographed to play to each performer's strengths. They dance, sing - often beautifully - and draw us in to to the colourful, vibrant and sometimes tragic souls who for decades have given K Rd. its unique spirit. The physicality of the dance is inspirational. The power of the singing is remarkable. The stories and lives are vivid and compelling. There is drag, but it's minimalist. There is camp, but it's sly ("So many queens, such a small stage"). There are heaps of homos, but not exclusively. Sexually frustrated, marauding, suburban, hetero, males cruise the Road, pumping up each other's testosterone levels to menacing peaks. Gay boys and tranny streetgirls fall victim to their predations, sometimes with fatal results ("I wanna take you to my house..."). Sometimes the violence or sense of 'otherness' produces a wistful longing for a different world, different rules, different outcomes. ("I hope I never, I hope I never have to sigh again... I hope I never, I hope I never have to cry again... I still want to beam and smile...") Some of those whose external or internal impulses are out of synch with society's expectations just get on with life on their own terms ("I'm called Destiny... because I'm inevitable"). Night after night a drink-addled streetie stumbles through the real and the imaginary, flushed with Dutch courage, hiding from reality and yet trying to make some sense of it all. A lone kid in a hoodie finds a soulmate of a kind in the Vegas Girl's faded gaze and pneumatic boobs. Gay men strut like roosters ("Cluck cluck cluck - wanna fuck?") or swirl unemotionally through the night in a half-light haze of little blue screens, semi-literate txt-speak and predictive text screw-ups ("I'm in Veronica. Shit... Verona!") There's Island-ness and Maori-ness and anger and spirit and hope. There is security and danger, temptation and sisterhood. There is sensuality and bravado, elation and longing ("Who am I today? ...won't you come and find me?"). Displaying physical and vocal talent on an impressive scale the six performers convey the essence of K' Rd. And, counterpointing the raw lives and fleeting glamour of it all, they draw all the threads together in a finale of enduring strength and belonging ("I am your turangawaewae!"). Okareka Dance Company's interpretation of K' Rd's ethos is a triumph. Their observation of K' Rd's denizens is spot on. Even at it's premiere season it's a mature work as befits the result of a five-year gestation period. The mood soars and plunges and soars again. The choreography is remarkable, the script crisp, sweet and tart, the direction, music and lighting are all nicely judged. Tonight's standing ovation was richly, unreservedly, deserved. - Jay Bennie [* With acknowledgement to the creator of a postcard I souvenired on my first visit to San Francisco, in pre-Law Reform 1984. It shows a lone woman standing on a bleak, windy hill below which that city is almost totally obscured by mist and fog. It is captioned: "There may not be a heaven, but somewhere there is a San Francisco." As I returned to the much less gay-affirming New Zealand of my mid-20s the card summed up a powerful feeling I had experienced for the first time in my life. - JB] Jay Bennie - 12th June 2013    
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