December 8, 2015

A Christmas Karel Čapek

Are you a robots fan? Want to save the world or at least a part of it? Are you a Grinch? Do you like
Charles Dickens? Do you know who Karel Capek is? Do you simply like attending Bats Theatre for an
intimate show? Do you like people who are able to laugh at themselves?

If you answered yes to at least one of the above (surely?), then you will walk away from A Christmas Karel Capek feeling pleased you got to see this one off Christmas production by the multi award winning Wellington based theatre company The Bacchanals. They are known for their ‘liberal whining’ and being ‘very angry and political’ but have stepped back from their usual approach with this story. They deliver  a humorous, clever, futuristic take on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol set in a present day Wellington Cuba St flat – with old second hand furniture that looks like it's from the local Sallys and a heap of posters of theatre productions (past plays by the The Bacchanals).

The play starts with a warm and funny introduction from David Lawrence and Brianne Kerr – who also greet you as you walk into the theatre. David proclaims to the audience that the Bacchanels are “giving you what you really want for Christmas: a Christmas show featuring Christmas and robots, performed by a combination of humans and robots!” From the get go, you know this is going to be a quirky 90 minutes.

David and Brianne play… David and Brianne. David is ‘bah humbug’ about Christmas, to overcome his misanthropy he invents a robot. Initially he presents this to Brianne as a gift. An attractive, ‘WOW looking’ female robot that cooks, vacuums, makes banana smoothies, coffee and does as she is told. At first Brianne is excited by the robot then she recognises the robot is not only for David's ‘personal selfish gain’. This enthusiasm gives way to the realisation that robots could help humanity and do things humans cannot do  easily, i.e. going to the moon, helping the world to be more sustainable and also saving endangered Pandas… Along with these thought provoking suggestions by Brianne for the audience to consider, there are clever, well thought out, quirky points. For instance, Brianne describes how the mass manufacture of robots would mean less people working, therefore less people doing awful shitty jobs, therefore less people drinking coffee (to get them through the day) and thus would reduce third world problems in coffee production!

Will the robots achieve what Brianne and David created them for?  Whether you agree with the ideas posed, or think the plot is too far fetched, you will be challenged and laughing at what the characters say and come up with.

Brianne, David and the robots are not the only characters; a panda makes an appearance, a Welshman and even a Galek. A stand out character, my personal favourite, is the narrator played by Salesi Le’ota. Le’ota plays Ghosts of Christmas Past and St Nick. He has some of the coolest moments and funniest lines in the show – ‘No Ho Ho’ did not go unnoticed, simple, yet very funny.

Set in the brilliant, intimate, exposed, Bats Theatre, A Christmas Karel Capek is worth checking out. From the small things like the smell of curry cooking, to the great, ‘feel good’ musical number at the end AND of course the clever, witty and quirky lines from the characters, A Christmas Karel Capek should be the one thing to check off your Christmas list this year.

Propeller Stage, BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace
4–19 December, 7pm
Tickets: $20.00/ $15.00

November 21, 2015

Richter City vs Swamp City Roller Rats

Last weekend the Swamp City Roller Rats from Palmerston North met Richter City All Stars at the Kilbirnie Recreation Centre. The early start time may have contributed to the smaller than usual audience. Those that were there were enthusiastic.

Due to a problem with the printers there were no programs available which made it difficult to follow who players were. Most of the Swamp City players skated under their own names rather than a derby handle, which added to confusion when their uniforms displayed their handles. Wellington audiences would recognise Terror Satana and Mack formerly of Pirate City Rollers. Another former Pirates player that was anticipated (by us) to make an appearance, Skate the Muss, was absent.

Based on our knowledge of the two teams we had expected a close game but were disappointed by Richter taking an early lead which they maintained ending in a landslide victory 363-66. MVPs were Vicious Vege, Tuff Bikkies, and Jody Hare aka Madd Honour.

Solid performances came from those we expected, such as our Vege, Pave and Bubble O’Kill, while Swampies’ Terror, Justine Saunders (Justass - Team NZ skater), Michelle Rutherford (known from ARDL), Mel Deacon/Killer Doll, Danelle Mercer/Underage Rage and Wendy Lyons/Meds also made impressions whether expected or not.

Currently the Richter City All Stars are in Melbourne for the VRDL Invitational as part of the Ultimate Sport Expo (USE) 2015 to participate in WFTDA sanctioned ranking bouts. Their first bout was this morning, with another convincing win of 297 to 106 over Melbourne Northside. Tomorrow (Sunday 22 November) they take on Canberra at 11am NZD and Perth at 3pm, while Pave, Zam, Bubs and Jet are in the “Best of the visitors” team to play against VRDL skaters at 5pm. A live stream is available for these and all tournament derby bouts.

Next game: 28 November, Whenua Fatales vs Richter City Convicts 5pm, then Richter City Convicts vs Kapiti Coast Derby Collective 7pm

November 4, 2015

A Collection of Noises

People will faint; some people can’t handle this. A Collection of Noises is an original work in the style of Grand Guignol. Can you last the journey? - Writer/director Alexander Sparrow

I wish I’d read this comment before I saw A Collection of Noises last night. It was a brilliantly executed production, but I wasn’t mentally prepared – it is definitely not for the faint-hearted.

The programme described it as “a horrific new play” which “follows a young girl, Alice, as she attempts to navigate her troubled mind. It’s dark in there, and some thoughts just won’t leave her alone…”

I walked into the tiny studio theatre on the top floor of BATS, and instantly felt nervous about how small the audience was; how close the seats were to the stage.  So confined and exposed, there’s nowhere for me to hide. I sit in the back row, trying to get the fourth wall firmly back in place. I want to comfortably observe. Remotely. Anonymously. Safely.

The lights come up, and I’m sitting in Alice’s cramped attic; a darkroom with startling, large black-and-white portraits strung from wall to wall, pegged in place. In pride of place are two photographs of the faces of two young, beautiful blonde women.

Alice emerges from the back corner. Dark hair, dark clothes, and dark lipstick with a silver face.  She is literally the photographic negative of the two blonde divinities that she has set up on a pedestal to worship, to resent, and to aspire to. She’s a dark vortex of anxiety, obsession, and self-hate.

Alice tells me her grandfather has recently died. She tells me. I’m so physically close to her, and her voice is so soft, so conversational, so confiding. She’s not a character on a stage. She’s Alice. And she trusts me.

He’s left her a box. We go through the contents together. A jumble of random, unrelated objects: scraps of paper, an old book, a hat – an old-fashioned razor blade. She weighs it on her palm, threateningly, for a suspended moment, before throwing it back into the box.

The obsessive, psychotic, violent thoughts come streaming out of her, and I know exactly how this play is going to end. But it’s too late. I’m trapped. There’s nothing I can do to change what’s going to happen. I can only watch in horror.

I realise I’m sitting in the worst possible location in the audience. I’m so uncomfortable. It’s too raw being in such close quarters with Alice and her thoughts. The room is too tiny, I can’t breathe. This severely messed up girl is telling me her deranged thoughts, and I watch her spin out of control, and I can’t escape. If I try and leave, she will hurt me, just like she hurt the last person that tried to leave her.

To get out of the room, I’d have to walk through the entire audience and across the stage to get to the door. In my mind, I know that if I really, really wanted to, I could still leave. No one could force me to stay. I could leave. But I can’t. I’m too scared of her. I don’t want to draw attention to myself.

As Alice spirals further and further down her unhinged rabbit-hole, dragging me with her, she keeps talking to me. At first she asks my opinion causally, quickly filling the empty silence with “it’s okay, you don’t have to answer, you can just watch for now”.

But as the show goes on, she starts to get frustrated with me – I’m just sitting there, watching her. She’s shared her pain with me, shown me the depth of her rage, and I haven’t offered any solutions. I just watch. I feel powerless. Just as I can’t get up and walk out of the theatre, I can’t speak to her. I know that technically I could. But I can’t. I can only watch, paralysed. I feel so guilty. I am responsible for this. It’s partly my fault. I sat and watched, and did nothing.

I have never felt so uncomfortable, so involved, and so at fault, in a piece of theatre before. So at fault for just watching. I would highly recommend this show.

Performances: 3-7 November, 7:30pm
Tickets: $20

October 31, 2015


You'd be mistaken if you thought that a production company called Sweet Muffin would produce saccharine sweet theatre. Are there children? Yes! Most of the cast are aged 8-12, but that's as sweet as it gets.

Nightmare follows the story of 12 year Jimmy and his baby brother Joel. The boys have been removed from their abusive home to live with their unfamiliar Aunt Dala and the landlady Angie. Jimmy's days are gloomy, but Ole Lukoje, the Sandman, visits him at night and Jimmy can escape into dreams. But when the fantasy starts to seep into reality Ole grows too strong. 

There was so much subtext in this play that it struggled to become text. The first fifteen minutes were confusing and I would have remained lost had I not read about the play (above) beforehand.

The sandman was an excellent theatrical actor, the aunt a subtle, honest portrayal. The younger child/puppet could have benefited from the actor/puppeteer wearing black to indicate they were not a character. I'm not convinced such a large children's chorus was necessary if at all. More indication of isolation may have resulted from the young lead being the only child on stage.

What is attempted is good. We work through and escape our issues in our sleep but that can be a dangerous preoccupation. I should note I had nightmares after seeing this production.

Tickets: $15
Performances: October 29 & November 5, 6.30pm; October 30-31 & November 6-7, 8pm
Venue: Newtown Community & Cultural Centre

October 28, 2015

A Beautiful Hesitation / Demented Architecture

The current offerings at City Gallery have evocative titles designed to make you think.

The central piece of Demented Architecture - so central that you could easily miss that there is anything else - is The Cubic Structural Evolution Project. You've probably seem images of it already; a white lego world of beautiful and varied towers which you are invited to add to. Robots, hearts, love, names and towers lacking structural soundness indicate that many have taken up the invitation. It is lovely to see something being created, added to, rather than destroyed.
Demented Architecture closes 8 November

Fiona Pardington's photographic collection A Beautiful Hesitation, the largest exhibition of her work yet, is somewhat fragmented though grouped into similar themes. She doesn't shy away from the darker side; creating still lives with washed up items, taking pictures of extinct birds and human remains. Her images have a beautiful quality which makes them appear as if they were painted.
A Beautiful Hesitation closes 22 November

October 6, 2015

In My Very Bones

The WWI exhibition at Katherine Mansfield House and Garden was opened by the ANZAC of the year; Louise Nicholas, a courageous woman. The sun set behind the Tinakori Hill as the attendees; members of the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace Society, members of the literary community, sponsors and the Chief Librarian from the Alexander Turnbull Library which lend objects for the exhibition; gathered on the lawn, drinking wine and eating ANZAC biscuits, listening to the speeches. The exhibition, In My Very Bones, was curated by the House Director Emma Anderson with assistance from a student of Victoria University's Masters in Museum and Heritage Studies.

The exhibition traces the effects of WWI on the life and writings of Katherine Mansfield. She saw the war through the eyes of her younger brother, who was not the sort to die.  But his death launched her into writings about early life in New Zealand and impacted her marriage. The walls of the exhibition room, a vibrant blue, show the timeline of Katherine's life with her brother and how his death caused changes. Letters between the siblings are displayed in glass cases and copies are open along the wall for easy reading.

The exhibition is open until the 29th of January, admission is included in general admission to the House.

October 1, 2015

Animal Farm

There is always something uncomfortable about watching a human act as an animal. But what Animal Farm reminds us is that we are still animals despite the clothes we wear, the tools we use and the politics we run our lives with or that run our lives. Originally a commentary on communism this new production also raises questions not only about cruelty to animals but cruelty to other humans. It opens with an uncomfortably long monologue and there are strange pieces of narration scattered throughout. Actors tackle more than one animal part each, which can be difficult to follow despite excellent animal antics. I feel the actors have sacrificed their bodies for their art; there will be sore knees and backs amongst them.

Backyard Theatre has produced a multi media performance that doesn't detract from the actors performances.

Performances: 30 September - 10 October, 7:30pm (no show Sunday & Monday)
Tickets: $25
Venue: Gryphon theatre

September 18, 2015

Richter City Roller Derby Vs Dead End Derby

The atmosphere walking into the Kilbirnie Recreation Centre a little after four on Saturday the fifth of September was one of excitement. Skaters from other leagues such as West Coast Bombers, Whenua Fatales, Rimutaka Rollers, and, Kapiti Coast Derby Collective were already there. The WFTDA playoffs in Tucson, Arizona between Charm City Roller Girls (Baltimore, Maryland) and Rocky Mountain Rollergirls (Denver, Colorado, who went on to lose against Victorian Roller Derby League who had Team NZ skater Ivy K'Nivey) piped through the sound system and displayed on the projector adding to the scene. Two cities, Wellington and Christchurch, would pit their A and B teams against each other. Convicts in orange were doing their drills while Living Dead Rollers in smart purple and black slowly rolled around the outer ring.

Lots of those new to Richter this year have earned their spot on the convicts, alongside some of the more seasoned. Burn Witch Burn, was the team captain for Convicts; Chopper Hedoff was the captain for the Living Dead Rollers. It was great seeing other skaters maintaining their involvement. Ella Kazam was offering delivery of sausages so we didn't miss any action. Again it was super handy having Tuff Bikkies and Beatrix Kiddo talk us through the penalties.

LDR featured jammers Lolita Loca, Rocketdogg, Teeny Tiny (a match for our InvisiGirl). Rita Wifebeater, Bruise Lee, Wheelie Busty and, Sonic ScrewdrivHER against Convicts Firecrakah, Tu High, Burn Witch Burn, May Maim, Anna KausaComa, Tarenosaurus Wrex and Gnome Diggity. Tu High seemed unsteady on her feet but Rocketdogg you could be forgiven for calling clumsy; her nose needed checking towards the end of the first half. At half time the score was 137 to 44 in favour of the visitors. Half time entertainment included obligatory Danger Danger dancing and, the act usually reserved for the after party, the Skanda Lass arm wrestle challenge; the victim this time was Crash Cookie. In the second half things didn’t improve for the Convicts and things looks worrying for Brianne Dead from LDR who suffered an injury with about 8 minutes left in the game, luckily she was able to hop around at high five time to celebrate her teams victory with 245 points to 97.

Several Christchurch skaters were gluttons for punishment, skating both bouts including; Chopper Hedoff, Rita Wifebeater, Lethal Limbs, Lolita Loca, Rocketdogg and Miss Chevus Mynx. It wasn’t terribly surprising then that they had a harder second game, not scoring for Dead End Derby All Stars until the fifth jam. Or perhaps the Richter City skaters didn’t want to lose two games in one evening. Anna Pave-U’Ova again proved that she is one of the best jammers in the league though Serious Crash Unit and Evil K Neevil showed excellent speed when jamming. Richter City were victorious in the second game of the night scoring 288 to Dead End Derby’s 104.

One win and one loss for each city seemed like a nice balanced way to end the long afternoon and evening.

September 10, 2015

After The Dance

On the brink of World War Two some people are still stuck in the hedonistic 1920's. Interestingly it's the younger characters who want the elder ones to grow up. After The Dance explores the generation gap and how sometimes just because you're older it doesn't mean you're more mature. Love is a equalising factor, turning us all into desperate children. The relationships between characters are difficult for an audience of a different time to pick up quickly; monied people often looked after their less fortunate relatives and friends.

The play is longer than most modern plays; two and a half hours all up. The first act flies by but in the third (the second "half") you start to feel the length as it drags a little or perhaps that's because it isn't as light as the first. The characters take a while to emerge, the script deceiving you about who is the main character as they don't show up till quite a way through.

Stagecraft have dug in the archives for this one but it feels terribly modern.

Performances: 9-12 & 17-19 September 7.30pm; 15-16 September 6.30pm; 13 September 3pm
Tickets: $25

August 23, 2015

Richter City Home season 2015: #4 Final Brutal Pageant vs Smash Malice

The original Wellington Richter City Roller Derby teams, Brutal Pageant and Smash Malice, fought for the 2015 title. Smash Malice was severely lacking in crowd support, possibly due to them holding the cup for the last two seasons.

The programme must have been printed early as there were a few peripheral changes. Tuff Bikkies and former RCRD skater Venom De Plume were MCing for the night. They provided a good level of detail which paired with the demonstration of fouls at the start of the match and head ref Referend Bear explanations during the game made it much easier for derby virgins, and seasoned veterans alike to understand. It’s a shame that it has taken so many years to get to this level. The NSO’s were very monochrome with the absence of Skathing Grace. Dragonball Lee stepped into her place as head NSO for the evening. The roster was filled out with several visiting NSO’s from Palmerston North. A surprise half time show by children from Leaping Lizards School Of Dance was a welcome addition.

It was good to see Meat Train bounding around the venue to support her former team mates, along with a vocal contingent from Wanganui there to cheer for Vicious Vege.

Our picks for MVP were Bailey’s Comet and Dolly Didit, neither of whom are generally the first to come to mind as Richter’s stronger jammers, but did some exceptional work during the night. Burn Witch Burn took a lot of hits and was visibly tired toward the end of the game. There was one suspected injury but Cher Trouble was back on track later in the game.

The scores remained close in the first half. At half time it was 97-89 to Malice. In the second half Malice pulled further ahead but towards the end of the game the scores evened up again and at three minutes before full time the score was even at 172. The crowd were screaming in the final jam as both jammers were sent to the penalty box and it could have been anyone’s game. Brutal Pageant, the crowd favourites, took the cup. Final score was 182 Smash Malice to 190 Brutal Pageant.

Next game: That was the final of the home season. Richter City will play Christchurch’s Dead End Derby on 5 September. They last played each other on Wellington soil in 2011. Both A and B (or “development”) teams will play in a double header starting at 5pm.

You can get tickets here.

August 13, 2015

Little Women

Wellington Repertory Theatre are currently staging Little Women at Gryphon Theatre. If you loved the book as a child no doubt you’ll enjoy seeing the characters come to life on stage.

The play suffers from trying to fit too many separate scenes into such a short time. The first half, the original Little Women, dragged despite jumping from episode to episode. There were drawn out silences as curtains were swept across the background scene. The second half, based on Good Wives, allowed for more character development, particularly explaining the relationship between Laurie and Amy which had been unsatisfying in the book. There were some moving moment based around Beth including an effective moment where she is revealed as too good and pure for this world.

Aunt March was especially good, despite an occasionally slipping accent. Meg and Laurie unfortunately looked too old for their roles which was extremely distracting but may have been a necessary evil to transition from childhood to adulthood. But the biggest casting error was casting the same actor for Mr March and the Professor, thereby making Jo fall for the man who played her father. It was unintentionally uncomfortable perhaps in part because of the lack of any sort of foundation for their relationship.

There was other unintentional humour as modern interpretations of words or events differ from when the book was published. The March girls are just as grating on stage as they are in print; broad caricatures of types rather than real people and insufferably good. An onlooker may have thought the play was staged by a religious group, helped along with the idea by the choral singing from the wings – sometimes at levels which made it difficult to hear dialogue. A line from the play is particularly apt “get rid of the moralising and stick to the drama.”

Performances: 12-15 & 20-22 August, 8pm; 16 August, 3pm; 19 August 6.30pm
Tickets: $25
To book: 479 3393 or

July 13, 2015

The Ugly One

"Great theatre is about challenging how we think and encouraging us to fantasize about a world we aspire to" - Willem Dafoe

The above quote graces the cover of the Circa programme, it is particularly apt in relation to The Ugly One. Physical attractiveness is rewarded in our society despite it not being an indicator of any actual virtue. Imagine a world where we were judged on our character or conduct rather than the symmetrical beauty of our faces.

Expertly translated from German the dialogue flicks between overlapping characters and scenes, an unobservant viewer could easily lose track of events. The set design is modern, minimalist, simple and elegant; the actors in grey suits blend well to create a harmonious image. Only one actor plays a single character; the other three juggle two characters a piece often swapping between them mid-sentence.

Performances: 11 July − 7 August 7:30pm (No Monday Show), Sundays 4:30pm

Tickets: $25-46

July 9, 2015

Yours Truly

Jack The Ripper is probably the most well known serial killer; quite a feat for someone who lived over 100 years ago. The script is award winning and is similar to the plot line of the 2001 film From Hell (itself based on a graphic novel). Both draw from the writings of Stephen Knight. Although his theories have caused much interest they do not appear to have much support from historians.

Yours Truly is the first Backyard Theatre production I’ve seen. The setting was familiar as were some of the actors and backstage crew from many Stagecraft productions. The play jumped between short scenes, some with recorded audio, in a disjointed way. Characters selfish actions and inability to recognise or adhere to their place in society cause the tragedy. The first half is a love story so beautiful that I didn’t want the second half, and what I knew it would contain, to come. There is no overt brutality; though I almost expected blood to be thrown about the stage. Misdirection is more convincing due to an actor whose face resembles the skull beneath. The accents are good and hearing modern swearing in this context gives it more impact.

The subject matter is disturbing, as you’d expect from a piece on Jack The Ripper. Few plays stray towards the thriller genre so if you’re a fan you’ll enjoy this.

Venue: Gryphon Theatre

Performances: 8-11 & 16-18 July 7:30pm; 14-15 July 6:30pm

Tickets: $20-25

July 6, 2015

Richter City Home season 2015: #3 Brutal Pageant vs Comic Slams

The third game of the Richter City home season was much less exciting than the second. No injuries, only two foul outs, no last minute victory.

Again Dolly Didit and Vicious Vegie proved to be formidable jammers, solidly assisting Anna Pave-U’Ova rack up those Brutal points. Injuries on the Slams bench meant they had to rope in some Malice skaters to don the cobalt and silver, chosen were Princess Slayer and Volcanic Ash, who featured as the main jammers for Slams. Newcomers Sting, Custom Chaos (both Comic Slams), Tarenosaurus Wrex, Anna KausaComa and Greta Growler (all Pageant) are finding their wheeled feet and appearing more and more confident in their respective teams. Pageant have clearly been practising their blocker strategies, with several demonstrations of a group of plays where they used their player advantage to sweep the Slams blockers away from the path of their jammer.

Firecrackah, new to Wellington this year, was chosen to jam the final jam for Slams, her first time jamming for Wellington. Unfortunately during a fall she suffered a skate malfunction that rendered the skate useless, forcing a panty pass to Sweaty Pig as they both came straight out of the Hell Pizza Penalty Box, one of many panty passes during the night.

Brutal Pageant once again took an early lead, this time over Comic Slams. A lead they maintained throughout the match. For a brief moment in the second half it looked like Comic Slams would rise to the occasion but Brutal Pageant maintained their lead, winning the game by over 100 points. The final score was Brutal Pageant 276 : Comic Slams 170.

The next game is the season final where Brutal Pageant will face off against Smash Malice on August 22nd. If you’d like to see some derby before then the West Coast Bombers of Wanganui will visit Kapiti Coast Derby Collective for their first bout in Otaki on July 26th.

June 25, 2015

The 39 Steps

The opening night of Stagecraft's production of The 39 Steps was sold out, if everyone attending enjoyed it as much as I did, the rest of the season will be too. I admit to being a fan of Stagecraft but on the evening in question I did not want to brave the Wellington weather, I was sick, cold and tired. It’s a testament to how good the production was that even though I felt awful I genuinely enjoyed myself.

A minimalist, adaptable set of what appears to be cardboard boxes, a lamp and solitary chair take the action from a London flat, to a train, to the Scottish highlands. The minimalist cast take on many roles with main character being the only one static. Stagecraft regulars will recognise Lydia Harris in the more serious female roles.

So what are the 39 Steps? The secret won’t be revealed till the very end of the play. Based on a novel and movie this most recent interpretation is a comedy of farcical proportions. Who are the good guys? Who are the bad guys? Which character is that actor playing? Wait, didn't that guy just get shot? It'll keep you guessing.

Take note of the warning about strobe lighting. Dry ice is also used during the performance.

Tickets: $15-25
Performances: 24th - 27th June 7.30pm; 28th June 3pm; 30th June 6.30pm; 2nd - 4th July 7.30pm

June 13, 2015

Gayby Baby

I managed to squeeze in one viewing before the Documentary Edge Festival finishes tomorrow. All films are being screened at The Roxy in Miramar rather than scattered throughout the city as in previous years. The cinema is beautifully restored and the food interesting without being pretentious. It has enjoyed a huge rebirth since Weta workshops swapped their patronage from The Embassy.  In choosing my one film I wanted something that would be entertaining as well as meaningful, so no fluff films. I wanted to avoid anything harrowing that might give me nightmares or leave me frustrated with the state of the world, this left out most political items. Of the almost 60 festival offerings I chose Gaby Baby.

The film follows four children of same sex couples; three boys, one girl; three female same sex couples, one male same sex couple. By the title you might think the film is about how same sex couples have children - adoption, surrogacy, donation - but it is about the children being raised by same sex couples. Interestingly their parentage is only background; the children themselves are the focus of the piece.

It is astounding that children often have greater insight than their parents. A conservative christian mother encourages her son to ask questions, going so far as to set up an awkward interview with the pastor, before leaving the church that rejects her and her relationship. To him, the answer is obvious. He loves his mother; so should God. He writes a speech to give to the Prime Minister about same sex marriage but, normally articulate and confident, is too flustered but says it quite calmly to the cameras waiting outside. The same sex marriage debate is particularly relevant in Australia now (thankfully we have it sorted here) as a married heterosexual couple plan to protest any change in legislation by divorcing.

What comes through very strongly as that these are normal families dealing with normal family problems. A child is sick, learning is hard, money is tight, there are aspirations to be met. It strikes me as unfair that some of these children also have to deal with prejudice. Although it never actually rears its ugly head it is waiting in the background influencing choices about where to go to school and what to tell people about your family. There is love here; between a parent and child, between child and new parent, between partners and most touchingly between siblings.

The four storylines converge at the Sydney mardi gras where the children are shown just being kids, being themselves, as part of their family and part of their community.

You can find out more about the film on their website.

May 25, 2015

Richter City Home season 2015: #2 Smash Malice vs Brutal Pageant

Saturday’s bout between Smash Malice and Brutal Pageant was a return to real derby. There were a lot of derby virgins in the crowd, several injuries, masses of penalties and a race to the finish. It was the most fun I’d had at a game since the first season when the game was new and personalities were large.

This year has seen skaters commentating; it was Beatrix Kiddo’s turn on the mic this Saturday. I especially enjoyed the skater trivia she threw in every now and then. It was however observed that at times the commentators would interact with those in the suicide seats, ignoring those in the main stands, who ended up frustrated they didn’t get a look in for spot prizes.

New transfer to the league, Vicious Vegie, from River City Rollers in Wanganui, made herself known to the Wellington crowds with fancy footwork and a fun-filled attitude, whilst fellow Pageant skater Dolly Didit certainly did do her share to increase the points. Malice also had a transfer (May Maim from Dunedin Derby via Hellmilton Roller Ghouls) who showed her smashing skills, while Wellington regulars Bailey’s Comet and Volcanic Ash keep getting stronger. Newbie Anna KausaComa, who’s name is too close to another players for comfort, impressed in her debut.

Gael Force was bench managing for Pageant on crutches. Others joined her on the injury list throughout the game. Veruc Assault, in her first game, was the first major injury. Skanda Lass was secreted away in the changing room for the second half of the match to be taken to hospital at the end. Her knee injury may not be as serious as was originally feared. Invader Sin also appeared to be in some pain but continued to play.

Smash Malice took an early lead which Brutal Pageant caught up to just before half time. But early in the second half Malice took back the lead and proceeded to, well, smash, Pageant. There were so many players sent out of the game that in the last jam every available Malice skater was on the track. With minutes left it looked like the only chance for Pageant to win would be for another Malice player to be sent out thereby causing them to forfeit.

Final score 233 to 230, taken out by Brutal Pageant, thanks to a massive 30+ point jam from Anna Pave-U’Ova, not beating her current record of a 40 point jam. Pave continues to be one of the strongest jammers in the league and shone throughout the match.

Next game: 4 July, Comic Slams vs Brutal Pageant

May 7, 2015

Sleeping Around

Newly formed Nextstage are "awakening" theatre in Lower Hutt with their production of Sleeping Around written and performed by Hutt local Geraldine Brophy. Although there are local production companies, given the quality that has been coming out of Hutt Repertory lately, this is welcome. Not on par with the likes of Circa it is a step up from other offerings.

I'm not sure whether two red heads were chosen on purpose or if it was just a lucky coincidence. Two women of similar age and same coloured hair are otherwise outwardly very different. They form a bond in a ridiculous setting of an indoor camp and come to realise that although different they face the same struggles. Sympathy for others transcends class and cultural barriers in this funny play.

Nextstage have a full program for the rest of the year mostly based at the Little Theatre in Lower Hutt.

Venue: Little Theatre, Lower Hutt
Performances: 7:30pm, 6-14 May
Tickets: $35

April 21, 2015

Richter City Home season 2015: #1 Smash Malice vs Comic Slams

Last years champions Smash Malice faced off against Comic Slams in the opening game of the 2015 Richter City Roller Derby Home Season.

Each skater and official involved in the bout sported something teal on their person and were fundraising for Lifeline Aotearoa in remembrance of a young transgender derby skater in the States who recently committed suicide resultant from the struggles of transitioning.  As MCs Ghetto Anger and Ella Kazam were telling the crowd this information and sharing Lifeline Aotearoa's details, it became the only time we've heard a derby crowd be completely silent.

Early in the first half, Smash Malice cemented a strong lead, we believe leading from playing heavily their strong seasoned jammers such as Princess Slayer and Skanda Lass, whilst Comic Slams were giving some of their new skaters such as Maulberry Jam and Custom Chaos some time wearing the star panty alongside the likes of experienced and very experienced Invisigirl and Tuff Bikkies.  It felt like it had been an age since we last saw Bikkies jam as much as she did on Saturday, and she showed us she hasn't lost her magic in this role.

Lots of strong walls and heavy hits were abundant during the bout, leading to an already strapped Invisigirl catching a hit (or several) to her shoulder leading her to be subbed out of the penalty box to visit the St John's staff in attendance. While she returned to the bench a few jams later, the heavy hits on all skaters continued.  Bailey's Comet, Bubble O'Kill and Volcanic Ash put in a lot of good work supporting the Malice jammers in all roles, just as we saw strong support coming from MillerGnomer over in Slams.

Newbies that we want to keep our eye on this season were May Maim skating for Malice, and Maulberry Jam on Comic Slams, but we look forward to seeing more of all of them!

The final score ended up as Smash Malice's 222 to Comic Slam's 107.

If you’re out and around the North Island this ANZAC day after honouring our war heroes, the Richter City All Stars are taking on the Swamp City Roller Rats (Palmerston North) All Stars at 6pm in Palmerston North.  Check the Facebook event page for more details.  Additionally, the Convicts are in Napier participating in a double header against Bay City Rollers’ Iron Maidens (who played the All Stars in November last year), whilst Bay City’s Twisted Sisters take on Rotorua’s Sulphur City Steam Rollers from 4pm.

Support Richter City by getting your 2015/16 Entertainment Book through them.  I’ve a feeling they’ll want some help getting to Australia for a tournament in June, so if Entertainment Books aren’t your thing, keep an eye out on their Facebook page for other ways you might be able to help the travel fund.

Next game: 23 May, Smash Malice vs Brutal Pageant.

April 2, 2015

Two Mortals

What would you do if you only had a month to live? a year? ten? a day? a minute? Some people would confess their love, travel, write a novel. What they are really asking is: would you live your life differently? Behind this is another question; why don't we talk about death? It's something we all have to look forward to, something "we're good at." These confronting questions are posed in Two Mortals.

A large volume of personal stories, interviews with people who work with or have been affected by death, are squeezed into an hour. Although aren’t we all affected by death? The two writers/actors embody each interviewee, blending their stories to create something powerful. The technology aided performance is well coordinated and choreographed. I hope that it opens new dialogues for all who see it.

As for me, faced with my own mortality, I realise I am scared of the pain of dying rather than death itself and I am happy with my life. Additionally, I've told that person I love them, I've contacted my lawyer about a will and I'm going to write that novel.

"TWO MORTALS is a delicate, poetic and humorous exploration of life, death and the moment in between. Composed word-for-word from interviews with people who live and work at the ends of life – morticians, cryogenicists, palliative care workers and ministers – Two Mortals weaves these true stories and experiences into a richly theatrical exploration of mortality. This uplifting work about one of our society's most taboo subjects was directed by Chapman Tripp Director of the Year Geoff Pinfield. Performed by Rachael Dyson- MacGregor and Mike McEvoy, with a rich polyphonic soundscabe by Beatrice Lewis, Two Mortals sold out two critically-acclaimed seasons at Melbourne's La Mama Theatre."

Venue: Circa theatre
Performances: 1-18 April,  Tuesday-Saturday 7:30pm, Sunday 4:30pm
Tickets: $25-39

March 22, 2015

Richter City vs Dunedin Derby

The opening match of the Wellington 2015 roller derby season took place on Saturday night. Our visitors from the far south were the Dunedin Derby A team, the Gallow Lasses. The two leagues are rarely up against each other, and this is the first time Wellington has played host. After several internationally led training sessions and boot camps throughout the country since the end of last season, we were expecting a strong game from both teams. We were not disappointed!

The Richter City All Stars line up was full of familiar names though a notable player missing on skates was Jem Molition (one of Richter’s representatives on Team NZ 2014), who put in an appearance as bench manager while appearing to nurse an injury. Several names on the Gallow Lasses list were recognisable from tournaments in previous years, but there were also some names we expected to appear that didn’t - whether due to being unable to commit to the travel or otherwise, we remain unsure. Gladly missed from the atmosphere at Kilbirnie Rec Centre was the regular MCs and overloud music, instead replaced by Lolo Morales and Danger Spouse exchanging at times witty banter and actually turning down the music when they had important things to say.

After a Top Gun themed skate out from Dunedin complete with aviators and pornstaches, and a lackluster one from Richter (thanks to a brief sound system malfunction), we were straight into the first jam with the latest ruleset nixing the public gear check. For the first nearly dozen jams, Dunedin rotated between two jammers, Diva DemolisHER (team captain and non-travelling alternate for Team NZ 2014) and VenoMISS Vixen, while Richter pulled from a jammer team of five. Diva showed us why she was very nearly chosen to go to Texas last year, that woman can sure skate, and fast! The winning of lead jammer was nearly even in the early throes of the first half, but soon the home team showed their strength in that aspect, while the Gallow Lasses fought back by increasing their jammer rotation to include another three skaters. It appeared very much to be a jammer’s half - all about who got off the line and through the small holes between blockers quicker, which of course Richter’s Invisigirl excelled at! Half time ended with Richter City 166 to Dunedin’s 60, just after a rather nasty looking limb to face injury incurred by Skandal Lass rendering her out for the rest of the bout.

Impromptu half time entertainment was provided by crowd favourite referee (though not on the crew this bout) Danger Danger dancing the hokey pokey on skates and generally teasing the young fans in the suicide seats.

The second half brought out a reinvigorated Dunedin team. While Richter maintained their dominance in gaining lead jammer, the Dunedin blockers didn’t let them through quite so easily. It appeared to be a clean game compared to some seen last year, with only one foul out, J’Knee Dodgem. However, another two occured including one in the final jam. It was good to hear the crowd around us cheering for Dunedin in the final moments - urging the tartaned jammer to “break a hundred” while Richter jammer Princess Slayer was in the penalty box. The game ended with Dunedin breaking that hundred, scoring 101 to Richter’s 335.

Following from the greatly fought bout, Sunday afternoon brought the announcement of the home season teams, Brutal Pageant, Smash Malice and Comic Slams. A brief look at the lists shows a healthy influx of Fresh Meat (recently graduated skaters), spread evenly throughout a bevy of seasoned regulars. Here’s hoping some of those freshies make appearances in our future reviews! First home season matchup will be Comic Slams against Smash Malice on 18th April.

Pride and Prejudice

Hutt Repertory theatre's latest offering is a version of Pride and Prejudice. It was adapted for the stage by Jon Jory, an American. He has adapted other Austen novels as well as creating a one act play entitled Darcy and Elizabeth and a musical version of Pride and Prejudice. The script is awkward; characters address the audience as narrator at different times, once quite unnecessarily as they explained what was then acted. Elizabeth's sparring match with Wickham after she's discovered his true character was pointless as the real meat was left out, it was not helped by the conversation being portrayed as a flirtation.

Elizabeth herself was surprisingly exotic. She appeared to be more appropriate to play Miss Bingley and Charlotte Lucas (far too pretty) would have suited Elizabeth much better. Miss Bingley in turn came off as mentally deficient and the actress would have suited the sedate Charlotte much better. Jane was appropriately pretty but then so was Mary who is meant to be plain. A limited pool of actors can result in actors playing roles in the wrong age range, something Hutt Reptrory has suffered from in the past. The two youngest Bennet sisters were aged appropriately unfortunately the army men Wickham and Fitzwilliam were too young.

Ten percent of the cast didn't muddle their lines; Elizabeth went so far as referring to Colonel Fiztwilliam as Mr and mispronouncing Lady Catherine's name. Darcy was wooden and didn't unbend at any point. The dancing was distracting and the use of the waltz terribly historically inaccurate.

Despite the entertainment value of picking apart the production it was quite boring. It lacked energy or any sort of unique properties. By trying to be true to the novel it lost the "light, bright and sparkling" nature all together. It brings to mind Stagecraft's production of Pride and Prejudice which should be held up as an example of how good amateur theatre can be.

Performances: 18-20 March, 8pm; 21st-22 March, 4pm; 24-28 March, 8pm
Tickets: $20
Venue: Theatre 108

March 10, 2015

The Little Teapot

The Little Teapot in Kilbirnie provides high teas in simple, unpretentious surroundings. It's a little out of the way but good to see more high tea offerings outside of the central city.

The tea menu comes with a tray of tea leaf samples so you can make your choice based not only on name and description but smell too. They follow the current trend of giving each person a pair of small tongs for food selection. Tea is served on patterned vintage china, like most places, you'll find that yours won't match your neighbours. The chairs appear to be vintage, some nicer than others.

It may not be as fancy as some places but the food is good and plentiful, there is an extensive range of teas and even an area for children.

There is capacity for small groups or couples but make sure you book.

High tea: $25
You can find out more on their Facebook page

March 4, 2015

Don Quixote - Royal New Zealand Ballet

Last night’s dress rehearsal of the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Don Quixote was a show stopper, literally. In my twenty years of being involved with dress rehearsals, either watching or on stage, I have have never witnessed a director actually stop the performance. Most directors treat it as a dry run for opening night; taking notes and, if necessary, restaging scenes after the final act. I like to think this is an indication of director Francesco Ventriglia’s wish for perfection for his first New Zealand production rather than a sign of unpreparedness.

A lot of the elements of the production were reused from the 2008 show including; set, costumes, dancers and, although I can’t be certain, choreography. The real scene stealer (as she was in the original production) was a little mechanical dog. I have it on good authority that at each performance last season an audience member enquired where they could get one.

The dancing, which after all is what you go to see, was beautiful, although there were often too many dancers hanging around the edges, that it was difficult to know where to focus. Twitter was brimming with appreciation for men who can dance attempting to show their ability to not dance.

Strange pauses between passages in the third act may have been due to earlier restaging of dances. The orchestra was excellent but subject to the exactness of the choreographer, and at times I felt they could’ve used a bit more volume. 

Don Quixote is director Francesco Ventriglia’s first show for the Royal New Zealand Ballet. It opens tonight at St James Theatre. After a short season in Wellington the show will visit other cities (listed below).

Performances: 7:30pm 4-7 March, 1:30pm 7 March
Tickets: $35-145
Venue: St James Theatre
Other centres: Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill, Palmerston North