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The Key to Unlocking Your Potential | Regional News

The Key to Unlocking Your Potential

Written by: Brett Ashley

Mary Egan Publishing

Reviewed by: Jo Lucre

In The Key to Unlocking Your Potential, author Brett Ashley takes us on a journey from his somewhat dysfunctional early life to the life of being a successful businessman.

With a heartening conversational tone, there’s much to take from what Ashley has learned over his four decades with the Woolworths NZ Ltd Group. Namely, it’s the merits of thinking strategically, having a number 8 wire mentality, and possessing the tenacity to dive headfirst into something while simultaneously being prepared to pivot and swivel to other opportunities, when necessary, that shines through.

There’s a raw yarn-like sense to the narrative, almost like you can imagine sitting down with Ashley as he espouses his life story. There’s the successful career, the love of his life, and the leadership lessons in between: surviving in the corporate world, creating structures that harness job satisfaction for himself and those around him, and leading strategically to maximise potential. His is an eyes-wide-open approach to seeing opportunities and grabbing them. He talks about making the most of your time at work every day and creating structures and processes where everyone can thrive.

Ashley believes the biggest challenge you will ever encounter as a leader is establishing who the right people are to have around you. As a business leader, he says, it’s of utmost importance to consistently review who’s right for the team. To me, it all makes sense; when you create the right environment with the right people, there will be more opportunities for success.

What is a constant throughout The Key to Unlocking Your Potential is that anyone has the ability to be a leader, which in itself is encouraging. Ashley acknowledges that though the environments we are exposed to in our childhoods help shape who we are, we are ultimately the deciders of our own journey.

“Leaders are created, not born”, Ashley says.

For all those aspiring leaders out there, Ashley gives a great worldview from someone who has been there, done that, and certainly walked the talk.

Interrupting Cow | Regional News

Interrupting Cow

Written by: Sarah Delahunty

Directed by: Sarah Delahunty

BATS Theatre, 4th Apr 2023

Reviewed by: Kate Morris

Surreal comedy meets ridiculous reality is what we are promised from Sarah Delahunty’s newest work, Interrupting Cow, and we aren’t disappointed.

We meet the cast amidst an endless pandemic of annoyance. Annoyance about everything, from shoelaces and global starvation to Twitter and the housing crisis. Our characters appear to be searching for purpose in an ever-changing and damaged world. One (Sarah Delahunty) looks for purpose by being a stickler for the rules – rules she later realises are defined and enforced only by herself. The other (Catherine Delahunty) pursues purpose by surrendering to the endless scroll, constantly glued to their phone and defending the hidden depths of Twitter that go beyond ‘silly pet posts’.

This surreal piece packs so much into 55 minutes, it’s almost overwhelming. The script feels like a free-flowing train of thought, uncovering feelings and fears of most, if not all, the societal, political, and existential issues of today. And yet, with so much said the characters are stuck still, lost. The experience for me is dizzying, but oddly relatable. You know that feeling? The one that makes you want to push for progress, to make a difference, but you just don’t know how? That feeling is at the heart of this piece, driven along by Delahunty’s meticulous and punchy writing.

Ari Leason’s character, a chocolate cake and ukulele-wielding bard of mysterious origins, punctuates the play throughout with original compositions of varying soul and intensity.

The set design (Sarah Delahunty) is a wasteland of tangled tree limbs, overturned chairs, discarded appliances, and traffic cones. Amongst this eclectic array of forgotten items, the characters question whether “this is the right place”. The setting becomes a metaphor for the characters’ feelings of frustration and isolation of not knowing their place in the world anymore.

Interrupting Cow is unusual and thought provoking. It will leave you thinking of the big and sometimes scary things – but will also remind you that when those thoughts get too big, there’s always cake.

Cringeworthy! Swinging in the 60s! | Regional News

Cringeworthy! Swinging in the 60s!

Created by: Andrea Sanders

Directed by: Andrea Sanders

Circa Theatre, 1st Apr 2023

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

Having seen, heard, and loved the 1970s and 80s versions of Cringeworthy, I had high expectations for this production. Those expectations were met, nay exceeded, as four fabulous fashionistas took to the stage in a silhouetted tableau that screamed the 60s and belted out an energetic rendition of Shout, complete with go-go dancers (Amedee Wilson and Annabella Milburn).

Mandy, Sandy, Candy, and… er, Bob (Andrea Sanders, Jthan Morgan, Rebecca Ansell, and Jared Pallesen) kept a full opening night audience whooping, clapping, and laughing as they flawlessly delivered hit after hit, interspersed with loving, nostalgic details of New Zealand in the 60s. For those of us who didn’t grow up here or are too young to remember, these nuggets of history – ranging from the introduction of TV and contraceptives to the Summer of Love and the musical brain drain to Australia – bring to life a different time when our country was an unsophisticated backwater at the bottom of the world.

Sanders deliberately chose songs with four-part harmonies and a cast with the capability to sing them, and these are the highlights of a strong show. Pallesen and Morgan’s vocal gymnastics make The Four Seasons’ Sherry the clear audience favourite. The choreography is excellent too with all the classic 60s moves and grooves.

The production design in the first half (set design by Scott Maxim, lighting design by Mitch Sigley and Gabriella Eaton) is a visual tribute to Coco Chanel with everything in black and white apart from some subtly coloured light. This is reflected in the slick costuming (Show Off Costume Hire and Andrea Sanders). The second half unashamedly embraces the hippy aesthetic with colourful caftans (hilariously enjoyed by Morgan), swirly patterned bell bottoms, peace signs, and psychedelic lighting.

This is a joyous and highly enjoyable tribute to arguably the best decade of popular music, so turn on, tune in, and groove on down to Circa for a trip down memory lane and a night you’ll never forget.

Redemption of a Rogue | Regional News

Redemption of a Rogue


85 minutes

(5 out of 5)

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

The prodigal son returns… to Ballylough. As improbable as that sounds, that is the central crux of Redemption of a Rogue, Irish playwright Philip Doherty’s directorial film debut.

Jimmy Cullen (Aaron Monaghan) returns to his hometown after seven years to say goodbye to his dying father (Hugh B. O’Brien), after which he intends to hang himself. The story begins its slow descent when Jimmy and his brother Damien (Kieran Roche) learn that their father’s will stipulates he cannot be buried in the rain. So it proceeds to rain for 40 days and 40 nights, during which Jimmy is stuck in limbo: Catholic symbolism drenching the town, superstition puddling in the corners. Meanwhile, Jimmy meets Masha (Aisling O'Mara), the self-branded town bike and his Mary Magdalene. Together they embark on a quest to save the town’s children – who have refused to eat or talk – and bring about Jimmy’s salvation.

Director Philip’s brother Joseph Doherty’s production design is soggy and miserable… in a good way. Dank and damp permeate the film, while the nightmarish dreamscape of Jimmy’s mind imbues Ballylough. Cinematographer Burschi Wojnar deserves a shoutout (for shooting entirely in the rain), and the film takes on a blues musical vibe thanks to Robbie Perry’s score. The sharp cuts of Allyn Quigley’s editing style along with the acting take Redemption of a Rogue to the next level.

A mix of absurdism, magical realism, and biblical parables sprinkled with a heaped dose of self-deprecating, deadpan, dark comedy, Redemption of a Rogue is Irish to its core. The story both local and universal. In his flashbacks, Jimmy retains his adult form, making you wonder if you are inside his deranged mind. The Virgin Mary (Lorna Quinn) bums a smoke rather than offering salvation. In a moment of clarity, Jimmy scientifically explains the 10 plagues of Egypt, blaming the rain on the plastic factory rather than his uninterred father.

I will always praise magical realism for its ability to critique the plagues of our reality by rendering the rest of the world absurd through a simple shift in perspective. And for this same reason, I commend Redemption of a Rogue.

Mahler 3 | Regional News

Mahler 3

Presented by: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Conducted by: Gemma New

Michael Fowler Centre, 31st Mar 2023

Reviewed by: Tamsin Evans

Exhilarating. Spectacular. Breathtaking. Magnificent. When something is so good you can’t begin to describe it to others, all you have are words that feel inadequate. Luckily, readers curious as to why words aren’t enough can livestream the entire performance on the NZSO website.

The scene was set by the most beautiful waiata sung unaccompanied and with excellence by the Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir, and a children’s choir comprising Wellington Young Voices and the Choristers of Wellington Cathedral of St Paul. Robert Wiremu’s waiata, Tahuri koe ki te maunga teitei, was written to be performed alongside Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 in D Minor. An unlikely pairing but intimately connected in spirit and intent as well as the music. The 80 singers did an impeccable job, so much so that the ‘ear worm’ Wiremu had embedded (a single bar of Brahms, also found in the Mahler) was at home in my ear for several days.

“I see him as a composer for us and our times.” This was a family member’s response to my report of the Mahler and it captures the feeling I had. 130 years have gone by since Mahler wrote this epic symphony but it sounds entirely contemporary and directly relevant to the complex, disturbed, fascinating, and incredible state of our world in 2023.

There were too many amazing individual and sectional performances to pick out the best, but I cannot let the children’s stamina (a long night for young ones) and Sasha Cooke’s beautiful mezzo-soprano voice go unmentioned. The balance between her voice and the orchestra was just about perfect and her diction was immaculate. “O Mensch! Gib Acht!” O man! Take heed!

We did take heed. The house was full. The applause was long and rapturous and almost everyone got to their feet to congratulate and thank Gemma New, the NZSO, Sasha Cooke and all the singers, over and over, for another spectacular concert experience.

CORE | Regional News


Written by: Hattie Salmon

Directed by: Madeline Kain

BATS Theatre, 30th Mar 2023

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

Erika (Hattie Salmon) and Asa’s (Thomas Steinmann) love story starts as all the best ones do: with a one-night stand gone wrong. Beginning with a brief but passionate encounter that blossoms into a lifelong affair, CORE is about how all-consuming, passionate, and volatile your first love can be.

This 90-minute two-hander is peppered with potential and beautiful moments. The chemistry and connection between our two leads is both believable and engaging. While Steinmann has an easy, natural performance style, Salmon’s ‘Ricky’ is more heightened, poetic. The juxtaposition is interesting to watch and serves the script well, which is real and surreal in equal measure.

Centring on a bed, Sid Williams’ functional set design transports us into the couple’s bedroom, while Max DeRoy’s lighting design conveys the passing of time from night to day. It’s lovely to watch as you imagine sunrays slowly spreading across your bed during lazy Sunday mornings with the person you love; moonlight and the amber glow of the city filtering through your window after a big night out in your favourite sparkly dress. All the while, Roco Moroi Thorn’s haunting sound design echoes the heady fever of young love.  

CORE would benefit from more concision and dramaturgical clarity, especially because time jumps are at play – will landlines still be a thing in the future? Regardless, it stands tall on strong bones: the performances, the design elements, and Salmon’s script, which pinpoints some (unfortunately!) relatable sticking points. I see elements of my past dysfunctional relationships in every beer can, hear them in every telephone ring, read them in every email I wasn’t meant to, feel them in every lingering touch. CORE distils a universal subject down into an accessible story sprinkled with specificity. Just like Ricky, I think it’s the small things that capture the true essence of love, and in those little, carefully curated details, you’ll find CORE’s strength and its beauty.

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.