The Drama Hour

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Sunday, 5 October 2014

Bardfest: The Shakespeare Monologue Project - Monologues by William Shakespeare

Lady Percy’s monologue from Act II, Scene III of Henry IV
Performed by Rachel Harrison

The porter’s monologue from Act II, Scene III of Macbeth
Performed by Paul Waggott

Titus Andronicus’ monologue from Act III, Scene II of Titus Andronicus
Performed by Simon Leary

Engineered by Phil Benge and produced by Francesca Emms

Buy Anything You Like by Brynley Stent

Performed by Brynley Stent

A short drama originally written and performed as part of a NZ Drama School exercise called ‘Go Solo’.
Welcome to Panks’ Wandering Emporium, where you can buy anything you like... except for that, or that, and definitely not that.

Engineered by Phil Benge and produced by Jason Te Kare

Book Ends - Part Two by Roger Hall

The 2nd instalment of a brand new four-part comedy series from Roger Hall.

It’s now 2011. A year has passed since we joined the Cabin Fever Club, a group of gold-card-holding literary types, for coffee at the Sour Dough Cafe. Again we listen in to their amusing and pertinent conversations, and through it we witness the world changing swiftly around them.

Cast: Ray Henwood, Bruce Phillips, John Leigh, Peter Vere Jones, Brian Sergent, Simon O’ Connor and Tanea Heke

Engineered by Phil Benge and produced by Prue Langbein

Alone for the last time

In theatre the solo or one-person-show is arguably the biggest challenge an actor will face – alone on stage to tell a story that will grab and hold the attention of a paying audience. Forget a line or lose where you are in the script and there’s no one to save you.

Hayley Sproull - image by Phillip Merry
Hayley Sproull in Miss Fletcher Sings the Blues during her time at Toi Whakaari – image by Phillip Merry

Just this sort of challenge faces students in their final year of training at Toi Whakaari – The NZ Drama School. And to add to the challenge the students have to entertain an audience for 20 minutes with a piece they themselves must create from scratch. In 2002 Radio New Zealand Drama began recording a selection of the most radio-friendly of the annual, ‘Go Solo’ pieces.

But 2014 marks the final year a graduating class will face this challenge.

The Go Solo event began life in 1989 as the ‘Toi Whakaari Monologues’. That’s 25 years of new, short plays. That amounts to 300 or more! 

Krishnan Dairy image by Indian InkSome solos were created around defining moments in New Zealand’s history and tackled by the schools’ now famous alumni: Cliff Curtis as James K. Baxter, Nancy Brunning as Princess Te Puea Herangi, Marton Csokas as Colin McCahon. Some pieces went on to massive success. Most recently Hayley Sproull’s Miss Fletcher Sings the Blues has joined the likes of Tim Balme’s The Ballad of Jimmy Costello as award-winning solos that have toured to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. And who hasn’t seen perhaps the most widely travelled of all, Jacob Rajan’s Krishnan’s Dairy? Rajan’s work with Justin Lewis on what was originally a student solo went a step further as the two established the now celebrated Indian Ink Theatre Company.

Picture: Jacob Rajan in Krishnan’s Dairy – image provided by Indian Ink Theatre Company

Over time the demographic of the students intake into Toi Whakaari has changed. Students began to question the parameters of the ‘Toi Whakaari Monologues’ project. Could the project offer a chance for some to investigate the characters and events from within their own cultures? There were real questions about what a solo performance could be. Could you do one about Big Ted from Play School? Did it have to be scripted? Could you use clowning and improvisation? Did it even have to use dialogue? Why not a solo investigating dance, movement or mime? And so the Toi Whakaari Monologues grew into the Go Solos.

Toi Whakaari acting tutor Heather Timms explains that the Go Solos won’t be lost altogether. They will be moved to the end of the first year of training and final year students will still have the option of doing a solo piece.

“Placing it at the end of the first year it was our hunch that it would be possible to get at the teaching questions for the training actors more strongly as they didn’t have the same pressure as a Year 3 actor about to graduate. The solo form also offers this unique place where you really get to see and experience the uniqueness of each actor’s voice and stance. Often through this project we’d see new capabilities, get new insights into actors and then in two months they’ve graduated. Coming at the end of Year One, we as tutors are then able to capitalise on and be informed by what we learn about them as individuals through this work.

In Year 3 actors now have the second half of the year to pursue independent practice, using the resources of the school. Our ambition for them as third year actors is that for those interested in making work they can make solos if they wish. But many may be working inside inter-disciplinary collaborations developed across their years training at the school.”

But whatever happens, October 2014 will be the last chance for people to see a whole class of students who have almost completed their training tackle the daunting task to… go solo!