This is a production full of surprises and wonderment. It is brutally honest, occasionally dark and frequently comic.
Amid the smoke a light comes up on a man dressed in just a very short kilt-like leather skirt. he starts to shake his hands drawing up from the earth. A line of oarsmen is illuminated across the stage, they sway, alternately move from side to side and begin to row and steer us into an unmistakably Māori dance. We are in no doubt that these are real men, though as we soon find out sometimes real men throw on a boa, wear high heels, slip into a dress and pile on the slap.
For those unfamiliar with Auckland Karangahape Road, known to the locals as K' Road
is a diverse locality that went from being one of the city’s top shopping areas, to red light district and now progresses towards gentrification. In the words of Okareka Dance Company ‘a road of extremes where we’ve laughed our heads off and cried our hearts out, where we’ve been flattered and rejected, excited and scared, loved and lost. A place where we proudly stand in the sun and shamefully lurk in the shadows...a bitter-sweet vice where life is art and art is life.’
There’s plenty of vice and viciousness in this show, but it’s all carefully integrated into the stories as are the other traits of the road. The tales are not surprising but how they are told is dramatic. The solo hooker finishes work, jacks up, enters into a daze and tells of the painful desire to settle down and get off the street. Another is brutally attacked and raped. These tragic scenes are interspersed with comic dances, close harmony a capella songs and music from a variety of New Zealand groups.
The black stage is brightened by a combination of glitterng costumes, colourful shields and a moody lighting plot. What starts off with the potential of being just another drag show is subtly manouvered into a play that grows gradually darker and more intense culminating in an almost frightening haka.
This is a production full of surprises and wonderment. It is brutally honest, occasionally dark and frequently comic and left many of us contemplating what it was we had just seen.