Review: Hyperspace - a heartwarming and emotional nostalgic trip back to the 90s

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Hyperspace is a nostalgic roller coaster that took me right back to my childhood - the 90s.

It was as if all my favourite 90s dance movies were compiled into one and brought to life on stage, but the New Zealand version. I had an inkling that the show was about aerobics, but never expected to laugh as hard or cry from the emotional plot and characters.

Only an amazing show and engaging script can evoke such an emotional response from its audience. I was hooked as soon as I walked into the theatre and Bobby Brown was playing - the playlist matched the energy of the choreography and the essence throughout the show.

Written by Albert Belz (Ngāti Porou, Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Pokai), directed by Tainui Tukiwaho (Te Arawa, Tūhoe, Whakatōhea, Ngāti Tūwharetoa) and choreographed by Jack Gray (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāpuhi, Te Rarawa), this powerful combination created a world engulfed in Kiwi humour and New Zealand authenticity with its plot, dialogue and nuances.

Set in Aotearoa in 1990, it was easy to immerse myself in the world of Natalie Te Rehua (Te Ao O Hinepehinga).

Natalie loves to dance more than life itself and is a go big or go home type of character.

Everything she does is about dance and she has a knack for pissing people off - including her previous Manager at McDonalds.

She would give her “tears, blood and snots” to get into dance school, she says. However, when she doesn’t get accepted, she still finds a way to dance by instructing dance classes at the local gym: Hyperspace Fitness Centre.

In a twist of events, or with her best friend Hiona Mohi (Te Ao o Hinepehinga) twisting her arm, Natalie finds herself competing in the New Zealand Aerobics Championship.

Initially, she scoffs at the idea and laughs at aerobics. But when there’s $10,000 up for grabs for the winner, she agrees. Natalie expects to win because of her go big or go home energy.

She can’t do it alone and has to partner up with haka queen Tawahi Patai (Kruze Tangira).

Māori storytelling and the need for more

Tawhai and Natalie butt heads when they first meet. As they develop into friends, the chemistry and banter are a big part of the laughs and cries for me.

Tawhai is another amazing dancer and despite his diva antics, he and Natalie share a similar journey when pursuing their love for dance.

There is a part where the two share a deep and meaningful moment that makes me realise that while it’s a comedy, there are tender moments like this throughout the play.

The reference to Kiwi soap Gloss was before my time, as Days of Our Lives was the it soap drama when I was growing up. However, I could understand the hype around the drama, the infidelity and the betrayal.

Ironically, this foreshadowed parts throughout the play of emotion, delving beyond the dancing, the leotards and surface drama. It’s more than the National Aerobics Championships when Natalie has a secret that only her brother Sonny knows about.

This secret could cost Natalie everything and the play dances around this, keeping the audience on their toes.

The collaboration between Auckland Theatre Company and Te Pou Theatre is a collaboration I never knew I needed. It’s a formula for creative success; especially given the platform to enhance Māori storytelling and one I’d loved to see more of, given the exceptional acting, dialogue and dancing.

Everything was top-tier. The show was so good I went to watch it twice - this time with my best friend. The experience was equally engaging, if not better. I connected to the plot, the characters and the themes. I laughed just as hard at the Kiwi-Māori humour as much as I cried in the tender moments of vulnerability.

Hyperspace is showing at the ASB Waterfront Theatre until Saturday, February 24.

For ticket information, visit: Auckland Theatre Company

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