Category Archives: New Zealand
Auckland Theatre Company are in the process of unveiling a fantastic young actress
Hello Nathalie, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Hello! I’m from Canberra, Australia, and I’ve just moved to Auckland this year.
When did you first realise you were, well, theatrical?
I’ve wanted to perform since I was 11 and I saw a stage production of High School Musical. The ensemble looked like they were having so much fun as a team, and I wanted to have that too. When I started taking theatre classes and tackling scripts, I got way more interested in characters and the forces that drive them to act in the ways they do. I love putting myself in other people’s circumstances and using them to express
myself in ways that I wouldn’t get to in my own life.
Last year you graduated from the Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School, how was your time there?
It was so cool. Toi Whakaari is a place where you are constantly experimenting. There’s no end goal to the training. You are just continuously exposed to new techniques and styles of performance and given lots of opportunities to test them out. You are pushed to take more risk, have more pleasure, and go further into the unknown, but you are never pushed to be a certain kind of actor. The school celebrates creativity and has a great subversive sense of humour. It’s also incredibly challenging to put your struggle in front of other students and teachers for three years, but I’m grateful that those challenges took place within those walls.
Can you tell us about,’ I Never Thought I’d Have to Explain it All?’ & its tenure in Wellington?
I Never Thought I’d Have to Explain it All is a show I made about a high profile disappearance case in Australia – one that I was briefly involved with as a kid. As I researched deeper into the case, I got really affected by how it was reported on and spread through the entertainment industry. So the show buries the story of the case in many of these entertainment mediums, like talk show, film, documentary, stand-up comedy, podcast etc. As we give the audience more truths about the case, we also involve them more in the thrill of these forms. It’s very funny and wicked and compelling. I started writing the show with Andrew Eddey in our final year of drama school, and we presented the first draft at Toi Whakaari’s annual Festival of Work in Development. It started out as a solo show, but it grew to include more performers, designers, and managers by the time we presented a second draft at The NZ Fringe Festival in March this year. We learned an incredible amount about the work throughout this second season, so hopefully we will mount another development of the show in Auckland or Australia in the next couple of years.
What’s the last thing you do before you step out on stage / the curtain goes up?
Sometimes I do a ‘dick-ass dance’, which is a very important technique I learned at drama school. Basically you just dance your heart out, off the beat and leading from your hips. Other times I just stand toward the audience and feel love and gratitude right before going on. If I’m about to enter with someone else, I’ll try to make a joke with them or whisper something titillating in their ear.
What does your perfect Sunday afternoon look like?
Reading a great play out loud with friends, or watching a great film with a big cup of coffee, or body surfing at the beach with my dad.
You are playing the young Queen Elizabeth in Peter Morgan’s ‘The Audience,’ how did you get the role?
I auditioned for the role in December. I was in Australia at the time, but my grandma said “oh, you’ve got to go get seen” so I flew over for the day. And then there was a recall audition in January.
Can you tell us a little something about the play?
It’s a theorised glimpse into the private audiences that Queen Elizabeth II has had with the British Prime Ministers each week throughout her reign. It’s also a beautiful and comical portrait of the woman, and a compelling insight into how those PMs stayed sane in power.
How are you finding Her Highness’s accent?
It’s very fun. It’s one of my favourite parts about this project. When she was young her voice was very distinct. There are all sorts of words that I catch her saying in broadcasts and interviews that don’t quite follow any rules, and I like the challenge of trying to capture them all.
How is Director Colin McColl handling both yourself individually & then the cast as a whole?
Colin has worked with many of the actors in the cast for many years, and I’ve witnessed a very strong and easeful working relationship, with lots of mutual respect and responsibility. The actors don’t wait to be told what to do by Colin, nor are they lead through any specific process. They do their research and jump straight onto the floor with lots of offers and confidence. This is my first professional theatre show since graduating drama school, so it’s really great to witness that.
What emotive responses do you expect from the audience?
I think The Audience will be very funny and moving, especially for people who have grown up listening to Queen Elizabeth II’s broadcasts and following the politics of all of the British Prime Ministers who appear in the show.
You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the streets, what would you say?
Come watch a wonderful actress, Theresa Healey, navigate the role of Queen Elizabeth II – over 60 years of her life! – with dexterity, humour, and sensitivity. And an ensemble of daredevil character actors take on all of the wacky traits of the British PMs. A majestic set and a pandora’s box of wigs and costumes – it’s going to be fun!
What will you be doing for the rest of 2019?
I’m heading back to Canberra when The Audience closes to start rehearsals for The Street Theatre’s production of A Doll’s House Part 2 by Lucas Hnath. The play is set 15 years after the end of Ibsen’s classic, and I’ll be playing Emmy, Nora’s grown-up daughter.
Riding the Te Rehia surf of 80’s nostalgia into Auckland comes the brilliant Rickylee Russell-Waipuka…
Hello Rickylee, so where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Kia Ora, ko Ngati Kahungunu me Ngati Raukawa ōku iwi. I’m from the Wairarapa, but I’ve lived in the North Shore of Auckland for the majority of my life.
When did you first realise you were, well, theatrical?
I don’t think I realised I was ‘theatrical’ until I was in College. But as early as 3 years old, I would get my family and friends to sit down and watch me perform in the lounge, at parks, at kohanga and school, anywhere I could make a stage! It mellowed out when I got a bit older because it wasn’t as accepted or cool to do that. However that’s when I 100% realised it was an actual thing, to be a performer and I was pretty good at it, naturally.
What for you makes a good piece of theatre?
Personally, pieces that make me laugh and/or something that I can connect to on a personal level with a powerful message. If a show doesn’t make feel something I won’t remember it.
You’ve been on TV quite a bit in recent years – Waka Warriors & This Is Piki spring to mind. How did you find the experiences?
Waka Warriors was honestly a life changing experience for me. I was completely pulled into a whole other world that I didn’t even know existed! The highly valuable knowledge and skills I learnt doing Waka Warriors I hold very close to my heart. I’m so honoured and feel privileged to have met everyone on that show, many I consider whānau (family) now. This Is Piki came about through the connections I had made during Waka Warriors. Again the cast from that show I consider my brothers and sisters now too. This Is Piki was so much fun making. The last minute changes to the scripts (in terms of languages) kept us on our toes, that’s for sure! We always made it work though, that’s how pro we all were hahaha! We were all very disappointed when we didn’t get a second season we would been back in a heart beat.
Can you tell us about I Am Paradise?
I Am Paradise follows a struggling, young, Māori mother of two with one on the way and her journey having to raise two kids on her own, pregnant, while her partner is incarcerated. This is the first main role that I have landed, it was also very different from the characters I have played in the past. Playing this character made me dig a lot deeper as this character had a lot more weight to her it and her story. I also wanted to represent her well for all of the women who do live the life of a Paradise.
You’ve just been on a massive tour of Canada – what were you doing there & how do you find the Canadians, & how did they find you?
I was on tour with a musician, performing at music festivals all over Canada. Some minor back up vocals but mainly dance, Māori movements fused with contemporary dance. As well as running haka workshops for women. I mainly spent time with First Nations people, LOVED them! I have a friend that I made over there visiting New Zealand right now actually.
You’ve got three famous people from history coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starters, mains & dessert?
Beyoncé, Jessica Alba & Bob Marley – Curry puffs, Stir fry(because I know I’m good at it) and banoffee pie because it’s a favourite.
You are part of a play that will be performed at this year’s Auckland Arts Festival. Can you tell us about it?
Astroman is set in the 80s, the play follows a Māori whanau (family) settling into a new town. The main character is a kid genius who gets bored easily because he’s not challenged enough and gets into trouble, everyone in his life only ever notices how naughty he is. He finally meets a Mr Miyagi type figure at local arcade who helps to set him on the right path.
How are you finding playing the role of Natalie?
Natalie’s relationship with her mother is actually very similar to my own relationship with my mum. Especially with being the eldest and taking responsibility of the younger siblings. So that has been very helpful when beginning to find Natalie. She also has a similar relationship with her brothers that the younger me had with my younger brother. So naturally I have drawn on a few of my own experiences to help shape Natalie. Natalie is quite hard work, she can be very light and playful but also holds a lot of depth to her at the same time.
You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show to somebody in the street, what would you say?
For some of you, come and relive one of the best eras of all time and for others come check out what your parents/grandparents got up to in…. the 80s! Break dancing, bopping, Donkey Kong, Pac Man, Defender, awesome music and lots of LOLs, what more could you want! Come be a part of it.
What will you be doing for the rest of 2019?
Doing what I can to make this world a nicer place to be alive in and whatever else that makes me happy.
March 16-April 6
After a wee sabbatical into the lands of motherhood, Stacey Leilua is back doing what she loves – acting in quality productions…
Hello Stacey, first things first, can you tell me what you got for Christmas?
Unlucky – so where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I was born and raised in Auckland, NZ – and that’s also where I am now
When did you first develop a passion for theatre?
Fifteen years old, taking drama as a subject in high school.
Can you tell us about your training?
I studied at the UNITEC school of performing and screen arts, and graduated with a bachelor of performing and screen arts, majoring in Acting.
I hear you’ve recently had a wee baby girl – congratulations. How are you finding juggling early motherhood with your return to the stage?
Oh, she’s nearly 4 so we’ve moved out of the early motherhood stage…but it’s definitely still a juggle, finding the energy reserves to fulfill the role in Wild Dogs as well as be a Mum. There’s no down time.
Having appeared in short films such as To’ona’i (2010), and Tatau (2012), what for you is the chief difference between celuloid & the stage?
The only difference for me is in technique. But your first job as an actor is to serve the story.. that doesn’t change.
You are acting in a play at this year’s Auckland Festival with Wild Dogs Under My Skirt. How did you get involved in the project?
Anapela brought me on board in 2016 for the first season in its new form featuring 6 women.
Has Tusiata Avia been involved at all with your dramatization of her work?
She has been to some rehearsals, and seen performances. She’s very precise about her words and how they’re delivered, so she passes notes through Anapela if they come up. We often will skype her before an opening night, and always feel her presence through the text.
Do you & the ladies socialise out with rehearsals?
I can’t speak for the ladies but between working on the show, and Mum life. I don’t have any energy for socialising!
You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show to somebody in the streets of Aukland, what would you say?
Wild Dogs under my Skirt encompasses the Pasefika female experience – in its many forms. It is heart wrenching and confronting, but also beautifully sensual and funny. Come and watch it!!
What will you be doing after the Auckland Festival?
Catching up on sleep!!
Photography: Head shot, Toaki Okano / Action shots, Matt Grace
Q Theatre (Rangatira)
Mon – Fri: 7pm / Sat: 1pm and 7pm