It was midday when I visited Trinity Hall in Kingsland, where the cast of Chance to Ignite were practicing for their upcoming show. I met with two of the energetic performers from the set, Stef and Eleanor, both of which eager to talk about the production.
“I’m Stef Fink, I’m 26 years old. I’ve been with Massive since 2010, straight out of high school. I started working with the ensemble, which is their group for ongoing training and development, we learn how they work, their devising process and all the tools that they use to make theatre. So this is the emerging artists show. I was in the emerging artists show last year as well called The Island — Which they haven’t done in a while but they’ve restarted recently as a bridge between the emerging artists and professionals show. Anyways, we’re a cast of seven women and we’ve all come through the ensemble.”
“I’m Eleanor Oxley. I’ve started Massive’s Nui ensemble which is the ongoing group back in 2012, so it’s been about 5 years. This is my first emerging artists show, it’s really exciting to dig my teeth into something substantial instead of the usual one week shows that we do. Massive tends to work in a quite physical way so all the shows they’ve done so far have always been pretty on to it, pretty fast and snappy. It’s just the nature of the work. When we came into the show we wanted to make a kickass, hardcore, powerful show and it’s really shaping up to be that.”
With most of Massive’s theatre being devised theatre, which is made from scratch by the company itself. Stef explains that personal stories have had an integral role in the production, aiming to make it more relatable to the audience.
“We work from what we call provocations, it can be anything from a story to a quote, a piece of music, a picture and it’s basically questions that are meant to illicit from you another kind of story. For example, I see a picture of a landscape and it makes me think of a story connected to this, then the story illustrates something about the human condition or young women or living in Auckland. It’s really a personal story that’s illustrated in a contemporary and generic way so everyone can relate to it. We want to tell people, this is our experience, this is what we think, what we do and hopefully people can interact with that and think about something in a different way.”
Being a cast of seven empowered women, Eleanor laughs and explains to me that they didn’t choose martial arts as a vital element – but martial arts chose them. It started off as a way for them to train and keep their stamina up, but developed into something more.
“Our co-director is also an MMA fighter and that’s also where it came from, she started training us on how to do that, thinking that these looked kick-ass, so let’s keep going because it brings so much power. We included boxing, jiujitsu, mainly those ones.”
With both Stef and Eleanor emphasising to me that the show was lead by a bunch of kick-ass women, I wondered if feminism was at the heart of this production. Stef explains that it’s not exactly feminism but the empowerment of women as a whole.
“We don’t have any direct pieces that are about feminism but we did talk a lot about mana wahine, this kind of power and presence that women have and can bring to the table in so many different forms. Inadvertently it has an underlying theme of feminism, but it’s not direct, I guess you can’t avoid it if you’re a cast of seven women. But it’s not a social justice based piece of theatre where we’re repping feminism. It’s for all audiences, for everyone about everyone. It’s difficult to have really feminist content because it often becomes preachy and alienating for audiences, it becomes a lecture of the good and the bad, this is something we don’t want.”
With their aim of reaching out to a diverse range of audiences, I asked what the specific message they wanted to leave with the audience was. Eleanor exclaimed that she wanted to reflect a person’s inner fire, personal drives and inspirations; while Stef talked about a journey of discovery, figuring out processes and people that have helped us along the way.
“I would love it if someone went home and thought about a piece then come to realisation a week later that that’s the thing they were talking about, how it relates to their life. Then they’re able to make all these connections. Some of the best theatre I’ve seen, I’ve left it, sifted through it and identified things similar in my daily life. Or even if someone goes home to their mum and thinks, you know what, you keep me going. I want someone to realise something they didn’t realise. I hope people feel like that with our show.”
With the powerful message and imagery behind Chance to Ignite, this has been described as Massive’s most physical show to date. Catch them in Auckland central or Mangere from 18th to 20th of July. Book your tickets here!