November 17, 2019

Alice in Wonderland the Pantomime

It's the Pantomime whirl season again! This year Alice in Wonderland gets Circa theatre's homegrown twist.

Alice (and panto dame Majorie Banks Street not to be confused with "Marsh banks") follows the white rabbit through the Justin Lester memorial tunnel on Mount Victoria into Wonderland. It's the sort of place where Wellington is turned on it's head and what Simon Bridges thinks of the beautiful Jacinda Ardern is what she's actually like.

And that's just the start of the political jokes. As a voting adult I felt pretty inadequate that I didn't get all the allusions. (Though I did spot Winston early on in the piece.) These, as well as references to Ru Paul's Drag Race, the orange skinned leader of the free world, walls and classic New Zealand music will sail over the head of your children. But they'll enjoy every minute of it.

There's all the classic panto elements. We're lucky enough to have two panto dames (because all the roles go to men); the traditional poor widow woman ("oh" ...though her husband, Kent Terrace, is only dead to her) and the cackling Queen of Hearts. Many "dun-dun-dun's" but no hisses for the bad guys, plenty of "he's behind you" and a lovely part where the children get to participate on stage (with photos! #circatheatre).

Even better than last years the whole family will love this pantomime.

Performances: 16 November - 22 December (times vary)
Tickets: $18 (child), $52 (adult)

October 13, 2019


Sensationally* named and erroneously ticketed as a romantic comedy Cock has made it's way to Circa theatre. John is paralysed by indecision between his dramatic ex boyfriend and his overly understanding new girlfriend.

From the title you'll expect something more explicit, certainly with more swearing, but I don't think the word is actually ever spoken on stage.

It's a full 90 minutes without an interval, probably because the dragging last scene takes up the whole second half. It does eventually end but it doesn't really conclude.

All of this would make you think it wasn't enjoyable. But it was! The acting was excellent, you can watch any member of the small cast emote perfectly whether it's their line or someone else's. It was very funny, often pulling out awkward laughs as actors simulated nudity and sex. Most of the time this was managed well but there were a few instances where actors continued before the audience had settled down.

It raises questions about who we are, what title we use and highlights our need to just have someone to hold on to.

*to cause sensation, not well named

Performances: 12 October - 9 November (times vary)
Tickets: $52

September 9, 2019

The Pink Hammer

Opening night of The Pink Hammer at Circa on Saturday was a resounding success with a clever script and spot-on casting making this must-see show for fans of Kiwi comedy.

Four would-be handywomen, Louise, Helen, Siobhan and Annabelle turn up for their first Pink Hammer workshop only to be sadly disappointed. Keenly anticipating a practical carpentry course run by Maggie, a female furniture builder, they find she appears to taken a runner. Determined to get their money’s worth, they coerce a reluctant Woody, Maggie's husband and out-of-work carpenter, to teach them himself. It’s his workshop after all and probably his fault his wife has left!

The women's reaction to Maggie’s absence reveals much about their personalities and prejudices but as the story unfolds we learn there is more going on than we first thought.

This is an outstanding performance from a strong cast, supported by an excellent set and music, particularly the poignant songs from Siobhan. Full of truly hilarious moments with a surprising twist in the tail, this play is definitely worth a night out.

July 24, 2019


An older woman and a younger woman open the show, fighting for a pair of Orchids. Are they Persephone and Demeter? Later there are references that feel like Medusa. But overall there is no discernible storyline to ORCHIDS, although it did seem like there was at points - till the dancing wandered off into something else.

A diverse cast - not the expected slim, white, young female - helped give this show some interest. They especially seemed excited to be on stage. I would have liked if ORCHIDS had managed to evoke emotions other than confusion or brief surprise.

A trigger warning for those that have issues with violence.

Performances: 24-27 July
For times, tickets and further details click here

July 20, 2019


It's not often Te Papa hosts anything on their stage other than conference speakers. Extra staff are on hand to direct people not accustomed to the venue, all museum parts are roped off and any hope of having a late night look around, or sneak peek at the new Te Taiao Nature exhibit are crushed.

A small crowd gathers waiting for the doors to open. Finally, we're allowed in. There are no allocated seats. Greetings are heard as old friends find each other, a hug, a kiss then a seat shuffle so they can sit together. Pretty soon the shuffling becomes harder as more people arrive.

A dark stage. A tiny mountain of sand surrounded by a large ring (I do not envy the cleaners) are the only stage decorations. Breath, haunting, fills the large darkened theatre - a Goddess is on stage.

From flowing, sweeping costumes to throbbing beats, from lights that make water appear on stage to movements both jerking and fluid Opepū illustrates the six atua wahine (Māori Goddesses) who control the winds of the world.

The audience are enthralled, there's not even a whisper the whole performance in the packed theatre where everyone seems to know someone. As the stage lights go down at the end of the show there's a pause - is it over? - then one brave person starts clapping and the theatre erupts in cries and applause.

Contemporary dance can be a bit hit and miss, in my experience, as can culturally based performances. It might be too artsy and the audience may not understand. But with all the potential to miss the mark Onepū manages to hit it squarely.

Performances: June 28 - August 22
Check times, locations and ticket sellers here

July 10, 2019

The Dunstan Creek Haunting

"If there's something strange in your neighborhood..."

So goes the familiar theme tune that introduces the audience to The Dunstan Creek Haunting at Circa Theatre. Lulled into a sense of security by the music and the ebullient duo, David Ladderman and Lizzie Tollemache introduce us to the sites and the stories of the gold mining days in Central Otago. Their tales begin with the tragic tales of 'Somebody's Darling' and the Chinese miners who refused credit by the mean-spirited grocer before morphing into the world of murder.

It's not long before we realise someone or something may have followed the duo out of the goldfields. Unexplained phenomena disturb the audience, strange occurrences disrupt the performers and a sense of dread permeates the theatre before the final denouement.

The more nervous were squealing while even the more cynical were unsettled and jumpy. The excellent stagecraft, sound and lighting all contributed to ratchetting up the tension and paranoia. For those of you who enjoy the gothic and the ghostly, this is well worth making the effort. Remember to sleep with the lights on when you get home though...

Performances: 9-20 July
For tickets, times and further details click here

July 7, 2019

The Aliens

“Where are the aliens?”

“In the basement!” laughs the receptionist at Te Whaea, Hutchison Road, Newtown, Wellington.

The Basement is an appropriate venue for this play. Concrete and steel surrounds a sparse set, befitting of this play which makes no effort to soften it’s story.

Jasper (Jonny Potts) and KJ (Jack Sergent-Shadbolt) sit at a rough table out the back of a café. They have been musicians, perhaps they are geniuses. They certainly think a lot, but circumstances mean they have had little formal education, and they seem trapped in their world.

Young Evan (Dryw McArthur) comes across them as he is putting out the café rubbish bags. He doesn’t know what to make of them. Jasper and KJ see their role to enlighten Evan in their view of the world.

Cassandra Tse directs the trio through an intense 100 minutes. Her production is consistent. The ‘thrown together’ nature of the venue (including hired rostrum holding upright seats), the minimalist set, even the rumble of Toi Whakaari students coming and going above our heads all seem to contribute to the atmosphere. The audience is drawn into the story Jasper and KJ bring to us. What will the effect be on the innocent and naive Evan? I recommend you go along to find out. If this sounds like your sort of play, then you won’t be disappointed. (.. and remember to take some cash for the bar!)

The Aliens by Annie Baker at Te Whaea, July 2019

May 6, 2019

Waiting for Godot

You're confronted with a slab of concrete, two concrete walls either side, a lone bare tree reaching for the sky. It could be the side of a highway anywhere. It's a desolate landscape. A huge achievement within a theatre.

The actors are all excellent including one who threw himself on the stage. They created believable characters despite the odd subject matter...and odd characters to be fair.

Waiting for Gadot is a literary classic but it's also pointless and boring. I was warned beforehand that nothing happens but I assumed it would be like Friends or Sienfield, where it would still be entertaining and manage to come to some sort of conclusion. Theatre can be thought provoking but also enjoyable, this wasn't.

Negative reviews aren't popular but we pride ourselves on honesty. The production itself was great but the material wasn't (sorry English teachers of the world).

Performances: 4 May ‑ 1 June (times vary)
Tickets: $52

May 2, 2019

Conversations with Dead Relatives

Do you know your whakapapa? You may think you do, but you do you really?

Imagine being mocked by an ancestor for losing connection with your roots, for mixing up your memories. Was that story about this uncle or that one?

I'd expected crying, sad stories about how much you miss your grandmother. This was so much more, it was story telling at it's best. Finding how my story intertwines with yours - whether it's by location or, if we go far enough back, our shared ancestors.

Interesting points were made about the intersection of Māori and Pakeha culture. How it's our joint history, and there were forces keeping couples apart on both sides. A point was made that a picture of a Māori ancestor was missing her moko but it also could have been the technology. Let's be honest, we'd be more comfortable if the technology was at fault.

It's not clear if the stories that make up this play are factual or, if they are, if these people are related. Regardless they tell the history of the people of New Zealand, back to their homelands.

It was a little hard to focus on the performance as the person next to me was manspreading so I was forced to nestle close to my companion. Perhaps he was made too comfortable by the warm welcome we recieved to the theatre; they even had a tin of homemade baking, a lovely touch.

Performances: 1-11 May (times vary)
Tickets: $35

February 25, 2019

Side by Side by Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim is the greatest composer you've never heard of or so this show will have you believe. He does have some recognisable music but you won't see much of it in this production; some is squashed into a medley at the end but huge chunks are missing.

Sweeny Todd and Into the Woods are so well known because they've been made into movies but they weren't even mentioned. There was only one song from West Side Story another well known show, though not as recently on the big screen.

There were several songs performed that were cut from shows and one from a show that was only ever seen once. It's like they were trying to bore the audience with the unfamiliar.

It began a little forced and was sadly marred by continued issues with microphones. Despite this, the performers were excellent, lovely voices, great dancing....but the show lacked a storyline, something for the audience to engage with, and as the songs were by and large unfamiliar there was nothing to hold on to. An exception is the broadly comedic songs which were well received.

As previously mentioned there were snatches of several familiar songs in the ending medley which unfortunately was stretched out into three separate songs, when the one medley would have been sufficient - a bit like the many endings of Lord of The Rings.

What could be a great show is hampered by poor song choices and sound issues.

: 23 Feb – 22 March (times vary)
Tickets: $52

January 20, 2019

Cool As Lower Hutt Summer Drink Challenge 2019

Following on the tails of the super successful Sweet As Hutt Chocolate Challenge comes a Summer Drink Challenge, Cool As. With three weeks and 15 drinks, that's enough to have one each week day. (Come back to this page for updates as the challenge progresses)

See the full list of participants here

*Our top picks

Fellow Freak Shake – Fellow Café on The Green
Delightfully messy and vegan this is the most expensive pick at $14. Go with a friend and share though you might still have left overs as we weren't really fans.

Hokey Pokey Summer Fix – Fix Federation
Most highly anticipated as it's from the winners of the hot chocolate challenge but it was disappointing. Cheap, waxy chocolate and tasteless shake but a hint of the award winning salted caramel sauce.

All American Berry – Roadhouse Bar & Grill*
Super (toothache) sweet and refreshing. If you like strawberry you'll like this but drink it slowly to avoid a sugar rush.

The Buzz Soda Bar – Buzz
There's something for every taste as it isn't technically a drink but a menu (which seems a little unfair to other participants and very hard to judge).

Capricious Capricorn – The Crooked Elm
The description doesn't give any indication of what flavour it's meant to be and after drinking it I still couldn't tell you. It just tastes like syrup.

Old Fashioned Lemonade – Bellbird Eatery
The first sip is bitter but then you adjust. Lovely. Might be more for those of us that are old fashioned than the kids (but give it a try!).

Citrus Breeze – Hot Gossip Café*
Somehow both sweet and a little bitter at the same time, beautifully citrusy. All drinks should have crushed ice (and a light-up decorative stick you can take home).

Tinc in the Pink – Fellow Café on the Drive
The watermelon ice cubes are a great innovation. The ginless gin tastes like gin, so this drink only works if you like gin.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Shake – Chai Coffee*
The peanut butter wasn't overpowering and there was a good mix of chocolate, nice amount of cream and sauce on top too. The best so far unanimously.

Berry Delightful Summer Shake – Colab Café
Essentially a strawberry shake with lots of trimmings. Sweet and messy.

Passionpunchy – Gotham Cafe Lower Hutt
Fizzy and sweet but not really to our taste. 

Wish I Was There – Shine Café
The description isn't appealing but the drink is. The kids will love this one - jelly and smoothie and crumbs and an umbrella. Bonus: it's vegan too!

La Vie en Rose – Beforetime Express
Another one where the description put us off and we were pleasantly surprised. A beautiful pink drink that reminds you of Turkish delight.

Summer Breeze T-licious – Cuffs Café
The first mouthful felt sour, then weird then the lovely sweet aftertaste hit. Accompanied by a gorgeous piece of lindt chocolate.

Giuseppe’s Italian Summer – Giuseppe’s
The service was sweet but the drink was bitter.

Overall thoughts: this was a lot harder to critique than the hot chocolate challenge as you aren't comparing like with like. There was more "paper" hanging around but no way to track which drinks you'd already tried; we preferred the booklets.

Rants in the Dark

Emily Writes first came to my attention when she wrote a beautiful piece about abs. Next I heard, trolls had bullied her off the internet for the crime of being a woman who expressed an opinion. Then, magically she was back with a book, Rants in the Dark, which this play is based on.

Her return is triumphant, as is her story. Despite all odds she had kids, despite illness they're ok, despite sleepless nights she's still functioning. Her writing is so honest it's comedic. Motherhood, parenthood is hard. It's being in the trenches. But it's also delightful. It's your heart growing from love for your children, for your partner. It's realising that life is hard but you're harder. She speaks her truth and she speaks to many people.

How on earth does this translate to the stage? Renee Lyons is the face of Emily while Bronwyn Turei and Ameila Reid-Meredith play every other character from voices on the internet to Emily's child and husband. Scenes and characters jump and flow to create the story in vignettes. Featuring actual text from the book including Emily's words, those of her supporters and detractors. It's like a dance, as the actors twist around each other, twirl apart then come together again as entirely new characters.

If you're a parent, if you know a parent, you will find something to relate to. This is real life on the stage.

Performances: 19 January – 16 February, Tues-Wed 6.30pm, Thurs-Sat 8pm, Sun 4pm
Tickets: $52