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The Language of Food | Regional News

The Language of Food

Written by: Annabel Abbs

Simon & Schuster

Reviewed by: Jo Lucre

The Language of Food is where food and poetry intertwine. Ms Eliza Acton is 36 with secrets afoot. Mistress of a boarding house, poet at heart, rising cook, and in the year 1835, she’s considered a spinster at best. Ann Kirby is a scullery maid, soon to be 17. Green around the edges, young and free-spirited, and with secrets of her own, she has come to work for Eliza. Both are very different women bound by a life of service in their own inevitable ways.

Swept away by the nostalgia of a time gone by, Annabel Abbs expertly tells the shared story of the scullery maid who dreams of being a cook, and the other of her mistress, a self-proclaimed spinster from Suffolk who dreams of being a poet – but is told to write a cookery book instead.

Words meld together delectably with Abb’s decadent narration, where the lushness of food and its various states highlight the emotions of two very vivid characters. “My mind, which a few minutes ago was whisked to a foaming peak, goes very small and tight and still. Like a hazelnut.”

When Eliza first meets Ann she is like a breath of fresh air: “her presence has set me alight. She is such a slither of a girl. Like a thinly flaked almond. Her shoulder blades jutting like stunted wings. Her large luminous eyes lighting up from pockets of darkness, like church candles. Her boots peeling away from their soles... And yet she has a palate capable of distinguishing the subtlest of flavours.”

Through a work of fiction, Abbs has bought Eliza Acton, widely thought of as writing the first cookery book for general use, to life in a sumptuous feast of storytelling that may, in the hands of another author, have otherwise resulted in ordinary fare. I thoroughly enjoyed The Language of Food, a tale of an unlikely friendship that brews, bakes, and rests as the twists and turns of ambition get in the way.

Smile  | Regional News



115 mins

(4 ½ out of 5)

Reviewed by: Harry Bartle

The latest horror to terrorise screens around the globe, Smile has really got me thinking: should someone be able to review a film when they had their eyes covered for half of it? That question just about sums up how good – or in other words how freaking terrifying – this movie was.

Smile follows Dr Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) after she witnesses a bizarre, traumatic death involving a patient she just met (Caitlin Stasey). After this incident, she starts experiencing frightening occurrences that she can’t explain. When this overwhelming terror begins taking over her life, smiling at her as it does, Rose must confront her troubling past in order to survive and escape her horrifying new reality.

Smile is by no means a genre-defining idea. Plenty of horrors in the past have taken something that is usually associated with happiness – clowns for example – and twisted it into something quite the opposite. However, director Parker Finn and his team have taken this formula and executed it to perfection. From start to finish the story gleefully plays with audiences’ expectations to create some genuinely nasty moments, unpredictable jump scares, and tension-filled scenes. Each upside-down camera shot or suspenseful piece of music is calculated in its use while the seamless transitions mean you can hardly stop for a breath – much like the main character, who is brilliantly portrayed by Bacon. Unlike her friends and family in the film, you can genuinely feel her fear and emotion as you root for the tortured clinical psychologist to find a way to escape from what haunts her.

Smile also plays with some deeper themes, adding depth to the surface-level terror. It speaks to the impact of trauma and the effect this has on mental health. Although somewhat predictable, the action-packed conclusion had me on the edge of my seat. I was taken out of the moment somewhat due to some poor visual effects, but this was just a small blemish in what was a red-blooded crowd-pleaser throughout.

Having never smiled less in my life, Smile is not for the faint of heart. Horror fans however can delight in its jarring story that dances with the smiling face of evil.

Why Are My Parents So Boring? | Regional News

Why Are My Parents So Boring?

Written by: Dan Bain

Directed by: David Ladderman

Tararua Tramping Club, 4th Oct 2022

Reviewed by: Tania Du Toit

What a fun silent show for the kids! My four-year-old (going on 40) son absolutely adores the characters and laughs from his belly as the cast members Laurel Mitchell, aka Mum, and Riley Brophy, aka Dad, start engaging the audience even before the show starts by looking for their oh-so-bored son, portrayed by Damon Manning. The kids all get involved in the hunt and their reactions are so funny.

This KidzStuff Theatre for Children production is suitable for all ages and has every child and parent laughing and participating. It really paints the picture of boring parents and an active, imaginative child. There are some unexpected surprises and tricks that keep you engaged – so much so, that my poor potty-training son almost didn’t go to the loo during the show, because he didn’t want to miss out on anything!

The costumes and props, created by Amalia Calder and David Ladderman, are great and well designed to change with the scenes. Amalia and Chrysalynn Calder did a great job with the sound effects and music, which bring the actions of the characters to life. I also have to mention that the theatre itself is very welcoming and upon entering, you get a whiff of freshly popped popcorn for sale as well as some lollies, and you get a very warm greeting from Tom Kereama. The seating area is versatile, and you have a choice of sitting in rows, along the wall, or even on the carpet right in front of the stage.

I loved asking my son what his favourite part of the show was. He answered that the kite was his favourite. It was pure magic to him, and based on the reaction of the other children, it definitely made an impression.

Why Are My Parents So Boring? is well worth a watch these school holidays!

Don’t Worry Darling  | Regional News

Don’t Worry Darling

(R-13 )

123 mins

(3 out of 5)

Reviewed by: Harry Bartle

Olivia Wilde’s most anticipated film as a director yet, Don’t Worry Darling was a tale of two halves that had the potential to be a lot better. However, thanks to some outstanding performances, glamorous cinematography, and unique twists, I still found myself thinking about the film days after watching.

In the 1950s, Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack (Harry Styles) live in the idealised community of Victory, an experimental company town where the men work on a top-secret project daily. While the husbands toil away, the wives are free to enjoy the seemingly carefree paradise. But, when cracks in her idyllic life begin to appear, Alice can’t help but question exactly what she’s doing in the ‘perfect’ little town.

I didn’t enjoy the first hour of this film. The mid-century decor, candy-coloured cars, and picturesque homes make for pleasant viewing but the story itself was frustrating as Wilde and her writers tried way too hard. I felt like their only goal was to remind me that Don’t Worry Darling was a psychological thriller through a barrage of consecutive scenes intended to shock me. Instead, many of them fell flat and seemed unnecessary. Comparing this to a masterpiece of the genre such as Jordan Peele’s Get Out where the hair-raising revelations are subtly revealed in between scenes with substance, it simply felt amateur.

Just as I was about to write it off, Don’t Worry Darling suddenly had me on the edge of my seat. This turnaround was mainly thanks to the brilliance of Pugh – who supplies another characteristically strong and layered performance – and a gripping finale that ends with an outstanding final twist (don’t worry, I won’t spoil) that I would argue was well worth the wait. The longer, more dialogue-heavy scenes gave fellow star Chris Pine the chance to show he plays an equally good villain as he does a hero while Styles proved he has what it takes to shine on both the big screen and stage. The eerie score by John Powell continually added to the building pressure.

Although I’ve had more trouble deciding whether Don’t Worry Darling is good or bad than I would like, psychological thriller fans should definitely give it a chance.

A Boy Called Piano | Regional News

A Boy Called Piano

Written by: Fa’amoana John Luafutu and Tom McCrory

Directed by: Nina Nawalowalo

BATS Theatre, 4th Oct 2022

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

I’ve been staring at a blank screen most of the day and still can’t find words that would do A Boy Called Piano justice. How do you write a review when you’re speechless?

This Conch production follows three boys, Piano (Matthias Luafutu), Wheels (Rob Ringiao-Lloyd), and Piwi (Aaron McGregor), who are made wards of state and sent to Ōwairaka Boys’ Home in Auckland 1963. As director Nina Nawalowalo says, “this is the first time the experience of those in state care has come directly to the New Zealand stage told by a man who lived it” – Fa’amoana John Luafutu, whom she calls both a master storyteller and a survivor. I couldn’t agree more.

The Conch’s award-winning documentary feature A Boy Called Piano – The Story of Fa’amoana John Luafutu is woven throughout the show. Aural excerpts are intermingled with Mark Vanilau’s exceptional live piano playing, while shots from the film are projected onto three white fabric panels to great effect. Many of the scenes – especially conversational ones that lean towards realism – take place in front of the panels, while dream or symbolic sequences often unfold behind them. Hāmi Hawkins’ lighting design works in breathtaking synergy with both the performers and projections, particularly when creating dream states, flashbacks, and speckled light that filters down through the recurring theme of water.

The performers go where I’ve not seen many go. Luafutu deftly shifts between adult and child, bringing a gut-wrenching vulnerability to the latter. Ringiao-Lloyd is our vital comic relief and does it brilliantly, translating humour into a coping mechanism for his character, and McGregor gives his all to express unspeakable trauma.

In A Boy Called Piano what’s left unlit, unsaid, unsung still bruises. The volcano erupts and the lava is cooled by humour and restraint before bubbling to the surface again. Nawalowalo sculpts it all together with a featherlight touch or strong hands when needed, only adding to the power, the force, of this landmark work.

Legacy | Regional News


Presented by: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Conducted by: Alexander Shelley

Michael Fowler Centre, 1st Oct 2002

Reviewed by: Tamsin Evans

In a predominantly classical programme, I hadn’t expected to find the opening to be my highlight. Mozart and Brahms were musical prodigies, high achieving young men who made names for themselves early in their lives. Dame Gillian Whitehead is a New Zealand icon and Arts Laureate and her retrieving the fragility of peace was the outstanding item of the night.

A study in contrasts, it was both delicate and intense, fragmented but coherent, solo and ensemble, gentle and fierce. The devastatingly beautiful cor anglais solo was breath taking. Perhaps it was about being new to the ear (this was the world premiere) or the clarity of the composition and the quality of the performance but the music and musicians whetted our appetites in a most moving and spectacular way.

Another local talent, Stephen De Pledge, took to the stage in place of the unfortunate Gabriela Montero, who had arrived in NZ and then tested positive for COVID. While we missed her promised interpretation of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20, we were well rewarded with De Pledge’s performance. His was a confident rendition and, although his improvised cadenzas didn’t always hit the mark, there was little to criticise in what must have been a last-minute replacement. The encore, a piece of his own choosing, was a lovely rendition of Schumann’s Träumerei.

Finally, under the direction of Alexander Shelley, the orchestra let loose on Brahms’s Symphony No. 1, giving size, shape, and power to a majestic and defining piece of music. Brahms felt the pressure of Beethoven’s legacy. He started his first symphony at 21 and was 43 when he finished it. The orchestra was solid and energetic but lacked something in tone and balance, not quite living up to the promise of the work’s long gestation.

It was a powerful performance which, more than anything, augmented the complexity and quietude of retrieving the fragility of peace.

The Bricktionary | Regional News

The Bricktionary

Written by: Ryan McNaught

Murdoch Books

Reviewed by: Jo Lucre

Ryan McNaught has perhaps one of the coolest jobs in the world. He is, as he says, a LEGO-certified professional – one of only a select few in the world and the only one in the Southern Hemisphere. His job is literally to make LEGO models for stores and events around the world.

Until I had the pleasure of reading McNaught’s The Bricktionary, I never knew LEGO made lightning elements in Powered Up or Power Function sets. These are designed to add a bit of drama or pizazz to your LEGO creations. Nor did I know about LEGO maths and pro techniques for creating a stunning illusion of water.

Putting things together is not my forte – transformers with missing arms and legs come to mind – except LEGO has always been different. There’s something quietly reassuring about sitting ensconced, head down in LEGO instructions (mostly with my child) knowing each coloured brick will bring us closer to the end product, whether it’s a Ninjago scene, a Minecraft something, or a Batman-inspired car. LEGO is cool, though never ever underfoot.

LEGO is serious business for McNaught, although there is a strange juxtaposition throughout this book of so much potential fun and interesting facts to be found alongside the serious business of LEGO creation. In the first few pages there’s a photo of McNaught holding a pretty impressive LEGO-comprised hamburger, while the carefully stacked containers behind him are telltale signs of someone further down the LEGO rabbit hole than first anticipated. Neatly stacked LEGO beams from within, colour coded, brick sorted, and size categorised.

Under ‘F’ I was able to expand my increasing LEGO vocabulary. FLU stands for a fundamental LEGO unit, which equates to the width and length of a one-by-one Lego plate or brick. Under ‘T’ I found the most impressive treehouse I’ve seen, LEGO or otherwise.

The Bricktionary will appeal to the LEGO-lover in you. Oh, and of course, your children.

You Probably Think This Song is About You | Regional News

You Probably Think This Song is About You

Written by: Kate Camp

Te Herenga Waka University Press

Reviewed by: Margaret Austin

In case you didn’t know it, the difference between an autobiography and a memoir is that whereas an autobiography delivers the reader a chronological, strictly factual, and detailed account of your life (yawn?), a memoir is much more selective. It rearranges content, and it can become reflectively fanciful.

Poet Kate Camp’s You Probably Think This Song is About You decidedly falls into the second category. Camp, in writing as in life, has taken on her mother’s mantra: “Never apologise, never explain”. Does that attitude demonstrate courage or defiance? One or the other, or maybe a bit of both, accounts for this warts-and-all story of a life.

From years of wetting herself, to smoking cigarettes and dope, to binge drinking, to attaching herself to drug dealing, sometimes violent boyfriends – Camp paints an unedifying picture. And sure enough, there’s no accompanying explanation for why a girl from Khandallah would for so many years – and for half a book – indulge in such heedless hedonism.

If there’s a price though, she’s paid it. A couple of bizarre accidents, plus grisly sounding, and ultimately unsuccessful, attempts to get pregnant through IVF, lead her to reflect. Though I’m at a loss to understand her dismay at her inability to conceive – is this liberated thinking? At about this time, too, Camp meets future partner Paul, whose treatment of her is exemplary. “Paul comes out of this story very well” is an understatement – the man is a modern saint.

Camp’s analysis of Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life is thought provoking. It examines the conundrum of a book on self-healing that contains questionable suggestions about self-responsibility – an apt comment on Camp’s own life?

But some of Hay’s affirmations worked! Chiefly: “I always find time for my own creative work” has surely been useful, ultimately giving rise to her life as a poet. I’m glad there is an acknowledgements section – we get Camp’s gratitude to those who have contributed to make her life what it was – and is.

Night Meditations | Regional News

Night Meditations

Allen & Unwin

By editors of Rock Point

Reviewed by: Jo Lucre

Night Meditations is a calming and restorative journal that traverses the seasons: winter, fall, summer, and spring. Helping to encourage a quiet mindfulness, it encourages restful and meditative sleep by creating the opportunity to identify what is holding you back or impeding your access to good sleep and rest.

Night Meditations poses many questions to consider and there are journal pages for you to document your thoughts. This helps prompt you to stop, pause, and consider your life holistically to identify what your creative outlets are and what you view as restorative. It helps you consider your environment, your faith, and awareness of self-care while encouraging you to find peace in stressful times.

Muted colours and sweeping illustrations only serve to further entice you to reflect on your life and how time and happenstance can either create great wonder or stressful burdens that can compete with your ability to sleep well.

Journaling is peaceful and contemplative and is a great way to delve into a quiet introspection that comes from stopping, resting, and taking the time to consider your frame of mind; it’s almost like your own hypnotic guide. A slower pace and uncluttered mind is all conducive to a better sleep. Night Meditations encourages you to disconnect, put pen to paper, and take the time to slow down.

I’ve read that the importance of sleep is often underrated, and I think it’s true. What can be done to get more of it? How can it be more restful, restorative, and beneficial to our physical and mental wellbeing? These are all questions I’ve considered.

If you are looking for a simple yet very intentional way to pause and break down everything that may be hindering restful sleep, then Night Meditations is a good place to start.

“Identify the ‘weeds’ in your garden. Write about ways that take up space in your life, and how you can make room for new growth.”