Reviews - Regional News | Connecting Wellington


Lesbihonest | Regional News


Written by: Laura Piccinin

Ivy Bar and Cabaret, 24th Feb 2023

Reviewed by: Stanford Reynolds

Friday night at Ivy Bar, and the crowd is instantly on Laura Piccinin’s side as she begins to recount her coming out stories. Her wry, ironic delivery coupled with moments of expressive physicality get big, satisfying laughs from the audience along with enthusiastic whoops and cheers. The venue is intimate enough that there is opportunity for Piccinin to engage with us on an individual level, furthering our sense of familiarity and inclusion with her experiences.

Many parts of her show have broad relatability, and the listeners are just as likely to be nodding along as they laugh. Piccinin has dated both men and women, and knowingly tells us that “men are stupid, and women are insane”. This is one of many quips that have the audience roaring with laughter as she explains the experiences that have informed this oversimplified reasoning of hers. Piccinin also takes the opportunity to explain identities that exist between and outside the gender binary and their personal exploration of this, one of many satisfying moments where the audience feels seen; the room is welcoming and cosy for everyone along the sexuality and gender spectrums.

The social commentary that is mixed in is also witty and acute, covering ideas like the changing nature of what it means to be queer as society becomes more welcoming, but how the feelings of shame and guilt can linger – only making us feel more shameful and guilty for not being able to let go. Ultimately, this is a tale about learning to love oneself, despite all the confusion caused by the reactions of our loved ones, and the myriad of labels that can feel prescribed. Piccinin asks why queer people have to bear the responsibility of explaining and quantifying queerness – let straight people work it out, she says, and stop feeling an obligation to “come out”.

Piccinin doesn’t claim to have all the answers, and acknowledges personal slip-ups and confusion in her journey. It is this unabashed honesty that is so endearing about her performance.

Access | Regional News


Presented by: Hamish Annan

Created by: Hamish Annan

Te Auaha, 22nd Feb 2023

Reviewed by: Kate Morris

Fringe is like a box of chocolates… you never know what you’re going to get. And that unpredictability, that suspense, that adventure, is what keeps audiences coming back. The pieces I find most exciting are the ones that are ever-shifting. The ones that can be influenced and shaped by the audience, as well as the delicate nuances and energies in the room. These shows are rare, but when you find them they are always interesting. All of that rings true with Access, created by Hamish Annan in collaboration with Katie Burson and Rob Byrne.

I’ve returned to Te Auaha for the third time in a week to soak up more of that delicious mystery. The audience is welcomed into a well-lit gallery space with sparse seating. At the centre are two vacant chairs inside an intimate performance space, tidily marked out with tape. On the wall are the instructions for engaging with the performer, Annan: “This performance includes: Aggression, Happiness, Grief, Lust, Disgust”. Audience members are instructed that one person at a time may sit with Annan and request an emotion. The prompted emotion is then performed for as long as the contributor remains seated. 

Access is an exploration of authentic human emotion. Emotions of performer, prompter, and we the spectators. The audience becomes part of the work, with every empathic tilt of their head in response to grief, every eyebrow lift to lust, and each flinch from aggression. Each response is incredibly moving and visceral.

Annan is a valorous performer, poignantly expressing each emotion with breath and facial expressions, without physical contact or dialogue. The result is something truly guttural and deeply confronting.  At its heart, this performance art is about human connection and emotional vulnerability. An unforgettable, alive, and incredibly unique experience, existing solely for the participants who happen to be there in that place in time – like a journal entry. And since every performance is different, what will your entry be?

Just The Tip or A Guide to Strip Club Etiquette | Regional News

Just The Tip or A Guide to Strip Club Etiquette

Written by: Vixen Temple

Directed by: Shaun ‘Cloud’ Swain

Ivy Bar, 22nd Feb 2023

Reviewed by: Nikolai Bain

Come one, come all, and experience the tales from a strip club that you never thought you’d hear, including the highs and lows of the culture, clientele, and craziness of what happens on stage and behind the curtains. 

Just The Tip is an eye-opening storytelling comedy show that explores the etiquette of strip clubs by weaving through the stories of several different personalities that stop by. Set from the point of view of the audience as a new stripper on the first day of the job, writer and performer Vixen Temple talks the audience through the kind of customers she often sees before transforming into the various roles before our very eyes. 

From Bruce the Tradie (“Don’t get too close ladies, I’m a married man!”) to Leo the Male Feminist (“I’m actually in a band, we’re called The Generic White Guys”), Vixen delves into these examples of obnoxious strip club ‘civilians’ (the sex industry’s name for the non-sex-industry population), and their various different excuses for why they don’t need to tip. The audience even meets some female ‘civilians’ that end up being just as bad as the men for different reasons, including Sarah the Girl Boss and even a hens bride who’s had far too much to drink and fails to grasp just how loud her “WOOOOOO”s are. 

Just The Tip was the perfect show to grab a drink at the bar, find a good seat, and sneak in sips between the all-too-frequent laughs. Vixen’s performance was outstanding, offering valuable insight and perspective into an industry from a person who clearly knows it better than a fish knows water. The show was a joy to watch, funny till the very end, and more importantly, showed a side of the industry that we don’t often reflect on. If you’re lucky enough to catch the show, know that you’re in for a ride and above all else, don’t forget to tip!

Where the Water Lies | Regional News

Where the Water Lies

Written by: James Ladanyi

Directed by: James Cain

Meanwhile Gallery, 21st Feb 2023

Reviewed by: Stanford Reynolds

In the stark but intimate Meanwhile gallery, the audience is seated on an assortment of borrowed chairs to hear James Ladanyi’s monologue Where the Water Lies. Ladanyi tells us about events in his life – from a date at the beach, a movie night with friends, to watching rugby at the pub. His story highlights the cause and effect that tie these moments together into something more significant, and while at first the pieces of the story are jumbled and unrelated, they come together like a satisfying puzzle. This is underscored by his description of the background of the Rubik’s cube, then solving one on stage after a member of the audience has shuffled it – all while effortlessly continuing in his telling of the story.

A table lamp that flashes different colours and ethereal music to begin and end the show (design by Nino Raphael, direction by James Cain) help to make the most of the simple space, but it is Ladanyi’s energy and connection with the audience that really suck us in. At times he is infectious and dynamic, and at others wistful and nostalgic, balancing changing between these emotions skilfully. While at first the audience is waiting for the point of connecting the pieces to become apparent, and some of the comedic timing gets lost, the structure of the script engages us as the picture Ladanyi is painting comes into focus.

During the show, Ladanyi hangs pieces of art by local artists that reflect ideas in the work, and at the end we are invited to come forward to appreciate them more closely. This is a nice touch, and imparts the feeling that the telling of his story has changed the space.

Where the Water Lies is a personal but relatable story about moments when life decides to happen to us, the cause and effect normally invisible behind events in our lives, and appreciating the coincidences and serendipity this all energises.

Hell School: The Musical | Regional News

Hell School: The Musical

Directed by: James Wenley

Hannah Playhouse, 21st Feb 2023

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

“I work 24 hours a day to make this hell a home”, Joker (Jules Daniel) exclaims, and I have to be honest here, Hell School: The Musical does make me feel back at home… in the halls of high school. Dun dun dun.

You either peaked in high school or it was your living hell. Hell School: the Musical encapsulates exactly that, with a little bit of demonic possession and the supernatural to really hammer it home. Hell School captures the ethos of teenage angst, when everything seems like the end of the world. The show exaggerates this but also honours those feelings without diminishing them from a perspective of hindsight.

A product of the Victoria University – Te Herenga Waka Theatre 302: Conventions of Musical Theatre course, Hell School: The Musical is a full-length, well and proper musical with two acts, catchy numbers, plot twists, smashing choreography (Elora Battah), some brilliant lighting effects (show designer Scott Maxim), and an oh-so-suave band, The Butt Plugs. Though the audio was rough – the mics cut in and out and at times the music could be louder than the singing – Hell School was a hellishly devious adventure, sits on extremely promising bones, made everyone laugh maniacally, and had some truly divine moments.  

The whole cast wrote and composed the songs, which is a monumental achievement. In fact, I would especially like to praise Lily Fitzgerald as musical director and in her role as Ed… you are so cool. Daniel’s Joker has great stage presence; Jayden (Caleb O’Halloran) and Jessica (Battah), the high school sweethearts, are honest and tender; Liv Pettitt as Dana is the epitome of a snooty celebrity; Sophie Helm, playing Maggie, has a gorgeous voice; former head prefect Alice, portrayed by Annie Black, is expertly acted throughout her entire arc; and Ezra (Aylana Francis-Darrah) is oh-so loveable.

My favourites, however, are Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs, and Spades (Zayne Barefoot, Marie Katsanos, Faith Holley, and Lulu Harkness respectively). Oh, you want to know why? I guess you’ll have to go find out! Muahahaha.

CAUTION WET FLOOR  | Regional News


Presented by: Brick Haus Productions NZ

Directed by: Genoveva Reverte

Te Auaha, 21st Feb 2023

Reviewed by: Kate Morris

Grab your passport and turn on your out-of-office, we’re heading to the airport. And you won’t even need to queue for security. Winner!

It’s Christmas Eve and we are introduced to Francis (Jackson Burling), a loveable but lonely airport cleaner. While scrubbing floors and cleaning up explosive post-curry messes, he dreams of a life where he is in the spotlight. We accompany Francis in his reverie away from this less-than glamorous existence, transported ourselves to a fantastical life of romances, far-off islands and numerous prestigious accolades for ‘best cleaner’ (seven nominations and seven wins, naturally).

As each new daydream unfolds, we can’t help but be swept away by the loveable character and his fantasies. The world Francis builds is so engaging that when reality inevitably comes crashing back, punctuated by every berating phone call from his boss, it’s not just Francis that has to wake up and smell the er… let’s say roses… coming from the toilet cubicle. The audience feels that deflation too.

Burling is such a stunning performer. He has an incredible command of his physical range and comic precision that will make you laugh and then break your heart in two seconds flat. This is most evident during a glimpse of Francis at, arguably, his truest self. He is at home, alone, no longer a cleaner nor living in his imagination. Just simply watching an episode of The Chase and heating up leftovers. An impactful and beautiful juxtaposition to the comic unfolding of Francis’ escapist fantasy, and yet so relatable – haven’t we all wished for something more?

There is little dialogue, but Burling’s impeccable physicality and expression, accompanied by the selective soundtrack and creative lighting (Genoveva Reverte), speak volumes. The synchronicity of these elements keeps the piece engaging from start to finish.

Brick Haus Productions are quickly becoming known for their thought-provoking work that asks us to think of our relationships with ourselves, our communities, and one another. CAUTION WET FLOOR is no exception.

End of the Rainbow | Regional News

End of the Rainbow

Written by: Peter Quilter

Directed by: Jeff Kingsford-Brown

Opera House, 18th Feb 2023

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

The decline of Judy Garland (Ali Harper) in the months leading up to her death from an overdose in 1969 forms the basis of this tragic, yet darkly funny, play with music. Judy is staying at The Ritz along with her new, much younger fiancé Mickey Deans (Glen Horsfall) and besotted friend and pianist Anthony (Tom McLeod, who doubles as musical director), preparing for a five-week run of shows. She hopes her act will maintain her high profile, but she struggles with addictions to booze and pills and her complex and strained relationships with the two men.

Having witnessed Harper’s gift for vocal mimicry before, I had no doubt that she could carry off a convincing portrayal of Judy Garland in song, which she does magnificently. However, it is her acting chops that come to the fore in End of the Rainbow. She’s constantly on the move, a twitchy bag of drug-deprived nerves, with a sharp wit and a yen for manipulation. The men don’t stand a chance as she bullies and cajoles them into indulging her needs, by turns the acid-tongued adult and the petulant teenager she was when the Hollywood studio machine started plying her with drugs. This is clearly a passion project for Harper, one which she fully embraces with the skill and energy of a seasoned performer.

As her foils, Horsfall and McLeod support Harper superbly and Kevin Orlando steals the show with his brief appearances as a porter and stage manager. McLeod’s musical direction and piano playing are also excellent, as is the six-piece band that is perfectly balanced against Harper’s powerful vocals.

The production design (Ian Harman) is smart and unfussy with glittery costumes that belie Judy’s less-than-sparkly mental state and a simple but slick set. Jeff Hewitt’s lighting design is also highly effective, especially during the final number.

Don’t miss Ali Harper’s stellar performance of a falling star. This is one rainbow you’ll never want to end.

Nailed It – A Builder Play  | Regional News

Nailed It – A Builder Play

Presented by: The Awkward Company

Written by: Aimee Dredge, Sam Lewis, and Tom Hayward

Directed by: Aimee Dredge, Sam Lewis, and Tom Hayward

Te Auaha, 17th Feb 2023

Reviewed by: Kate Morris

Opening night of the 2023 New Zealand Fringe Festival and the anticipation is building (pun intended). We’ve been invited to grab a hammer, take a smoko, and scoff a pie as we join the ragtag cast of builders in The Awkward Company’s brand-new play Nailed It – A Builder Play.

We open with the untimely demise of Pete-o, a 106-year-old tradie gone too soon. Knocking down the number of days without an incident from 3 to 0, Pete-o’s death summons the much-maligned safety inspector, Donald – or Quackers (Sam Lewis). I can still hear the audible sigh from tradies in the audience upon his arrival.

At the play’s heart, as is with most real-world tradie jobs, is the camaraderie. The audience becomes one of the work crew, as the loveable site manager Crusty (Tom Hayward) welcomes us, “Smithy, Robbo, Benny, Lenny…” to a new day on site. This is where we meet Pete-o’s replacement, the new apprentice Dylan (Aimee Dredge), but Dylan is not what the team expects. How will our boys handle their first woman comrade?  

Dylan hopes to quickly gain their respect and no longer be seen as the ‘Sheila’ on site. But she must first fall victim to some classic tradie pranks of fetching ‘the long weight’ and the 1D10T planks.

The script is sharp as a tack, witty, and light-hearted, and performed stunningly by the entire cast. Still, rivers run deep with the writing; there is an underlying sensitivity which is highlighted in snippets of the characters’ bigger dreams and morals. Crusty loves to write musicals, Dylan doesn’t want to be a newbie forever, and Bubbles (Shauwn Peter Ethan Keil) is fiercely loyal to his trade and his team. There is also a highlight (literally, thanks to the hilarious utilisation of spot lighting by Ryan Holtham) of women in trade and apprenticeship opportunities from the play’s sponsors, BCITO.

A feel-good show with knock-out performances, pranks, pies, and Kiwi humour, The Awkward Company nailed it. Frank the Sentient Nail, the site mascot, was a bit wooden though.

Wonderful | Regional News


Written by: Richard Huber

Directed by: Richard Huber

Te Auaha, 17th Feb 2023

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

We stare back at them as impressions from beyond the drawing room window. Never truly within but never without either, the audience and the actors both “hold as ‘twere the mirror up to nature”, as Shakespeare said. Or is it all just make-believe?

The eccentric yet quintessentially upper-class Lady Hermione (Sarah Barham) drapes herself artfully and aloofly over a chair, her loyal butler Roberts (Blaise Barham) in suspended animation until she pulls his strings to distract her from the tedium of a socialite’s existence. Set in the drawing room of a British estate in the 1920s, Wonderful is a witty and absurdist investigation into love, shifting values, and the lost generation. Discussing monocles, sex, bohemian Berlin, “what the actress said to the bishop”, and Lady Hermione’s play, the pair grapple with the inherited values that are no longer relevant and the utter disillusionment of a post-war world.

Writer and director Richard Huber describes Wonderful as “one part drawing-room farce, two measures of love, and a splash of the comedy of manners”. With only a chair and drinks cart for props, there is nothing for the characters to dance around except each other and their banter. Having known each other since childhood, Hermione and Roberts are in love with each other. She sees the entire relationship as a game, suggesting they run away to become “lesbians in Berlin”; Roberts, who fought in the Great War, is more cynical and realistic, knowing that a servant and a socialite don’t stand a chance against Britain’s entrenched classism. Therefore, Roberts and Hermione create a play within the play, where they can be together.

Using lighting (by Meko Ng and Jordan Wichman) to transition in and out of reality and imagination, the present and memory, Hermione and Roberts blur the lines between what is real and what is not for both themselves and the audience, making a space of their own somewhere in between where everything is Wonderful.