Reviews - Regional News | Connecting Wellington


Guy Montgomery: My Brain is Blowing Me Crazy | Regional News

Guy Montgomery: My Brain is Blowing Me Crazy

Te Auaha, 17th May 2023

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

Guy Montgomery – as seen on Taskmaster NZ, 7 Days, Have You Been Paying Attention?, and “very, very briefly” on Celebrity Treasure Island – is one of my favourite New Zealand comedians. I jumped at the chance to see this NZ International Comedy Festival show from a Billy T Award winner who came up with The Worst Idea of all Time and, together with Tim Batt, proudly followed through with it. Multiple times.

There are no bad ideas here, although there sure are some interesting ones. In My Brain is Blowing Me Crazy, a 34-year-old man who was once a little boy tells us about the crazy place that is the world. That’s how Montgomery bills the show anyway, quoting “I’ve got a really good feeling about this one” in amongst other favourable reviews.

I don’t want to spoil any of his jokes, so very, very briefly, content includes the alphabet, jammies, horses, and the Bechdel test. Montgomery fries some bigger fish too, like the interesting lack of representation for stepparents in mainstream media despite how many blended families there are. Absolutely none of it has anything to do with the price of fish.

There’s a reason Montgomery is killing it in the comedy game, and I reckon it’s more to do with his delivery than the content itself, because he could make anything funny. This is a comedian who could sell laughs to a hyena. That being said, it’s very difficult to describe his comedy stylings in the first place, let alone without making multiple contradictions. He’s a very smart Guy with a magnetic stage presence who seems surprised we’re there and pleased he managed to dress himself. In amongst his absurd anecdotes and zigzag tangents, there is structure, composition, finesse. Everything he says is weird but makes sense. Too much sense. Like when two stoney-bolognas think they’ve discovered the meaning of life. He’s one, you’re the other.

On a high, my plus one and I walk out with big grins but one burning question that occurred to both of us repeatedly throughout the show: what actually is the price of fish?

The Tank | Regional News

The Tank


100 minutes

(4 out of 5)

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

I would like to preface this review by saying I’m not a horror movie gal. Quite frankly, I’m a big wuss. Give me the weirdest Fellini film or a twisted Coen brothers’ movie and I’ll be happy as Larry, but one jump scare and boom: blanket up to the ears. Don’t laugh – it is a proven fact that a blankie can protect you from anything.

I would also like to say I watched the new Kiwi film The Tank alone. I will take my gold star stickers now, thank you.

That said, I recently had the privilege of speaking with the director, writer, and producer of The Tank, Aucklander Scott Walker (check out our next issue for a fun close-up on him), and he informed me his 11-year-old and company were not scared in the slightest.

Well, I was. But isn’t that a good thing?

The Tank follows Ben (Matt Whelan), Jules (Luciane Buchanan), and their daughter Reia (Zara Nausbaum). After mysteriously inheriting an abandoned property along the Oregon Coast, the family accidently unleash an ancient creature (Regina Hegemann) that has terrorised the region, and Ben’s ancestors, for generations.

Initially the story seems to follow the classic creature-feature, but there is a great twist which I won’t spoil. It’s quite satisfying to see the mould broken a bit. The Tank also comments on human greed and impact on the environment, begging the question: who is the real monster here?

It’s set in the 70s, and the 40s technically, and Paul Murphy’s set decoration as well as Nick William’s production design are superb. You also will have noticed that the creature holds a credit. That’s because this entire film is made using practical effects instead of CGI. This is hands down the coolest thing; simply phenomenal. I love it.

The Tank is out in cinemas on the 6th of June. New Zealand has a long history with genre films, and Scott Walker now joins that legacy. So grab a mate and a blankie for protection, and go support Aotearoa’s newest feature film. It’s a doozy, and pretty cool if you ask me.

Frigid | Regional News


Created by: Brynley Stent

BATS Theatre, 16th May 2023

Reviewed by: Zac Fitzgibbon

The frigid winter Wellington climate changes shortly after thunderous applause as Brynley Stent walks onstage. Within seconds, BATS is warm with laughter. Frigid is a hilarious, somewhat semiautobiographical, absurdist sketch comedy about Stent’s seemingly fruitless love life.

I find it clever that Stent manages to create a set with no set. Through her excellent acting capabilities and comic audio effects, we can clearly imagine where each sketch takes place – be it a football field or a family room. What else is clear is her obsession with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, an obsession that somehow remains after whatever that 2019 film was. Refraining from opinions on this feline flop, I will say her takes on the songs Memory and Mr Mistoffelees are very on-brand and downright funny.

I love the frequent audience participation and unbeknownst to me, I somehow become part of one of the sketches. I must say it’s one of the best in the show. There is definitely no bias in the previous statement. As a result of it, Stent makes me acutely insecure about the state of my pillows and mattress.

Projection designs created by Stent herself strongly reinforce the sketches, especially humorous magazine covers and their clickbait headlines. They are utilised excellently throughout the show, through opening credits or exploring Stent’s animalistic childhood.

While most of the comedy is respectful, I am not sure about the segment of the show where the audience participates in whether dating profiles of men holding fish are ‘hot or not’. Nevertheless, the rest of the show gets me bursting with laughter so much I think I was a bit sore afterwards. There is not one quiet moment in Frigid.

It’s easy to see why Stent is a Billy T Award winner, as I don’t think there ever was a New Zealand comedian so clever as magical Brynley Stent. If you want to see a piece that will warm you from the inside out with laughter, Frigid is the show for you.

Sex & Fast Food | Regional News

Sex & Fast Food

Daisy’s, 16th May 2023

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

I’m always up for dinner and a show. Fast food and fast burlesque? Can’t think of anything better. On as part of Visa Wellington on a Plate, Sex & Fast Food is a whopper of an interactive dining event that pairs fast food dishes with spicy strip tease performances. Mouth-watering on all counts.

We’re greeted at Daisy’s door by Lizzie Tollemache, an electric sparkplug of an MC and maître d’ in one. Lizzie shows us to our seats while giving us the lowdown: we don’t have to get up onstage, we won’t be singled out if we don’t want to be, we can eat the food but not the performers… you get it. I appreciate the lengths to which she goes to make her audience feel comfortable and at home.

Once seated, we’re served a delicious welcome cocktail (Daisy’s secret recipe hard cherry kawakawa cola) before the main course: a cheeseburger served with a frickle (fried pickle on a stick à la hotdog), thin-cut fries, and the classic Kiwiana long-cream donut. Unfortunately, the meal is lukewarm, but the accoutrements – fermented ketchup, tangy mustard, bread and butter pickles, and the dirty burger sauce – do lift the game.

After Lizzie warms up the crowd by introducing terminology some of us may not have heard before, The Everchanging Boy, dressed as the spiciest pickle you ever did see (exquisite costume design by Victoria Gridley), hypnotises us with a Frank Sinatra and Paris Hilton mash-up. With graceful, mesmerising movement and a sultry stare that could undo even the tightest pickle jar, it is always a joy to watch The Everchanging Boy perform.

Next up we have Ginger Velour dancing to a medley of All That Meat And No Potatoes and the Burger King banger Whopper Whopper. Clad in cheeky burger lingerie (The Sexy Burger), Ginger makes great use of the intimate space, sauntering up and down the aisles, interacting with the crowd, and sparkling like cola all the way. Effervescent!

I would’ve loved the pickle and the burger to come together in a joint routine at the end. Sex & Food was billed as three performances with Hugo Grrrl as MC, so I think something may have gone amiss in the lead-up to the show. Two performances aren’t quite enough, but hey, we were certainly left drooling and wanting for more.

Conceptually and thematically, Sex & Fast Food is an excellent event.

Emperor | Regional News


Presented by: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Conducted by: Eduardo Strausser

Michael Fowler Centre, 11th May 2023

Reviewed by: Tamsin Evans

Cento by Ross Harris is a very clever exercise in musical collage. Taking quotes from other composers’ works, Harris has skillfully overlaid and overlapped familiar and unfamiliar phrases into something new and exciting to listen to. Just when ears and brain had tuned into a recognisable moment, the orchestra was already on to the next. An appetiser for the ears, Cento prepared the audience well for what came next.

What followed was truly wonderful. Paul Lewis played Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major impeccably. Musicians surely feel the same adrenaline high as athletes, and from the opening virtuosic runs, we knew Lewis was fully immersed in the music, relaxed and joyous, well past flow state and at peak performance. The audience absorbed and reflected the energy. The feeling was of being part of a unique and special combination of time, place, and people. Lewis is a magical pianist, giving us a performance of something very familiar but making it entirely original.

His performance was immaculate, always enough and never too much. The overall performance was delivered with a genius lightness of touch. Strausser ensured the whole was far greater than the sum of its parts; the orchestra met the piano on exactly the right level, always enough, never too much.

Schumann’s Symphony No. 2 in C Major is a series of complex and varying styles. The orchestra, led by the skillful and nimble Strausser, tackled the contradictory piece with their usual high levels of skill and musicianship. The trombones relished their unusual moment to shine in the first movement’s opening fanfares. The violins also deserve a special mention for their incredible, lightning-fast fingers in the second movement. The third movement was sensitively played, a welcome relief from the agitation of the opening movements. Although Schumann said the work reminded him of a dark time, the magnificent timpani solo brought joy to the finale.

The Coven on Grey Street | Regional News

The Coven on Grey Street

Written by: James Cain

Directed by: Harriet Prebble

Running at Circa Theatre until 27th May 2023

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

When shall we three meet again? Well, it’s been 10 years since the last family gathering – just a blink of an eye for these immortal beings – and more centuries still since the Weird Sisters met Macbeth. Now, Daphne (Helen Moulder), Fay (Hilary Norris), and Sybil (Irene Wood) are back together again, this time to meet Daphne’s fiancé Ted (Peter Hambleton). But bringing a new member into the familial fold won’t be a piece of quiche…

Red Scare Theatre Company’s The Coven on Grey Street brings Shakespeare’s three witches to current-day Hamilton to lunch together under the hallowed pōhutukawa tree at Daphne’s place. Looming large over the action, the tree is realised in all its might and majesty by set designer Lucas Neal. What an eye for detail! Its stunning features are highlighted by lighting designer Isadora Lao’s magic touch, while flourishes from sound designer Patrick Barnes tinkle and charm.

The actors make quick work of playwright James Cain’s whip-smart dialogue and lean into its tender moments with easy grace, natural rapport, and collective chemistry that crackles like a toad on a bonfire. It’s clear from both the writing and acting that underneath the sass and snark, these characters love each other like only family can.

Moulder and Hambleton sprinkle longing gazes and lingering touches into a romance that feels like the stuff of fairytales. Both soon come into their individual power, navigating sky-high character arcs with ease. Norris pulls no punches as the potty-mouthed Fay, but beneath her no-nonsense exterior, we feel her aching need for connection and approval. Wood is comedy gold, delivering acrid one-liners with a straight face and supreme composure at every turn. I want Sybil to be my grandma and I especially want to sic her on all of my enemies.

An intricate script, visionary design, consummate cast, and expert direction… these were the ingredients chosen to create the perfect little production. The Coven on Grey Street is pure magic.

Bloch & Shostakovich: Enduring Spirit | Regional News

Bloch & Shostakovich: Enduring Spirit

Presented by: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Conducted by: Sir Donald Runnicles

Michael Fowler Centre, 28th Apr 2023

Reviewed by: Tamsin Evans

The NZSO has wanted to bring Sir Donald Runnicles to New Zealand for some time. The disrupted last couple of years were worth the wait. Runnicles is vastly experienced and highly regarded, and the same can be said of cello soloist Nicolas Altstaedt. The evening also marked a celebration for principal contrabassoonist David Angus, retiring after 41 years.

It’s rather lovely for an audience to be welcomed in person by the conductor and star soloist. Runnicles put the programme in context for us, explaining some of what lies behind each work. The orchestra was bursting with energy, firepower, and passion by the time we reached the final piece, Symphony No. 10 in E minor by Dmitri Shostakovich. We got there by way of Ernest Bloch’s personal and political expression of his Jewishness, and the gentle and beautiful Musica Celestis by Aaron Jay Kernis. Written for string orchestra and inspired by the idea of angels singing in heaven, the overwhelming feeling was of being surrounded by waves of perfectly executed, languid harmony and melody.

The anguish of Solomon, resisting the world’s earthly pleasures, is expressed through the solo cello in Bloch’s Schelomo. Altstaedt’s performance was a tortured tour de force. From the opening phrases, cello over brass, to the impressive final movement, this was a supremely confident and utterly compelling performance.

Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10 in E Minor is a perfect match with Runnicles, celebrated for his interpretation of Romantic and post-Romantic repertoire. Shostakovich traversed several narratives with his Tenth Symphony and Runnicles drew each distinctive twist in the tale from the orchestra. This music tied my insides in knots with an intense, rich sound that was both lush and taut, sometimes filled with fury and rage, sometimes lyrical and dance-like. Even with close to 100 players on stage, Runnicles gave every instrument their place, bringing a welcome clarity to Shostakovich’s story.

Into the Woods | Regional News

Into the Woods

Presented by: WITCH Music Theatre

Directed by: Nick Lerew

Te Auaha, 27th Apr 2023

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

Into the Woods is a Brothers Grimm-inspired musical that follows our favourite fairytale characters post-happy ending. With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, the 1987 Broadway sensation explores hope, community, and the pervasive power of desire. Oh, the things we’ll do to see our wishes come true.

A Baker (William Duignan) and his Wife (Áine Gallagher) have been cursed by the Witch (Greer Perenara) next door. In order to reverse the curse and fulfil their deepest desire of having a child, they must retrieve magic potion ingredients from Jack (Tara Canton) and Milky White (Felicity Cozens), Little Red Riding Hood (Aria Leader-Fiamatai), Rapunzel (Emily Yeap), and Cinderella (Gayle Hammersley) – each pursuing a wish of their own. Into the woods they go, where they encounter Princes (Jackson Burling, Glenn Horsfall), an overzealous Steward (Ed Blunden), a wicked Stepmother (Joanne Lisik) and her nasty daughters (Aimée Sullivan, Mia Alonso-Green), a ravenous Wolf (Burling), a badass Granny (Paula Gardyne), and a Mysterious Man (Kevin Orlando) who speaks only in riddles. Meanwhile, Orlando narrates the chaos as a Giant (Cozens) sets up shop in the sky above the kingdom. 

Into the Woods is a musical of two parts, where the first half is filled with upbeat music (performed exquisitely by a live orchestra), good humour, and, of course, happy ever afters. It’s clear from the buzz of elation in the atrium at interval that the first half is more enjoyable, but I’m putting that down to the script. The second half descends into grim madness, where multiple tragedies befall our heroes as the consequences of their choices come into sharp relief. The music is discordant, the silence loud. While the action may jolt and shudder, WITCH does a bang-up job of keeping the train from derailing.

There are too many magical moments to pack into this review, even if I wasn’t already over word count. Burling and Orlando’s comedic timing at every turn; Gallagher’s jaw-dropping Moments in the Woods, which I swear rouses one minute of relentless applause mid-scene; the Princes’ Agony and Horsfall’s dazzling twirlies; Canton’s charming portrayal of the earnest, dim-witted Jack; Perenara’s powerful Children Will Listen; Duignan’s understated but assured performance, which crucially grounds the action; Cozens’ star turn as Jack’s best friend, which nearly steals the show… No mean feat considering how exceptional the show is! The entire cast is talent personified and their vocal performances are fire (musical direction by Hayden Taylor and Maya Handa Naff).

Joshua Tucker’s enchanted production design envelops us in a magical world that is a pleasure to escape to. Bravo WITCH, Disney ain’t got nothing on you.    

Living | Regional News



102 minutes

(3 ½ out of 5)

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

I have been the biggest Bill Nighy fan ever since I first saw him in Love Actually, where I became hopelessly devoted to him. I then proceeded to watch as many of his movies as I could legally get my hands on. For all you readers out there who appreciate him as much as I do, I have a friend who met him, and she said that he is as lovely in real life as you would expect. So I would like to start off by saying: Bill Nighy, thank you for your service; you are a treasure.

I would also not judge you if you went to watch Living, Nighy’s newest film, solely for him. His performance is truly remarkable and his role, which is layered and nuanced, brings out the best in him. He is enough to sell it, but I believe you should go see Living for other reasons as well.

Based on Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 movie Ikiru, Living traces a similar story. Set in 1950s London, Williams (Nighy) is a product of his times. He is a civil servant in the department of public works, he goes to work every day on the train, ensures as little as possible gets done in his sector, and then takes the train home to repeat the cycle in the morning. When his doctor informs him that he only has a few months to live, Williams decides to make the time he has left count.

The screenplay was adapted by Japanese British Nobel Prize-winning novelist Kazuo Ishiguro and was written specifically with Nighy in mind as a tribute of sorts to Ikiru. The cinematography by Jamie Ramsay is exceptional. And Aimee Lou Wood as young Margaret Harris is lovely. There are moments that drag on and are a bit anticlimactic, but maybe that’s the point.

Living is a simple movie. It is rich and deep in emotion despite the English reticence, but the plot is quite uncomplicated. We are used to action-packed movies with drama at every proverbial turn, so it was refreshing to take a step back and just enjoy the moment. Perhaps that is all Williams wished for as well.