Lucire


  latest news   fashion   beauty   living   volante   print and tablet   tv
  home   community   shopping   advertise   contact

Greed a topical comedy about fast fashion and the practices that support it

Filed by Jack Yan/June 28, 2020/12.01

Greed, the new Steve Coogan comedy directed by Michael Winterbottom (The Trip), is a satirical tale about a thinly disguised version of Sir Philip Green, the head of Arcadia Group, who stood accused by various British government committees of plundering British Home Stores while it was under his company’s control. The phrase levelled at Sir Philip, ‘the unacceptable face of capitalism’, once dealt to Tiny Rowland, is used here at Coogan’s Sir Richard ‘Greedy’ McCreadie, just in case you weren’t sure whom they were parodying.
   Lucire attended one viewing at a packed cinema, where moviegoers were turned away as it proved to be far more popular than anticipated.
   Given the cast—Coogan, Isla Fisher, and David Mitchell—it would be wrong to expect much more than a comedy, and on this count, it delivers, with more topical panache than most films of the genre.
   Up for criticism by the film are fast fashion—McCreadie spends his adult life pushing suppliers in Sri Lanka (the Indian locations are unconvincing) into a race to the bottom—as well as the shallow “unreality” of reality TV, or, as the trade calls it, unscripted drama. Included in the mix are the corrupt practices of modern business and their legal loopholes, and tax havens such as Monaco, where McCreadie’s ex-wife, Samantha, played by Fisher, is resident. Through all of this is the device of the officious bystander, Sir Richard’s biographer, Nick, played by Mitchell, who gets to interview certain parties, which Winterbottom shoots in documentary style.
   Sir Richard’s 60th birthday bash on Mykonos obviously references Sir Philip’s £5 million 50th on Crete in 2002, right down to the togas, and this is where things take a turn that not even Sir Philip’s enemies would wish on the milliardaire. Asa Butterfield, as the McCreadys’ younger son, and Dinita Gohil, as Amanda, a Sri Lankan-born Brit working for McCready, give the film more depth at the points where it’s needed, showing that the farce in which the ultra-rich live have real victims, inside and outside of the immediate family. Whovians will spot Pearl Mackie as Cathy, the director of the reality show in which daughter Lily McCready, played by Sophie Cookson, stars, trying the Method whilst playing herself.
   There’s a sense from earlier reviews—inevitable that we would have seen them given New Zealand’s later release—that the film doesn’t know what genre it is, whether it’s comedy, drama or documentary, an assessment with which we disagree. While the film puts a new spin on the term ‘eat the rich’, the last act wraps up the entirety of the film neatly: namely that for all the lessons that we might have learned, the fictional McGready family ticks on, with little changed. No, the outcome isn’t funny, but it is a call to action—it’s Winterbottom exercising pathos. Showing statistics about fast fashion, the income gap, and the single-digit earnings of Asian garment workers takes that one step further. Are we choosing to fund these lifestyles and the fast-fashion machine, or should we opt for the sort of designers often championed by this magazine, who work with Fair Trade, eschew seasons, and emphasize quality?
   And sometimes it takes a film that is largely entertainment to make us realize just what has been going on. The message could well be lost if this were an out-and-out documentary, which would have had a limited audience; better to have us question our consumerist habits—you know, the ones we still observed as we lavished Amazon with US$11,000 per second as the COVID-19 pandemic panic began—in the form of entertainment, ensuring a wider reach. It’s not the first to do this, and it won’t be the last—it’s a long tradition that includes The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and South Park on television and, more recently, the oddly slow-moving Brexit with Benedict Cumberbatch, and the German feature Curveball. There’s nothing more appealing in the grey depths of winter, with overseas travel not available to us, than sunny, colourful Greek locales. And when you can travel again, pack those labels with a more ethical background.—Jack Yan, Publisher

 


A sense of belonging

Filed by Jack Yan/June 17, 2020/11.16


Jack Yan

Above: Wellington, New Zealand’s Lambton Quay, normally a main thoroughfare, during that country’s lockdown.

Over the last two issues of Lucire KSA, we ran a story each on COVID-19. The first examined how companies fared after previous economic crises, looking at the past for answers. Last month, we examined what companies were doing in response to the pandemic, a report from the present. This month, it may be prudent to take some punts about the future.
   Even before the COVID-19 crisis, China was selling cars with air filtration and purification systems, such as the Oshan X7 and the Geely Icon. These two SUVs were responding to the pollution that plagues Chinese cities, and when the Icon was launched in February, its system was turned into a positive selling point as fears about COVID-19 mounted. When the X7 was revised in March 2020, its system received an upgrade, to allay fears about the novel coronavirus. But these are minor product enhancements, for what is the point of these SUVs during a lockdown when driving is curtailed?
   We often refer to the automotive sector in Lucire because it’s one of the most evident places where brands and trends emerge, and with fewer players than in fashion, it’s often easier to see what those might be. Alfonso Albaisa, Nissan’s senior vice-president for global car design, pointed out to Forbes that after each major crisis—he uses World War II as an example—there is a creative surge, and that the US car industry of the 1950s picked up on it, with ‘a promise of the future.’ He says, ‘Many times, this whole “vision of tomorrow” comes from the difficulties of today. So I think we as people will express our emotions physically and you’ll see this in all the arts.’


GM

Oshan

Above, from top: Oldsmobile Golden Rocket, a 1956 show car from GM that pointed to an optimistic, jet-age future. The Oshan X7 SUV, with a standard air purifier.

   Other emotions that have emerged during this time include loneliness, in those countries or communities that are facing a lockdown, and the desire for human contact, alleviated somewhat by the knowledge that many are in the same boat, and by the ease of digital contact in developed countries, with VR, Skype and Zoom, the latter entering the vernacular and enjoying a massive rise in popularity, despite privacy concerns. But on the flip side are emotions of appreciation, in countries where governments have acted and people have been unified.
   Travel editor Stanley Moss, based in Italy, chatted last month to the general manager of the Baglioni Hotel Luna in Venezia, Gianmatteo Zampieri. Stanley reported in our web edition that the conversation was ‘lively’, rather than pessimistic, when at the time Italy had one of the most troubling COVID-19 numbers on record. He writes, ‘The Rialto Bridge is deserted, and uncrowded phantom vaporetti lazily float by. The St Mark’s Basin stands empty, with only stray small craft passing.’
   Mr Zampieri remarked, ‘The Lagoon is like a mirror. There’s not a boat to be seen, the water is crystal clear, and schools of little fish are swimming in the canals. We have a gondola landing at our entrance, and we are seeing little crabs crawling up the gondola poles. Ducks are nesting on the vaporetto docks, and laying eggs there.’
   Stanley continues, ‘Mr Zampieri has an optimistic perspective on all this. He says that following these difficult times we’ll be given a chance to return to a Venezia renewed, where the air and water are clean, landmarks uncrowded and Baglioni’s teams rested and ready to welcome back guests.’
   Many will have seen the photos of Venezia’s clean waterways, or how the Himalayas are now visible from the state of Punjab, India, where they had been hidden due to air pollution. At Lucire’s HQ in Wellington, New Zealand, native kererū pigeons can be seen flying in flocks and close to homes, whereas before they would be seen individually or in pairs, seldom venturing quite so closely into neighbourhoods.
   Lockdowns saw an appreciation of the quietness and the absence of noise pollution, a silver lining for those who were forced to stay home.
   In economies that are opening up, the hum of traffic has returned, along with rush hours, immediately rendering the rural-like quietness nostalgic.
   It may well accelerate certain emerging movements. It’s not difficult to link this love of nature to better air quality, less pollution, and the desire for improved public transport or alternative fuels. With fashion such a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions—Quantis estimates c. 8 per cent can be attributed to apparel and footwear, while 114,000 million items of clothing were sold in 2019—fast fashion has become more exposed during the crisis. A shocking 70 per cent of the product winds up in landfills or is incinerated, and inventory is currently growing in warehouses around the world. The Business of Fashion estimates that fashion is an industry that will need between US$20,000 million and US$30,000 million per annum to meet global climate and development goals in the coming decade.
   With several of my colleagues at Medinge Group, the Swedish think-tank dealing with brands with a conscience, we summarized in one session how we have become more acutely aware of how natural resources should be used sustainably, how many indigenous populations have been appropriate guardians of them and of global biodiversity, and how it has been possible to opt for self-sufficiency and sourcing a lot of our food locally, potentially boosting a localization movement.
   Somewhere in between these truths is an understanding that collaboration and co-creation are potential ways forward for the industry: to both consume more mindfully and produce more responsibly. Climate activists like Greta Thunberg rightly point out that earlier generations could have done better, and COVID-19 may have woken more up to the idea that change can happen, and we can create a better way.
   It would seem more important, then, to look at brands and responsibility, both of which are beginning to be the ways out for many sectors.
   In the 2020s, it is becoming more evident that brands should promote a sense of belonging, because people agree with its values and wish to be seen to be connected with them. Perhaps the analogy of a desirable club is not inaccurate. The top–down approach of the generation before, mass marketing products through mass media, is history: it does not build brands, and is better left to low-cost retailers keen to push short-lived product over quality. In 2020, in the midst of COVID-19, there is no stigma to having less tidy hair or older clothes, because neither signals a lack of standing; and a brand pursuing a profit strategy over one centred around purpose may find such an approach off-putting to its audiences.
   Improving the pay of workers, for instance—something our fashion feature interviewee in this issue, Johan Graffner of the Swedish label Dedicated, does with its suppliers—has been shown to make them more productive. Essential workers during the COVID-19 crisis have been praised as people have come to appreciate the value of their work in providing our necessities. Reworking and reframing the relationship workers have over their work could be a way forward: that those who invest their labour have the same voice as those who invest their capital, something pushed for by a group that counts Profs Nancy Fraser, Thomas Piketty and thousands of scholars from around the planet. They note that a strategy centred purely on profit has led us astray. Providing dignity, however, may be more in line with how people have come to feel over their work.
   Fair Trade impacts the workers living in places where work has been outsourced. Simon Anholt, in his book Brand New Justice, goes further with suggesting a shared equity model. Building environmental and social strategies into the brand is yet another step that could be taken, with measurable outcomes—many metrics for this already exist. Kering (the parent to Gucci, YSL and others), for instance, has an Environmental Profit & Loss Account, which assigns a financial value to environmental impact.
   The other reset must come with our use of resources. If collaboration with one’s own workers is possible, then it must equally be possible to work with those who understand biodiversity best. My colleague at Medinge Dr Nicholas Ind writes, ‘Indigenous people represent 5% of the world population, but manage 80% of the Earth’s biodiversity.’ Yet this traditional knowledge is often overlooked, though it would be fair to say that people appreciate its value far more in the midst of this crisis.
   These greater goals are more appealing to the consumers who will emerge in a post-COVID-19 landscape. However, shifting to it, and giving it more than lip service, will require governmental support, the third limb in making this model work. Many territories have shown that working together with government and governmental agencies can defeat the virus: Taiwan, Hong Kong and New Zealand are among those that have experienced a largely unified approach and brought new daily infections close to zero. We can work on the same side. Intervention may be justified when it comes to wages, to prevent the temptation to force them down in order to maximize profits. Without governmental input, that US$20,000 million to US$30,000 million per annum target cannot be easily achieved.
   In such a context, it has made the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 particularly prescient as it sought to insulate the country from precisely such shocks by diversifying the economy and the labour force. The brands that have emerged now need to visibly demonstrate that they have desire, as well as the means, to be part of a better world—and make us want to belong.—Jack Yan, Publisher

 


Twelve things I do to keep balanced while working from home

Filed by Jack Yan/March 17, 2020/23.08

When I was 13, my father became self-employed after being made redundant at his work. By choice, my mother did the same when I was in my early 20s. They both loved the lifestyle and I imagine it was inevitable I would do the same in my career, beginning at a time when I was still studying.
   As some who self-isolate because of the COVID-19 pandemic say that their mental health is affected, I thought I’d share how I’ve been based at home for over three decades—a period that saw the founding of this magazine in 1997.

1. For those working, make sure it’s not just one project. There’s nothing more wearing that having just one thing to work on the entire day. I always have a few projects on the go, and make sure I switch between them. The second project should be a lighter one or be of less importance. Even if it’s not work, make sure it’s something that gives you a bit of variety.

2. Make sure you have a decent work set-up. I find it important to have a monitor where I can read things clearly. Also I set mine on a mode that restricts blue light. If you’re working at home, it’s not a bad idea to have comfortable settings on a screen. If your monitor doesn’t have a native mode to restrict blue light, there’s always F.lux, which is an excellent tool to make screens more comfortable.
   If you’re used to standard keyboards and mice, that’s great, but for me, I have to ensure my keyboard is either at around 400 mm in width or less, and my mouse has to be larger than the standard size since I have big hands. Ergonomics are important.


Above: Westward view from the publisher’s office

3. Find that spot. Find a comfortable space to base yourself with plenty of natural light and ventilation. At-home pet cats and dogs do it, take their lead.

4. Stretch. Again, the cats and dogs do it. Get out of that chair every now and then and make sure you don’t get too stiff working from your desk. Exercise if you wish to.

5. If you relax to white noise or find it comforting, there are places that can help. One friend of mine loves his podcasts, and others might like music, but I enjoy having the sound of web video. And if it’s interesting, you can always stop to watch it. One site I recently recommended is Thought Maybe, which has plenty of useful documentaries, including Adam Curtis’s ones. These give an insight into how parts of the world work, and you might even get some theories on just what landed us in this situation in 2020.
   When Aotearoa had two network TV channels, I dreamed of a time when I could have overseas stations accessible at my fingertips. That reality is now here with plenty of news channels online. If that’s too much doom and gloom, I’m sure there are others that you can tune into to have running in the background. Radio.net has a lot of genres of music.

6. Find that hobby. No point waiting till you retire. Was there something you always wanted to learn about but thought you’d never have time? I recommend Skillshare, which has lots of online courses on different subjects. You learn at your pace so you can delve into the course whenever you want, say once a day as a treat.

7. I do some social media but generally I limit myself. Because social media are antisocial, and they’re designed to suck up your time to make their owners rich (they look at how much attention they capture and sell that to advertisers), there’s no point doing something draining if you’ve got some good stuff to do in (1). However, they might be cathartic if you want to have some human contact or express your feelings. Personally, I prefer to blog, which was my catharsis in the mid-2000s, and which I find just as good today. It’s a pity the old Vox isn’t around these days as there’s much to be said for a long-form blogging network.
   Sarb Johal started the #StayatHomeEnts hashtag on Twitter where Tweeters have been putting up some advice on what we each do to keep entertained. I just had a scroll down and they’re really good!

8. Many of us have this technology to chat to others, let’s use it. We’re luckier in 2020 that there’s Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc. I had thought that if we didn’t have social media, we’d be finding this an ideal opportunity to connect with others around the planet and learning about other cultures. I remember in the early days of the web how fascinating it was to chat to people in chat rooms from places I had never visited. I realize these days there are some weirdos out there, who have spoiled the experience for the great majority. But I’m sure there are some safe places, and if they’re not around, see what friends are in the same boat and form your own virtual networks. Importantly, don’t restrict yourselves to your own country.

9. Don’t veg: do something creative. For those of us with a creative bent, draw, write, photograph, play a musical instrument—something to de-stress. I can’t get through a day without doing one creative thing.

10. Anything in the house that you said you’d always do? Now’s your chance to do it, and hopefully you’ve got your tools and equipment at home already.

11. If you’re in a relationship, don’t get on top of each other—have your own spaces. Having said that, seeing my partner helps as I used to go into town a few times a week for meetings; because I see her each day, that need to meet up with colleagues to get out of your own head space isn’t as strong.

12. Take plenty of breaks. You’d probably have to anyway, in order to cook (since you’re not heading out to a café) so structure in times to do this. It soon becomes second nature. Don’t plough through till well after your lunchtime or dinnertime: get a healthy routine. Remember that self-isolation means you can still go for walks, just not into crowded places or with someone. When we self-isolated in January over an unrelated bug, my partner and I headed to a local park that wasn’t busy during the day and we were the only ones there.

   Normally I would have a small amount of meetings during the week but as I get older, they’re actually fewer in number, so I can cope with not having them.
   Do you have any extra tips? Put them in the comments and let’s see if we can build on this together.—Jack Yan, Publisher

 


Instagram won’t replace the fashion magazine

Filed by Jack Yan/January 31, 2020/12.14


Lindsay Adler

Above: The cover from Lucire KSA, January 2020, modelled by Camille Hyde with fur by House of Fluff. Photographed by Lindsay Adler Photography, styled by Cannon/the Only Agency, hair by Linh Nguyen, and make-up by Joanne Gair using Danessa Myricks Beauty.

A few weeks ago, I got out of the habit of Instagramming. Since 2012, I did it initially out of fun, then as a way of keeping up with hobbies and a few friends, but when some personal changes happened, the habit left. Facebook I had departed for any personal updates in 2017, after some well documented problems—before Christopher Wylie voiced his concerns to The Observer, incidentally—while Twitter has revealed that its data-gathering doesn’t stop even when you’ve opted out of personalized advertising. Facebook does the same, and it’s public knowledge that it’s quite happy to sell these data to others.
   I thought it was a massive mistake for Facebook to remind us that it owned Instagram and Whatsapp through its latest branding efforts, because surely the parent company and its flagship product are tainted by now? It’s been further tainted by the stench of politics, the tribalism that they exhibit, and the outright lies its bosses tell.
   At some point, some government will develop the cohones to say monopoly power is bad and stifles innovation, changing Big Tech significantly. Perhaps some agency will have the guts to point out that regular deceptive comments to the public do have consequences. But till then, this first year of the decade won’t look too different from the last year of the last in terms of how the majority of people consume media, old and new.
   None of these fleeting media give you much depth, and Instagram is arguably the least tainted by politicking and negativity, showing pretty pictures (for the most part) that you can either like or scroll past.
   I was, therefore, surprised that in the last few years, I read one proclamation that the days were numbered for fashion magazines since there was Instagram. I beg to differ, and it’s not just out of a personal bias, but out of keen observations of the ebbs and flows of social media. Yes, I may have got out of the habit of Facebooking and Instagramming, but millions of others haven’t. But to say fashion magazines were a thing of the past? It’s hard to fathom.
   Instagram does give a few obvious benefits. Immediacy, for one. Users can then link the item to a smartphone-optimized shopping site. As a retail aid, it’s clever. It has video, where brand stories can be told. But, like any new medium, at best this complements what already exists. Instagram doesn’t replace long-form journalism told by an objective observer.
   At home we have a 34-year-old copy of The Australian Women’s Weekly. It’s the Christmas issue, and it’s packed with articles that entertain, with barely any sensationalism. The magazines of this era, buoyed by healthy advertising prices and editors who arguably enjoyed educating as much as entertaining, aren’t, to me, relics. Lucire has always strived to be a decent read, more so in our print editions, and while our presentation is more contemporary, our values haven’t changed. We moved past offering a magazine that was based around today’s news, with retail specials for the following month, long ago. We could see that wasn’t relevant in a digital age. But we repositioned and kept what did work. World-class photography. Interesting articles, properly subbed. You deserve a good read, where you pick up a copy and gain something from it. We also wanted to reflect (perhaps even preempt) your values about the environment and our place in this world. I think that’s why Lucire, in particular our original edition; our newest edition, Lucire KSA; and the former Twinpalms Lucire in Thailand, have reader appeal. It should last you for more than a single sitting. That December 1985 issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly could even last beyond the date the February 1986 issue went on sale.


Aleksandr Mavrin


Hilde Osland, via Instagram

Top: Like travel editor Stanley Moss, Russian model Viki Odintcova headed to Canggu, Bali, and shared this image from Wapa di Ume Sidemen photographed by Aleksandr Mavrin on her Instagram. Above: Hilde Osland models Fashionnova, not far from Lucire’s HQ in Wellington, New Zealand.

   Social media have only really replaced any medium that was fleeting and shallow. You could potentially get more insight into your favourite reality TV stars on their personal ’Grams than in a gossip magazine. Glamour models and certain celebrities—Viki Odintcova of Russia, and Norwegian-born, Australian-based model and singer Hilde Osland for two—may show more on their accounts than in lads’ magazines. Cellphone cameras can rival some professional ones in resolution, and while there’s no substitute for the professionally shot photos, those surfing social media and its small, rectangular, black-mirror format of all of seven inches are quite happy with “near enough”. And, indeed, for those professional images, especially editorials, a beautifully printed page has a totally different effect to something seen on screen.
   Digital is here to stay—and being one of the earliest proponents of that, we should know. Social will also stay, maybe offered by other firms, but we won’t break our addictions easily. Admittedly, as a company, we never expected social to play as big a part as it ultimately did. But print, and the long-form articles that appear in it, are going to stick around for a long time to come, too.—Jack Yan, Publisher

 


Oaks Wellington Hotel opens on Courtenay Place, in the heart of New Zealand’s capital

Filed by Jack Yan/November 19, 2019/21.47



Mauro Risch Photography

Jack Yan

The Oaks Wellington Hotel, which opened Monday, is located in an ideal spot in the capital city of New Zealand.
   Ask Wellingtonians which hotels spring to mind, and they’ll often be in the Featherston Street area—ideal for events such as the World of Wearable Art and the waterfront, but more of a trek to the city’s decent eateries along Courtenay Place, not to mention the 70 mm screen of the Embassy Theatre, ballets at the Opera House, convenient shopping at New World Supermarket or the weekend farmers’ market, the ever-vibrant shops of Cuba Mall, and the must-see exhibitions at Te Papa Tongarewa, National Museum of New Zealand. The nine-storey Oaks Wellington Hotel, situated at 89 Courtenay Place, next door to the St James Theatre, brings all of that to one’s doorstep—and the waterfront is still minutes away on foot.
   The launch on Monday attended by Lucire was hosted by Oaks Hotels, Resorts & Suites’ COO, Craig Hooley, the Hon Peeni Henare, associate minister of tourism, and the hotel’s GM, Jamie O’Donnell.
   After a NZ$33·5 million investment, working with the Chow brothers, who had been purchasing office blocks and turning them into hotels, the Oaks Wellington Hotel opened for business with rates beginning as low as NZ$165 per night.
   Lucire readers will already be familiar with Oaks’ sister group, Anantara, which has featured in our pages many times over the last decade. They are both part of the Minor Hotels’ group, and Oaks operates in five countries.
   The fact the Oaks Wellington Hotel is a block away from the Oaks, a local retail complex, is a coincidence—but sure to help those who know about the older building’s location.
   Older locals might know the location as the Colonial Motors building from 1922, and photos of Ford assembly lines appear on the ground floor, as a nod to its heritage.
   There are 226 rooms, and thanks to the building’s location, guests getting one of the outside suites could be facing in any direction, absorbing different Wellington vistas.
   Interior rooms are 25 m², with executive rooms getting an extra 4 m². Corner rooms on the top floor have wraparound balconies, and the largest room has 42 m² (not including its balcony).
   Antipodes supplies the Oaks’ amenities, and the hotel partners with Flight coffee, which is known for its fairer sourcing of coffee beans. O’Donnell pointed out the fibre internet in all rooms complementing the complimentary wifi—for those who’d prefer connecting to the internet with a cable, the Oaks has one covered. Smart TVs with Sky, and tea- and coffee-making amenities, are standard; kitchenettes are available with some suites. Reception has international power converters.
   Also enviable is the Oaks’ car park, which might be on the tight side, but it saves guests the trouble of looking for a spot in nearby buildings if they happen to book one of the 68 available.
   But you needn’t stay at the Oaks to enjoy all its facilities. A sizeable conference room aside (facing the Courtenay Place end), there is a standalone Oak & Vine restaurant, helmed by the excellent Kit Foe, whose CV includes cooking by appointment to HM the Queen. With Foe as executive chef, it’s a perfect restaurant to sample along one of Wellington’s favourite strips. Find out more at www.oakshotels.com/en/oaks-wellington-hotel.—Jack Yan, Publisher



Jack Yan



Mauro Risch Photography

Jack Yan

 


Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Hansel & Gretel: a family ballet where creativity fires on all cylinders

Filed by Jack Yan/November 6, 2019/12.23


Nicola Edmonds




Stephen A’Court


Garth Badger; make-up by Kiekie Stanners

Hansel & Gretel, the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s newest production, answers an important question: what can be made when you have every creative firing on all cylinders?
   Here we have Loughlan Prior (right) with his first full-length ballet, based on the Grimm Brothers’ collected story, with his outstanding vision, wonderful pacing and choreography; Claire Cowan composing an original score that underlines her versatility; and award-winning designer Kate Hawley, an international talent and veteran of blockbuster films whose creativity shone.
   Perhaps it should really be called Gretel & Hansel, for it is Kirby Selchow’s character of Gretel who proves the more resourceful (when Gretel is under the Witch’s spell, Selchow performs an excellent solo), while Hansel, attached to his toy rabbit, is played with childlike wonderment by Shaun James Kelly. The two dancers, who have appeared in countless RNZB productions, have come into their own in this one as leads, and it is stronger for their characterizations. The parents, played by Nadia Yanowsky and Joseph Skelton, have an enchanting pas de deux in the first act, when they realize the dire financial situation they face (broom-selling is a tough gig in the 1920s European town in which the ballet is set), yet the romantic dance demonstrates that their love and faith will see them through.
   This, and other pieces, emphasize that this is a classical ballet, one which is geared perfectly toward family audiences, with a wide appeal.
   Cowan’s newly composed score brings together numerous elements: romantic at times (the aforementioned pas de deux), jazz and Broadway (Act II’s Gingerbread House number with the Witch and gingerbread men), and cinematic (the parents’ emotional search for Gretel and Hansel in Act II). She is the first female composer commissioned to write a full-length score for an RNZB ballet, and one hopes that Cowan’s talents are recognized far more widely than they have been. Cowan helps redress the balance of the few women in her profession, and her work shows that the composing versatility of, say, Aaron Copland, who wrote for ballet and film, is, fortunately, very much still with us.
   Visually, Hawley—whose credits include costumes for Suicide Squad, Edge of Tomorrow for Christopher McQuarrie and Doug Liman, Liman’s Chaos Walking, Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, and Chris Sanders’ The Call of the Wild—shines here with her designs. The 1920s’ townsfolk and their black-and-white finery (top hats, fox furs) contrast the grey costumes of Hansel and Gretel and their family. In the forest, Hawley has turned the Dew Fairies into flappers, and the Sand Man (played by the tall ballerino Nathan Mennis) channels Buster Keaton with his costume.
   The team brings together numerous references: Méliès’s 1902 science fiction film Le voyage dans la lun is parodied with an ice-cream in place of the spaceship on the moon, working in the food theme; hypnotic circles in the background projection reminded us of pop art and, it must be said, some of Saul Bass’s film work; and the Dew Fairies’ numbers owe a little to Busby Berkeley (not on the same scale) and Million Dollar Mermaid, especially when we saw the Queen of the Dew Fairies, played by Mayu Tanigaito, who executed an impressive sequence of fouettés. The Witch’s transportation is a steampunk bicycle. The Gingerbread House’s components float and join together like an animation; the fact it is like a Tardis—bigger on the inside—is referenced in the notes. The Gingerbread House’s extreme colour (extravagant reds and pinks) and the Witch (Katharine Precourt) had the spectacle of ‘All That Jazz’ in Chicago meets Cabaret. (The ‘Eat Me’ sign is straight Broadway.) When the Witch’s true form is revealed (played by Paul Mathews, who camps it up), it’s out of early horror films. As Prior wrote in his notes, ‘She’s a mash-up: a cabaret performer, Kylie Minogue showgirl meets Leigh Bowery, vampiric Nosferatu.’ Indeed, the gingerbread men, with their hooded costumes, also channelled Bowery.
   There are additionally themes of income inequality—there is no middle class in this story, only the impoverished main family, and the richer city folk and private-school students who taunt Gretel and Hansel; of greed and child abduction, as in the Grimms’ tale; and of love (the original story in the Brothers Grimm’s collection did not have a “wicked stepmother”, and this adaptation follows that). What is not explained is the payoff at the end: a happy ending is what we expect (and we get one—not really a spoiler), but what happens to the Witch’s funds that the gingerbread men, presumably free from the spell that kept them subservient, present to the family?
   Two years of work went into Hansel & Gretel, and it shows. For those wondering where the RNZB would wind up under artistic director Patricia Barker, and the first year with Lester McGrath as executive director, here is your answer. It’s in a fine place when a creative team can stretch its legs like this. If you can remember their 2010 production of The Nutcracker, you’re coming close—but ramp up the originality more. Ryman Healthcare’s sponsorship has helped make it a reality, along with others. It’s a perfect family ballet for the holiday season, having commenced tonight (November 6), running through December 14. Wellington is its first location, before it tours to Palmerston North, Napier, Christchurch, Invercargill, Dunedin, Auckland and Takapuna. Full details are on the RNZB’s website.—Jack Yan, Publisher





Stephen A’Court


Kate Hawley’s designs for Gretel and Hansel.

 


Next Page »

 

Get more from Lucire

Our latest issue

Lucire 40
Check out our lavish print issue of Lucire in hard copy or for Ipad or Android.
Or download the latest issue of Lucire as a PDF from Scopalto

Lucire on Twitter

Lucire on Instagram