May 10, 2018

Still Life with Chickens

It won the Adam Award for Best New Zealand Play last year so you can be pretty confident that Still Life with Chickens will be good. But how is such a simple set up - a lady in her garden, talking to a chicken good? I don't know what to tell you, it just is.

It's short but it packs a punch. The real grit is hidden in the middle amongst phone calls to granddaughters and feeding the chicken, that really happened. Goretti Chadwick plays Mama who uses her passive aggressiveness to hide her loneliness and the skeletons in her closet. It's quite a talent to play to a puppet and a recorded voice.

I wouldn't have believed that a puppet could emote, but it did. The chicken is a character in itself, so much so that, even though the puppeteer is on stage you ignore him.

The play is sweet and well worth a watch but I wish it had more grit, that it explored the dark sides a bit more. Be warned that is only 45 minutes long - just a little over $1 a minute.

Performances: 8 May-2 June, 7:30pm (Tues-Sat), 4:30pm (Sun)
Tickets: $46

March 31, 2018

Raw Comedy 2018: Heat 5

Neil Thornton reminds the audience, while the judges deliberate, that the performers are amateurs. We are to be nice to them, tell them they've done a good job and don't point out the comedian that was better than them. Well, hell, how am I meant to write a review after that?

Let's start by acknowledging that it takes guts to stand up in front of a room of strangers and do, well, stand up. It also takes preparation which unfortunately not all performers had done. Despite this there were only two performers who were actively boring. The female comedians seemed to be stronger, or perhaps there were just more of them, this was reflected in the final outcome; of the four moving forward three were female.

Knowing the criteria for judging may have made some sense of the judges final decisions. If it was based purely on laughs (and not the pity kind) then two of the four really deserved to be there and another performer was robbed of their place.

It's difficult to write a review with your hands tied behind your back. The night was more enjoyable, and longer, than expected. There was more laughs, more talent and more audience than anticipated. It was a good night and I saw at least one performer (ok, I'm going to name them), Jessica, who's career I'll be watching.

The final heat (6) is April 5th at the Fringe Bar.

February 25, 2018


The newly renovated Circa is covered in paper, the walls at least, it's dressed up like a haunted house. The set up would have been better for a house of horrors. It had a slightly voyeuristic feel, encountering dancers trapped in their own thoughts, peering through doorways and peepholes. Even in the hallways, obstructing traffic, there are lithe young things gyrating. Some of it is beautiful but it doesn't seem to have a point or tell any story. Performers moved from room to room, it was disconcerting not to know if people were members or the audience or dancers. There were small moments of delight, of calm amongst the chaos, a quiet figure moving elegantly behind a peephole. The grand finale was a dance floor surrounded by plastic sheets, if it had been a haunted house that would have made an amazing party at the end of it - just add punch.

I would have preferred an actual tour backstage at Circa with stories about what had happened there, maybe a few vignette scattered around. I wouldn't recommend if you are at all Claustrophobic as it didn't seem like you could get out of there easily and the crowds and thumping music and confusion made it seem close.

Performances: 23 Feb-5 March (times vary)
Tickets: $42 

February 8, 2018

Tierra y Mar: A Flamenco Guitar Project

This is not your usual Circa Theatre fare; we've grown to expect at least a little context to accompany music. Paul Bosauder, the guitarist, is award winning and exceptionally talented but he is also quiet spoken and was somewhat overshadowed by the dramatic personality of the vocalist. She stole the show with her voice and personality, even though we couldn't understand her as she only spoke Spanish.

The style of music feels unpredictable with a mix of beats and improvisational style. You could see the performers checking what each other was doing, at times they seemed to be on different beats yet somehow it appeared intentional. But the music was too loud for the small space; it would have been better without amplification, the end of the night proved it wasn't necessary.

The first half was stifling hot and meant the instruments had to be tuned constantly. During the second half the air conditioning was on but it unfortunately caused a stream of cold air to be directed at the vocalist. The performers became more comfortable as the night progressed culminating in two encores which were the best part of the show. Not only were they relaxed but the vocalist had room to move, which she did beautifully, and without microphones the strange echo effect was gone.

If you like this style of music you'll love this show, if you're not familiar with it you may find yourself wondering why they didn't give the vocalist free rein and put her as the centre piece.

Note: bring cash to purchase a CD

: 8-10 February, 8:30pm
Tickets: $52

December 4, 2017

Reflections: New Zealand Women in Art

"Small but perfectly formed," a woman murmured as she passed me on her way out of the New Zealand Woman in Art exhibition. I had to agree.

Exhibitions at the Katherine Mansfield House and Garden in the past have been a little stifling. So many things in one room you could barely move without bumping something. No space for contemplation.

This exhibition is a bold endeavor "to create a space which reflects women's perspectives and expands the conversation" by showing images of women by women.

Ten, well selected, pieces from the BNZ art collection are given room to breath with just one poster board narrative as accompaniment. Even though I generally don't appreciate modern art I found two pieces I could engage with. This speaks well for viewers who are more open minded.

The museum has been updated too. I can't place my finger on exactly what the changes are but the house seems lighter; a layer of clutter has been removed, furniture and trinkets have been slightly repositioned but are now visible. It's believable that it was once a home.

Open: 15 November - 25 March
Cost: $8 (museum entry fee)

November 24, 2017

Sing it Wrong

The concept is great: take any popular song and write a humorous version of the lyrics. Add a bunch of different performers and that pretty much sums up Sing it Wrong. It's easy to see why this format has been nominated for Best Regular Show but unclear why it's not more popular; the majority of the audience appeared to be there in support.

The host(esse)s introduced all the acts like we should know who they are but I only recognised one name. It would have been nice to have a run down on who each person was, especially as it was promoted that not all of them were normally performers.

There were some good lyrics, some good singing but only one act really bought the two elements together without relying on sex or swearing for cheap laughs. Emma Wollum's voice was exceptional, it sounded like she was recorded. Her lyrics were topical, amusing and thought provoking. Yes, Paddles death was an assassination. You're no ones favourite Mallory, a version of Valarie about The Babysitters Club, deserves honourable mention.

Based on the fact that it's nominated for "Best Regular Show" there should be another one coming up soon. But, unfortunately they haven't promoted when that is or I'd tell you.

November 22, 2017

Peter Pan the Pantomime

All of Wellington mourned when Circa announced 2016 would be the last Roger Hall Pantomime. But this did not mean the demise of the ever popular summer production. Pinky Agnew and Lorae Parry, the wonderful pair who wrote the hilarious Destination Beehive 2017, took up their pens to provide us with this years appropriately heavily political panto; Peter Pan the Pantomime.

It was a shame neither of them acted, it would be a treat to have Helen Clarke wonder on stage and face off against Captain Hook (Simon Leary). He was excellent, dashing and dastardly, a very strong performer. The lost boys of New Zealand parliament (who lost their seats in the recent election) were great dancers too. Mother and daughter, Katie Pie and Xena Lily, could have carried the whole thing themselves if they'd needed to.

The first song was a little iffy, we were unable to understand any of the lyrics, and a couple of the others questionable. But from Captain Hook's Hooked on a Feeling things picked up, the full cast rendition of Reach for the Stars was excellent. Wendy (Camilla Besley) had a sweet voice and should have been given songs appropriate for her, especially when paired off with strong singers Katie Pie (Gavin Rutherford) and Xena Lily (Bronwyn Turei).

As is tradition, there was a large local flavour though at times it felt laid on a bit thick. There didn't appear to be any original songs, opting instead to repurpose pop songs. They were familiar to the audience but didn't always fit well. It'll be interesting to see if this writing pair will do next years show also.

Aside from all of that, it's a great time. Singing, dancing, bad guys, audience interaction. The kids loved it and there are plenty of jokes for the adults too.

Performances: 18 November - 13 January (times vary)
Tickets: $18/52

November 10, 2017

Show Me Shorts Film Festival 2017

The Show Me Shorts Film Festival opened in Wellington on Thursday night with a screening of the award winning films. It was a sparsely populated theatre that applauded at the end of every piece.

The selection started strong with the multi award winning Do No Harm, then lost speed till the last two; best international film Downside Up and best local film Fire in Cardboard City. The others varied between boring, cringe worthy, and pointless.

However, short films have that same strange essence as short stories; they are difficult to grasp, vague, you're left wondering "what happened? What did I just read or see?" The three listed above are complete in themselves, following more the requirements of a full length film which is why I found them more satisfying.

The festival programme boasts a staggering 55 films so there's sure to be something for everyone.

For programme and ticket details visit the website
Dates: 9-22 November

October 4, 2017

Mousing Around

There were quite a lot of songs. I liked how they used the Winnie-the-Pooh quote. It would be good for younger kids cos there were all the Frozen and Moana stuff and younger kids really like that.

They just do singing and they did dancing. Very lots of dancing. It was a bit cheesy. You couldn't see them too well when the smoke machine was on.

It was kinda strange how they had three Frozen songs in a row and they only had one song from the other movies (Parents correction: there were at least three songs from the Lion King and two from Beauty and the Beast).

This was a great sing along show, though the kids didn't know all the songs - I think they could have got away with just having Frozen and Moana as the kids liked those best. If you're stuck for something to do with the kids over the holidays you might even enjoy this.

Performances: 3-14 October, 11am
Tickets: $10

September 21, 2017

The Wholehearted

Wholehearted will start conversations, honest conversations. Told through what I can only call interpretive dance it's the story of all people, yet there is no storyline.

I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the cast where doing, what the boxes represented, what they were trying to catch (their heart? love? memories?). It's almost a stream of consciousness across several people.

It is beautifully choreographed, each member participating in another's story so seamlessly. Sheer curtains create windows to interesting tableaux, all perfectly staged.

What is it about? It's about the human experience, how we open ourselves to others and it's lovely to watch.

Tickets: $30
Performances: (Wellington) 20-23 September, 7pm
Harcourts Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival (27 September)
Christchurch - Papa Hou (3 – 7 October)
Dunedin - Fortune Theatre (10 to 13 October)