Rude Awakenings

Last saturday was a great weekend to be an Aucklander. The sun was shining, the Blues won, the Pasifika festival was marvellous, and the fireworks display in the Domain to herald the beginning of the AK07 Festival was breath-taking. White, brown and yellow intermingling as successfully on the grass as spectacularly in the fireworks above.

I want to bring something up here- when I want by definition ‘Kiwi’ music Fat freddys drop sits comfortably beside Crowded House, Bic Runga sits with ease beside the Feelers.

-when I want good quality Kiwi film Whale rider rests alongside Fastest Indian, No.2 rests alongside In my Father’s Den…

– the same can be said for the performing and visual arts, the literary arts, etc

hmmm I see a pattern emerging-that is, the strength of multiculturalism enriching our identity and arts. So someone tell me please why the THREE local dramas funded this year all focus and appeal to only one sector of the audience-that is the White, European Middle class?

Rude Awakenings star Jaxin Hall (who plays Dimity’s love-struck son Julian Rush) was the prize recently when NZ Girl ran a competition to dine out with him. The winner, Liselle, reported that Jaxin initially left her “dangling” when he was “waiting next door in the wrong place.” Liselle recovers to rate Jaxin as “near-perfect” although “he’s already taken (Cupid has a horrible sense of humour.)”

Liselle says “I continue to pick through my teriyaki chicken unsuccessfully with my chopsticks as I ponder how such a boy – affectionate, hopeless romantic, thoughtful… down-to-earth and self- described sentimental guy – came to be. Cupid may be a bastard but someone up there is doing their job right… It looks like I may have another date… this Friday 8.45pm on TV One with my TV set.”

Jaxin Hall goofs off between takes on the Rude Awakenings set with co-star Hannah Tasker-Poland.

Photo Geoff Short

Tonight, TV One 8.45pm

Dimity’s back gives out in a tug-of-war with Arthur, and Bonnie’s husband Jase (David Mackie) comforts her with a backrub. Taped by Ollie, this is dynamite in Constance’s hands. Sharon Short (Marise Wipani) attempts to sort out her wayward daughter but her lover Dara (Hera Dunleavy) goes on the attack.

The neighbour-loving gets physical tonight when the junk in Arthur’s backyard becomes a bone of contention.

And a frightening roadside encounter on the dance tour heralds catastrophe.

Hannah Tasker-Poland (Amber Short) is a prominent part of Pulp Magazine’s survey of the New Dance Movement called “Dancing to Our Own Beat” and Jaxin Hall (Julian Rush) is asked “What are the consequences of being popular?”

Hannah’s comments include: “I went straight from a dance audition to the Rude Awakenings audition, still sticky and smelly. But as soon as we started (shooting) I felt in my element. We’d spent so long rehearsing and getting to know the characters that it seemed pretty natural. I’ve done acting all my life but haven’t been trained. If it’s something you’re passionate about though, it’s possible to come across convincingly.”

Pulp comments: The show’s dramatic portrayals of rigorous dance training and demanding dance teachers “are pretty realistic. Even the [teachers who are] arseholes are good at what they do. The only things different were the scenes where I had to look like I was struggling. We had to dance at 50 percent – it was kind of fun!” The dance storyline surrounding Tasker-Poland’s character, Amber, plays a central part in the series. “I think it was because contemporary dance isn’t on TV much,” she muses. “Many people don’t really know what contemporary dance is. Having the character of a contemporary dancer in the programme shows that people are more interested. It’s introducing and promoting it.”

“The New Zealand dance community is thriving. Every work I’ve seen is inspiring. There’s such amazing talent here and people are creating opportunities for themselves. Rude Awakenings employed a lot of young dancers as extras and they’ve gone on to other great things.”

Jaxin Hall says “I’ve come across so many fake MySpace profiles of me, it’s ridiculous. One page had photos of me with my girlfriend that they had taken from somewhere, and the caption said ‘me and my best friend.’ There was this other girl that the person had on this page that was ‘MySpace Wife.’ They would write comments to each other and say ‘I love you, I can’t wait until we meet.’ I just thought, ‘this poor girl!’ She’s writing thinking this is me… this person could have ruined this girl’s life! I wrote to MySpace to take it down, and I wrote to the girl… she was really upset.”

Hannah Tasker-Poland (Amber) duets with Paora Taurima (Hemi)
under the critical eye of dance-teacher Pita (Stephen Butterworth).

Jaxin Hall (Julian Rush) admires Amber’s form while ignoring
the treacherous Zoe (Georgie Goater).

Photos: Geoff Short

Tonight, TV One 8.30pm

Dimity is on a natural high as her notice to evict Arthur ruins his birthday. While Dim celebrates with a new Ponsonby hairdo, Constance starts to work her devious magic behind the scenes, grooming Dimity’s seven year old Ollie as a secret agent and planting him back inside his own family as a mole. And Arthur discovers just how dodgy his mate Ralph really is.

Dimity (Danielle Cormack) has some fast talking to do when her drunk and amorous boss John Ackroyd (Peter Ford) pops in to admire her Ponsonby villa around bedtime.

Episode 4, Rude Awakenings

[Photo: Geoff Short]

NZ Herald TimeOut today:

It’s getting harder to like Dimity Rush each week but easier to love her bad behaviour. “Out with the old, in with the new,” is the bolshie Ponsnob’s mantra this week, as she kicks Arthur out on his birthday and gets a new haircut. Meanwhile, Ollie is recruited as a spy, and Connie bugs her mother about the “Sharongate” scandal involving dodgy Ralph.

NZ Herald Timeout, TV EYE 1 March:

Speaking of caricatures, Rude Awakenings is starting to improve, thanks mainly to its younger characters and the Romeo and Juliet romance developing between the Short-Rush teens. Dimity’s husband Stuart has chosen the path of wisdom and left the house in Ponsonby, and Dimity’s friend Bonnie has pulled back from lending her any money to buy the Short home.

Some people were cross when I criticised the series debut, others agreed. I maintain that twitchy Dimity remains the central problem. Is there anything to like about this woman? Having thrown herself at her repulsive trainer, alienated her kids and husband, and manipulated her boss, Dimity was momentarily vulnerable last week when a batty ex-employee barged into her house. Arthur valiantly came to the rescue and led her away. “Don’t call the cops,” he warned. So Dimity did.

I like Life On Mars because, unbelievable as its premise is, it is given credibility by a sympathetic, strong lead character. Rude Awakenings is set in a Ponsonby its real-life citizens do not recognise, let alone a neighbour like Dimity. Because a collection of mannerisms does not a character make.

“Two NZ-made programmes impress” by Gordon Brown

If there is one thing that’s good to see on New Zealand television, it’s New Zealand-made programmes. The beauty of New Zealand telly is we get to see ourselves on the box. And once you’re on it you know you’ve made it. During the last week I watched three New Zealand-made programmes.

Let’s start with the good. That was the new drama series Rude Awakenings (TV One, Fridays 8.30pm). The extended first episode had a bit of everything. There were some gratuitous sex scenes, although nothing that should have been covered wasn’t (if you’re not mortally offended by the sight of the odd bottom). There were one or two naughty words, although they were pretty much excusable in the context, and an alternative sexual preference, which is almost mandatory in New Zealand telly these days.

The basic plot is not new, but it is well done. Two families, one from each side of the social divide, are at war. There are plenty of sub-plots, with Arthur Short (played by veteran Kiwi actor Patrick Wilson) the real star of the show. He’s the working class stiff who is trying to bring up two daughters on a beer income in his rented Ponsonby home. He recently suffered the ignominy of having his wife leave him for a woman. That means he has to endure plenty of tasteless jibes from his working class mates and two young daughters.

On the other side of the political and social divide is the Rush family. Dad Stuart is a surgeon, or to be more precise, an anaesthetist, while wife Dimity is a corporate trainer or something as silly as her name. Played by Danielle Cormack, Dimity, or Dim for short, is obviously supposed to be the star of the show, and if it wasn’t for Arthur’s upstaging, she would be. Most of the plots revolve around her, which is perfectly understandable, because she thinks everything does revolve around her. She is egocentric, self-centered, snobbish, obsessed with her looks and is a real social climber. She has the hots for her personal trainer, but despite some rather too intimate massages and manipulation of muscles which shouldn’t be, she has so far managed to be faithful, just. Apart from all those downsides, she is quite likeable.

She wants to buy Arthur’s house, and offers money poor old Stuart insists they don’t have. That became an even bigger issue when his lack of skills as an anaesthetist came to the fore. In the first operation he didn’t quite put the female patient totally to sleep and when she heard the surgeons talking about things (hers) which they shouldn’t. Naturally she later threatens to sue.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the next operation is on a poor old bloke who has lopped off some of his toes. Stu definitely puts him to sleep; trouble is it turns out to be permanent. Stu is shattered when he finds out that dead bloke was taking Viagra and stuff, which, when mixed with the stuff Stu gave him, means he became a stiff, instead of, um, the other.

The kids are interesting. Rich boy Julian fell in love with one of his schoolmates (don’t worry, he was at a co-ed school, the odd heterosexual plot line is OK) but she then fell for the school sports jock. Julian responded in the traditional kiwi way by firing a dart at big jock. He scores the equivalent of a triple 20 by getting him right in the middle of the forehead. They are still trying to catch up with Julian. Judging by the dart left sticking out of his letterbox, its fair to say they probably want to even the score.

Arthur’s daughters promise to be more and more interesting. One is a dancer, who’s been chucked out of dance school by a heartless dance teacher. The other is at school and insists on filming everyone.

The success or otherwise of the series will be determined by how well the rest of it goes. The jury is still out, but it was a promising enough start.

“Fine Acting Up” by Trevor Agnew 14/2/7

Rude Awakenings (One, Friday, 8.30pm) is that rarity, a New Zealand-made drama series, which is good enough reason for watching it. The fact that it also has some interesting people engaged in lively, sometimes witty, conflict is a bonus. Basically, Rude Awakenings is Battlefield Ponsonby. In the first instalment, Dimity Rush fled a Kumeu lifestyle block, dragging her husband Stuart and their two sons to a clinically renovated villa in Ginger Street. Next door was a much scruffier wreck inhabited by another scruffy wreck, Arthur Short, a burned-out single parent and former social worker who has been renting the house for 20 years. Will Dimity buy the property and turf Arthur out or will she flee his acrid backyard bonfire and midnight bagpipe performances of The Red Flag?

This is the good old class battle disguised as a real-estate issue, with cheerful badinage and some very attractive location filming. Look carefully at the two villas. Dimity’s is typical of upmarket Ponsonby, hygienically refitted like the interior of a new fridge. With its rusty roof and brown interiors, Arthur’s home looks more like an overused ashtray.

So far, the characters have only been lightly sketched in, but there is plenty of scope here. Danielle Cormack and Patrick Wilson had fun in the main combat leader roles, while Carl Bland is intriguing as Dimity’s worried husband. He’s lost interest in his job as an anaesthetist after a couple of crises and may be looking for a change. She’s the human resources manager at what appears to be a debt-collection agency (with some very droll cameos of her unfortunate colleagues), but she’s definitely taking an interest in the real-estate racket. Just as Dimity tosses out old clothes and old friends, she may also be looking for a new career and even a new husband. Meanwhile she has to dispose of an old nuisance – Arthur. At the same time, two of the younger generation, Julian and Amber, are edging towards a Romeo and Juliet sub-plot. This series is lively fun and deserves our support.

TVNZ surprises with minor miracle (13/2/7)

by Lois Davey

Well, knock me down and paint me pink. I never thought I’d see the day when I thoroughly enjoyed a New Zealand drama series.

And in an unusual twist to this minor miracle, I’m actually looking forward to the next installment of TV1’s Rude Awakenings, a comedy/ drama that has it all, and goes slightly over the top, but still manages to stay humourously grounded in many of life’s realities.

The shining star of this Coronation Street meets Ponsonby Rd saga has got to be Danielle Cormack in the role of Dimity Rush, an HR manager with a single-minded determination to embrace Auckland’s upmarket lifestyle. Cormack strides through her role with the air of a stock exchange trader on speed. She never misses a beat and breathes life into the already lively plot.

Frankly, I don’t need to see any more New Zealand actresses in any series for the remainder of the year – from last Friday’s episode she will (if there is any justice) walk away with Best Actress at the next annual dishing-out of awards beanfest.

The Rushes (what a shame for me they weren’t called the Longs!) have moved in next door to the Shorts who have lived comfortably, if haphazardly, in their rented house for 20 years but are faced with eviction due to market forces (landlord, estate agent and Dimity Rush).

This is an interesting set-up presided over by solo-parent Arthur, who is adament the New Way of Things will not be allowed to upset his double-decade applecart, even though new ways have seen his wife run off with a lesbian, leaving him to cope with two very different daughters – one of whom’s primly ways put me in mind of Ab Fab’s Saffie. And into this lifely mix we have the Rushes’ elder son who’s the target of teenage retribution, Arthur’s lawless lodger and Dimity’s anaesthetist husband, who’s just buckled under a grab bag of pressures.

On the face of it, you’d think there was an overload of variety tossed wantonly into this situation comedy, but strangely enough whoever was responsible for the pick’n’mix, has come up trumps with an eminently workable selection. The show is funny, snappy, entertaining, well-acted and – whoopee, roll on 8.30pm Friday.