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Wednesday 08 April 2009

On stage: Bud at Wellington's BATS Theatre

Posted in: Performance
By David Cosgriff - 30th March 2009

Louis Solino in Bud
What to do with a bunch of venetian blinds and a 1950s homoerotic film?

Hmmm. Maybe weave a story around those elements and create a piece of captivating theatre. That's what writer and director Ronald Nelson, performer Louis Solino and others from the Toi Whakaari NZ Drama School have done. And from this evening it goes live on stage at the Bats Theatre in Wellington.

It's a one-man show but it is certainly not of the clichéd variety. Chances are you won't have seen anything quite like it before. It's new ground too for seasoned director Ronald Nelson (Onion, Corner 4 AM & Cuba) who is much more at home overseeing traditional theatre, with live music and no recorded voice-overs.

Even using video went against his natural instincts. "There's nothing I hate worse than a wanky video on stage but here we use it in an unusual way."

There's nothing usual about the story either, set in the 1950s. It follows a 65-year-old man and his recollections of something of a gay sexual nature that maybe happened (Nelson prefers to leave you guessing on that one) to him some 40 years ago. Memories spurred by watching Jean Genet's long banned homoerotic film of 1950, Un chant d amour.

Performer Louis Solino and writer/director Ronald Nelson talk through a scene
"Bud is an elusive story, there are massive things that are missing, it's not naturalism, and it's not realism, it's pretty abstract. This is a flaming example of new ideas in theatre. It's a very queer show but I wanted to do something beyond your standard cock and arse show with buff, young cute guys on stage.

"I'm really honoured and privileged to have Louis (Dancing the Gay Fandango, Fairy Tales) perform in this. He turned 68 last month and it's really great to talk about sexuality and sensuality with someone who's not 30. We're as happy as clams. He's stunning, really fun to watch."

Nelson says Solino's dancing abilities shine through. "You know, dancers, they could dance in the dark they know their bodies and they know their space so well. He's doing a remarkable job and I find him really engaging to look at.

"And it's a fascinating story, a rarely-told story of a whole generation of men. It will be challenging theatre and for many in the audience it will be like nothing they have ever seen before."

And Nelson is sure the experience for audiences will be both rewarding and leave a lasting impression. "It will be like taking a risk and going to an arthouse movie and for days afterwards, thanking yourself."

Five venetian blind movable panels are used throughout the performance, sometimes as a makeshift screen for the Genet movie, sometimes for other effects. Simple but effective. Well, maybe not that simple.

"We wanted the wide blinds like the 50s, and we had some agonising choices to make. Like we spent an entire day where we worked on castors and what kind of castors we would use for the movable frames, crazy kind of shit like that," Nelson says.

The costume, a 1950s suit is vintage – "a lot of love went into that" – and some of the exercises are authentic 50s as well. Keep an eye out for them.

Solino has an extensive background in dance and theatre. Toughest part for him was doing the improv with Nelson and finding out just who this Bud character really was. Bud is as much about exploring the banality life as it is as about expressing feelings and emotion through dance, story-telling, and visual effects.

"I think audiences will be entertained. If you don't like me there's the lights, if you don't like the lights there's the slides, or the music. Something has got to click for somebody," Solino says.


Wednesday 1 April – Thursday 9 April (no show Sun/Mon)
8.30pm at BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace, Wellington
Tickets: $16 full / $12 concession. Bookings email:

David Cosgriff - 30th March 2009