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Dick Seddon’s Great Dive and Other Stories | Regional News

Dick Seddon’s Great Dive and Other Stories

Written by: Ian Wedde

Te Herenga Waka University Press

Reviewed by: Margaret Austin

The stories that compose this volume were written 50 years ago. Does writer Ian Wedde tell us this by way of apology or explanation? That maybe depends on what the reader makes of the characters and situations he depicts.

The ones in his lengthy, eponymously titled first story may be difficult to sympathise with, and their hazy, drug-induced states are reflected by the writer’s style.

And that may be why I infinitely preferred the nine far shorter tales that follow. They present everyday situations requiring immediacy of action; sentences are shorter and therefore have greater impact; consequences are easier to grasp.

In Clover features an endangered baby in a porch swing. The reactions of husband and wife, and the contrast between those reactions – he sternly practical but infuriatingly inattentive; she dreamy and philosophical – provide the interest, and a concluding wry observation on marriage will evoke sighs of recognition. “I love you,” she said, “God knows why, you’re such an idiot.”

Paradise – though I’m unsure why so titled given its content – gives us an old-fashioned postman dealing with rough weather, blurred envelope addresses, and troublesome corgis. There’s an intriguing reference to Oates of the Antarctic: “Gone out, and been some time, but not been missed.” A comment on the soon-to-disappear job of the postman?

Then our man needs a leak. He’s in his favourite spot for one when he is rudely interrupted. “The last lady hadn’t been Chinese, and she hadn’t come to the gate” captures the tone of this tale, and that, plus the postman’s imagined future as a poet, are enough to draw our sympathetic laughter.

The Gringos takes the cake for nostalgic indulgence. The Gringos are a rock and roll band of the 1950s – albeit fictional. Their outfits are preserved in tissue and polythene. But hey – Chuck Berry is coming to town! The Gringos are dazedly ecstatic. Their witnessing of old-style rock and roll is both moving and funny. Of course, you had to be there.

Anderton: His Life and Times | Regional News

Anderton: His Life and Times

Written by: David Grant

Te Herenga Waka University Press

Reviewed by: Kerry Lee

For a lot of adult New Zealanders living and working in the 1980s, Jim Anderton might conjure up a number of different opinions. For some, he was a fighter who advocated for the less well-off, opposing Roger Douglas and his sale of state assets coined ‘Rogernomics’. Others felt he was a grandstander who used his natural charisma and boisterous nature to grab headlines while in parliament. Whatever your views, we can all agree that he was a particular breed of politician – one we may never see again.

Anderton: His Life and Times tells the story of both his triumphs and the roadblocks he faced while a member of the Labour, New Labour, Alliance, and lastly the Progressive Coalition parties. These include the formation of the locally owned Kiwibank, the friendships and enemies he made along the way, and his unshakeable faith that there had to be a better way forward for our small country.

I believe that you can tell a good memoir, biography, or autobiography by the lessons you learn from it. Well I can tell you that I learned a tonne from Anderton; his good-hearted stubbornness, unwavering loyalty, and determination to get things done for the electorate of what was then called Sydenham (now Wigram) showed that good things could be achieved through hard work.

I absolutely loved this book, and think that author David Grant has done an amazing job of capturing the man that Jim Anderton was. His refusal to quit on things he believed in, his love for the people he represented, and his aforementioned loyalty – that at times I felt was his own downfall (no spoilers here).

If I was pushed to find a negative, it would be that the nature of politics simply is not for everyone, and not everyone will pick up this book and appreciate like I have. It really was an amazing read, and after putting it down I found myself with a new appreciation for the man, and what he had done for me.

Step into the Spotlight | Regional News

Step into the Spotlight

Written by: Russell Pickering

TPG Publishing

Reviewed by: Jo Lucre

All too often, being in the spotlight – whether it be a presentation, a Zoom meeting, or any other form of being on show – is an opportunity for the loudest, boldest, and most confident voice in the room to take centre stage; an arena for those whose very existence relies on getting ample airtime. Step into the Spotlight author Russell Pickering suggests that the quiet, competent, considered, and thoughtful among us also have great value, and should be encouraged and offered opportunities to show up and present too. “Don’t wait, we need you now, step out into the spotlight and shine,” he says.

In Step into the Spotlight, he shows you how. In his chapter on courage, Pickering shares a definition of anxiety from a psychologist friend. “Anxiety comes from an over-estimation of a problem or issue, coupled with an under-estimation of your ability to deal with it, or cope with it.” Don’t obsess over trying to be confident when you have to give a presentation; your job is to get your audience to have confidence in you and your ideas, Pickering says, and besides, “courage trumps confidence”.

Step into the Spotlight is a simple yet structured guide to presenting. Looking outwards is key; it’s not about you, it’s about your audience and what they may find engaging. Consider what your audience already knows about your topic, which will allow you to hone your presentation and visual aids accordingly. Gauge how your audience feels throughout your presentation. For instance, do they need a break? Pickering acknowledges the challenges of presenting, but offers practical advice to master these. He walks you through the characteristics of the three spotlight archetypes: The Analyser, The Storyteller, and The Inspirer.

In conclusion, if I ever have to give that all-important presentation to a bunch of people I do or don’t know, Pickering’s Step into the Spotlight will be the first thing I reach for.

The premise: trust your work, connect with your audience, and deliver.

A Lack of Good Sons | Regional News

A Lack of Good Sons

Written by: Jake Arthur

Te Herenga Waka University Press

Reviewed by: Margaret Austin

Jake Arthur has dwelt in many universes, and in many guises. So says his poetry. A Lack of Good Sons transports us from the startling to the outwardly mundane, through the mythic and the biblical to the romantic. And he has a turn of phrase wondrously suited to his subjects.

Take the opening poem Jim Nevis. A vividly descriptive narrative about a neighbour’s behaviour from a young boy’s point of view captures curiosity, puzzlement, and eventual understanding in concrete everyday language. It’s impossible not to envisage the neighbour’s “sagging bottom, his hairy back” or “his chest hair that ran down like seaweed”.

Hair is about exactly that. It’s short – utterly unlike the unruly mane of the writer! I loved the metaphorical “My follicles had a condition / extra hard workers that don’t know when to quit”. The ending couplet comes as a wistful surprise.

Talking of wistfulness, Hand-eye coordination superbly captures an older woman’s longing for a young man’s body. “She wants him some time in the next now”. What economy of words to express such a sensation so perfectly! We fear for the young man’s virginity, but not to worry – a marvellous metaphor concludes with “and the boy over the road is safe again”.

Bare Choirs, though it may conjure up unintended visions, is a beautifully imagined nostalgic reflection on a ship mast’s former life as a tree. “But here it is, sawn and shorn, / grafted to these unnaturally arranged / woods from far-flung places”. We know that trees can’t feel – or can they?

I especially appreciate that Arthur provides an ending or a rounding off to most of his poems. I think a poem has to go somewhere, not just trail off inconclusively. An excellent example of this is Encounter. It’s a narrative, intriguing visually as well as verbally, and it ends with a philosophically wry reflection.

It’s a current fashion that poetry collections should centre on a particular theme. I am glad that this writer sees no reason to do so.

Where’s My Money? | Regional News

Where’s My Money?

Written by: John Patrick Shanley

Directed by: Oliver Mander

Gryphon Theatre, 23rd Mar 2023

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

American writer John Patrick Shanley is perhaps best known as a screenwriter, having won an Oscar for Moonstruck, but he is also a prolific, award-winning playwright. This lesser-known work is a cleverly structured witty, bitter, and sometimes brutal exposition of destructive relationships and poor life choices.

It starts with old friends Celeste (Gin Mabey) and Natalie (Stacey O’Brien) meeting in a café where the catty conversation turns much darker than either of them anticipates. Next, we see Natalie with her controlling lawyer husband Henry (Leon Beaton) and learn of her murky past with Tommy (Shay Tanirau) that has come back to haunt her. Henry then goes to see his friend and philandering divorce lawyer Sidney (Martin Hunt), whose toxic masculinity is carried through to a violent confrontation with his territorial wife Marcia (Lisa Aaltonen). There are further connections between these characters, but to say more would spoil the plot.

This ensemble cast is excellent, with each actor thoroughly owning the best and worst of their sometimes-over-the-top characters and the literal and metaphorical ghosts of the lies they tell themselves.

The changes of scene are managed through the installation of a revolve, the first I’ve seen on the Gryphon stage. This works well, although a gap between the set and curtains at one side and a central wall that’s a tad too flimsy to withstand the robust action at the end of the play let down the construction of an imaginative design (Oliver Mander). This staging gives a tight performance space for each pair of actors, but Mander’s direction largely uses it successfully to reflect the claustrophobic nature of their relationships.

Lighting and sound (Jamie Byas and Tim Gruar) work effectively to support the on-stage action. A highlight is the gruesome red glow that drenches Tommy the first time he appears.

Wellington Repertory Theatre’s deft production of an expertly crafted script certainly deserves a bigger audience than it had on its second night and is well worth your money.

Red, White & Brass | Regional News

Red, White & Brass


85 minutes

(5 out of 5)

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

Wellington was painted red on the 21st of March – red with the flag of Tonga.

On the 1st of October 2011, Tonga beat France at Wellington’s World Cup Rugby game in one of the biggest upsets in rugby history. First, they thanked God, and then they thanked their fans. Red, White & Brass is the story of this game, but it’s not about the players. It’s about Tongans and their māfana – their feeling of warmth, their pride.

“Straight up, this actually happened”, Red, White & Brass informs viewers on its title page. Inspired by the true story of co-writer and co-producer Halaifonua (Nua) Finau. The movie follows Maka (John-Paul Foliaki), a Tongan superfan who misses out on tickets to the big game. In typical Maka fashion, he comes up with a genius plan: signing his brass band up to play at the opening ceremony. The only problem is he doesn’t have a brass band.

Directed and co-written by Damon Fepulea’i, Red, White & Brass is truly a gem of a movie and another jewel in the crown from the production company that brought us The Breaker Upperers and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Filmed entirely in Wellington, Emily Mafile’o’s production design is *chef’s kiss*. Every scene includes some element of red, every moment is imbued with Tonga. Costume designer Daisy Chiara Marcuzzi employs a similar tactic in her clothing choices, adding red accents to every character’s style. The score by Three Houses Down, which is original and on Spotify by the way, is cheerful, vibrant, and fully embodies the film.

Similarly laudable is the cast of Red, White & Brass. Virtually every actor is a newcomer, yet so comfortable are they in their roles, they seem like veterans of the silver screen. Maka is Foliaki’s first official acting role, and he is superb. But the entire cast should be recognised, as each character is played so authentically you felt as though you left the theatre with a group of new friends.

“There is no I in band”, and it is the whole band that makes Red, White & Brass absolutely brilliant. A work of art and of Tongan ingenuity at its finest, māfana maketh the movie.

The King of Taking  | Regional News

The King of Taking

Presented by: Kallo Collective and A Mulled Whine

Created by: Thom Monckton

Circa Theatre, 21st Mar 2023

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

I was lucky enough to see Thom Monckton’s The Artist in 2020 in my first foray back to live theatre since the pandemic began. I remember summarising the show as “one man procrastinates making art for an hour”, which, sure, doesn’t sound all that interesting. But in the hands of this consummate physical theatre performer, I noted that The Artist was one of the most engaging solo performances I’d ever seen.

The King of Taking is no different, with a summary that could feasibly read: King spends 35 minutes walking to a table to spend another 35 minutes opening presents. I have very few plot points to report and very little dialogue to dissect, save, perhaps, for the syllabic stress on the name “Jonathan”. And yet I could write for days about how every minute, every moment of The King of Taking is a highlight.

Looming centre stage is a stately throne (production design by Gemma Tweedie, set realised by Lucas Neal) that allows for many gags I don’t want to spoil here. Props like candlesticks, rope pulleys, and rolls of red carpet are further instruments of amusement. Clever lighting (Neal) and sound (Amanda Maclean) cues accentuate Monckton’s physical comedy as he makes excellent use of everything around him. This extends to not just the set pieces but to the gifts bestowed on him by the audience prior to the show – a unique concept I’ve not seen on stage before.

Monckton speaks a thousand unscripted words with the mere twitch of a lip, the bat of an eyelash, with an energy that intensifies when it comes time to open the King’s presents. His portrayal of all-consuming, childlike joy that borders on madness emphasises themes of greed, corruption, and power. In short, of taking. This resonates the loudest when the King continues to tear open his gifts without a thought for the wellbeing of his surprise guest, Tess Sullivan. What a showstopping cameo.

A Fat Girl’s Cry | Regional News

A Fat Girl’s Cry

Written by: Celia Macdonald

Directed by: Celia Macdonald

BATS Theatre, 21st Mar 2023

Reviewed by: Zac Fitzgibbon

Passionate, perky, and powerful are three of the many words that can be used to describe Celia Macdonald’s first original show, A Fat Girl’s Cry. Macdonald takes us on a musical journey about the importance of plus-size representation in the musical theatre industry. The show feels autobiographical and strikingly similar to Jonathan Larson’s Tick, Tick… Boom!, but of course with Macdonald’s unique, charismatic flair.

Songs are well placed throughout the show, providing an exciting new context to some beloved musical theatre numbers such as All That Jazz from Chicago and Children Will Listen from Into the Woods. Macdonald and fellow actor Scott Christie performing the treasured As Long as You’re Mine from Wicked feels right and questions why we don’t often see plus-size performers in leading roles such as Elphaba.

I have never seen BATS’ The Stage so stripped down. I feel this aids the performance as it allows Macdonald’s potent story to be the focal point, rather than the razzle dazzle that most musicals bring. I love how stage manager Jess Weston takes part in the show, adding another talented performer into the mix.

My heart shatters into pieces at the climax of the show. The performers execute this perfectly. I feel Macdonald’s pain. No performer should ever have to feel how she has felt. It breaks me to think how toxic the musical theatre industry can be to those who don’t ‘fit the bill’.

Whilst specifically addressing the struggles of being plus size in the musical theatre industry, the show feels universally relevant, touching on the idea that oftentimes the things we get ridiculed for the most are our greatest assets. The final number Absolutely Everybody is a fantastic way to end the show by celebrating people of all shapes and sizes.

Macdonald is a genuine, talented performer and I sincerely hope that she continues to take the spotlight that she deserves.

A Fat Girl’s Cry is truly a show for every body.

Brandenburg | Regional News


Presented by: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Wellington Cathedral of St Paul, 11th Mar 2023

Reviewed by: Tamsin Evans

A music-rich weekend had started with a fine Friday night classical programme, Mozart and Salieri, and was followed with a feast of the best baroque in Brandenburg on Saturday night. Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos were so named because they were found in the Brandenburg archives 99 years after Bach’s death. Like Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat Major in Friday’s concert, they were not performed during the composer’s lifetime but are widely considered to be some of the best orchestral works of the Baroque period.

The soloists Bridget Douglas (flute), Yuka Eguchi (director/violin), and Rachael Griffiths-Hughes (harpsichord) were accompanied by a small chamber orchestra for Brandenburg Concerto No. 5. The acoustics in the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul are quite different from the Michael Fowler Centre. The high ceiling and stone structure added a short echo, well suited to the balance and tone and the Baroque sound. The first movement includes a long and spectacular harpsichord cadenza, exceptionally well played by Griffiths-Hughes.

Brandenburg No. 5 is the first concerto written with a solo keyboard part and the next piece, Telemann’s Concerto for Viola in G Major, is the first viola concerto to be written. I have a soft spot for the little-known and often-overlooked viola. Soloist Alexander McFarlane played with skill and feeling and a really lovely tone from the first slow movement to the fourth and final fast movement.

Handel’s Concerto Grosso in G Major No. 1 was introduced by principal second violin Andrew Thomson, who also explained the difference between a Baroque and modern bow – it’s all to do with the hair! Handel explored a variety of styles and techniques in the five movements making up the concerto and the strings sounded magnificent in the church acoustics.

To conclude, Telemann’s Overture Suite in G Minor, La Changeante, was a series of eight playful postcards depicting a wide variety of styles and form from a musical holiday in France.