On Wednesday night I drove out to Mangere Arts Centre in the driving rain to see K Road Strip, a new work from Okareka dance company. A combination of dance, song and story telling it’s a show that plays in the community that is K Road. The good, the bad, the drunk, the beautiful, the love, the hate, the things we’d turn a side eye to, the things we’d want to be party to.
It’s a show that at its most basic, ‘an all male, all gay cast singing and dancing about K Road to kiwi hits’ sounds like it could be horrendously cringe worthy. But it’s not. It’s mesmerising. It begins with the story of Hape and his Karanga, the origins of K Rd’s name before sliding into K Road as it is now. It takes the stereotypes that I’m sure fling to mind at the description given above and then throws out a few more (the giggling girls on a night out, the staunch as bro’s out on the piss, the Queens ready to party) rendering them all as silly as each other. The fact that these men can play them all seamlessly is beautiful. At times its dark, at times its hard, but it’s all part of the journey.
A major strength of K Road Strip is that it’s slick. While I knew that cast members and Okareka founders, Taiaroa Royal and Taane Mete were amazing dancers I was blown away by the cast as a whole. It’s obvious that Will Barling-Cooper is also a dancer when the three accompany Adam Burrell’s cover of Pressure Man, but when the cast dances as an ensemble there’s no weak points. Again, it’s slick.
Similarly, the voices under the musical direction of Jason Te Mete were phenomenal. Covering kiwi hits from OMC’s How Bizarre to K’Lee’s Can You Feel Me and Dave Dobbyn’s Love You Like I Should, they nail it every time. In fact, Jamie Burgess’ cover of My House by Kids of 88, still has me slightly uncomfortable. Each song has its own spin, each is unique from the original.
As a show that is based heavily in dance, K Rd Stories was set with a bare stage, but for a single pole, illuminated throughout most of the show. Lighting designer, Ambrose Hills-Simonsen kept the lights to a minimum, utilising haze to create the scene. One of my favourite moments was during Computer Games. The lights were nearly non existent but for a subtle pink and blue glow, allowing the cast to dance to the screen lights of their phones (Hello Grindr?). Another moment that had me light nerding out was during Jason’s cover of Lost by Six-60 – gobos shooting out streams of light into haze alongside Jason’s voice = best.
K Rd Strip may sound like a show that will garner niche appeal. But it doesn’t. It’s received widely rave reviews and on the night I went the audience was full of Pacific Islanders of both sexes, ages, even parents with older children and everyone loved it.
They’re in Mangere until Saturday night at which point they head down the country. So if you read my blog and am not from Auckland – yay! here’s a chance to see something I’m reviewing. So if you’re near Dunedin, Hamilton, Palmerston North or Wellington then check them out! You can find the dates and buy tickets here.