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Mary’s Boys, Jean-Jacques, and other stories | Regional News

Mary’s Boys, Jean-Jacques, and other stories

Written by: Vincent O’Sullivan

Te Herenga Waka University Press

Reviewed by: Kerry Lee

Poignant, fun, and touching, Mary’s Boys, Jean-Jacques, and other stories is a collection of short stories from one of New Zealand’s most accomplished authors and poets, Sir Vincent O’Sullivan.

From an elderly grandmother dredging up her old memories to a man from the past purchasing the unthinkable, each story evoked a different emotion and kept me hooked and engaged until I reached the last page.

I loved them all and found myself reading and re-reading some of the stories simply because they were that good. But for me the real meat, the pièce de resistance of the book was Mary’s Boys, Jean-Jacques. An unofficial sequel of sorts based on Mary Shelley’s
1818 novel Frankenstein, which picks up some time where the original story left off with the titular creature floating away, his fate left uncertain.

As a rule of thumb, I have always believed that classic literature should never be touched, but O’Sullivan treats Frankenstein’s monster with the respect and dignity it deserves. I especially enjoyed the little Aotearoa-esque twist that I think many readers will appreciate.

While each story is unique they all share a few similarities. The character development is top-notch. They aren’t just a bunch of words on a page but instead well-defined people that I related to and even liked. One standout is of course the marvellous job O’Sullivan’s done at recreating Mary Shelley’s creation. Its description genuinely terrified me. Likewise, I loved the worlds of each story, and almost imagined myself being in them alongside the characters.

My one complaint is that I wanted more. Seven stories just weren’t enough, and by the end of the book, I was hungry for more. It’s a minor complaint though, and I’m sure everyone who picks this up will thoroughly enjoy it. 

O’Sullivan has done admirably, and I think Mary Shelley would be proud of the care that he has taken with her work if she were alive today.

exile on tombleson road | Regional News

exile on tombleson road

Written by: Brian Potiki

Blurry Line Books

Reviewed by: Jo Lucre

exile on tombleson road is the perfect pocket-sized book and unconventional compilation of poetry.

For want of a better word, there’s something ‘cool’ about it. It’s rugged and folksy and the images by Riley Claxton are old-school yet fitting.

It’s a nod to the Rolling Stone’s Exile on Main St., and in a similar vein to an album has track listings and two sides.

It’s a winning collaboration between Claxton’s images taken around author Brian Potiki’s house and surroundings in Lake Rotoehu with some of his bohemian poetry. Potiki seems to have captured the ultimate leanings of a Kiwi life with the images speaking of a musician’s backdrop.

Having worked for someone where pedantry over capital letter use reigned supreme, I couldn’t help but give a small smile at the almost entire lack of them in Potiki’s words in favour of lowercase letters. This only added to the charm and I found myself enjoying the irregular nature of the poems; what they looked like and how they read. Claxton’s images emphasised the eclectic nature of the bite-sized book.

I read exile on tombleson road quickly. In a pleasant interlude in a small moment in time, I found myself enjoying Potiki’s reflections of exactly that: snippets of time. The cover didn’t quite sell me but in between the pages were poems like octopus arms. See a short snippet bellow.

“one arm the jazz-pop

crowd called swing,

another arm called

rock and roll...”

exile on tombleson road is like a favourite notebook where environment meets words, meets music, meets life.

I Laugh Me Broken | Regional News

I Laugh Me Broken

Written by: Bridget van der Zijpp

Victoria University Press

Reviewed by: Rosea Capper-Starr

I Laugh Me Broken is an exploration of choice versus genetic destiny. Ginny is a young author living in New Zealand. When she is contacted by relatives from her mother’s side of the family whom she has never met, she is given the unexpected news of a genetic condition, for which she has a 50 percent chance of carrying the gene. Huntington’s Disease. Left motherless from a young age, Ginny finally has a glimpse of why her mother chose to end her own life rather than wait for the symptoms of such a condition to show themselves.

With calm and natural prose, author Bridget van der Zijpp explores, through Ginny’s sudden flight from everything familiar to her, the inner turmoil of decision when faced with knowledge of your own demise. Ginny could take the test to determine whether she carries the offending gene, but then what? What does one do with that knowledge? Appropriately contextualised in the setting of Berlin’s rich history, van der Zijpp discusses the past fate of those once deemed to be “useless eaters”; how their freedoms and ultimately their lives were taken from them. Ginny feels the hopelessness of a potentially inescapable fate, as Huntington’s has no cure, and the success of treatment is varied.

Ginny carries this heavy uncertainty silently inside her, avoiding sharing her news with anyone, even her fiancé Jay. The poignant question posed is if perhaps it is kinder not to burden him with the knowledge of what the future may hold. “If I told him, I wouldn’t be able to escape his concerned gaze. Did I really want to do this to him?... To be trapped in the sticky mud of his watchfulness... To turn love into solicitude?... I believed I was really thinking about self-sacrifice. Wasn’t the most noble act, the greater love, not to tell him, not to force his obligation?”

I Laugh Me Broken is, ultimately, a story of vulnerability, of love in the face of uncertainty.

The Secrets of Sainte Madeleine | Regional News

The Secrets of Sainte Madeleine

Written by: Tilly Bagshawe


Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

An epic novel perfect for your isolation blues, The Secrets of Sainte Madeleine will have you yearning for a time when France was just a plane flight away. But if you can’t travel physically you may as well travel to a different world through a book, and there’s no better book in which to lose yourself than The Secrets of Sainte Madeleine.

Spanning five decades from the early 20s through WWII and up to the 70s, The Secrets of Sainte Madeleine follows the trials and tribulations, the celebrations and the tragedies, the lives and the memories of the Salignac family. Owners of beautiful château Sainte Madeleine, the family have been wine growers of Burgundy and members of the French aristocracy for centuries, but nothing has prepared the Salignacs for the years that will come to pass. Their connection to the chateâu will be tested through the turbulence of both the world around them and of life itself.

Though each of the three children born to Louis and Therese Salignac have very different temperaments and lives, each one develops an essential bond to their home at Sainte Madeleine. Elise longs to inherit the chateâu and vineyard but loses herself in societal expectations; Alexandre, frustrated with his father’s difficult temperament, escapes to Napa to start his own vineyard; Didier, always sensitive, must find his own way to reconcile the love and pain caused by Sainte Madeleine. Meanwhile distant cousin Laurent Senard must find a way through war and politics back to Elise and Sainte Madeleine.

In this sweeping historical romance, Tilly Bagshawe crafts a world of perfectly balanced escapism and historical reality. Though she confronts serious topics of war, sexism, classism, racism, and generational strife, she also weaves in romance and beauty. Just as in life the bad moments always have their counterpart; each low will also have its highs and vice versa. The Secrets of Sainte Madeleine is a dream, a saga, an escape, and everything in between.

Smilestuff | Regional News


Devised by: Daniel Nodder

Directed by: Austin Harrison

Te Auaha, 8th Mar 2022

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

Some days are good, and some days are not so good, but each day is valid and each day is followed by a fresh new one. Smilestuff encompasses all the ups and downs and in-betweens of life, giving space and acceptance to the bad days while inspiring us to find joy in even the smallest moments.

Smilestuff is a movement-based solo performance. Daniel Nodder’s performance looks light as feathers, easy, and free, but every movement is incredibly intentional and impactful. Nodder seamlessly involves the audience throughout the work, making them integral parts of the story, engaging them directly as well as through balloons and other items.

Throughout Smilestuff, both Ben Kelly’s musical accompaniment and Campbell Wright’s lighting design are as integral as the performer himself. Spotlights are used as an interactive companion to Nodder’s character: the spotlight becomes a keyboard on the floor that Nodder (and Kelly) plays, or a mirror in which Nodder discovers various facial expressions and emotions, a friend that dances alongside Nodder, and even the spark of life inside himself.

Smilestuff is infused with childlike wonder and innocence. From the moment Nodder discovers the use of his limbs, each movement is tender and pure. Nodder learns the basics before going through the motions of everyday life, each moment saturated with the simple joy of being alive. However, with living comes other complexities; Nodder quickly learns that as time wears on, each moment will not necessarily be as joyful as it was in the beginning. Finding himself in a slump, unable to come to terms with the burdens of life, musician Ben Kelly re-awakens Nodder’s joy and through a moment of quasi-puppetry Nodder lip syncs to Kelly’s beautiful rendition of Nat King Cole’s Smile.

Smilestuff celebrates the joy in everyday life and in mundanity, imploring us to cherish every moment. In the same breath, it recognises that joy cannot be constant. In this challenging time, everyone should go see Smilestuff.

Uncharted | Regional News



116 Mins

(2 out of 5)

Reviewed by: Harry Bartle

I am a fan of the Uncharted games. No better yet, I am a massive fan of the Uncharted games. So, although part of me may have already cast this film aside when I saw Tom Holland (who bears almost no resemblance to Nathan Drake) cast as the film’s hero, I feel it is only fair that I judge Uncharted in terms of how well it represented the games, because those fans are who the film should have been made for.

Uncharted follows Nathan Drake (Holland) in his mid-twenties after he is recruited by treasure hunter Victor ‘Sully’ Sullivan (Mark Wahlberg). The two are searching for the 500-year-old lost fortune of Ferdinand Magellan. What begins as a quick heist soon becomes a furious globe-trotting race to reach the prize before the ruthless Santiago Moncada (Antonio Banderas) can get his hands on it. 

This movie failed from the start. Columbia and Sony Pictures took a big risk when they decided not to adapt one of Naughty Dog’s successful game storylines and instead tell an original prequel. Original stories are fine but to change the fundamental elements of the Uncharted games such as how Sully and Drake meet? That doesn’t sit well with me.

Wahlberg’s take on Sully is perhaps where this film lost any chance of writing its wrongs. Instead of the faithful and trusty mentor from the games, viewers are thrust a Sully who doesn’t seem to care about Drake at all. The pair’s renowned connection is completely lost, and this leads to the story feeling hollow. Although some of Uncharted’s action scenes are downright epic, this is no longer enough due to the regularity of films with impressive computer-generated imagery. Holland does an okay job capturing the personality of Drake, but this fails to make up for his lack of resemblance to the Drake of the games.

Director Ruben Fleischer had a rare chance to inherit a story and characters that were already engaging and build on these elements. Instead, audiences have been provided with another film that hides behind an all-star cast, mediocre humour, and big explosions rather than one that focuses on a thoughtful story that people care about, like those in the Uncharted games.  

An Ice Thing to Say | Regional News

An Ice Thing to Say

Presented by: Vertebra Theatre

Online, 7th Mar 2022

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

This year’s Fringe Festival boasts no less than 20 online events, thanks to the influence of COVID-19, which gives festivalgoers an exceptional opportunity to experience local and overseas work in the comfort and safety of their own homes.

I have to admit to being lured as much by the pun in the title of An Ice Thing to Say as I was to the promise of a blend of ice installation, original music, and physical theatre exploring the human being of the Anthropocene and our impact on nature. It draws inspiration from Erich Fromm’s seminal book on the need for socioeconomic revolution To Have or to Be? and invites the audience into a multi-sensory experience of our inner and outer icy landscapes. It attempts to challenge the idea that humans are at the centre of the universe and why that view of ourselves has caused the current climate crisis.

Having started life as a stage show, An Ice Thing to Say has been translated successfully into a short film. With effective videography, editing, and lighting from Theo Prodromidis, the visual interest has been expanded from the theatre, dance, and musical elements. The central installation of four large blocks of ice and the often-discordant music (Gregory Emfietzis) create fertile ground for visual, auditory, and textural experiences of an element of nature with which the performers interact in various ways from the sensual to the violent.

Without the explanation of the premise of the production, it risks being a little esoteric. However, sections in which the principal dancer, Stella Evangelia, wears a penguin-like mask and crams fruit into her mouth speak clearly of polar melting and rabid consumerism. Her sensuous caressing of the ice blocks equally speaks of the need for kindness towards the natural environment. Spoken interludes reflect the disorder of the modern mind and the human inability to be still, listen, and let instinct reign. As a meditation on Man’s inhumanity to nature, it is absorbing, challenging, and thought-provoking.

The Scottish Kiwi | Regional News

The Scottish Kiwi

Presented by: Wake Productions

Cavern Club, 1st Mar 2022

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

Ryan McGhee and his warm-up guy Michael Macaulay were waiting outside the Cavern Club when I arrived. They warmly introduced themselves, didn’t freak out when I told them I was reviewing their show, and we had a lovely chat about COVID and how lucky they were to be able to perform. Both were friendly and down to earth, the best examples of what the Fringe Festival is about.

Their charming openness and willingness to connect continued in an hour of quality stand-up comedy that traversed continents, climates, and cultures. Macaulay, originally from Teeside and now Paraparaumu, opened the show with a dig at Jimmy Carr’s racism and a claim that he doesn’t feel English despite a Geordie accent untouched by decades overseas. Before introducing McGhee, he drew belly laughs from pubic hair, dating before the age of mobile apps, oral sex with a Bee Gee, and his dad’s cremation.

The most successful stand-up comedy often comes from people who are willing to display vulnerability about their own life experiences and laugh at themselves. This McGhee happily does as he talks about being a ‘born and fled’ Glaswegian who is fiercely patriotic about all things Scottish but would never want to live there again.

Starting with his staunch Catholic upbringing, through coming out as gay, to moving to Australia and being half of one of the first same-sex couples to be legally married – and divorced – there, he brings us on his colourful journey to New Zealand and genesis as the Scottish Kiwi.

In his All Blacks shirt and kilt, McGhee pokes gentle fun at, among other things, New Zealanders’ passion for winning at sport, anti-vaxxers and their inability to deal with ‘three wee pricks’, why bungee jumping is the Kiwi equivalent of haggis, and his drunken purchase of a scarily huge sex toy called Dennis the Destroyer. All of this is peppered with hilariously smutty gay jokes and a disarming ability to tell a great story, making a great hour’s entertainment.

Shift Your Paradigm  | Regional News

Shift Your Paradigm

Created by: David Bowers-Mason and Mitchell Botting

Directed by: Mitchell Botting

BATS Theatre, 1st Mar 2022

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

As I write this review it feels like the world is on fire. Certainly, Parliament grounds are literally on fire. But thinking back to the Fringe show I went to last night provides a wonderful escape, as did seeing Shift Your Paradigm. I truly forgot about all my troubles and cares – and our global ones too – for one hour thanks to this hilarious, twisty-turny, emotional rollercoaster of a production.

Eric (David Bowers-Mason) is the senior CEO of Do Be Us, a company that is not at all dubious and totally not a pyramid scheme. Under the all-seeing eye of the High Chair Man (Kevin Orlando), Eric has excelled in selling heaps of chairs (read: enlisting others to do it for him) and is now headed for a promotion. With the help of his junior-CEO-in-training Zoe (Isabella Murray), he just has to offload the last 25 of the latest collection before the ink on his new vague contract is dry.

Bowers-Mason is a gifted actor who rides the highs and lows of a desperate man with ease and panache. Murray acts as an anchor and counterpoint for Bowers-Mason’s performance so it doesn’t reach hysterical heights. And then we have Orlando, who reminds me instantly of The IT Crowd’s Matt Berry and might be just as funny. Appearing only onscreen but with excellent comic timing is Adam Herbert as the Fax Man, while Sara Douglas plays Eric’s sister Jessica with sensitivity that beautifully balances the action.

Shift Your Paradigm has high production values, with projection design (projector by Emii Wilson, graphics and filming by Mitchell Botting) greatly enhancing the experience – especially thanks to clever FaceTimes projected onto the screen. Coupled with cohesive, dramatic sound (Wilson) and lighting (Herbert), the show reaches multiple climactic points that put me in mind of watching a thriller on the big screen. Thrilling!

A huge bravo to all involved in the witty and raucous Shift Your Paradigm. Thanks for taking me out of my life for a hot minute!