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RAW! ASMR | Regional News


Created by: Amy Atkins

Directed by: Sara Hirsch

BATS Theatre, 26th Apr 2023

Reviewed by: Stanford Reynolds

A random assortment of fruits and vegetables greets us as we walk into RAW! ASMR, set on an otherwise minimally decorated stage. To begin the show, over the speakers, the soothing voice of ASMRtist persona Letitia Lickkit (Amy Atkins) describes in detail everything on the stage, and some of what we are about to observe. When she appears, she is dressed in a “cheeky and glam” gold-sequinned costume. Beginning the evening this way focuses us in on the finer details of what will be presented to us, and invites us to pay close attention to all of the noises that the performer plays with, the central experience of RAW! ASMR!

The show leans into the comedy of this situation – one performer trying everything she can to trigger our ASMR response, a pleasant tingling sensation that many people feel when hearing particular sounds. She whispers into a microphone, plays with fruit, and taps on objects, fluctuating between calming and manic, and the audience laughs at the absurdity of what she is doing as it contrasts with how earnestly she is trying to win us over.

ASMR videos have created their own community and culture on their corner of YouTube, and Amy breaks down the typical characteristics of them, such as previews of her ASMR techniques at the beginning of the show and roleplay portions of the experience. Credit must also be given to the crisp and clear sound quality.

Simple lighting changes support the experiment on our senses as we are treated to (or subjected to) tapping, crunching, whispering, and chewing noises, among many others.

As the performance goes on and Letitia Lickkit becomes more and more frantic, the meaning becomes clear. She’s desperate for this to work, for us to be happy, for us to like her – for us to like and subscribe! The one-woman show feels like a perfect criticism of social media culture and the yearning for attention hidden under what we choose to present, a message that Amy aptly – albeit unconventionally – communicates.

Calamities! | Regional News


Written by: Jane Arthur

Te Herenga Waka University Press

Reviewed by: Margaret Austin

What’s your idea of a calamity? “An event causing great damage or distress”, the dictionary says. For Jane Arthur, who has titled her poetry collection thus, a calamity might amount to anything from an anticipated apocalypse, to posing philosophical questions like “Do we live only to the limits of our comprehension?”, to a meditation on dead flies.

Such a range allows the sometimes startling, sometimes amusing observations, reflections, and imaginings that preoccupy the writer. How, All Right begins with “I want to get morbid I want to get morbid” and concludes with “Now, knowing the more one learns, the worse one feels!” That seems to me a self-fulfilling prophecy: how you begin is how you might end.

I’m much more at home with the concreteness and immediacy of Princes and Priests. “The celebrities are having mental / health breakdowns and people / are lining up for tickets.” Ring any bells?

The section titled The Bear – sandwiched between Risk Assessment and Highly Flammable – provides welcome relief from the writer’s existential anxieties. She has chosen the pronouns “they” and “them” to refer to the bear, and I find myself wondering if the animal kingdom is as much concerned about this matter as we humans. In the meantime, I’ll have to grin and bear it.

The lengthiest poem, and my favourite, is Choose Again, in which Arthur liberally employs the poet’s most useful literary device – metaphor – to make her point. The poem is a contemplation on shame – of its causes and effects. Likening shame to “an ulcer on the inside / of your cheek / that you nibble on sometimes” is uncomfortably effective, as is “I am a bird / sticking my beak between / the bars of my cage to see if the air / is purer on the outside.”

Her final poem Imaginary Den summarises the theme of this disturbingly prophetic collection with a plea: “Let me dig my little hole. Let me / settle down into it, feigning safety, let me.”

This is a story about your mother | Regional News

This is a story about your mother

Written by: Louise Wallace

Te Herenga Waka University Press

Reviewed by: Margaret Austin

I had a mother, but I’ve never been one. How does that place me to comment on a poetry collection of this nature? Writer Louise Wallace is asking a question too – about the real nature of pregnancy and motherhood. She’s knocking on a forbidden door perhaps, because we women are supposed to live our lives as if it’s our biological fate to reproduce ourselves.

Pregnancy is biological all right and this aspect of it gets full treatment. “You now contain ten / little-finger-like projections”, you’re “being beaten around the ears with the need for leafy greens”, and confronted by “what does the term ‘women’s clothing’ even mean?”

The psychological and social aspects of being pregnant also come under fire. What about baby names? Some couples do a video, and in sexy springtime feelings, “at twenty five you were special – born for a social calendar / but now you’ve got a face made for furniture.”

I’m not sure how delaying tactics fits into the pregnancy picture with its questions such as “how do you get a book deal?” and “what’s the ideal age to try stripping?” unless it’s a disguised longing for a life without a pregnancy in sight. Indeed, these poems are hardly a recommendation for it.

And we haven’t even got to childbirth! Wallace does not hesitate to expose us to the painful and at times grotesque experiences it may bring. Doctors, midwives, and other professionals become part of the scene with their discussions and instructions. But then there is a sign – finally – that all may be well, captured thus: “you’ll experience a new and phenomenal relationship / with your vagina”.

Does that make up for everything you had to undergo to achieve motherhood? I can only hope so. The search for baby names is referenced in one of the concluding poems, suggesting a resolution, as does the final metaphor.

This is a story about your mother makes for salutary reading. Those considering getting pregnant would be well advised to read it.

Secrets of the Sea | Regional News

Secrets of the Sea

Written by: Robert Vennell


Reviewed by: Jo Lucre

Here’s a fish – this is what it looks like, this is what it eats, and this is who eats it. That’s how I thought Secrets of the Sea would go. Surprisingly I found something much more interesting: an almost mini encyclopaedia of the wondrous creatures of the sea, intricately entwined with the history of Aotearoa.

Author Robert Vennell unravels the hidden lives of a vast array of creatures that lie beneath our magnificent waters, from the depths of the ocean to our rivers and sandy shores, giving insight into their biology, etymology, unique characteristics, and cultural significance and importance to Māori. Steeped in history and tradition, Secrets of the Sea is a standout. It’s an evolutionary tale that speaks to the way these unique creatures have had a profound impact on our lives on land despite being largely hidden and sometimes forgotten.

Vennell’s fascinating glimpse into the history of the butterfish reveals they were often linked with nocturnal mischief, just as the whakataukī reads: Ka pō, ka pō, ka kai te rarī (When it is night, the butterfish feed). For Māori, there was a feeling that butterfish or rarī were troublemakers.

Eels or tuna on the other hand were considered by Māori to be one of the single most important food sources found in Aotearoa. On a recent camping trip, I found myself helping to navigate the feeding of eels. Swarming around all slippery, thick and serpent-like, the eels (what variety of, I do not know) took stock of the food, snaking around each other en masse. I was surprised to read that New Zealand longfin eels can grow to be the largest in the world, weighing more than a small child, and can live up to 100 years, effectively giving the humble turtle a run for its money in the longevity stakes.

Gorgeously illustrated, and with stunning photography, Secrets of the Sea is a resplendent unravelling of the mysteries surrounding some of the incredible inhabitants of Aotearoa waters.

Empire City | Regional News

Empire City

Written by: John E. Martin

Te Herenga Waka University Press

Reviewed by: Kerry Lee

Empire City is the most impressive book I think I have ever experienced, and honestly I did not think that I’d be as blown away by it as I was. Everything about it screams pure class, from the handmade drawings to the fold-out maps that show you what Wellington looked like in the mid-19th century.

Every legend started somewhere, and in the case of Wellington, it was with Indigenous Māori and the New Zealand Company (an organisation to help settle the country) first meeting each other. It also tells us about Edward Gibbon Wakefield, whose vison helped settle what we now call Wellington – or Britannia as the then-new settlement was briefly called. Back then there were plenty of dangers to contend with: misunderstandings between Pākehā and local iwi could turn violent, earthquakes, and a lack of supplies made creating a permanent settlement difficult.

It was an amazing read that made me appreciate New Zealand all the more. In fact, I would dare anyone born here to not be impressed by the enormity of what our forefathers went through. It’s not hyperbolic to say that the people living today, including me, really are standing on the backs of giants. We talk about our Kiwi ingenuity all the time – well, now I know where it comes from.

Empire City is a very expansive book that goes into a huge amount of detail and unfortunately, I think that might be its downfall. It’s just so big. That may put some people off reading it, as it will be a bit of an investment of their time. It’s also a niche book, focusing on one specific area at one specific time, so unless you are mad crazy about New Zealand history, this may not appeal to you. 

I suspect that this book is geared toward a particular reader, one who will really get a kick out of reading about this country’s founding. If you are that person I can recommend this wholeheartedly.

Interactions | Regional News


Presented by: KAT Theatre

Cochran Hall, 21st Apr 2023

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

KAT Theatre is the only central Wellington community group regularly mounting a season of short plays. This is commendable as a way for directors to gain experience and actors to flex their performing muscles without the time commitment and staging requirements of a full-length production.

Interactions as a collection is aptly named as it’s the interplay of characters in the three pieces that makes them engaging. This is particularly evident in the first one, Token of Friendship, written by Nataliya Oryshchuk and directed by Marty Pilott. It’s a neat story of cultural awkwardness as enthusiastic employee Carol (Ava Straw) is given a clipboard full of questions and a lei to befriend a colleague in a cheesy corporate getting-to-know-you exercise. Her target is Miroslava (Corrina Gordon), a Belarussian immigrant to Aotearoa. Their amusingly cringe-inducing exchange that converts to common ground over divorce is expertly played by the two actresses. A shoutout to Gordon for her masterful accent skills.

Next up is Anton Chekhov’s The Proposal directed by Hayden Rogers. This over-the-top satire about the greed and shallowness of Russia’s landed aristocracy is energetically played by a committed trio of female actors (Jamie Fenton, Manisha Singh, and Heather Lange), two of whom are playing men. The casting choice provides an interesting and fresh perspective on this classic short play and raises additional questions about male behaviour and motives.

After the interval, Domestic Bliss by Christina Stachurski takes to the stage. At 90 minutes long, this isn’t really a short play. It would have benefitted from cuts to the script to make it fit the one-act format, which would prevent the cast reaching for their lines. While an entertaining and at times poignant exposition of three women (Liz Ebrey, Cinnamon Machin, and Kelly Bennett) from different eras struggling with female life, the script lacks conflict. Conflict equals drama in theatre and this is largely missing. The cast make a good fist of it, however, and their occupation of the same kitchen is cleverly managed.

One Night Band | Regional News

One Night Band

Presented by: Squash Co Arts Collective

Created by: Liam Kelly

BATS Theatre, 15th Apr 2023

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

As a theatre reviewer in Pōneke, I’ve seen some out-there stuff. Women screeching in buckets of mud, bald men singing Rihanna, murder by banana… Since I first started writing for Regional News eight years ago, our creative community has surprised, delighted, and floored me at every turn. But I have perhaps never seen anything as unique as One Night Band.

A live band (MC Liam Kelly, vocalist Pippa Drakeford-Croad, keyboardist Ben Kelly, guitarist Tessa Dillon, bassist Peter Hamilton, and drummer Lennox Grootjans) writes, performs, and records a new song every hour on the hour with audience input. At the end of 12 hours, they have an album.

In my 4pm session, we’re given a prompt: a piece of media that recently inspired us. The chosen audience contribution is a TikTok about trawling for jellyfish. We brainstorm what this might sound like and settle on a blues-rap set in an apocalyptic world where humans only eat jellyfish.

The blues verse is sung (beautifully by Drakeford-Croad) from the perspective of a jellyfish about to be eaten. “It’s hard being a fish made of jelly, when you’re destined to end up in a belly” goes the chorus, which somehow I’m up on stage singing the third harmony for. Meanwhile, two human audience members write and perform a killer rap bridge about eating said jellyfish.

One Night Band is the epitome of a communal experience. There are beanbags, couches, and even colouring activities in the programme. It reminds me of devising theatre with my buddies at uni, something I didn’t think I’d get to relive anytime soon. I so appreciate the opportunity and the atmosphere of camaraderie in the room.

While it might be cosy and casual, there’s unrelenting talent here. The band is a “yes and” machine, accepting any offer and churning out a pretty great song in 60 minutes. The lyrics rhyme, the hook is tight, the bass is thick, and there’s even a keyboard solo that sounds like a jellyfish. How wonderful to watch art being made in real time. And how much more wonderful to have helped in the making.

The Portable Door | Regional News

The Portable Door


155 minutes

(2 out of 5)

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

From what I have heard from fans of Tom Holt, the highly acclaimed, accomplished, and prolific British novelist, the book The Portable Door is one of the most beloved young adult novels of all time. But what about the film rendition of the same name? The reviews online have been mixed, with people ranging from overjoyed to disappointed and even angry. Supposedly the movie doesn’t follow the book. As for my review?

I’ll start with the good. Christoph Waltz as CEO Humphrey Wells and our very own Sam Neill as right-hand man Dennis Tanner, as always, never fail to amuse and entertain. I have the utmost respect for both of these silver screen powerhouses, and in all honesty, they carried the movie with their talent, gravitas, and natural presence. Without these formidable villains, the film would have been – albeit beautifully designed by Matthew Putland and cinematically engaging thanks to Donald McAlpine – quite frankly a corporate spinoff of Harry Potter… but not as good.

That said, The Portable Door book was written well before J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world came to life, so perhaps it’s the other way round. From the palpable disappointment from Tom Holt fans though, The Portable Door film simply did not meet its full potential.

In the film, J.W. Wells & Co is a company that deals in crafting “coincidences” in the real world. However, the mysterious disappearance of John Wells Senior (also Christoph Waltz) has led to Wells Junior attempting to data mine the world’s collective consciousness to advertising companies. This concept is eerily close to home and quite interesting. The execution just doesn’t deliver. Wells Junior employs lost-soul Paul Carpenter (our lead, Patrick Gibson) to find his missing portable door. Why? Well I’m not sure as it doesn’t seem to have much to do with the threat of data mining the entire world. The story doesn’t connect, causing the audience to disengage and thus the stakes just simply aren’t high enough.

It’s fun for sure, but it’s nothing to write home about. If you’re after a rollicking and predictable fantasy-adventure story, then it will hit the mark. In retrospect I feel I watched two separate films sitting on opposite sides of The Portable Door.

Fundamental Forces  | Regional News

Fundamental Forces

Presented by: Orchestra Wellington

Conducted by: Marc Taddei

Michael Fowler Centre, 15th Apr 2023

Reviewed by: Dawn Brook

Orchestra Wellington’s season started with a bang with Marc Taddei’s inventive programming drawing an integrating arc over two masterpieces from the 18th century and two from the 20th century. CPE Bach, son of the illustrious Johann Sebastian, is seen as the father of symphonic form. His Symphony in E minor demonstrates the greater emotional freedom of expression that emerged through his music. This was seen again in Haydn’s Symphony No. 39 in G minor, Tempesta di Mare.  Stravinsky, though his discordant tonalities broke from convention, harks back to the structural order and rationality of earlier times in his Violin Concerto in D, while Prokofiev puts dramatic effect before all else in his Scythian Suites with an astonishing amount of brass and percussion creating an ear-assaulting volume level. The count of 17 brass instruments and 10 percussionists tells all!

So the audience was treated to a music history lesson as well as four wonderful performances. The energy in CPE Bach came from strongly punctuated rhythms, sudden changes in volume and pace with very marked rallentandos, and changes in texture through the addition of wind instruments and horns to the predominant strings. Tempesta di Mare had even greater contrasts with beautifully produced string pianissimos, dramatic interjections, and suspenseful pauses. The performance of both works was sparkling.

The excellent soloist in the Stravinsky Violin Concerto was Natalia Lomeiko, a winner of the Michael Hill International Violin Competition and current professor of violin at the Royal College of Music. The concerto is unconventional: the soloist hardly ever stops playing, has no dashing bravura solo, and the predominant orchestral components are brass and wind rather than strings. Contrasting rhythms between different players give the work a restless quality. The sheer beauty of the second movement brought an audible murmur of appreciation from the audience. For me, the concerto was the concert’s highlight.