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Theatre review: Hyperspace

Hyperspace is Albert Belz’s latest play for Auckland Theatre Company. Set in 1990, the story is about a grumpy wahine called Natalie (Te Ao O Hinepehinga) who desperately wants to become a dancer, but her attitude and aggressiveness means no one wants to work with her. Natalie’s best friend Jennifer (Anna-Marie Thomas) is her staunchest ally and critic and is in a relationship with her brother Sonny (Kauri Williams).

Eventually Natalie gets a job as an aerobics teacher and soon finds herself at loggerheads with Tāwhai (Kruze Tangira) who sees himself as the undisputed ‘Queen’ of aerobics at the gym. 

What forces them to work together is a chance to win $10,000 in the upcoming National Aerobics Championship. Unknown to everyone, except her brother, is the fact that Natalie has a life-threatening illness.

Hyperspace is a very well performed show with a stunning soundtrack and very slick choreography. The cast works incredibly well together and all give genuine and believable performances. 

The script is at times hilarious and cleverly pokes fun at 90s culture from the newness of lattes, bulky TVs, VHS tapes and of course the luridly coloured and somewhat oversized clothing that seemed to be all the rage.

It is a pleasant bit of nostalgia that contains amusing references to New Zealand’s late night soap opera Gloss and even features delightful cameos from two of the stars of that show, Peter Elliott and Lisa Chappell. 

One of the curious things that Hyperspace reminded me was how much good music there was in the 90s, and even though aerobics how seems to be regarded as a joke, back then it was popular, fun, and actually involved a high level of fitness and expertise. I’m sure the derision comes from the fashion and of course the 90s hair styles, but it did create community and colour. I wonder in this more cynical 21st Century we’ve lost some of that. 

There were one or two issues I had with the production. The first half before intermission set the scene and the main conflicts between characters, but it took a long time doing so, and lacked substantive tension. The humour and dance routines were great, but seemed to overpower the plot. 

It was in the second half that the play really found its stride and served up an incredibly powerful scene between Natalie and Tāwhai. 

In this deeply emotional moment, they both share incredibly painful incidents from their past and finally admit the pain within. In Tāwhai’s case, as a gay man, it provided a searing indictment of the horrific way society and supposed loved ones can treat people who are different. 

Despite the pacing issues mentioned above, Hyperspace is a fun night at the theatre. 

HYPERSPACE 

7-24 February 2024

Tickets and information 

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