Category Archives: Theatre

Reviewing styles

Oops. Forgot to cross post yesterday’s review from the Wellingtonista to here yesterday. I promise I blogged yesterday…just not here. Anyway it’s up now. The two reviews show my contrasting reviewing style depending on who I’m writing for. On the official site that I review theatre for I’m much more circumspect about what happens. I tend to write about the ‘how’ of things. My style is based on informing people what the show is like so they can make up their own mind whether to go. I name check anyone I think has done a great job. On my own site I’m much more freewheeling about the things I write about. I still try to avoid spoilers but I might include some of the moments that stood out for me in the production.

I was asked to write for the Wellingtonista based on the reviews that I (used to) write here so I’m not sure I’m giving them what they want. I imagine that they’d like me to be a bit more timely…


Review: Lysistrata

War has been going on forever. Lysistrata convinces the women of Greece and the known world to withhold sex from their husbands (and lovers, occasional shags, one-night-stands etc) in order to force the men to broker world peace. The women agree and despite being tempted hold true to their promise. Will the men come together and stop fighting so they can get laid?

Adapted from the play by Aristophanes Lysistrata is sexy, silly, political, and meta-theatrical. It’s energetic in true Bacchanals fashion with actors playing multiple characters, gender neutral casting, live music, and choreographed dancing.  There are numerous pop culture references, pointed political jokes, a tiny bit of self-promotion along with fantastic chorus work and comic timing. Occasionally it feels like a lecture on the woes of the world but mostly it is anti-war rhetoric of the most entertaining sort.

N.B. Originally published Wellingtonista, June 3 2015.


Review: Grandad’s Lucky Storm

The small audience is ushered into the theatre space through a door into what looks like someone’s workroom/garage. It appears we are grandkids and our Mum has dropped us off at Grandad’s place at short notice. She’s driven away, leaving us with a man who barely knows us. He’s thrilled to have us there, although he’s a bit nervous. What’s he going to do to keep us entertained? He’ll tell us his story.

Written by Rachel Callinan from an idea by Stephen Blackburn this is clever storytelling which mostly keeps the attention of even the youngest children. (It’s billed at 5+ but I think that any child who can listen to a story for an hour will be fine.) On the surface the story is a straightforward one about adventures on the high-seas. Underneath it lies the true story of Grandad’s criminal past. It’s very well done and would provide good opportunity for discussion on the way home.  Special mention to Theo Wijnsma for the set design. The best blanket fort I’ve ever been inside is constructed around us. Random motorbike components turn into various bits of a pirate ship.

Jason Whyte is Grandad. He’s all fidgety nervous energy. Most of the story is told behind a table, but there’s enough moving around the realistic set to ensure that everyone in the audience is close to the action.

An excellent show for the school holidays.


The immersive show that changed my life

This is something I wrote a few days after I’d been to see Apollo 13: Mission Control. Originally posted on FB I’m reposting it here because I needed to be reminded of how it made me feel. I wrote it in 2009. It’s unchanged.

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K’Rd Strip

I went to see K’Rd Strip last night at Downstage Theatre.  I enjoyed it very much. The publicity material makes it look like it will be all glittery fierceness. I found it to be engaging, fun, melancholic, sexy, hilarious, and clever. It’s full of NZ songs, chosen for their lyrical appropriateness, with delightful and surprising arrangements. I’m impressed at the way the stories of the people of K Rd were woven through and told either through the song or in little vignettes.

Also (quite selfishly) more men should wear guyliner and short skirts.




I am going to see Tu. It’s closing night tonight. Here’s hoping it’s not as dramatic as opening night when an audience member was taken sick. (The cast, crew, and theatre staff handled the situation extremely well but still…)



Matariki Development Festival

I went to the final set of play readings at the Matariki Development Festival today. The festival is a week long series of workshops for new works by Maori writers. This is where a script is read by a cast, they play with some of the scenes, and ask questions of the writer. The writer then has the opportunity to make some rewrites. The play readings vary from a static read (the cast sit in one place and read from the script) through to an on-book performance (with simple blocking, minimal props.) The two works showcased today were quite different. One was excerpts from a play at the very beginning of its life. The other was a more mature work which had many of us in audience crying with laughter, then in sorrow. I can’t wait to see it in production. Ka rawe!


Sydney Bridge Upside Down

Sydney Bridge Upside Down

This is tonight’s viewing.


Everything is ka pai

This was the first thing I went to after I arrived in Auckland for the Auckland Arts Festival 2013. It was a fantastic way to start, not least of which was running into people I know. I saw more people that I knew in the 15 mins before the show started than I ever do on the streets of Wellington. (So what if most of them were from Wellington…)

According to the Festival website, Everything is ka pai “In a nutshell: Kiwi crooners, class acts and good times” which is a pretty accurate description of what we got. (It’s missing out on the ‘heart’ bit of the equation but I guess there was a word count.)  It was held in the Auckland Town Hall, a lovely fancy venue. The audience were ready to engage with the performers and the performers were warm towards the audience.

So it starts in the dark with Hinewehi Mohi and Tama Nathan performing Haere Mai (Everything is ka pai), kicks into gear with house band The Yoots (THE YOOTS), digs into my heart with Seth Haapu and Blue Smoke (marred by an annoying buzzing but still beautiful), then brings the cheeky with the Modern Maori Quartet’s version of Pokarekare Ana. Four tracks in, there are people dancing in the aisles and smiles all over the place. Our first chance to sing along is Tutira Mai Nga Iwi. It’s a bit dodgy (the band has solos which are fantastic but confuse us) which adds to the charm of the night. It feels like we are all responsible for how it goes.  Maisey Rika with the St Joseph’s Maori Girls Choir sing a Hirini Melbourne waiata, then Te Waka Huia (TE WAKA HUIA) take us Round the Motu with waiata from all over NZ. It’s a fantastic combination of songs in English and songs in Maori. The Modern Maori Quartet are back with Cruise (arranged by Tama Waipara who arranged the evening), then Ten Guitars played by Ten Good Wa(hine)s (hahaha) featuring Anika Moa and Julia Deans. The two featured women have a wonderful rapport, hilariously trying to out do each other’s vocals. The Ten Good Wa’s include a string quartet, several guitars and a ukulele. The first half closes with Ria Hall belting out Whakaaria Mai. Actually, that undersells what she does but I can’t think of some other way to describe it. I guess it’s that she sings her spirit into the waiata.

In the break I nip out to get a couple glasses of wine (1 for me and 1 for a friend) only to almost spill them when Stan Walker bumps into me. I find my friend again and she invites me to sit at her table. It was fun sitting at the back being able to see almost the whole audience but not so fun not being able to see past the sound guy who kept standing up. (Sit down bro, you’re in the way.) Her table is halfway down on the side. Immediately I spot another two friends. I’ve been at this new table for 10 seconds and already I’m ignoring them. Happily there’s enough time to be introduced to everyone. I also have a good chat with my closest table mate. He and his partner have been in the country for 5 weeks. They love the concert, particularly the MMQ. (Not surprising I guess. Gorgeous men with lovely voices and a little bit cheeky.)

The second half starts with a conga line around the hall. Somehow I’m dragged in (actually I know how, Miria George *glares*) and dance my way around the tables. Will and Annie Crummer with The Rarotongans sing three songs. Song number two Aue Taku Tane has the whole crowd spellbound. Maisey Rika, Ria Hall and Annie Crummer are back with a song celebrating Ethnic Beauty. I’m not entirely sure about the lyrics although once again, I guess there’s a limit to how many ideas you can get into a thing. Finally John Rowles sings Cheryl Moana Marie and If I Only Had Time. My friend was so excited that we had to stand to the side. She couldn’t stay seated. It was a little like seeing a living legend…actually, it was exactly that. I can’t exactly remember what happened next – either Te Waka Huia came back out and sang Poi E OR the marching band came out playing Maori Battalion March to Victory. All I remember at the end was an overwhelming sense of good humour and aroha. Not a bad way to finish a performance.

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Dog and Bone

After tonight’s performance of Dog and Bone we were invited to say something. Not to be shy. That if we had something to say there was a space for us to stand and say it. Kei te whakama ahau. Kaore au e tu. Kaore au e korero. I was moved by something but I did not speak. I must learn to stand. Then to speak. Aroha mai, Te Rakau Hua o te Wao Tapu Trust. This is what I should have said.

Toi te kupu. Toi te mana. Toi te whenua. Tihei Mauri Ora. Tena koutou katoa. He mihi tenei ki nga atua Maori. Kei te mihi, kei te mihi. E te roopu performance he mihi tenei ki a koutou. Ka pai to mahi. Kei te mihi, kei te mihi.
He mihi tenei ki a koutou kua haere mai nei i tenei po. Kei te makariri i tenei po. Kei te mihi, kei te mihi.
Ko wai au? Ko Tainui te waka. Ko Ngati Raukawa to iwi. Ko Ngati Tukorehe te hapu. Ko Kris Wehipeihana toku ingoa. Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.
The first time I was in Dunedin, my friend drove me out on the causeway, and told me the story of the caves. It was unbelievable. I could not believe that people would do that to other people. I mean, I know that Dunedin gets hot, I’ve been there when it’s 30 degrees. But I’ve seen pictures of the snow…and that they would work people that hard? And make them live in those conditions? It was unbelievable to me. They were alienated from their land. And that happened in many ways. Like we have seen here tonight.
This play is one of a continuim of New Zealand plays that I am seeing this week. I saw One Day Moko on Tuesday. It’s about homelessness. I saw The Prospect last night. It’s about a gang in small town New Zealand. On Saturday I’m going to see Michael James Manaia. They are all New Zealand stories, they may all be Maori stories. I want to thank you for adding to that continuim. Cast and crew. He mihinui ki a koutou. I particularly want to reference Ngati Irawaru who were there all the time. You were beautiful. Beautiful and terrifying. I loved the mix of traditional performance and the dreamlike sequences that you featured in. Thank you.
The ideas in the script seem very foreign to me. “Half caste” “Nigger” “Savages” ‘We’re all doomed.’ I know we are not perfect, but we’re a long way from doomed. I am grateful that those ideas are so very far away from me. And from what I see in the people around me, and the people I saw on stage. I’m learning Maori, as you are learning your craft. I say that as someone who knows that this is a process that continues over a lifetime. That as you grow, and the stories that you tell change, and the people you tell those stories to change, you learn a little more. Thank you for letting us come on this journey with you. Or at least, this little bit of it. No reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.