[Not So Moving]
Disco beats are throughout as we speak’s pop music. Flared pants are making a comeback. And the dance model of waacking is extra mainstream than ever. So it appears applicable to have a look again at 70s tradition and the place it actually got here from – that’s, queer POC nightclub scenes. It’s pure that Prowl Productions, who specialize in waacking and road dance types, would wish to carry this historical past to our levels.
Club Waack, devised with the solid by co-directors Andrew Cornish and Hayley Walters-Tekahika, guarantees to be a cool and fantastical experience, and it does partially ship. Basement Theatre’s again wall is adorned with a disco ball and hanging information that sparkle below Rae Longshaw-Park’s funky lighting. The dancers who make up the majority of the solid are spectacular, delivering sharp, high-energy performances. However, the story is extraordinarily missing.
The present appears to oscillate between a quite basic overview of queer historical past – acted out (considerably awkwardly) by the solid and later by way of projected documentary and information footage – and the story of the dancers on the titular ‘Club Waack’. The membership, began by Mama Doll (Princess Halatoa) as a protected haven for queer/POC to precise themselves, comes below menace from the overly moralising members of the Standards Protecting Communities Everywhere, or SPCE (Alice Pearce and Vena-Rose Lennane). Though there’s a trace of the sassy however loving relationship between Mama Doll and the dancers, these characters and their dynamics are woefully underdeveloped. It is unlucky, as a result of these characters ought to have been our emotional anchor, however as an alternative I discover myself barely caring what occurs to them or the membership. The dance sequences have been actually enjoyable and peppy, however I couldn’t absolutely admire them as a result of they did not be grounded by the story. Considering that is Prowl Productions’ first foray into extra narrative-based theatre, they might’ve tremendously benefitted from consulting a dramaturg.
My principal critique of the present is that it lacks focus. It tries to cowl 50 years of queer historical past, in addition to the historical past of the dance type ‘waacking’, and ship a narrative a few fictional membership, all in a 60-minute piece. The ‘acting out moments of history’ sequence at the start felt clunky and will simply have been straight narration. Our introduction to the characters on the membership occurred throughout this sequence as properly, however very out of context, which left me considerably confused. Without a selected throughline, the moments from historical past they selected to spotlight felt just a little random, and there was a mixing of American and New Zealand historical past which once more muddied the main target. The projected footage was likewise too generic and arbitrary. If you’ve gotten any familiarity with queer historical past, the data introduced might be largely nothing new. For one thing that took up a number of runtime (and left some useless area on stage whereas the projector display screen was being pulled up and down) it didn’t add a lot to the dialog.
The SPCE villains have been decreased to caricatures and, although they actually held excessive beliefs by as we speak’s requirements, I really feel it does a disservice to queer historical past to recollect them on this manner. These have been actual individuals who believed homosexuality was harmful, and to not deal with them as such removes nuance from the dialog. These caricatures may’ve labored if, tonally, the present was extra absurd and romp-y, however there have been scenes which made it clear we have been alleged to take these points critically.
Pearce, Halatoa and Hone Taukiri (MC Pita Donovan) have been the stand-out performers when it comes to performing, managing to anchor their larger-than-life characters in some sense of authenticity, and confidently holding the area.
Though actually a enjoyable night time out, Club Waack general did not meaningfully have interaction with the problems and themes it introduced up. Everything was overly simplified and floor stage as a consequence of a scarcity of focus. However, the historical past of queer tradition and rights are fascinating and necessary matters, and I might like to see Prowl Productions develop this work dramaturgically. Perhaps narrowing the main target to the historical past of waacking, or queer historical past particularly in Aotearoa, or simply to the story of the membership, would assist it to discover these concepts with extra depth. I’d have an interest to see how dance may very well be extra seamlessly built-in into the theatrical modes employed – how dance may be used to inform these tales extra abstractly, emotively and creatively.
Club Waack performs Basement Theatre twelfth to the sixteenth of September 2023.