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Saga | Regional News


Written by: Hannah Mettner

Te Herenga Waka University Press

Reviewed by: Margaret Austin

If the cover of this book is anything to go by, the poems therein will be puzzling and require more than a second look. So far, so mysterious.

Hannah Mettner introduces herself in her first poem, which is titled after the book and refers to “a long and winding story that neither starts at the beginning nor finishes at the end”. That neatly captures the definition of saga: a story of heroic achievement, especially in Old Norse or Icelandic. Indeed, Mettner’s Scandinavian roots predominate in a sometimes curious, sometimes quizzical, and often humorous fashion.

I don’t usually have much patience with long poems, but Birth Control had me from the start. Its preface references the so-called virgin birth of an anaconda, and here’s our writer visiting the Vatican and worrying about “the small T-shaped thing” inside her as she “walks through the metal detectors and bag check”. Chilling. The rest of the poem is hardly a celebration of women and their ability/duty to bear children, but it’s horrifyingly accurate. “If men can’t explain a thing, they call it witchcraft and destroy it.”

Breakup poem at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki is a delightfully wry reflection on ending a relationship. Backgrounded by Gretchen Albrecht’s and Frida Kahlo’s paintings, our poet can’t contemplate the Frida and Diego kind of love, and comments “This is a high stakes way to break up – being psycho- / analysed via text in a terracotta-red room / with a thousand painted old people looking down on me / from their gold frames.”

I find myself glorying in Butch era, in which Mettner describes herself thus: “One perfect pair of new trousers / and suddenly I’m in charge.” She flirts with the bartender, cats and women flock to her, and her phone autocorrects ‘butch’ to ‘b*tch’, but she don’t care.

Poem while watching the world burn demands my attention even though I wish it didn’t. It’s realistic, frank, and saddeningly prophetic.

This poet has important things to say, and she says them remarkably well – it’s a sagacious accomplishment.

Audition | Regional News


Written by: Pip Adam

Te Herenga Waka University Press

Reviewed by: Courtney Rose Brown

“We have measured our days by the sun, and now there is no sun.” 

What does society do when people take up too much room? What do we do with their violence? How do we treat what we cannot explain? Pip Adam strives to figure out these questions in her latest novel Audition. Audition is part-science fiction and part-social realism, flipping between the past and the present. 

Alba, Stanley, and Drew became too big of a problem. Like everyone else who grew too big (literally) to control, they are sent to space. Audition begins with the three characters on the spaceship, unsure if they’re all one being as they try to think their own thoughts and remember anything. The lack of memory and individualism is gripping, but the author lingers too long in the grey areas and the introduction loses its impact. 

When we’re swung out of the spaceship and back into the past on Earth, new life is breathed into the work. Crashing back down to reality reveals shocking truths and evokes that familiar feeling of dread we get when science fiction hits a little too close to home. Is this how society could end up? We see Alba’s past and her connection with both Stanley and Drew, and how they came to be in space. We see the impacts of hate and violence. Fear turned to anger, submission, and the desire for invisibility. 

The dream-like, sedated states of the giants shows the impact of power in the wrong hands. I’m still not sure how the space exploration ties in or what it means, and the end of the novel does little to clarify things. But as the wool is pulled off over our eyes, as layers of time reveal why each character ended up in this position, it’s clear there aren’t obvious answers to the questions Adam is posing. Audition makes you think outside of the box. You’ll question how crimes are dealt with, and how we value the lives of others.

Nanny Jo and the Wild Mokopuna | Regional News

Nanny Jo and the Wild Mokopuna

Written by: Moira Wairama

Baggage Books

Reviewed by: Jo Lucre

Nanny Jo and the Wild Mokopuna | Nani Jo me Ngā Mokopuna Porohīanga is a poignant tale: one of sadness, celebration, and whānau. Local author Moira Wairama incorporates traditional oral storytelling into her children’s book, which sees Nanny Jo gently weave the significance of Matariki into her mokopuna’s lives by sharing the story of the great fisherman Taramainuku and Te Waka o Rangi.

“Each night Taramainuku sails his canoe Te Waka o Rangi across the sky”, Nanny Jo says. “It’s hard to see his waka in the darkness, however if you find the right stars you will know where it is. Look for the stars of Matariki as they are at the prow of the waka. Look for the stars of Tautoru, as they are at the stern of the waka.”

As Taramainuku sails Te Waka o Rangi across the sky, he drops a great net down to the Earth; the spirits of those who have recently died are invited to climb into his net. For a while, the stars of Matariki and Taramainuku’s waka disappear, but one winter morning the stars reappear, guiding Te Waka o Rangi back into the sky. Taramainuku flings his net high into the sky and the spirits who have travelled with him become free. Some become stars, some return to Hawaiki, and some journey towards the great unknown.

“This can be a sad time, but also a time to celebrate as the return of Matariki and Te Waka o Rangi marks the beginning of the Māori New Year,” Nanny Jo explains.

Nanny Jo tells the story to comfort her mokopuna when she dies. I am reminded of the village it takes to raise a child as Nanny Jo’s whānau cloak her and her mokopuna in their care – taking the children to the park, the river, the bush as she becomes more weary.

Margaret Tolland perfectly conveys a sense of connection and belonging through her illustrations. The ‘wild’ mokopuna seem just that: free, adventuresome, and spirited.

Nanny Jo and the Wild Mokopuna is a moving dedication to Joanna Huriwai and to all the women who battle breast cancer.

L’immensità | Regional News


(Not rated)

97 minutes

(4 out of 5)

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

Prisencolinensinainciusol. If you haven’t heard this Adriano Celentano song before, I recommend you scurry over to YouTube stat. It’s central to director Emanuele Crialese’s newest film L’immensità, screening in Wellington as part of Whānau Mārama New Zealand International Film Festival.

Having grown up in Italy, I’m familiar with Celentano and the song. He’s an icon and often considered the man who brought rock and roll to Italy. A trailblazer of the 1970s – a period of enormous turmoil, political upheaval, and change in Italy – Celentano was authentically himself. Prisencolinensinainciusol is a song that sounds like English but is complete gibberish. Its theme is the inability to communicate. It’s one thing craving to be something else, and in doing so, becoming something in between.

L’immensità follows 12-year-old Adriana or Adri (Luana Giuliani), the eldest child of three who identifies as a boy and begins to increasingly assert his trans state. Meanwhile Adri’s mother, Spanish expat Clara (Penélope Cruz), struggles to cope with her marriage to an abusive, cheating man. Unable to express themselves, both Clara and Adri feel trapped. Their relationship grows closer as their burdens increase. Celentano’s hit song frames the pair perfectly.

Production designer Dimitri Capuani and costume designer Massimo Cantini Parrini had a field day recreating the vibrant absurdity of 1970s Italian style. From furniture to clothes, the colours are vibrant, the forms fanciful – a stark contrast to the inner turmoil of our protagonists. There are inserts of Cruz and Giuliani recreating scenes from famous Italian songs that provide a nice break from the intensity.

There is a lot to unpack in L’immensità, but at the same time I feel there were many moments that merely touched the surface, never delving deeper. So much happens, yet nothing ever changes – life shifts into limbo. With Italy, it’s virtually impossible to speak of something in an isolated way. As a region that has history dating back more than 3000 years, everything bleeds into everything else. A people so influenced by our ancestors and what came before, everything is connected. How can you include it all? Perhaps this immensity, l’immensità, is exactly the feeling Crialese wanted to capture.

Gabriel | Regional News


Written by: Moira Buffini

Directed by: Meredith Dooley

Gryphon Theatre, 12th Jul 2023

Reviewed by: Kate Morris

It is often overlooked that the Channel Islands were occupied by Nazi forces during WWII. Gabriel is set in Guernsey, populated by locals, the German occupiers, and imported slave labourers. The sense of oppression is felt instantly in this Stagecraft Theatre production, with clever soundscapes (Alan Burden) of marching forces and far-off drumming. This is continued with Charlie Potter’s remarkable, yet claustrophobic set design. The stage is busy despite only featuring the survival essentials: a small kitchenette, stove-fire, an attic bedroom, and some black-market brandy, illustrating the declining misfortunes of our characters.

Jeanne Becquet (Hannah Thipthorpe) has been moved from her home into a small farmhouse to make way for a German billet. With her are her young daughter Estelle (Pypah McGregor), her daughter-in-law Lily (Gracie Voice), and their housekeeper Mrs Lake (Trudy Dalziel).

Moira Buffini’s play is a masterclass in strong female characters, all of whom do what they can to survive. Estelle attempts to summon an angel to help save her family, all the while hilariously haunting the Germans. However, her mother Jeanne’s chosen survival strategy is a degree of cooperation with the occupiers, particularly with Major Von Pfunz (Phil Peleton). Thipthorpe and Peleton’s chemistry is palpable, with both possessing the acting chops to nail the drama and uneasy mirth that the script demands.

A prickly relationship is made perilous when Jeanne lets slip that Lily is secretly Jewish. Tensions intensify when Lily rescues a stranger (Jamie Morgan) who has washed up onshore with no clothes or memory of who he is. She brings this man home, despite the threat it imposes on the household. Here, Voice wonderfully portrays an isolated young woman, desperately trying to grasp who she is.

At its heart, this story is about choosing to cling to your identity, to who you are, even when the very fabric of identity is ripped away in the reality of life under occupation. Gabriel is a tense tale of wartime intrigue and romance that makes for riveting watching and is a strong entry in the Stagecraft canon.

The Adventures of Tahi and Kōwhai | Regional News

The Adventures of Tahi and Kōwhai

Presented by: Little Dog Barking Theatre Company

Written by: Jacqueline Coats

Directed by: Jacqueline Coats

Circa Theatre, 8th Jul 2023

Reviewed by: Tania Du Toit

With great excitement, mister almost-five and I make our way to Circa Theatre to see Little Dog Barking’s long-anticipated new production. As we collect our tickets, we are told that we can sit anywhere we want to. My son chooses to sit right at the front and shortly after, the show starts with lovely music and a squawk?

Well, yes, because The Adventures of Tahi and Kōwhai is about two hoiho (yellow-eyed penguins) and their natural journey of finding their soulmates, the dangers they face, and the unlikely friends they make along the way.

The stage is brought to life with amazing lighting (Jason Longstaff) that sets the scene for Tahi and Kōwhai’s time on land and under the sea. The set (Tolis Papazoglou) is simple and very effective. The props are unique and work well with the various scene changes. Sharon Johnstone did an outstanding job in designing the props and puppets, which each have various characteristics that enhance their personalities. The puppets are so expressive, it feels like they are real.

The room is filled with people of all ages, young and old. Everyone is enjoying the loveable puppets and great music, composed by sound designer Liam Reid and performed by Kenny King and Jeremy Hunt (also the puppeteers for all the characters). The laughs, squeals of excitement, and dancing can be seen and heard in every row.

As much as I would love to get more into what the show is about, it’s worth checking out this inspiring, entertaining, and heartwarming adventure for yourself to experience the world of our local wildlife and some of the struggles that they face.

As always, I had to know what part stood out for my son. He said, “All of it, but I really loved the songs!” My favourite part was the integration of te reo Māori and New Zealand Sign Language, but I loved all of it too.

Enigma | Regional News


Presented by: NZSO National Youth Orchestra

Conducted by: Giancarlo Guerrero

Michael Fowler Centre, 30th Jun 2023

Reviewed by: Tamsin Evans

Members of the NZSO National Youth Orchestra (NYO) meet each other once a year for a full week of rehearsals before they perform together. It sounds a little like cramming before a test, but the skills and musicianship demonstrated by these remarkable young people were the product of much more than a term’s worth of work.

The NYO had what must have been the absolute pleasure of working with a conductor whose sheer delight in the experience was evident to all of us in his energy and empathy. Giancarlo Guerrero’s directing style seems perfect for young musicians in particular. It is dynamic, energetic, dramatic, and empathetic all at once.

This was a demanding programme. In the convergence of oceans by Nathaniel Otley (2023 NYO composer-in-residence), the orchestra was immediately and literally in deep water. At times more an acoustic experience than conventional musical composition, the use of found percussion instruments added particular interest. This piece would have presented new challenges for some of the young musicians, but they were very comfortable with their debut.

Aaron Copland was the American composer in the show. We heard his Billy the Kid: Suite and it was every bit as evocative as the title suggests. The orchestra did an excellent job bringing to life Guerrero’s version of a young man’s action-filled life.

The finale, Elgar’s Variations on an Original Theme (Enigma) is a crowd pleaser, well known and difficult to make special. However, Guerrero’s interpretation and direction to the NYO produced an uplifting and exciting performance. It really felt like something new, which is no mean feat when you consider it was written by an Englishman over 100 years ago.

The 80 or so musicians who journeyed with us from the deep ocean to the open prairie and then to the English countryside proved their versatility and talent. The future of orchestral music is safe in their hands.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny | Regional News

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny


142 minutes

(3 out of 5)

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

I actually have a personal connection to Harrison Ford but let’s start by talking about the newest instalment of the Indiana Jones franchise, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, shall we?

I grew up watching these movies. And as a true little tomboy I could think of nothing better than going on adventures around the world, discovering hidden treasure, and saving the world from the forces of evil. Let’s be honest, there has never been a cooler nerd than Indy. My disappointment was palpable when I learned most archaeologists spend their days digging in the dirt with a spoon. But Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny did not disappoint me. It’s fun, it’s exciting, and it’s just what every Indiana Jones fan would hope for.

I’m not saying it’s as good as Raiders of the Lost Ark or Last Crusade. I mean, there is no guest appearance from Sean Connery – though Antonio Banderas was a welcome surprise – but it is exactly what you would expect. Nazis, exhilarating yet comical car chases, booby traps, our grumpy yet lovable protagonist, and just the right amount of history to make it interesting but not boring. Director James Mangold alongside designer Adam Stockhausen and cinematographer Phedon Papamichael do a wonderful job of carrying on the legacy of such a beloved series.

I appreciate the new take on an ageing Indiana Jones who can’t quite do as much, though, when necessary, pulls out his whip and signature moves. The CGI to make Ford younger was a bit jarring but it was neat to see flashbacks without using a different actor. The only qualm I really had, aside from a few moments of suspended belief that are inevitable with action movies, that the iconic theme song was played at odd moments rather than for triumphant victories.

Now you’re probably wondering about my two degrees of separation from Harrison Ford. He ordered a burger with nothing on it from my mother while she was working in a restaurant in my hometown – probably on some sort of diet. Obviously disappointed by the boring meal placed in front of him, he flipped the bun at her. So I have to dislike him on principle, but Indiana Jones is always a pleasure.

Second Chances | Regional News

Second Chances

Written by: Hayley Holt


Reviewed by: Kerry Lee

From the outside looking in, Hayley Holt has it all: a beautiful woman with a successful career and a loving family behind her. But not everything was as it seemed. Growing up, she danced (eventually becoming a champion), took up snowboarding, acted (in Barbie commercials), and even had her own horse, which she paid for with her those aforementioned acting gigs.

While it all must have been great at the time, it was a strain that took its toll. She grew up thinking she had to be the perfect one, the one that her parents never had to worry about. Second Chances is a peek behind the curtain into the life of someone we read about, but don’t really know. Hayley’s book is a fascinating read, and one that hits hard.

I found her writing genuine and down to earth, and I related to some of what she went through. We all put on masks for other people in order to fit in, which I think is somewhat of a rite of passage growing up. My heart really went out to her, and there were times that I had to put the book down and take a breather before tackling it again because it was so sad. It’s not a big book by any means, but it packs an emotional punch all the same.

While Hayley’s been in the papers and the public have been privy to some of the goings-on in her life, up until now they have never known the full story. Second Chances gives us all the details as told in her own words in her own way.

While I have never considered myself ‘gossipy’, I have to admit to enjoying myself and would happily recommend this to anyone who wants to pick it up at the local bookstore. I guarantee it’s a book that will make you nod your head in agreement, while maybe making you appreciate your own life a bit more.