There are very few tales like the one that Rodney Bell (Ngāti Maniapoto) brings to life on stage during the beautiful Meremere.
A dancer, a performer, an extraordinary human being, Bell weaves a tapestry of light, colour sound and most importantly movement before his enraptured audience over the course of sixty minutes that closely examines the details of a period of his life during which he was tested. Where many would have let this experience negatively shape them, Bell used it to learn, not only adapting to his environment, but evolving in such a way that he brought to it a beauty and a sense of home. His is a tale of continuing triumph despite the cards that he was dealt.
Meremere – created and performed by Bell and directed by Malia Johnston – follows Bell as he tells his story of finding himself homeless on the streets of San Francisco after his time in the states as principal dancer for the AXIS Dance Company (USA). It is a frank and open recount, with a decidedly kiwi element to it, and Bell imparts it well. His narrative which punctuates the performance throughout often evoking laughter from the audience, despite the tears that periodically tug at the corners of their eyes.
The simplistic yet deceptively clever stage layout which creates geometric shapes with backdrop sheets of white linen is used to full potential thanks to exceptional AV design by Rowan Pierce. Not only are snippets of live video used, but shadows and lighting design that paints pictures before the audience’s gaze, the space instantly springing to life and continuing to breathe throughout as Bell takes everyone from the bustling streets of San Francisco to the lush green grass and nearby waters of his homeland in Te Kuiti.
Add to this a stunning soundtrack performed live by Jol Mulholland, whose vocals and guitar work magnificently meld to wash over the stage and ensure that each piece flows into the next and this is a performance that just cannot be missed under any circumstances.
But above all, it is Rodney Bell himself that holds the audience throughout. From his cheeky smile and humble humour, through to his honesty and personal achievements; Bell takes all on a journey that leaves them breathless yet elated.
His physical performance is all consuming, his muscular torso, slicing through the air, commanding both light and sound with angular precision soon transforms into one that is fluid and emotive; the pièce de résistance a duet with fellow dancer Brydie Colquhoun that sees time itself stand still as they fold around eachother bodies with an organic grace and elegance.
Whether a lover of dance, music or the spoken word, Meremere holds something for all, a fact clearly illustrated by the standing ovation that lasted several minutes upon its conclusion.
May Aotearoa see many more performances from this award-winning artist.
Meremere is touring the country. Click HERE to find out where it is playing near you!
- Theatre Review: Meremere – Q Theatre – 10th April 2021 - 14 April 2021
- Deep, Q Theatre, 25 February 2020: Theatre Review - 29 February 2020
- No Holds Bard, Q Theatre, 25 February: Theatre Review - 28 February 2020