K' Rd Strip
Loft at Q Theatre
June 12, 2013
Considered by many to be Auckland’s most debauched site, Karangahape Road becomes inspiration for Okareka Dance Company’s new work K’ Rd Strip: A Place To Stand. A fresh approach to drag-style cabaret conceived to celebrate the lives and memories of those who are embedded in this notorious road, it is at once hilarious, heartbreaking, informative, entertaining and spiritually profound.
Unique to this particular approach to cabaret is the show’s mythological context. Deeply grounded in Maoritanga, the work is aligned with the legend of Hape – a crippled man who rode a taniwha to Aotearoa after being left behind by his brothers. Legend has it that Hape arrived here before his brothers did, and was seen on the ridge above Auckland’s harbour welcoming his brothers with the call of his karanga. This act of unconditional welcome is shown in the opening of the work with powerful karanga from Tai Royal, Taane Mete and Jason Te Mete. It lingers in the room, ever present throughout the work as a reminder of the warm embrace that Hape offered his brothers after they had turned him away.
Following this opening is a series of bite-size acts that reflect on real experiences of K R’d. There is a ballroom iPhone dance, a bird-mating ritual, a rape scene and a number with towels that skillfully transitions from a cackling moment in the shower shared by a group of old women to a threatening scenario in a male sauna room. There is too much splendour to list but amongst it all we are treated to the sweet voice and dexterous dancing of Will Cooper-Barling, the enigmatic stage presence of Adam Burrell, sensitive drama told by Jamie Burgess and of course the graceful physical strength of Taane Mete and Tai Royal. Transitions between acts are skillfully managed by the directorial nous of Simon Coleman and creative lighting design by Ambrose Hills-Simons.
One of the most successful elements of the work is Jason Te Mete’s hilarious and poignant horse-head character. At first he is a familiar ‘bro-ish rogue’, obscene and obnoxiously rude as he drunkenly rants at the foot of a nightclub door. As time passes however, we are exposed to what haunts him and in the delicately executed song “Lost” the character becomes an embodiment of the juxtaposition of K’ Rd’s people – sometimes outwardly harsh yet always innately vulnerable.
Okareka Dance Company pull all of this fabulousness off with a surprisingly understated minimalism, foregrounding not only the casts’ impressive performance abilities but also the fragments of pain that sit beneath a protective and bedazzled cloak of feathers. The show is both an entertaining ode to a legacy of people and a critical provocation of sexual and cultural displacement. Many facets of masculinity and femininity are explored and honoured, and real life experiences tell of a place that is both a dumping ground for unfortunate acts and a site of true acceptance and belonging.
Continues until June 22.