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Uproar | Regional News



110 minutes

(3 out of 5)

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

Stomp your feet, clap your hands, make some noise – it’s time to cause an Uproar. The newest Kiwi film joining an already extensive and impressive legacy of heartwarming and inspiring stories, Uproar, directed by Hamish Bennett and Paul Middleditch, zooms in on one of Aotearoa most tumultuous moments in recent history: the 1981 South African rugby tour to New Zealand, but through the eyes of a highschooler.

17-year-old Josh Waaka (Julian Dennison) has actively sat on the fence his whole life, but for one reason or another, he’s being forced to take a stand for himself, for his whānau, and for the future. Dennison himself describes Uproar as a story about a boy who is “too white for the marae, but too brown for where he is”, which happens to be an all-boys school in Dunedin. With the country set ablaze and divided by protests against South African apartheid and for Māori rights, Josh finds himself torn between keeping his head down to help his family or stand up for what’s right. Meanwhile he jostles his dream of becoming an actor – fuelled by his teacher (Rhys Darby) – and pressure from his mother (Minnie Driver) and brother (James Rolleston) to play on the school rugby team.

A story about finding yourself, your voice, and your place in the world, Uproar draws a beautiful parallel between the tumultuous state of New Zealand and the storm raging within Josh. He may not show it, but inside, Josh is just as angry and confused as Kiwis across the nation. There are some truly beautiful moments of introspection and character development and some heavy-hitting lines. Had Uproar pared down its montages and perhaps taken advantage of the turning point when the tension was at its most compelling, I think it could have hit home just that much harder. Nevertheless, the story has a rewarding and heartwarming arc that is both eye-opening and inspiring.

Having attended an early screening alongside cast, crew, and whānau, my favourite moment of the evening was seeing the audience take a stand after the fade-to-black and perform a haka with unbridled pride and joy.

Rangikura | Regional News


Written by: Tayi Tibble

Te Herenga Waka University Press

Reviewed by: Miya Dawson

Tayi Tibble’s strong narrative voice explodes from the page right from the beginning of Rangikura. This is Tibble’s second book of poetry, her first being the award-winning Poūkahangatus, and having read reviews of both I have yet to see anyone unimpressed by her poetic prowess. On the surface level, Rangikura covers topics like womanhood, mythology, relationships, and pop culture. Looking deeper, it is a window into a worldview.

Reading the poems, you see the world through the eyes of a girl pursuing “an endless summer” (according to the blurb), growing up deeply connected to her ancestors but navigating the social politics and temptations of the modern world. In Hine-nui-te-pō and Te Araroa, Tibble explores the unique relationships a girl has with her mother, with lines like “reconciling what it means to be her daughter” and “I’m air just like my mother”. Lil Mermaidz and Takakino cover close female friendships, girls who swim together as “Tangaroa’s daughters” and girls who make a blood pact together in a gutter. The 17-part Little explores the emotional complexity of a relationship with an older man.

Kehua / I used to want to be the bait that caught Te Ika was a standout poem for me, blending Māori mythology and the Chinese zodiac as the young narrator tries to have fun and find some agency for herself by pulling over men in the suburbs. “Full of confidence and concoctions”, she walks around the streets with friends, enjoying the chase yet ultimately learning “I don’t have to kill a rabbit to know it has a heart”.

The collection is not perfect – some of the early poems feel overly similar to each other, and I would have liked to have been more surprised by unusual turns of phrase or wordplay. For readers unfamiliar with Māori culture, it might require a bit of Googling. But ultimately, it is well worth the read. For a masterclass in strength, tone, and blending the ancient with the modern, you can look no further than Rangikura.

Wavewalker: Breaking Free   | Regional News

Wavewalker: Breaking Free  

Written by: Suzanne Heywood


Reviewed by: Kerry Lee 

While most people daydream about sailing off into the great unknown, few of us go out and actually do it. In 1976 at just seven years old, Suzanne Heywood along with her parents and younger brother did just that, living an existence few of us could imagine. Wavewalker: Breaking Free is the story of how a journey following one of Captain Cook’s routes to the other side of the world turned into a decade-long struggle – sometimes a life-threatening one.

As a child, Suzanne was wedged between her father’s “benevolent dictatorship”, as he called it, and what she wanted. More times than not, she found herself at the mercy of his whims and was forced to put aside her own growing ambitions. As time went on, Suzanne became lonelier and more isolated, yearning to be just like any other person her age. Finally, at 17, she broke free and began studying at Oxford University in England.

While life at sea had its hazards and pitfalls, there were lighthearted moments as well – like a supposed-marriage gift of a chicken from a would-be suiter, or her mother’s brief but rather cringey sex talk. Heywood’s writing captures her adventures perfectly and made me feel as if I was there, sailing along with her. 

After finishing the book, I was left with so many questions. Why did her father decide to undertake such a perilous journey with two small children in tow? Why did a trip that was meant to last three years go on for 10? For me that is the mark of a good book, because it left me wanting more and stayed with me long after I finished reading. Wavewalker: Breaking Free shows that even in the strangest conditions you might find yourself in, there is still a way to move forward and achieve your goals.  

I would wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone who has ever daydreamed about having adventures on the high seas.

Liveability | Regional News


Written by: Claire Orchard

Te Herenga Waka University Press

Reviewed by: Margaret Austin

The word ‘sustainability’, with its myriad connotations, was the mantra for the Helen Clark years. ‘Relatability’ has come into fashion recently. And now we have ‘liveability’ – as interpreted by poet Claire Orchard. I’m not a fan of one-word titles, but this one – Liveability – offers the writer an opportunity to exploit the term to the full in the interests of poetic recollection.

For a bunch of recollections it largely is. There are worse things recalls “Christmas day in a four berth caravan”, Uncle Jim and his record player, Grease and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Then we have Summers were longer then with “the warm, rough concrete / of the netball court / rising up to kiss me hard”. Nostalgia pervades other poems in the form of car aerials, skivvies, long drops, tree houses, and derelict one-room schoolhouses. I was particularly touched by Where duty lies with its celebration of a Sunday school award for “punctual attendance and good behaviour”. Ah, those were the days.

The physical aspects of liveability emerge in later poems. December describes a longing for Vancouver, despite or perhaps because of the cold. Railway hotel comfort and nostalgia is wistfully recollected in Heartland – there’s an original kauri staircase and double-hung windows. And the book’s cover is surely referenced in Room, where we are given cause to envy fine furnishings and careful lighting.

Results sorted by relevance is an exercise in the academic and the esoteric. It’s composed from selected titles held by Massey University’s library, confesses the poet. Is this what a writer resorts to when desperate for a subject to inspire? Orchard is certainly stretching her theme here.

All is forgiven by the two poems I liked best. After the wistfulness that characterises much of this collection, we get a welcome modern woman’s complaint about the man in her life. You could sell your lyrics will make some of us sigh with recognition at the final line: “You might get out of here alive. You can drive the getaway car.” And Chipping away since 1893 says it all.

The Secrets of Wilderfort Castle | Regional News

The Secrets of Wilderfort Castle

Written by: Jessica Jayne Webb

Pegasus Publishers

Reviewed by: Jo Lucre

The Secrets of Wilderfort Castle by Jessica Jayne Webb is a fantastical tale where nothing is quite what it seems.

Agatha Wilderfort’s world implodes with the sudden death of her aunt and subsequent inheritance of the looming, mysterious, and dilapidated Wilderfort Castle, where she instantly becomes lady of the house, master of the castle, and at first, most unwittingly, the knower of nothing.

Quite unprepared for the change – from being the hired help to the one responsible for hiring – Agatha hires several workmen and an assistant, all previous employees of her aunt. They soon become her allies in a world that gets more bizarre by the minute; one driven by immortals, daemons, and beings possessing special powers. She is immediately drawn to Charles, sensing a deep connection, and an all-encompassing desire to be together ensues.

Riled by the haughty arrival of Lord Caspian at her door, Agatha is at first repelled by his aura – he has seemingly (but quite impossibly) been a thorn in the side of many generations of Wilderforts before her. His mere presence alone threatens her inheritance, and soon her life, as Wilderfort Castle slowly but surely gives up its secrets of another world.

As I read The Secrets of Wilderfort Castle, I found myself wanting to re-write quite a few sentences in my head. Mostly because of the author’s tendency to describe what might have easily been understood by inference. For me this was a little distracting, as was the occasional jump in tense. Despite this, Jessica Jayne Webb developed her characters well, giving each one unique characteristics and special powers. They lend the entertainment and suspense crucial to bringing this hidden world and fight for survival to life.

Filled with gripping characters that are a little more interesting than your standard fare, often common in fantasy novels, The Secrets of Wilderfort Castle has enough mystery and suspense to be a wondrous read. Not to be a killjoy here, but the ending is not tied up in a neat bow, shall we say. I’m hoping there is a book two lined up.

Mr Fungus Dreams | Regional News

Mr Fungus Dreams

Created by: Fergus Aitken and Thom Monckton

Directed by: Thom Monckton and Amalia Calder

Circa Theatre, 23rd Sep 2023

Reviewed by: Jo Lucre

Mr Fungus Dreams has been a labour of love for co-creator and performer Fergus Aitken. When he first thought up the show’s theme of dreaming, he says it was about exploring our emotional wellbeing – our fears, our doubts, and ultimately, our resilience in the face of them.

In an almost full theatre, with an audience both young and old, Mr Fungus Dreams was a visual and comedic treat. “Theatre is a great medium and way to take people on a journey,” Aitken says. Here, the journey is a dream sequence that plays out the absurdity of where Mr Fungus’ dreams take him. Think cats, pirate ships, a funky fridge, and floating stars.

Possessing an innate talent for utilising a raft of facial expressions, Aitken expertly conveys subtle and not-so-subtle nuances to tell a story and make his audience laugh. The woman seated beside me was most definitely laughing, as was I. It was the sheep, and the tiny pyjama guy (you’ll know if you go) that did it. To see if he thought it was just as funny, a quick glance at my 10-year-old son found a face hard to read. It’s the anomaly of theatre: the humour appeals to some more than others, though there were many clearly delighted.

There were “wow”s from enamoured little people, especially around the impressive visuals and projections (lighting design by Marcus McShane, video design and production by Stephen Aitken). Great sound effects and puppetry (puppet design, production, and direction by Bridget and Roger Sanders) added to the magic. So too were the amateur sleuths of the audience whispering their theories of what was going on behind the scenes.  

If you are looking to expose your kids (and yourself) to the joys of theatre and give them an appreciation for what collaborating as a team can create, then Mr Fungus Dreams is a great way to spend an hour these holidays. 

In the parting words of Aitken (aka Mr Fungus), “we decided there needed to be more joy and silliness in this world”.

I quite agree.

Goldilocks | Regional News


Written by: Amalia Calder

Directed by: Adam Koveskali

Tararua Tramping Club Clubrooms, 23rd Sep 2023

Reviewed by: Tania Du Toit

Watch out Aotearoa! Three grizzly bears have just landed in Wellington with some mischief, friendship, and valuable life lessons in tow.

Goldilocks is the must-see of the school holidays! KidzStuff Theatre has put a modern twist on this age-old classic. Sassy Goldilocks (Amy Atkins) has got us and her followers wrapped around her finger with her social media content and presence when she visits her gran (Haydn Carter) in Wellington. Goldilocks’ gran is full of surprises and teaches us about honesty.

Super talented Carter keeps us on our toes as he plays the roles of Papa Bear, FBI, Bunny, and Shop Keep. Every character has their own personality, and he nailed the different transitions.

My utmost favourite character was Baby Bear (Jackson Burling), a lonely grizzly in a new country looking for a friend. But where are all the woodland creatures? And why are they all afraid of him?

There is a rollercoaster of emotions that you go through while watching Goldilocks, like excitement, suspicion, empathy, joy, and compassion. Some parts hit me right in the feels and I saw that the majority of the young audience understood the struggle that Baby Bear was going through.

Q Walker’s designs for the bear costumes were simple yet effective. The music (written by Amalia Calder and produced by Chrysalynn Calder) was really entertaining, easy to learn so that we could all join in song, and pretty catchy. I still have one of the songs stuck in my head! The cast and crew did a great job in creating a lovely versatile set, while subtle and appropriate lighting (Madyson King) and music cues kept the audience engaged throughout the production.

I always love asking my son what his favourite part of the show was. After Goldilocks, he answered with absolute conviction, “everything”. Head on down for a good laugh and a great big bear hug!

The Lives and Times of Tim Finn | Regional News

The Lives and Times of Tim Finn

Michael Fowler Centre, 21st Sep 2023

Reviewed by: Graeme King

The six-piece band started and a dapper Tim Finn sauntered onto the stage, seemingly tripping over a power cord and causing complete silence and darkness for a few seconds. “Whoops, that was My Mistake!” he said to laughter before launching into the song. Next I See Red, with the near-capacity crowd clapping already, featured a frantic piano solo by keyboardist Niall Anderson.

Stuff And Nonsense featured gorgeous vocals by Finn’s daughter Elliot, and beautiful flute by Carlo Barbaro. Poor Boy followed, and Finn seemed delighted that earlier that day, his driver told him he “played Poor Boy 24/7 back in the day”.

Finn wrote Nobody Takes Me Seriously thinking about the 22 jobs he had in his early twenties. “Split Enz was formed, really, by boring jobs and daydreaming.” For I Hope I Never, he switched to grand piano, his wavering voice on the high notes perhaps due to the emotion of this beautiful song.

Ghost Girl featured Tony Buchen’s warm bass guitar tones, while Six Months In A Leaky Boat had a piccolo solo by Buchen! The crowd rocked in their chairs to Anderson’s funky synth playing in Dirty Creature, which Finn wrote during a dark time in his life.

Fraction Too Much Friction featured the reggae-tinged drumming of Carlos Adura followed by the powerful Made My Day, with the band a tight cohesive unit. Next, Persuasion, with a tasty guitar solo by Brett Adams. Finn said he added lyrics to Richard Thompson’s beautiful guitar melody – basically writing the song together (long distance) by fax! 

Chocolate Cake featured a surprising harmonica solo by Buchen and impressive synchronised dancing from the entire band, with Adura standing up and dancing while playing the drums! A slow intro of It’s Only Natural segued into a rousing version, followed by the set’s final singalong Weather With You.

The first encore, Charlie, had a sultry sax solo from Barbaro. The crowd danced rapturously to Hard Act To Follow and gave Staring At The Embers a standing ovation. It was obvious how much everyone enjoyed seeing a national musical icon, together with a very talented band, playing classic songs in what is surely Wellington’s best music venue.

Dr Drama Makes a Musical | Regional News

Dr Drama Makes a Musical

Written by: James Wenley

BATS Theatre, The Dome, 19th September 2023

Reviewed by: Stanford Reynolds

The third in the Dr Drama trilogy, Dr Drama Makes a Musical explores what makes musicals so popular and what they have to say about society. The show is thought-provoking, educational, and immensely entertaining.

The back wall of the stage is a “shrine to musical theatre”, decorated with programmes and merchandise from musicals that Dr Drama (James Wenley) has seen or been in, which he interacts with throughout. Before the performance begins, well-known songs from musicals are played, and audience members excitedly point out productions they recognise. This environment of discussion is enhanced as a projected screen is used to display surtitles, photos, and take comments and polls from the audience.

Wenley walks us through many typical conventions of a musical, from an opening number and an ‘I want’ song, to the prevalence of heteronormative narratives. These conventions are deconstructed as Wenley discusses – and sings about – their purpose, meaning, and flaws. Despite this critical and academic lens on musicals, the entertainment and humour of the show never falter. The ‘Villain song’ is a particular hit, with Wenley’s confident singing of the catchy tune propelling the point forward, investigating where musicals have historically supported negative or discriminatory ideas in society. While one dance sequence (choreography by Brigitte Knight and assistant choreography by Elora Battah) leans into this pessimism in a way that becomes a little self-congratulatory, overall, the show conveys a galvanising and optimistic message. Phoebe Caldeiro’s original score, which she performs live, captures the key elements of musicals with humour and heart, but is let down at times by fuzzy microphones and inaccurate vocal placement.

Fans of musicals will spot obvious callouts to large-scale productions (think shiny sequined jackets and hats), with the slick lighting design (Scott Maxim and designer/operator Michael Goodwin) supporting these moments. Colours of the French flag flash when Les Misérables is referenced, and the stage is bathed in yellow as Wenley strikes the iconic pose from Hamilton.

Dr Drama Makes a Musical gives us a newfound appreciation for musicals as an artform that makes people feel connected. Wenley’s vulnerable recounting of personal experiences, coupled with audience engagement in a singalong closing number, imparts an inspirational message about the power of art.