Auckland Arts Festival: How to Keep an Alien - Review

by James Wenley / 24 March, 2017

How to Keep an Alien is a tale of falling in love and proving it to the government. Photo/Anthony Woods.


Collective head explosion

Arcane immigration policies are given a human face in this cross-hemisphere love story threatened by an Irish visa running out. 

Sonya, an actor living in Ireland, meets Kate, a stage-manager visiting from Australia while working on a play. With two weeks until Kate’s deportation, they begin a showmance, revelling in their “futureless passion.” Sonya tells us that if life was a movie, she’d have joined Kate on her flight back to Australia, but “life is not a movie.” We are, however, watching a stage-show, and we know that there are plot developments and dramatic reversals yet to come.

Sonya has the actor’s insecurity that she has wasted her life “pretending to be fake people.” Through How to Keep an Alien, Sonya Kelly seems to have solved the problem by playing herself in this autobiographical show. She’s a loveable performer with an easy humour and penchant for droll similes and metaphors (romance is described as a dopamine Jacuzzi with serotonin bath salts). The Auckland audience also rather enjoy her dips into the Aussie accent.

The relationship between an actor and their stage-manager is presented by having Paul Curley sit at an on-stage desk and support her from the side. Too often these interactions are distracting or cloying, and the set-up that Sonya has written some things in the script for him to do just before this particular performance is unnecessary. I’d say get rid of the role, if not for Curley’s show-stealing musical solo.

Soon enough Kate wangles her way back to Ireland on a holiday visa, and they decide to try to make things more permanent. This brings them to the Irish immigration service, and they are told that one qualification for a de-facto visa is that they need to show that they have spent two years together, yet the rules were preventing them from doing exactly that. I’m pretty sure all our heads collectively exploded at that point.

The request to quantify their relationship for the immigration service has a number of possibilities for dramatic soul searching. How do we prove a feeling? Why do we love each other? Do we love each other? These aren’t fully exploited. True, there are some prickly moments, as Sonya asks, “how do people go through all this and not want to kill each other?”, but Kate remains safely perched on a pedestal for the most part.

There’s an acknowledgement that not all immigration or asylum experiences end happily, but there’s never much doubt how this one will go (especially once they figure out exactly what is involved to gain that de-facto visa). This show provides the feels, right down to the final “real-life” movie-montage. Is it hot in here, or is my heart feeling warm?

How to Keep an Alien, Q Loft, until March 26.

Auckland Arts Festival 2017

Get Metro delivered to your inbox

Subscribe now


/MetromagnzL @Metromagnz @Metromagnz




The art and soul of Te Papa
88235 2018-03-17 00:00:00Z Arts

The art and soul of Te Papa

by Sally Blundell

Twenty years ago, Te Papa opened with little space to exhibit its national art collection. Now, it is showing off its new dedicated art space.

Read more
Does chewing more help curb your appetite?
87918 2018-03-17 00:00:00Z Nutrition

Does chewing more help curb your appetite?

by Jennifer Bowden

Our appetite-control hormones are affected by chewing, according to some studies, whereas others show no change.

Read more
How Auckland rapper JessB went from face in the crowd to queen of the stage
88396 2018-03-16 09:42:00Z Music

How Auckland rapper JessB went from face in the cr…

by Vomle Springford

Auckland rapper JessB is making her mark in the male-dominated hip-hop scene with the release of her much-anticipated debut EP Bloom.

Read more
Defence Minister Ron Mark defends his use of military aircraft
88389 2018-03-16 07:02:40Z Politics

Defence Minister Ron Mark defends his use of milit…

by Craig McCulloch

Defence Minister Ron Mark is denying any inappropriate use of military aircraft after revelations he has used them to fly to and from home.

Read more
Corrections moves sex offenders from lodge close to school
88387 2018-03-16 06:55:59Z Crime

Corrections moves sex offenders from lodge close t…

by Eva Corlett and Sally Murphy

Corrections says it will review its processes after it was discovered 11 sex offenders were living less than a kilometre away from an Auckland school.

Read more
Rodney Walshe: One of Ireland's best-known exports to New Zealand
88222 2018-03-16 00:00:00Z Profiles

Rodney Walshe: One of Ireland's best-known exports…

by Clare de Lore

When he arrived here from Ireland in 1960, Rodney Walshe had nothing but a suit and the gift of the gab. They took him a long way.

Read more
Derek Handley talks Trump, business and coming home
88378 2018-03-16 00:00:00Z Profiles

Derek Handley talks Trump, business and coming hom…

by Clare de Lore

The nomadic New Zealander who’s set his sights on space travel is no longer an alien.

Read more
How Lisa Walker went from teenage Wellington punk to celebrated jeweller
88263 2018-03-16 00:00:00Z What's on

How Lisa Walker went from teenage Wellington punk …

by Mike White

The Anarchist jeweller has a remarkable show at new Te Papa gallery, Toi Art.

Read more