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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.

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.