It may be 2024, but playwright Albert Belz (Ngati Porou, Ngā Puhi, Ngati Pokai) wants you to stretch like it's 1990. Dedicated to the pump of aerobics, Belz’s new play Hyperspace is an unapologetic 1990 nostalgia fest.
On the TV it’s ‘The Hoff’ and Pamela Anderson on Baywatch, and locally big shoulder pads are still the rage on hit series Gloss. But much of the action of Hyperspace takes place in the gym and nightclub: our two protagonists look to give things a Māori twist as they attempt to take out the 1990 Miami Wine Cooler Timotei Aerobics Finals.
For all the laughs and hot moves, there’s also great heart and a serious core to Belz’s play. Hyperspace raises questions about the way we value different strands of our culture and - to reference a big hit of the year from German metallers The Scorpions - augurs the winds of change in the flowering of contemporary Māori culture.
It’s no wonder Belz is nostalgic for the time: he was 17, soon to join the cast of the fledgling Shortland Street as an actor. He would turn to playwriting and gain acclaim for telling his own stories after the turn of the millennium.
Indeed, Hyperspace follows Belz’s popular 2019 play Astroman, which mined his even younger years: the early '80s in Whakatāne, where spacies parlours and BMXs ruled. Hyperspace isn’t a reference to an internet yet to feature in people’s lives, but likely video game Defender.
Hyperspace premieres 7-24 February in Tāmaki Makaurau. It’s a co-production between Te Po Theatre and Auckland Theatre Company, directed by Tainui Tukiwaho. The play won Belz last year’s prestigious 2023 Adam NZ Play Award.
Culture 101’s Mark Amery spoke to Albert Belz in Darwin where he’s now based.