Muse by Craig Ranapia


Confound The Ignorant, And Amaze Indeed!

UPDATE:  Had confirmation from The Edge that the dodgy weather forcast has triggered a move to the rain day venue: Auckland Town Hall's Concert Chamber.  Since the venue seats a maximum of 450 please get there early to avoid disappointment.

As part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London is staging the 2012 Globe To Globe Festival -- 37 companies have been invited to stage all of the Bard's play in 37 languages from Urdu to Sign. 

If hip-hop Othello or Coriolanus in Japanese isn't your cup of matcha, Ngakau Toa are kicking off the globalized Bard-a-palooza (on April 23, Shakespeare's birthday) with Toroihi raua ko Kahira - a Te Reo production A.K.A. The Maori Troilus and Cressida.

A host of our most respected Maori actors make up the cast, which is led by Rawiri Paratene (Whale Rider) as Pandarus.

Co-Directed by Rachel House and Jamus Webster, Produced by Grace Hoet. Director of Music Richard Nunns.

Featuring Waihoroi Shortland, Scotty Morrison, Kimo Houltham, Awhina Rose Henare-Ashby, Juanita Hepi, Waimihi Hotere, Matu Ngaropo, Maaka Pohatu and James Tito.

Want to be a cooler arts patron than Jenny Gibbs, the CIA and a crypt full of Medicis combined at a fraction of the cost and with none of the painful rubber chicken circuit chit-chat?

If you're in Auckland, it's as easy as showing up at Aotea Square Concert Chamber, Auckland Town Hall, before 6.00pm this Thursday, Friday or Saturday (22-24 March) with a blanket, an (alcohol-free) picnic basket, all your friends and whanau and a generous koha.

It's not cheap taking a cast and crew of 21 to the other side of the planet to open a  prestigious theatre festival connected with the highest profile sports event on the planet. Since it's not anything really  important, like bailing out a profligate rugby union, there's still a substantial funding shortfall no amount of lurking on Grabaseat is going to fill over the next month.

(Which, for the record, doesn't diminish the support of Te Waka Toi-Creative New Zealand, Te Puni Kokiri, Te Taura Whiri, Shakespeare Globe Theatre, NZ International Arts Festival, THE EDGE, Arts Alive Auckland Council, Wellington City Council and

If Auckland is too far away, a Kickstarter is due to be launched in the next couple of days, and I'll post a link as soon as it's up.  If you're in London, tickets are still available for both performances (April 23 & 24, 7.30).  If you're of sound ankles, standing room tickets in The Yard are £5.00. 

It's fair to ask why the hell you should be reaching into your pocket again, let alone for a pack of thespians.  This is how the production is described on The Globe's website.

The dramatic festivities of Globe to Globe open with the group who have travelled furthest. Rawiri Paratene (star of Whale Rider) has assembled New Zealand's best Maori actors for a production of Troilus and Cressida.

In an exquisite translation by Te Haumiata Mason, the production will incorporate many aspects of Maori culture, including the haka (warrior dance) and waiata (song), especially created by the best composers and choreographers of Aotearoa. Ti hei mauriora!

At the risk of sounding like a dip-shit hippy, to me Shakespeare is every bit as much a taonga as Te Reo and The Globe is holy ground.  The Globe to Globe Festival is a vivid reminder that this most English of dramatists - like London itself - is adaptable to not only a multitude of voices but radically different traditions; even sometimes as far beyond language as  Verdi at his most heartbreaking and the savage melancholy of Kurosawa's late masterpiece Ran

It's a tribute to actor/producer Rawiri Paratene - and the depth and strength of both Maori theatre and Shakespearean productions in this country - that he was invited to participate.  Even the most casual scan of the participants makes it abundantly clear this isn't amateur hour or "political correctness".  Which makes it all the more impressive that Ngakau Toa are taking on one of the least familiar, and more difficult plays in the cannon.  

As the Trojan War reaches its seventh year, and a bloody stalemate, a Trojan prince named Troilus (Kimo Houltham)  falls in love with Cressida (Awhina Henare-Ashby) the daughter of a traitorous Trojan priest who has defected to the Greek side.  Aided and abetted by Cressida's uncle, Pandarus (Paratene) almost everything else -- sex, politics, bad luck, worse judgement, mixed motives, conflicting agendas, more sex, their own foolishness and others' lethal pride -- conspires to pull them apart.  Everyone gets screwed, one way or another, and anyone familiar with Greek literature knows very few will get much older let alone wiser.

It's a heady brew of high tragedy and low bawdy - and not always an easily digestible one -- but you can't say there isn't something for everyone.

If that doesn't close the deal then let me make one last appeal to cultural nationalism.  If Ngakau Toa doesn't make it, we should all die of shame - and I'm not sharing my ghost chips with any of you bastards. 

Let's prove there's more to New Zealand culture on the world stage than Peter Jackson (I hates Hobbitses - blow me) and Boy getting a Kickstarted commando release in the United States

For three days this week, Auckland readers get not only a chance to engage in flaxroots arts patronage, but also a banging night out if the standing ovation at the Wellington premiere is anything to go by. 

Hamlet's career as an impresario was short, messy and not well-received but he still hands down a call to arms, and an earnest prayer that this week's performances are a success in every sense.  

Make mad the guilty, and appall the free,
Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed
The very faculties of eyes and ears!


The Good Word, Bad Numbers and The Fake-Fact That Won't Die

The New Zealand Herald, like a good dose of the clap, is the gift that never stops giving no matter how much you want it to. 

The final series of local book program The Good Word started last night on TVNZ 7 (and can be seen on demand here), and The Good Word Jr. begins today (Saturday, March 3).  So, cheers for it getting a nice valedictory write up in the Weekend Herald today - though it would be nice if Rebecca Barry Hill got a well-earned by-line in the on-line version.

But I can't help but share Russell's partially caps-locked exasperation at Barry Hill cut-and-pasting the TVNZ 7-related fake-fact that just won't die:

But stymied by our small population, the channel was considered too costly to run at $15 million a year; the expense was not considered justifiable for its 207,000 weekly viewers.

How often - and thoroughly - does this number have to be fisked, discredited and shown to be utter bilge before The Herald just stops using it?

The story ends with this heart-breaking appeal for crowd-sourced wisdom and free copy:

What do you think of the impending lack of television coverage of the arts and books in New Zealand? Should TVNZ and TV3 take up the responsibility? Let us know via and we'll print your views in the arts pages next week.

Since you asked, Linda, I think media coverage of the arts should remember that everyone is entitled to their own opinion - and it's been hard to miss that the NZH has never been editorial supportive on TVNZ 7 --, but nobody is entitled to their own facts.   The Herald's arts editor needs to take up the responsibility of not spreading misleading and inaccurate figures about cultural institutions because the paper's editorial writers and media columnist don't seem to care.

(The Good Word, TVNZ7, Fridays at 9.05pm; replays Saturdays at 9.05am and 1.05pm; Tuesdays, 9.30pm; Wednesdays, 9.30am and 1.30pm.

The Good Word Jr, TVNZ7, Saturdays at 7.05pm; replays Sundays, 4.05pm, Wednesdays at 6.30pm; Thursdays at 12.30pm.)

UPDATE:  From Russell in comments:

Just to note that Linda Herrick called while I was out and is keen to make a correction. So that’s good.

Bloody oath is it, and credit where due etc.  Could that please become a feature not a bug of the Herald's editorial OS?  Please.


Freakanomics (TVNZ Edition)

I'm sad, but not surprised to read in today's Herald that Television New Zealand doesn't intend to mount even the most token attempt to save public service channel TVNZ7.  It's dead, stuffed with garlic, beheaded and buried at a crossroads in the middle of the night.  If you find my words roaming the streets crying, please send them home.

Last year the Government decided not to renew funding for the digital channel, meaning it will go off air in the middle of this year.

TVNZ's acting chief executive Rodney Parker has told a parliamentary hearing that remains the case.

"No we aren't expecting to receive alternative proposals and no we are not preparing alternative proposals for the ongoing funding of TVNZ7.''


Now, being Public Address' house Tory, I will happily stand up and say times are tough, advertising revenue is softer than a trifle left out in an Auckland summer shower, and like it or not TVNZ is meant to return a dividend to it's shareholder.  Right?

Fine, but the argument would be a little stronger if this charming essay in fiscal discipline hadn't appeared under Yvonne Tahana's by-line in the Weekend Herald on Saturday.

Public arts and culture funding to the tune of $1.6 million will partly pay for the New Zealand's Got Talent reality television series.

Developed by Simon Cowell, the series is famous for discovering unlikely star Susan Boyle in the British series. It will screen on TV One.

Government agency New Zealand On Air said its support was a smart use of the public purse.

Chief executive Jane Wrightson said it was a "wonderful opportunity for many types of New Zealand performers to entertain a nationwide audience".

Ms Wrightson was unavailable for further comment yesterday, however media spokeswoman Gina Rogers said the agency had no problem using arts and culture funding to reproduce a foreign format locally.

"The thing about formats is they are proven overseas. We're keen to support new ways of getting New Zealand talent and talent-based acts on to prime time."

The New Zealand's Got Talent commitment is subject to a full budget being confirmed.

[Emphasis added - not in original story]

As soon as that budget is confirmed, both NZoA and TVNZ will be receiving Official Information Act requests for those figures, even though I expect to be fobbed off with that bland phrase "commercial sensitivity." 

Ms. Wrightson and Mr. Parker might beg to differ, but I don't really give a bugger how sensitive Mr. Cowell's bottom line is.  Put your hand out for public money - whether directly through NZoA or indirectly through the state broadcaster's production budgets - public scrutiny is, or should be the quid pro quo.

Another awkward contortion for an arty-farty Tory is defending public funding of broadcasting and the arts.  There are things in this world that add much to a cultural life worth living even when they're not strictly commercially viable.

But is it even slightly out of order to suggest that subsidizing highly commercial imported formats shouldn't be a priority for public funding? 

The same Herald story contains this intriguing quote:

Head of TV One and TV2 Jeff Latch said the scale of the programme meant other funding streams were needed to make it happen, and multiple commercial partners were being sought.

Rather begs the question why the show couldn't be entirely financed through "commercial partners."  Is "other funding streams" a polite euphemism for 0900 voting lines, checkbook access deals with women's magazines, what? That's before you even start to ask what happens if the private end of this public-private partnership falls short of expectations.

The fault isn't with New Zealand on Air -- which has to work with the funding criteria they're given -- but someone's priorities are bent as a kick-line of drag queens on a roller-coaster. 


The Curmudgeon's Guide To The Oscars (In Five Easy Bullet Points)

The Oscars have come, gone, and like the peace of God surpasseth all human understanding for another year.  I don't care, neither do you but just in case you need something to curmudgeon over here's some bile-starters.

1) I have no idea if Bret McKenzie is Man Or Muppet, but he's an Oscar laureate for Best Original Song.  Congratulations!  (Weta's sublime work on Rise of The Planet of The Apes went down before Hugo's close to clean sweep of the technical awards.  But that's an honourable loss - even if you think Scorsese's vaguely kiddie-friendly valentine to the movies was a perfect storm of style over substance, what style it was.)

2) Meryl Streep won for a typically mannered (and over-rated) impersonation of Margaret Thatcher in the crapulous The Iron Lady.  Gary Oldman didn't, for delivering a performance in Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy that, among much else, recalled the days when he could pass innocent scenery without gnawing it. Thus has been made an irrefutable case for euthanizing the entire acting branch of the Academy.

3) Any leftover hemlock should be applied to the voting writers who thought any skill whatsoever was applied to the screenplays of The Descendants (Yes, I'd sit on George Clooney's face too. Mostly to stop him making films.) and Midnight in Paris (Thirty minutes of story padded out with an hour of another Woody Allen analogue being a pretentious, self-absorbed prick).

4)  Is it a cause for concern that the only catergory in which I've seen all the nominees (and enjoyed them all) was Best Animated Feature?  Bugger the mania for gratuitous overuse of crappy 3-D, and over-charging for the privilege. Going to movies would be more fun if everything was animated. Discuss.

5)  I don't care what anyone was wearing.  No opinion whatsoever on Rooney Mara owning the red carpet in white Givenchy gown and deco-dominatrix 'do.  Not even a little bit.


Merry Darth George Hathos Day!

I hate pidding all over whatever Christmas cheer you've managed to muster - and taking aim at Garth George, The Herald's resident Witi Ihimaera, is as cheap as Chinese sweatshop tinsel - but  this disasterpiece of bathetic auto-plagiarism is irresistible.

At the centre of Christian belief is that with the birth of Jesus Christ God himself came down to Earth to dwell among his people.

The tiny hands that so entranced Mary and Joseph in the Bethlehem manger would one day reach out to the diseased, the lame, the blind, the deaf, the anxious, the grieving, the fearful, the helpless and the hopeless with an infinitely compassionate healing touch.

The tiny mouth which sought his mother's breast would later speak words the like of which had never been heard before; words which explained for the first time the reality of God's eternal, unquenchable love for all mankind, the depth of his desire to be fully reconciled with his children and to be allowed to be a perfect father to everyone.

I'm going to have the image of the Virgin Mary's pert nipples burned into my mind's eye until Twelfth Night, which (I hope) was not the intended effect.  Cleanse your mind's eye with a master class in how you do seasonal pathos, without the sugary encrustation of Xmas kitsch...

John Betjeman's Christmas, read by Farnham Town Crier Jonathan Jones.

And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?

And is it true ? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

Take notes, Garth, and don't forget the attribution.

And as for you, faithful readers, have a safe and pleasant holiday season - even if you don't believe a word of it.