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Colours  | Regional News


Presented by: Orchestra Wellington

Conducted by: Marc Taddei

Michael Fowler Centre, 22nd Jul 2023

Reviewed by: Dawn Brook

Compelling programming, three superb soloists, a committed orchestra, and a dedicated conductor made this an outstanding concert.

A quasi-piano concerto in Richard Strauss’ Burleske, a quasi-symphony in Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, and a work so outrageous in 1912 that people hissed its debut, Schoenberg’s Five Pieces for Orchestra, made up the programme. Jian Liu was the soloist in Burleske, while Oliver Sewell and Hadleigh Adams were the tenor and baritone soloists respectively in Mahler’s song cycle.

Burleske was written by Strauss at the age of 20. It is an exuberant, one-movement work, hugely challenging for the soloist. Throughout there was a bit of a dialogue between the piano and, of all things, the timpani. Several times, the work seemed to reach an extravagant finale, only to have the timpani intervene and set the piano off again. The timpani had the last word, as it had the first. Liu’s restrained and modest presentation belied the magic of his hands and fingers. Liu presented a solo encore which was as delicate and introspective as Burleske was sparkling and virtuosic.

Schoenberg’s short pieces sparkled in a different way. It feels nervous, unsettled, and unexpected, with instrumentation choices creating varied textures and timbre, complex soundscapes, and different moods. Tuneful it is not, and the effects are most often fleeting and splintered. Orchestra Wellington got into it with gusto, and it was certainly no hissing matter.

Das Lied von der Erde is a supremely emotional work, addressing Mahler’s concerns with nature and mortality. This work also demands much of its soloists. Sewell was sometimes drowned by the fullness of the orchestra, but the quality of his voice and interpretation was never in doubt. Adams brought great emotionality to his performance, and in the final movement, Der Abschied (The Farewell), his performance was intense and very moving.

Club Sandwich: Stand Up Comedy All Stars | Regional News

Club Sandwich: Stand Up Comedy All Stars

Presented by: Monfu

The Fringe Bar, 15th Jul 2023

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

Club Sandwich is a monthly comedy night that serves up the city’s freshest comedians on a silver platter, sandwich style. Our headline act – the meat, if you will – is Taskmaster NZ star David Correos, who is sandwiched by local comedy ringleader Jerome Chandrahasen and award-winning storyteller, writer, and actor Sameena Zehra. After some introductory banter between the three, each comedian performs a solo 20-minute set to the capacity crowd.

It all starts with Chandrahasen, the perfect opening act. His crowd work is exceptional, particularly when dissing our responses (in a friendly way). Speaking of friends, Chandrahasen is really good at making new ones when out drinking. His Shrewsbury biscuit anecdote is my favourite of the evening. Warm and golden like cookies fresh out the oven, his comedy is as Kiwi as it gets, with plenty of yeah-nahs, ois, and genial profanities that we lap up and gobble down, bellies full of laughs and hypothetical bikkies.

Zehra covers the big stuff – gender, race, religion, politics – and concludes her set with a bang: a story about the best sexual harassment she's experienced yet. Sharp and artfully crafted, her material includes a tasty morsel about confusing the bigots of the world. With a decidedly more laid-back, quietly assured delivery style, she serves as a grounding anchor between Chandrahasen, whose manic energy is a 10, and Correos, whose manic energy is… um, infinite.

At one point, Correos makes me fall out of my chair. He charges onto the stage like a bull in a china shop, tearing up the place, sending it harder and harder, bucking wilder and wilder, crunching fragments of broken porcelain beneath his hooves and practically frothing at the mouth as he impersonates a fish, a mime, and a Filipino dad whose grasp of English slips in stressful situations. It’s frantic, frenzied, feverish, frenetic. It’s cataclysmic chaos. It’s the epitome of lesh gooo. I’ve never seen anything like it. And my God, I loved it.

Guy Wilson Creating Golf Excellence: The Genesis of Lydia Ko & More Stars | Regional News

Guy Wilson Creating Golf Excellence: The Genesis of Lydia Ko & More Stars

Written by: Bruce Miller

Bruce Miller and Team Golfwell

Reviewed by: Kerry Lee 

Lydia Ko will go down in history as one of South Korea and New Zealand’s (let’s share her) greatest golfers. But as the saying goes, a person is only as great as the people behind them – the ones who believe in them and put in the hard work to see that belief turned into reality.

In the beginning, those ‘people’ had one name: Guy Wilson. For those unfamiliar with Guy, he was the man who took Lydia under his wing and coached her when, as a five-year-old, she accompanied her mother to the Pupuke Golf Club. While they got off to a shaky start (Lydia did not know much English or about golf), it was not long before Guy was building up her confidence and fostering her love of the sport.

With a foreword by former Prime Minister Sir John Key, an avid golfer himself (and one who scored a hole in one for the Make-A-Wish Foundation in 2022), Guy Wilson Creating Golf Excellence is essentially an analysis of what makes sportspeople like Lydia such a pro, and what steps she took earlier in her career. Bruce Miller interviews several greats in the golfing world and through them we find out that golf is more than just hitting a little white ball into a hole. Instead, we discover it is part-physical, part-mental, and requires a huge amount of commitment from the player and their coaching staff.

The author’s writing is clear, simple, and a pleasure to read. The only downside is that, unless you are familiar with the sport, some of the terminology may pass over your head. It’s not a big negative and I still enjoyed the read, but it might be something to consider. However, if you love golf, want to get into it, are after some tips to improve your game, or want to learn more about Lydia and Guy’s early process, then I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

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.