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Game On: Shrinkle | Regional News

Game On: Shrinkle

Written by: Emily Snape

EK Books

Reviewed by: Jo Lucre

“Sprinkle, snickle, shinkle, spinkle…” My son and I sure had fun with the name of this book, Shrinkle, when it escaped me while we were out travelling in the car.

I wondered what he had thought of Game On: Shrinkle, despite being witness to his obvious enjoyment when reading it both together and alone. Here’s what he had to say: “It was awesome, great, and I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen in Level 9.” Yes, there are no chapters, only levels in this gaming saga written and illustrated by Emily Snape.

It’s always a good sign when a child is ensconced on the couch reading the book that has just arrived in the post.

Game On: Shrinkle is just the kind of adventure that appeals to your average 10-year-old, with shrinking brothers, a maniac cat, a hungry spider, a babysitter named Ms McBoob no less, and the fail-proof addition of winning poo humour.

Shrunk by a mysterious app named Shrinkle on Ms McBoob’s phone, brothers Liam and Max are thrown into a world of tiny, where scaling rubbish bins and outsmarting a frenzied cat are no easy feats. The cat is a leering taskmaster delivering its riddles and rhymes: “Now my little players, I want you to find: What can’t be used until it’s broken.”

There’s some weird facts thrown in for good measure too, like insects on eyelashes and powdered Roman toothpaste made from mouse brains. Again, totally enthralling to a young audience.

The brothers – once adversaries, now turned collaborators – have leveled up, ready to tackle the heights of grubby rubbish bins, climbing frames within the fridge, and the unavoidable dangers of their baby sister Clio, an unwittingly wobbly threat to tiny people who is now more giant than baby, to solve the riddles and get through the levels.

Game On: Shrinkle is lots of fun, fast paced, simple, and chaotic. This zany adventure will not disappoint.

As the Trees Have Grown | Regional News

As the Trees Have Grown

Written by: Stephanie de Montalk

Te Herenga Waka University Press

Reviewed by: Margaret Austin

Tastefulness, mystery, and a celebration of nature characterise this poetry collection and are aptly heralded by its cover: full grown blossoms amongst dark tree foliage, a bright-coloured bird nestling, and a mysterious figure just discernible in the background.

De Montalk is clearly captivated by trees and birds. Descriptions of both are deeply rooted in her poems and fly about in them as reassuring images. Indeed, the need for reassurance is a theme – our poet is seeking solace for her own critical life-changing condition. Fixed wing has as its central metaphor a medical evacuation flight during which the plane’s trajectory embodies and reflects the physical condition of the passengers.

As the Trees Have Grown suggests a simplicity of content perhaps, but the language and some of the references are another matter. Referring to the end notes will be essential for most readers. That said, I recognised with delight the title Amor Fati (the love or embrace of fate), which is the central tenet of the stoic philosophers. The poet recalls the story of a brown trout, said to be the pet of a train driver, and which travels – haplessly – towards a possibly unwelcome destination with its owner. You can’t get much more esoteric than that!

There’s a return to the creatures de Montalk loves and celebrates in In Passing, where we read about mountain hares, Siberian tigers, and frugivorous (you see what I mean about language) bats. Plus a kererū “Hefty, red-eyed, / shuffling along a branch, / stretching its rainbow neck”. And in After the rains broke there’s plenty of weather: “Creeks stalked the undergrowth” and “campers stowed / biddable awnings / and multi-roomed tents”.

The final poem, Sleave of care, is a lengthy hymn of celebration and thankfulness to trees. Esoteric again, the ‘sleave’ of the title originates in Shakespeare’s Macbeth with its reference to the balm of sleep. Amongst catkins and camelias, elms and spruces and oaks, the writer’s preoccupation with nature and its calm and reassurance prevails.

Meredith Alone | Regional News

Meredith Alone

Written by: Claire Alexander

Penguin Books

Reviewed by: Fiona Robinson

This a charming book with a sweet main character who you’ll want to triumph and be happy by conquering her fears. It’s also desperately sad in places.

Meredith hasn’t left her house in three years after having a panic attack one day as she got ready for work. There are deeper reasons though for Meredith staying within the safety of her four walls, and these are gradually revealed as the plot gently unfolds. We start to understand how Meredith became a recluse as we get glimpses of a tough childhood, a self-absorbed mother, and a strong older sister who was Meredith’s biggest supporter – until she wasn’t.

We are also welcomed into the life she shares with her beloved rescue cat Fred and old school friend Sadie. A life where time goes slowly and is dedicated to working remotely as a writer, baking, jigsaw puzzles, and exercising by running up and down the stairs.

While the plot takes its time, it definitely pulls the reader in and ratchets up the tension and Meredith’s inner conflict at times, as she experiences panic attacks and deep-seated anxiety triggered by a traumatic experience.

It’s the characters that ultimately make this a book you want to keep reading and remember long after you’ve read the final page. All of the key characters are well rounded, and all have their challenges – some aren’t even very likeable. Meredith is beautifully written, and as a result she is the one we really connect with as readers and have great empathy for. We cheer her on as she grows her connections with the outside world, including her new friend Thomas, and want her so badly to take that first courageous step beyond her front door. Thomas is also likeable, as is Sadie and Meredith’s sister Fi – although as a reader, I felt let down by a late plot twist involving Fi.

Overall, this is a moving and uplifting book that will fill you with compassion and understanding for people in Meredith’s situation. It was a bit of a departure from the type of book I would usually go for, but I recommend it.

Flames | Regional News


Created by: Reon Bell, Sean Rivera, and Roy Iro

Directed by: Sepelini Mua’au

Circa Theatre, 13th Jun 2023

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

When creator and performer Roy Iro told me that Flames was a hip-hop musical but it wasn’t like Hamilton, I have to admit I couldn’t picture it. But boy was he right. As Iro’s counterpart Reon Bell said: “Flames is a show that is not ashamed of its unique voice.”

Flames is a detective drama set in Wellington. Five suspects find themselves mysteriously summoned to a crime scene: Don’s Enterprises has been set ablaze. The Don (Moana Ete), The Godfather (GypsyMae Harihona), and Andre ‘The Great’ Bambino (Rivera) are three experienced criminals, and they’re proud of it. Mathematically challenged Morgan Reed (Iro) and quasi-octogenarian Ian Sheff (Bell) are two detectives, and they’re thoroughly confused. With motives and accusations coming in hot, who will be found guilty of arson?

What I didn’t expect was for Flames to be so funny. And I mean genuinely funny. I laughed the whole way through. It’s clever, and it had me guessing the whole time. It plays on the tropes of the genre, but it moulds them into something fresh. From the beginning it laid out clues, it drew me in – I simply had to know who done it. Everyone has a motive; everyone has a means. With twists and turns, alliances and intertwined histories, the cast brilliantly dance around each other in a blazing and fiery tango of deceit and distrust, or perhaps it’s confidence and trust.

Flames celebrates the whakapapa of hip-hop culture in Aotearoa and truly showcases the genre in all its iterations. Between instruments, decks, and beatboxing, every piece of music is produced live on stage (sound design by Bell). The performers often switch out on instruments. A theatre performance and a concert, Flames is an incredible feat of musicianship, and it truly honours and elevates hip-hop while bending the rules of theatre. A testament to this was the audience moving and grooving, clapping and stomping, not constraining themselves whatsoever – and so they shouldn’t have. Flames is meant to be enjoyed collectively and out loud. It’s made to set the room ablaze.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3 | Regional News

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3


149 minutes

(2 ½ out of 5)

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

I’m not a Marvel, DC, superhero saga, blow-everything-up movie girlie. Shocker, I know. But let me tell you my partner was very pleased when I asked if he wanted to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. I thought he’d be extra happy when I asked if he’d watch the first two with me so I would know what’s what and who’s who. To my complete and utter surprise he informed me we had already watched the first one together? So we re-re-watched them.

As far as these movies go, the Guardians of the Galaxy series is quite fun, and it is refreshing. It has its issues – like they really couldn’t think of better aliens than just people dyed blue, red, or green? Really? But it is clever, and witty, and self-aware. There are a lot of jokes that poke fun at the genre itself and it was the first superhero series to not take itself so seriously. And before you come for me, I know they’re all based off comic books and I do respect the genre. I just think there are plot holes that could be avoided. Like sometimes space is deadly and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes they get lasered and almost die and other times they get rag-dolled against buildings for 20 minutes and don’t even tear their suits.

But Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a good follow-up of the first two. John Murphy’s soundtrack – which the movies are famous for – is still just as banging. There are some very sweet and introspective moments between all the characters, like when they begin to appreciate each other’s strengths instead of critiquing weaknesses. You learn a bit more about Rocket the Racoon’s (Bradley Cooper) past as well. In fact, he is the protagonist of this chapter. The special effects and editing are of course top tier – think fast cuts, perfectly synchronised music, epic battle scenes. This movie is well made and it’s great fun.

My favourite part? The conversation we had afterwards about the moral implications of whether, due to his hyper-intelligence, Rocket is still a racoon.

Please Adjust Your G-string | Regional News

Please Adjust Your G-string

Directed by: Ralph McAllister

Fringe Bar, 11th Jun 2023

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

Veteran entertainer Margaret Austin has had a more colourful life than most and Please Adjust Your G-string is a glimpse into the most luminous parts. Resplendent in gold high heels, a red jacket, and matching feather boa, she regales us with her adventures in travel and love. These are interspersed with snatches of era or location-appropriate music to which she employs her dance training and sashays along.

Born just after World War II in Palmerston North, she grew up in an environment “marked with a lack of excitement”, handing round her mother’s famous cucumber sandwiches to guests and musing on her mysterious journalist father’s emotional detachment. After a conventional school-university-teacher training-marriage path, it’s not surprising that this born adventurer decided to up sticks and head to Italy with two friends.

This was the beginning of numerous daring adventures, starting with a stint as an orange-skinned dancer at the Folies Bergère in Paris, then onto Cannes interviewing Anthony Hopkins for Playgirl magazine, and meeting a man from Cameroon in a nightclub with a briefcase full of gold bars, probably from Omar Sharif.

Austin is a charming and engaging performer who doesn’t shy away from the hard parts. A near and an actual sexual assault are also part of her European journey, which Ralph McAllister’s direction powerfully shows us as Austin steps down from her centre-stage podium and cowers against a pillar.

Her poetic nature burst out on a paper tablecloth in Greece where the attitude of Greek men towards women was the subject of her first scathing scribble, which we hear. She recites another of her lovely poems later in the performance to honour her lover and best friend Anthony, who some might remember as the Duke of Wellington. Running into both of her ex-husbands in the same supermarket inspired my favourite line of the night: “Romance may come and go, but groceries go on forever”.

What a privilege it is to share in such a well-lived life.

Myth and Ritual | Regional News

Myth and Ritual

Presented by: Orchestra Wellington

Conducted by: Marc Taddei

Michael Fowler Centre, 3rd Jun 2023

Reviewed by: Dawn Brook

In both his pre-concert talk and within the concert, conductor Marc Taddei spoke of the arts gaining strength through collaboration across artforms.

Arjuna Oakes, a young singer-songwriter and his mentor, John Psathas, collaborated in the composition and performance of Safe Way to Fall, a short song for voice, piano, and orchestra. It was a deeply personal song. Oakes’ expressive performance and lovely voice, miked as befitted the genre, was well received by the audience which, unsurprisingly, included more young people than usual.

The performance of Béla Bartók’s ballet, The Miraculous Mandarin, was a collaboration involving both the Orpheus Choir and BalletCollective Aotearoa. While Taddei could have performed a concert version, he chose to include dancers and present the complete work. The dancing told a horrific story of sexual exploitation and violence extremely well. Alas, for me, the music became mere backdrop to the visual dance. Bartók described the music as “hellish” and “pandemonium”, but even so, I could not pay it much attention.

Also performed was Psathas’ saxophone concerto, Zahara, placing another story of brutality and endurance in the desert. The soloist, Valentine Michaud, won the hearts of the audience before she played a note, with a beautiful, billowing, desert-hot red-pink-orange gown. Using tenor and soprano saxophones, Michaud produced an astonishing range of colour: throaty, drone-like, screeching, quiet, full, and rich. The work evoked a still, hot, empty desert – a desert of mirages, dust devils, and danger – and men trudging through this unmerciful environment. 

It was a night for horrific stories. The concert began with Salome: Dance of the Seven Veils by Richard Strauss. Such exotic and seductive music produced by the string section and by the harp, flute, and clarinet! And such drama and import provided by brass and percussion sections! This was a very satisfying performance of a powerful work.

10cc – The Ultimate Greatest Hits Tour 2023 | Regional News

10cc – The Ultimate Greatest Hits Tour 2023

The Opera House, 2nd June 2023

Reviewed by: Graeme King

Pre-tour, Graham Gouldman – original band member/leader, vocalist, bassist, and guitarist – said that 10cc’s “main strength is the songs. Hit after hit after hit. It’s relentless. We show no mercy”. This was proven to a full Wellington Opera House. Joining Gouldman were Rick Fenn (lead guitar, bass, vocals), Paul Burgess (drums, percussion, keyboards), Keith Hayman (keyboards, vocals, guitar, bass), and Iain Hornal (vocals, keyboards, guitar, bass, mandolin, percussion) – five very talented multi-instrumentalists and singers. 

The pre-concert intro Son Of Man got me suitably hyped-up. The Second Sitting For The Last Supper was an energetic start on a stage bathed in a swarth of gorgeous hues of red and blue lighting. Hornal had some distracting minor technical issues initially, but neither his nor the band’s performance suffered, and the sound was impressive overall.

After Good Morning Judge, Fenn said “Wellington is a very special place for me, my dad was born here” to loud applause.

The Dean And I was followed by Old Wild Men, featuring a beautiful guitar interplay/duel between Fenn and Hornal. The Wall Street Shuffle came before Floating in Heaven, written last year by Brian May (Queen) and Gouldman. Fenn’s delicate but searing slide guitar did the song justice.

The popular The Things We Do For Love preceded the recent Hornal and Gouldman composition Say The Word. Then it was the pre-recorded intros for I’m Mandy Fly Me and the crowd favourite I’m Not In Love, featuring sublime four-part harmonies. Dreadlock Holiday, with the crowd singing enthusiastically, finished the set.

The first encore was an a cappella doo-wop version of 10cc’s first hit single Donna, with the band in a circle and featuring Hornal’s stunning falsetto voice, finished with an off-key note by non-singer Burgess to everyone’s amusement! Rubber Bullets had some of the audience out of their seats and dancing up a storm to end the evening.

Support act Hello Sailor, in “stripped-back unplugged mode”, were in fine form covering all their hits. Featuring original members Harry Lyon and Rick Ball, with Paul Woolright and Jimmy Taylor, this was a well-oiled machine. 

Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense | Regional News

Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense

Written by: David and Robert Goodale

Directed by: Tim Macdonald

Gryphon Theatre, 31st May 2023

Reviewed by: Zac Fitzgibbon

From the moment that Bertie Wooster (Tom Foy) sits in his armchair for the first time, we know there is going to be a lot of laughter to come. Presented by Wellington Repertory Theatre and performed by the talented Foy, Ethan Lawn as Jeeves, and Nick Edwards as the butler Seppings, we are immersed into this zany world of hijinks, newts, and silver cow creamers.

The play is acutely aware of itself. It knows it is a play within a play. The fourth wall is broken with ease, making the audience feel as if we are directly involved in the crazy 48 hours of Wooster’s life that’s being retold.  

I was hesitant when the show was introduced as being ‘a play about nothing’. However, I can say that this is one of its greatest strengths. For two hours, I got the opportunity to relax, laugh, and have fun without any deep thought about morally ambiguous philosophies or human existentialism. It is simply light-hearted and every part of it is entertaining. Even the scene changes are hilarious. However, I wonder whether some of the set changes would be better off with accompanying music. Every set piece is utilised well and changes in a whirlwind, much to Wooster’s constant surprise. Director Tim Macdonald’s dynamic set is one of the highlights of the show.

Due to such skilful actors, each character is very distinct. The actors fully commit to their often absurd roles. Even when multi-roling in the same scene, we can easily differentiate between characters, a skill not every actor can pull off. The cast was able to execute this effortlessly, with impeccable comedic timing at every turn.

All this considered, what more could you ask for on a cold Wellington evening than to have a good laugh about complete nonsense? If you haven’t booked tickets yet, by Jeeves, make sure you don’t miss this hysterical show!