Reviews - Regional News | Connecting Wellington


Celebrity Trevor Island | Regional News

Celebrity Trevor Island

Presented by: Ruff as Gutz

Directed by: Mia Oudes

Te Auaha, 21st Feb 2024

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

About five minutes into Celebrity Trevor Island, I whisper to my friend, “I get to write about this for a living”. I am, of course, grinning. Four improv performers – Em Barrett, Salome Bhanu, Dylan Hutton, and Eliza Sanders – are midway through strapping squeaky chicken toys to their feet with heavy-duty duct tape. Moments later, the clucky cacophony commences...

And they’re off! They dart, they dive, they dash around the chicken coop, dodging a dastardly, dangerous sheep! But it’s not a sheep, it’s a mute farmhand named Shithead (Anna Barker) in disguise! And she’s armed with a swimming noodle! Only at Fringe.

In Celebrity Trevor Island, created by Jeremy Hunt with second project lead Austin Harrison, Trevor (Hunt) is seeking a replacement for his less-than-satisfactory farmhand. Four candidates – collected from other New Zealand Fringe Festival shows – have shown up for an interview that turns out to be an unpaid job trial (classic). Onsite, they must complete a series of tasks, each more unhinged than the last. I don’t want to spoil too much, but there’s the pie-decorating contest, the cow-insemination challenge (the steaks are high for this one), and the Trev-ia round, which gives rise to some of the best lines of the night.

To Trev’s question, “What’s your favourite thing about Trevor”, Sanders responds, “You’ve got a tolerable aura”. She also accidentally impersonates a horse (classic). When asked “L&P or the A&P”, Hutton frantically bellows, “L&P at the A&P”, scoring (Mitre 10) mega points and laughs in the process.

Musician Ben Kelly tinkles on the keys to add to the atmosphere, but only sporadically and I want more. Bouncier music would also help to drive the action forward, as Celebrity Trevor Island does flounder round the mid-section. It’s a little Ruff around the edges, sure – but its Gutz are pure chaos and carnage and I’m not even sure I want to see a more polished version. With its unique format, electric host, and guest performers who go the whole hog, this hysterical show epitomises the spirit of the Fringe.

Making It Up (One Playwright to Another) | Regional News

Making It Up (One Playwright to Another)

Written by: Norm Reynolds

Directed by: Lesley Ballantyne

Running online until 10th Mar 2024

Reviewed by: Zac Fitzgibbon

Making It Up (One Playwright to Another) is an award-winning dramatisation of playwright and actor Norm Reynolds’ life as he makes his way through appointments with destiny in the realms of academia, finance, and theatre.

The work is shot entirely at the Red Sandcastle Theatre in Toronto, yet it is a piece of digital theatre. Filming onstage establishes Making It Up (One Playwright to Another) as a play, even bearing in mind its online format. I respect and appreciate the foreword at the start of the piece recognising the Indigenous people’s land on which the play was filmed. I feel more art should do this.

Making It Up (One Playwright to Another) features conversations between Reynolds and renowned American playwright Edward Albee, with Reynolds playing both himself and Albee. This is a neat concept, but at times I struggle to differentiate between the characters presented. This could be remedied through more distinct characterisation. However, through these conversations, the work opens up a dialogue about the inner workings of script creation, exploring an element of theatre often left unseen. A highlight for me is the monologue towards the end, written and presented by Reynolds as Albee, about grading papers. A mundane task, sure – but Reynolds performs it so well that it becomes one of the most interesting and memorable monologues of the show.

The piece makes good use of its digital format, incorporating aspects of sound and cinematography (John Bertram) to enhance the performance in a way that would’ve been less effective in a live theatre setting. I find some of the cinematic transitions between scenes to be distracting at times, although I am not sure whether this effect is intentional.

I never expected to watch theatre intended for a digital audience, but after this experience, I realise there should be more art available in this medium. From one reviewer to another viewer, I would recommend giving Making It Up (One Playwright to Another) a go.

A Year and a Day | Regional News

A Year and a Day

Written by: Christopher Sainton-Clark

Directed by: Rosanna Mallinson

Hannah Playhouse, 20th Feb 2024

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

Again and again, Nathan wakes up on the heath just beyond his hometown in County Meath, Ireland. When the ball of light came racing towards him on that fateful October night, the year was 1959, but with each new dawn for Nathan, a year and a day has passed for the rest of the world. Leaving behind a botched heist, a vengeful criminal gang, his best friend Sam, his struggling parents, and Elsie, the love of his life, Nathan must spend his time managing the chaos caused by this inexplicable curse.

A Year and a Day takes on the cadence, rhythms, and teachings of folklore as it subtly warns the audience to live not in the past or the future but in the here and now. Recounted completely in rhyme by Christopher Sainton-Clark alone on stage, the story is engaging and paced as if to keep up with Nathan’s temporal leaps. Accompanied by an intentional and essential lighting design from Daisy den Engelse to indicate time and place, Sainton-Clark plays each character distinctly, moulding his body, voice, and mannerisms into a disappointed father, a scorned friend, a heartbroken lover, and a lost time traveller. He has no props to use, only the clothes upon his back, his body, and his emotions, yet pure magic flows forth from this immensely talented shapeshifter.

A Year and a Day spans 65 years – or just two months in Nathan’s timeline. A poignant, tender, and darkly comedic story, this New Zealand Fringe Festival show explores the intricacies of love and loss ravaged by time. As Sainton-Clark skips through days, months, and years, he paints an evocative and painfully beautiful portrait of the time traveller, focusing not on the excitement of what is to come but on the nostalgia of an unlived past and the torment of what could have been. The result is a man clutching in vain at the sands of time slipping unrelenting through his fingers.

Goody Goody Glam Pop | Regional News

Goody Goody Glam Pop

Written by: Bethany Miller and Logan Hunt

Circus Bar, 19th Feb 2024

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

Celebrity YouTuber Lisa Spector (Megan Connolly) invites you to an intimate, exclusive VIP talk show for glamorous pop icon, Miss Goody Two Shoes herself, Brooklyn Brooklyn (Bethany Miller). Fresh from her world-smashing comeback tour, the tabloid darling is live and unplugged as she ruminates on her career path from former Disney starlet to chart-topping pop queen.

Sound familiar? It should be, as the premise leans heavily on the story of Miley Cyrus. However, all is not entirely what it seems as our star originally comes from Brooklyn, Wellington, and her teen rebellion is revealed to have been super-prudent and devoid of the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll phase Cyrus went through. Just when the saccharine is hitting the max, there’s another cunning twist as uber fan girl Lisa Spector also turns out not to be what she at first seems.

Both performers carry off their roles with comedic aplomb and Miller particularly glows as the too-good-to-be-true, vainglorious Brooklyn. The pivot that raises this diamond of a show above the usual is the songwriting of Logan Hunt. His Tim Minchin-esque lyrics are brilliant and Miller’s performance of them a delight as she parodies the breathy, pouting sincerity of so many young popsters. The songs Breathless and No FOMO are genius and the line “I keep missing U” has me laughing far louder than I should in such a small venue.

Despite the minimal staging, this creative team pay attention to detail with a strong pink motif running through the two chairs, table coverings, and the wardrobe of both performers and superb guitarist Peter Liley in his ‘I am Kenough’ Barbie hoodie. There’s even a blush of pink from the Circus Bar’s LED lighting fixtures (Lucy Gray).

One iconic pop star. One totally chill, normal fan. Yeah, right! Turning the world of celebrity and its gossip-hungry fans on its head, Goody Goody Glam Pop is a fresh new work by a fresh young team. Long may its star shine bright.



Written by: Jackson Burling and Hannah Doogan

Directed by: Jackson Burling

Inverlochy Art School, 18th Feb 2024

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

If your pillow is mouldy, your flat is draughty, your windows are swollen shut, and your landlord has ignored your email requests to fix something but has always been punctual for an inspection then fear not, ONE BEDROOM AVAILABLE IN SUPER SUNNY CENTRAL WELLINGTON FLAT $260 PER WEEK EXCLUDING EXPENSES has all the bells and whistles. This is a New Zealand Fringe Festival show for the Kiwi tenant and an urgent call to action.

Both relatable and cathartic, this political comedy musical is just as chaotic, uncomfortable, and surprising as renting in Aotearoa. When I turned up at Riley (Monet Wiljo Faifai-Collins) and Leo’s (Rachel McSweeney) ‘flat viewing’ I was as confused as they were. “Were you told 3pm or 3:30pm?” Leo asks me before she continues vacuuming the worn, stained, and warped ‘character’ floorboards.

Based on real-life experiences from some of New Zealand’s 1.4 million renters and set in an actual (former) flat, the show follows Leo and Riley’s quest to find a fifth flatmate. DJ Stan (Charleigh Griffiths) is staying on and there’s that Aussie bloke Seamus (director Jackson Burling) from the online viewing arriving tomorrow, Leo assures us, her prospective flatmates. Two hopefuls single themselves out from the crowd, over-zealous Eden Right (producer Hannah Doogan) who lives at home and a cool, nonchalant, loner called Mac (musical director Adriana Calabrese) who has lived in over 20 crappy flats.

As the viewing chugs forward, problems with the property continuously arise – but it’s the best you’ll get for this price and location! DJ Stan intermittently dims the lights, turns up the gobos, and plays a tune right on queue. Singing reimagined versions of Kiwi classics, this vocally blessed cast gives us bangers the likes of One Week in a Leaky Flat, Slice of Average, and Why Do Flat Viewings Do This To Me.

This show is an indictment of NZ’s rental crisis and habitability standards. Filled with funny shenanigans, the ending voiceover delivering facts and data pulls it all together, transforming a cheeky and relatable Fringe show into an exposé demanding change.

Poor Things | Regional News

Poor Things


141 minutes

(3 out of 5)

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

I truly disliked Poor Things for the first 30 minutes. When it dawned on me that it is cinematic magical realism, I became enthralled.

Directed by Greece’s surrealist son Yorgos Lanthimos, Poor Things is a tribute to Frankenstein starring Emma Stone as Bella Baxter, a woman created by Dr Godwin ‘God’ Baxter (Willem Dafoe). In a smutty romp through a distorted Europe and free from the constraints of her time, Bella embarks on an adventure in the pursuit of knowledge, becoming the ultimate self-made woman.

There are so many interesting technical elements in Poor Things. Beginning in black and white, the film is dowsed in technicolour once Bella leaves the confines of God’s home. Often filmed through a fish-eye lens, the world is distorted, disorienting, and unbalancing – a wonderful choice by cinematographer Robbie Ryan to place the viewer in Bella’s shaky shoes. Shona Heath and James Price’s set design is over-stimulating, phallic, garish, and unfamiliar, the world as perceived by Bella. Holly Waddington’s costumes are impractical and outlandish. They look incongruent on Bella’s unfamiliar body, a perfect reflection of how they must feel to our heroine.

Bella’s mental growth is mirrored by her physicality. As she consumes knowledge, she must also satiate her sexual needs; as she gradually masters language, she achieves the same with her gangly limbs. I wonder, however, if rather than mirroring her academic growth, Bella’s bodily escapades are actually driving her quest for knowledge.

Bella seems to discover herself and her world through her body; only after carnal indulgences does she ponder philosophical matters. I suppose this is how all humans progress, as the physical is much easier to grasp than the metaphysical, but for Bella the quest for the empirical is almost purely driven by physical interactions. What bothers me about this is that Bella views her world and herself in relation to men. This begs the question, if Poor Things had been written and/or directed by a woman, would it still possess that voyeuristic perspective underpinned by the male gaze?

Bella engages positively with female characters only briefly, and many of her other interactions with women are strained. Is this to underscore that the world of Poor Things is a male-dominated one, highlighting Bella’s own emancipation even more? In that case, when encountering male judgement, would Bella not find refuge and comfort in female companionship throughout her journey? Therefore Bella’s perspective becomes one seen through male eyes. Is it her own gaze then or is it a reclaimed projection? Either way it is not entirely hers. She absorbs and reinterprets this gaze, subverting it, but often it feels voyeuristic. Nevertheless, perhaps the point is that where male characters see only her physical beauty, her own self-worth comes from her independence, character, and empathy.

The Holdovers | Regional News

The Holdovers


133 minutes

(5 out of 5)

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

3pm on a sunny afternoon at the Brooklyn Penthouse Cinema and the snow is falling in The Holdovers. It lays in drifts on the ground, covering cars, coating branches, dampening the sounds of the world but unable to stifle the incomparable excitement that is the last day of school. The year is 1970 and happy boys with rosy cheeks looking forward to the promise of a fun vacation burst forth from the big doors of Barton Academy – a private boarding school in New England.

Except for a select few who have nowhere to go this Christmas. These ones must remain at Barton until after New Years in the care of their curmudgeonly classics professor Paul Hunham (Paul Giamatti) and Mary Lamb (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), the school cook who lost her son in the Vietnam War just months ago.

Among the ragtag troupe is Angus Tully (newcomer Dominic Sessa) who is bright and caustic but erratic, a troublemaker, and a royal pain in the… you get the point. Forming an unlikely bond, the trio embark on a melancholy, albeit memorable, adventure.

Dubbed a Christmas-blues movie, The Holdovers – directed by Alexander Payne – is likely to join the holiday-cinema canon. Described as a “masterclass in melancholy” (The Guardian), it’s writer David Hemingson’s screenplay that hits me. Aside from an incredible production design team – which I am furious to learn is not responsible for one of The Holdovers’ five Academy Award nominations – and a superb trio of leading actors, it is the story that truly shines.

So many new films are a spectacle, which is not a bad thing, but the effects and the visuals, the sensationalism and the extremes are the calling cards. The Holdovers is not flashy or groundbreaking or innovative, but in my eyes, it is a work of art. There is no pretence as it captures the essence of humanity. It is simple, raw, and beautiful. It’s been a long, long time since I have seen a film that has reminded me of where my love of cinema came from.

Lads on the Island | Regional News

Lads on the Island

Written by: Sam Brooks

Directed by: Nī Dekkers-Reihana

Circa Theatre, 3rd Feb 2024

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

Loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Lads on the Island is a modern reimagining of Prospero’s retreat into a blue funk, not because of the betrayals of a treacherous family but from being dumped by his girlfriend.

Joining magician Prospero (Finley Hughes), as in the original, is the spirit Ariel (Reon Bell) who he magically enslaves as his companion in misery. The lads spend their time drinking beer, arguing about Sherlock Holmes, singing, and dad-dancing to pop songs. But the lads are not alone on their virtual island of self-pity and must deal with visitations from Prospero’s sister Miranda, Ariel’s boyfriend Sebastian, Ariel’s mum Sycorax, and Fern, Prospero’s ex (all played by Bronwyn Ensor).

This trio of actors is a delight with a warm, infectious chemistry between Hughes and Bell, and superb support from Ensor, who is particularly delicious as the all-powerful Sycorax. Bell shines as the loving, supportive Ariel who stands by his bestie despite Prospero’s fretting and whining. Far from being just another tale of a broken heart, this magical production, beautifully woven by playwright Sam Brooks and Dekkers-Reihana’s natural direction style, conjures an exquisite story of the enchanting and enduring power of friendship.

Major props to set designer Lucas Neal and lighting and special effects designer Michael Trigg. Their tiered set backed by sheer drapes is a constantly surprising and charming work of art with built-in lights that magically appear at a click of Ariel’s fingers in the detritus of Prospero’s man cave. Matt Asunder’s diaphanous sound and music and a hard-working smoke machine add extra layers of atmosphere to the intimate space. Special mention to the self-filling disco beer fridge and stage manager Marshall Rankin for their own special magic.

With a scattering of jokes about the impenetrability of Shakespeare, this is a beguiling reworking of the Bard’s most mystical characters that will leave you with warm fuzzies and a renewed belief in the simple beauty of friendship.

Kia Ora Khalid | Regional News

Kia Ora Khalid

Created by: composer Gareth Farr and writer Dave Armstrong

Directed by: creative lead Ditas Yap

BATS Theatre, 31st Jan 2024

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

In a schoolyard on a lunch break, four kids – Tom (Jack Sullivan and understudy Aidan Soper), Serena (Justina-Rose Tua), Trang (Ameira Arroyo), and Khalid (Ofri Earon and understudy Jet Wilton) – are playing a game of touch rugby. Well, trying to play. It’s “three-one to the girls” (a catchy song still stuck in my head), and Tom is getting crushed. He needs another person on his team, but he won’t let Khalid play. Khalid, you see, is a refugee. He’s from Afghanistan, so he’s probably “a Taliban”, Tom sneers.

Tom’s prejudice begins to waver when Trang reveals that she is a first-generation Cambodian whose grandfather was a victim of the Khmer Rouge. And Serena’s uncle Sio had to leave Samoa in search of higher pay to support his family, only to become a victim of war himself. Just like Khalid. And, actually, just like Tom’s grandfather…

Kia Ora Khalid is a children’s opera that crosses continents and bridges borders to show that, at our core, we’re not that different. No matter the colour of our skin, the language we speak, or the god we pray to, our love – our humanity – is universal.

Presented under the umbrella of Six Degrees Festival, this production of Kia Ora Khalid is performed by a cast of 16 young people aged 10 to 19 from various schools across Wellington. What incredible heart this ensemble pours into every second of their time on stage. Tackling a sung-through opera is no mean feat – let alone one by composer Gareth Farr with writer Dave Armstong, one so dynamic and powerful. With live accompaniment by a tight band of pianist Laura Stone, cellist Nathan Parker, percussionist Ari Cradwick, and clarinettist Felix McDougall (whose voice blows me away), and music direction from Jo Hodgson, the cast is more than up to the mammoth challenge.

High production values – particularly stage manager Emory Otto’s costume design, and sound designer Senuka Sudusinghe’s lighting design, which sees breathtaking moments of shadowplay – combine to create a kaleidoscope of colour and spectacle.

Kia Ora Khalid premiered in 2009 but feels timelier than ever today. Led by stage director Ditas Yap, this cast and crew should be very proud.