May 21, 2022

Cringeworthy - The 80s

Cringeworthy is part concert, part history lesson with a side of comedy thrown in. It started slow with a song I didn't recognise, perhaps because as a country we still want to believe "there is no depression in New Zealand" so this song has dropped off rotation. The performers were constantly moving, the choreography was simple but effective, it was exhausting to watch them bounce around the stage. I don't know how they had the endurance to survive one song let alone the whole night, nor the memory for the steps.

The first half focused on local music and events; the second was more international and somehow more energetic with bigger wigs and brighter costumes. The audience seemed more relaxed too and responded with cheers and singing along.

Three of the four performers weren't born in the 80's which, as I was, I found mildly insulting. Harmonies weren't always great and backup vocals could have benefited from mic volume being reduced. But only a couple of the songs didn't quite match the singers voice.

This is a hilarious nostalgic piece that anyone who lived through the 80's can enjoy.

Andrea Sanders is not only the creator, she's also the director and one of the cast; she has done a phenomenal job and is a phenomenal performer. I wish I'd seen the 70's version and look forward to a 90's show that was hinted at.

Performances: 21 May - 11 June (times vary)

Tickets: $54

May 13, 2022

Surprise! Goodbye!

Imagine this: you're an improviser, you meet another improviser, you fall in love, you decide to move together. How would you farewell your friends and City?

Ben Jardine and Liz Butler are throwing themselves a surprise party. Each night they are surprised by fellow improvisers who come armed with an improvisational style for them all to perform together on stage.

The outcome? Spectacular. 

Geared up with party hats and treat bags the audience rolicked their way through a 90's soap opera of a Wellington comic book dynasty, featuring am unknown twin, an illiterate heir and a pole dancing grandmother.

It's clear the performers are having an excellent time as they attempt to stop themselves crying with laughter from the sidelines. As with all improv they adore painting their compatriots into metaphorical corners as much as collaborating.

Stand out performance was Claire as the stripper grandmother and rival comic book store owner, she also seemed to be doing a bit of managing the show. Noticeable in a not so great way was the person on the lights, who missed cues from performers even when everyone on stage was signaling.

You never know what you're going to get but it's worth the risk.

March 28, 2022

Another Universe by Miss Leading

Miss Leading curates her universe and it's many histories in this thought provoking piece. We are constrained to a single place and time, unable to investigate all the possibilities of what and who we could have been; the universe is limitless but life is finite.

She examines the paths she might have taken, the people she might have been through the use of artefacts. Which path would you choose - travel, career, family? Different choices mean different relationships, perhaps even different sexual identities. In none of her options is it possible to be unaffected by her past, her whakapapa or external events, nor is her choice ever free of others opinions of the right way to do it.

Blending acting and spoken word poetry to beautifully express things like "romance resides in held held device" to describe a long distance relationship that is an apt descriptor for many aspects of our lives these days. Covid has granted us introspection we've never allowed time for, take this gift. 

Performances: Online till 3 April

Tickets: Pay what you can

March 24, 2022

Miss Brontë

We all know the story of the Brontë's; literary, secluded, perhaps insular. What is fact? What is fiction? What is the result of historians or literary stalwarts motivations? It's little known that Charlotte married (to a controlling man who wanted her friend Ellen to burn her intimate letters, many of which are quoted in this play) or that the family weren't always tied to home.

Charlotte Brontë is a woman clawing a life of her own out of her limited options, the rosy family life we were sold is a lie - she and her sisters hid their writing from the male members of their family. But is this the lie at the centre of the play? Alongside the indignities of being a woman in a world that sees you as lesser, Charlotte endures the pain of witnessing her family die, one by one, their coughs haunting her dreams - a fate we were lucky enough to narrowly avoid.

What's the big secret that Miss Bronte is hiding? It isn't catastrophic, but that may be from a modern perspective. More surprising was the revelation that their life was more than the parsonage on the moors, all the sisters (and brother) left home but inevitably found their way back there. There was even time spent in Europe!

This play shows us that humans don't change over the course of 200 years. Our desires are the same; so are our mistakes or missteps. Family, respect, impact, individuality, creativity, these things remain even if all we have as evidence is writing.

Tickets: $22 (Sold Out)

Performances: 7pm 22-26 March

March 12, 2022

Imagining Rachel

Rachel Carson and Elise Robertson were born 12 miles and 6 decades apart. Rachel was a trail blazing woman scientist, writer and activist who you've probably never heard of. She pointed out that pesticides were damaging and the more correct label was biocides. Elise is a modern storyteller, she performs on the stage and here, in front of the camera. Rachel and Elise's lives intertwine in this inventive performance where an office is transformed into a hospital, a cabin, a creek, and even under the sea via projections, props, split screens, and stop motion imagery.

In some ways the choices we make as women now may seem small in comparison to those that Rachel made. But we have those very choices because women who came before us made it possible. Yet still we struggle. My mother wasn't believed 30 odd years ago when her water broke and no doctor witnessed it. A friend recently was complaining that younger women are using birth control incorrectly; it was to give them a choice, not to buckle down to male pressure. I argued that, we had no role models to learn this from. We are still learning to understand our independence, our choices. Though she never married or gave birth Rachel mothered 3 children, 2 nieces and a great nephew, managing to fulfil the more traditional female role while maintaining her independence and drive in a society that viewed women narrowly. Female support in it's many forms was also highlighted, we need each other to succeed.

This film is historical as well as personal, an act of performance and activism.

Tickets: $9

Performances: online, anytime (till 19 March)

March 6, 2022

CHANSONS – French Song & Stories from Piaf, Brel & Me

 Another Covid blessing is Chansons, an award winning online one woman cabaret show. Stefanie Rummel takes you on a tour around Europe (not just France) with a recorded Zoom show interspersed with videos from live shows - there may also be puppets. She is from Germany, speaks in English, and sings in French, but has travelled and performed extensively. Seeing her in person must be an electric performance as she manages to shine through the screen. I sincerely hope that this new medium will help her grow her audience to get the recognition she deserves. Lovers of music and culture won't want to miss this show.

Tickets: $9

Performances: online, anytime (till March 19)

February 27, 2022

Disenchanted: A Cabaret of Twisted Fairy Tales

There's a plague going on and the only way to connect with others is through a magic mirror. Sound familiar? Except this plague is 300 (ish) years ago and the person is a French noblewoman trying to contact characters from fairy tales to tell their side of the story.

This award winning, one woman, show will turn your perception of fairy tales on their head. Our Disney soaked view is clean and sparkling compared to the dark and often disturbing originals. This piece gives often overlooked characters the stage (or the screen) to sing their own tales of the truth; abuse, sex, murder and consent issues are all covered. These are not your childhood fairy tales, but they are very entertaining.

There are morals to be found here "beware of heroes" and "don't be swayed by jewels." With excellent characterisation and voice these stories are told in a way that may be closer to their archetypical intention.

Performances: online, anytime (till 19 March)

Tickets: $9

February 26, 2022

Satan vs God

Although the production value isn't great, you can tell it's a man in front of a projector screen, and the promotional materials mention music in dance in such a way that I thought this would be a dance piece, Satan vs God is a thought provoking one-man film.

It touches on issues with race - Lucifer/Satan is portrayed by a black man who mentions crosses burned in God's name with images of the KKK in the background. It raises questions like is it necessary to have evil to truly comprehend good? How can this be understood in the context of people who slaughter each other for religious reasons?

There are brief glimpses of freedom as a winged and gold adorned Lucifer dances on a beach in sunlight, so different from the pervasive red lighting of the rest of the film. 

Lucifer is "always the bridesmaid" and compares himself to God's other forgiven children, the unfairness he faces, like a teenager raging at the world. The parent/child relationship is evident with God infantilising Lucifer who only wants to come home.

Perhaps the most important question is raised through the ten commandments of Satan which seem eerily like rules our society functions under. Who do we really follow?

NB: I was raised religious but am not now. This film may be confronting for people of faith

Performances: online, anytime (till 19 March)

Tickets: pay what you can (UK) from $9

An Ice Thing to Say

One of the great things about Covid is more availability of everything online; the Fringe Festival has included several international acts via this medium. An Ice Thing to Say is an award winning film from a women led, London based, company. The promotional materials state it is about humans impact on nature, but you may come to a different interpretation.

Different styles of music and sound phase in and out as a woman dances in a warehouse with large blocks of ice. Then people dance alone in their houses, the gumboots in the bath was an especially nice touch. Then back in the warehouse the woman is joined by another person and emotion is exhibited. From there is becomes even more abstract - is it about the masks we wear? Pollution? Possession? Eventually the ice is destroyed.

All art is subjective, here are the bits that struck me. A voice over saying "will you be brave enough to let stillness and silence surround you?" The feeling of solitude against outside pressures, collecting shattered pieces of ourselves. Like many things in life ice is temporary, it melts.

Performances: Online, 18 February - 19 March

Tickets: $15

February 23, 2022

The Shit Kid

Small town New Zealand, horses, elicit sex, sibling rivalry, illegitimate children, bad neighbours, swearing - The Shit Kid has it all. Apart from the horses its the kind of mix you'd expect from a drama but this is a comedy. Though perhaps they'd need to throw in a suspiciously missing person to fit the kind of drama that's in vogue.

There were a couple of stumbles on opening night, as well as sound issues, but these were handled the kiwi way, with a laugh, self depreciation and swearing. As it's the development season this may be natural, but there are solid bones to build the show on before it opens to a wider audience.

Sharni is a hilarious character, if a little unsympathetic. Overshadowed by her brother, the one with the penis, she tries so hard to forge her own path but keeps fucking it up. There are a couple of surprisingly deep twists which could explain the characters stance but there's just something about her which makes it hard to be on her side, even if you want to. If anything needs a little work it's this aspect, I think I would have enjoyed this show more if I'd been rooting for Sharni.

Get your tickets now as several nights are already sold out and arrive early as Covid seating is not great for latecomers.

Performances: 22-26 February, 6pm

Tickets: $12

Breakfast Time

If you've ever cohabitated you know breakfast is contentious and often ends in an argument  - we're hungry and we need coffee, we're not rational. It's worse when your opponent is a virtual stranger, requiring politeness; in the case of Breakfast Time we're not talking about last nights hook up (yours or your flatmates), but a newly minted step sibling.

It's awkward and its honest and it's beautifully choreographed. The first part of the evening is a video depicting two young adults making breakfast together; despite the tension, it's almost boring. The sound quality isn't great so several lines go unheard, there is a strange bit where two lines are repeated; it's unclear whether this is intentional or misedited. There is a lot of silence and voices covered by the sounds of clanging kitchenware.

The second part of the evening is a live show. The same two characters reunite to dance their breakfast preparation in front of the audience, if you have not eaten before the show this is especially painful. We surmised they purposely excluded garlic and bacon from the recipe as the smell would fill the theatre. You'll notice the subtle differences in acting choices, the progression from film to theatre. They deconstruct their first interaction, who said what, the undertones, the implications, their backstories and motivations. They feel more like siblings than strangers, they have their own history. It's never established how much time has passed or what has occurred in the interim, it felt like perhaps something significant, but I could be completely misreading the situation and it's literally a breakdown of the video we've just watched.

Performances: 22-24 February, 6pm

Tickets: $20

February 20, 2022


Same-Same was unexpected, it was not a performance in a traditional sense more like a video call you've happened upon. It felt a tiny bit voyeuristic venturing into peoples private conversations over Zoom. This collaborative piece included 6 performers split evenly between Singapore and Adelaide in Australia. One of the upsides of the pandemic is the ability to build a community that defies boarders and abilities,  people that may otherwise have been isolated, aren't. The performers were asked questions and improvised a story together. Even the audience was included when asked to name some positives of Covid which included one person stating they learnt how to spell epidemiologist (yes, I used spell check for that). I acknowledge my privilege as an able bodied person, I believe this performance was for members of the community, including the performers themselves.

Tickets: $25

Performances: Sunday 20, 27 February (times vary)

February 19, 2022

No! I'm not Australian!

Ocean (like the sea) is a 20 something female who's been on her OE (Overseas Experience), she admits how lucky she was to do this life milestone before the world shut down. You'd think by the title of her show that the major thing she took away from her time in London was that they all think we're Australians. It seem perhaps what she learnt instead was that she's hotter in Europe (a point supported by a man at the airport and unicorn hunters - look it up) and despite being on a different continent, she can't escape herself.

Unlike other New Zealanders this trip wasn't as planned out as it could have been - there were no friends to meet, no flats to share, causing many calamities. Some of the jokes landed, most didn't, something Ocean herself admitted.

What seemed like it was going to be an hour long monologue of toilet humour and embarrassing (rather than funny)  anecdotes is split with several original songs relevant to the story. Though Ocean adopts a whiney "valley girl" voice for speaking, her tone while singing is gorgeous, shame about the content. Apparently we hadn't paid enough to see her intimate parts, not that any of us asked.

I thought perhaps I was too old to enjoy this show but my companion in her mid 20's wasn't thrilled either. Judging by the drunk young 20 females in the back I'd suggest they are the target audience.

Tickets: $15

Performances: 7pm 18-19 February

January 23, 2022

A Natural Woman

Ali Harper is back at Circa theatre with her tribute show to Carole King. This was more of an ensemble piece than her previous shows, the musicians and other singer all got their time in the spotlight.

Ali was obviously thrilled to be back in front of an audience. She sang and chatted and flirted with us all. She was vibrant and entertaining, and still possesses a beautiful voice. We were lucky enough to witness her first time accompanying herself, she confessed after the song finished. 

She's done her research, weaving parts of Carole's story into the show. Carole's career brushed up against almost every famous musician of her time, including an almost collaboration with The Beatles.

Some of the music would have been nostalgic for a good portion of the audience but it seemed to be timeless and appreciated by all. Even the younger ones will recognise several of the songs. The closing two pieces brought a tear to my eye.

Tickets: $54

Performances: 22 January - 19 February (times vary)