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Sublime Interludes | Regional News

Sublime Interludes

Created by: Bjӧrn Åslund and Tabitha Dombroski

Circa Theatre, 26th May 2022

Reviewed by: Leah Maclean

Sublime Interludes is created and performed by recent New Zealand School of Dance graduates Bjӧrn Åslund and Tabitha Dombroski, and it had its first staging in the 2022 New Zealand Fringe Festival. Through a minimalist set and evocative choreography, the work seeks to explore the highs and lows of human existence in a raw and unrefined way. The hour-long performance is a hypnotic journey through varying types of fear and anxiety, from the feeling of isolation, hopelessness, loneliness, to the ultimate battle or acceptance of those demons.

Åslund and Dombroski make a striking choreographic pair. Through closely danced duets and physicality they convey an impressive sense of one another’s presence and movement story. There is something special about a duo on stage, which allows more opportunity for the audience to understand and get to know the artists behind the work. For the emotionally charged and vulnerable purpose of Sublime Interludes, this is an ideal composition.

The dancers shift seamlessly between moments of serenity and soothing patterns then into extreme hyperactivity, which successfully emphasises the unpredictability of depression and anxiety. While they are both lovely to watch, their strength as performers shines in the more tender and balletic sequences. They easily create eloquent shapes with their bodies and leap deftly across the stage, highlighting elements of classical training.

Despite tackling a heavy theme, the creators ease the load by interweaving elements of humour and lightheartedness. In one scene, Åslund and Dombroski leap and spin across the stage, with large smiles on their faces to the tune of Baby Shark. And at the end we witness the performers coming to an acceptance and achieving reconnection, which is both beautiful and heart-breaking.

Sublime Interludes and the respective artists show a lot of promise, and their partnership is compelling, but there may still be a degree of untapped energy or confidence holding them back. I believe that with time and perhaps a few more performances under their belts, they will be able to uncover and cultivate their full potential.    

Too Much Hair | Regional News

Too Much Hair

Presented by: Butch Mermaid

Created by: Ania Upstill and William Duignan

BATS Theatre, 24th May 2022

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

Too Much Hair is a musical cabaret about gender euphoria (the state of bliss and comfort that happens when our gender expression is aligned with our identity). Starring Ania Upstill, William Duignan, JTHAN Morgan, and Felix Crossley-Pritchard, it feels like hanging out with your friends at a house party. With a band. And rainbow glitter everywhere. Everyone’s wearing sequins. You’re inside but you can pretty much guarantee unicorns and bunnies are frolicking around in the garden, where there are almost certainly fairy lights strung up in the trees. Honestly, it feels like the best house party ever.

Joyful is the best word for Too Much Hair and I’m going to keep coming back to it, not for a lack of access to a thesaurus, but because it’s the most appropriate and accurate way to describe this show. It makes me feel joyful and the cast radiates joy at every turn, particularly in songs like Joyfriend (complete with rap segment, kudos Upstill) and Affirmed in a Bookshop, a rocky number with killer guitar riffs by Duignan and rowdy vocals from Crossley-Pritchard, who plays keys beautifully throughout the show.

The structure is much like a concert, where audiences are treated to a considered setlist with interludes of banter outlining the context of the songs. Spoken word poems are woven throughout, with the three-part Traveller a poignant highlight. Tony Black’s lighting design captures the starlight in the performers’ eyes in these deep and emotional segments that fill my tummy with butterflies.

Another highlight is Morgan’s jaw-dropping performance of Monster, with powerhouse vocals that elicit many a whoop from the starstruck crowd. Monster further illustrates co-creators Upstill and Duignan’s expert navigation of the bouncy and the still, the moving and the silly, the joyful and the tender.

Too Much Hair moves a mile a minute and is so fun. It knocks you right off your feet with colour and sparkle (costume design by Sarah Bell, set design by Jade Alborn). And the titular song? Still stuck in my head!

Cringeworthy – The 80s | Regional News

Cringeworthy – The 80s

Directed by: Andrea Sanders

Circa Theatre, 20th May 2022

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

I should state upfront that the 1980s is my decade. I turned 13 in 1984 and my iTunes library is even now loaded with hits from that era. This also seemed to be the case for much of the well-sauced preview night audience at Circa as Cringeworthy – The 80s took to the stage in all its big-haired, Lycra-clad, fluoro glory.

Beneath a giant glitterball, the cast of four (Andrea Sanders, Devon Neiman, Susie Dunn, and Matt Mulholland) energetically pump out Kiwi classics by everyone from Split Enz and Jenny Morris to The Mockers and The Holidaymakers in a first half dedicated to homegrown talent. The fact that three-quarters of the cast weren’t even alive in the 1980s doesn’t deter them from fully embracing the decade that taste forgot. Despite occasionally erratic sound levels and fuzzy mics, they intersperse the pop favourites with factoids about 1980s Kiwi history to knowing murmurs from the audience. A recurring theme is the unfortunate trend for New Zealand bands of the time to move to Australia to find fame as the local music scene wasn’t developed enough for their ambitions.

The energy and cheese amp up in the second half when the cast explode onto the stage with Mi-Sex and follow it with a non-stop deluge of British New Wave hits from the likes of The Human League, Culture Club, and Depeche Mode. Moving onto dance movies and power ballads, Sanders and Dunn’s rendition of Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart, complete with billowing sheet, is the highlight of the show for me.

With impressive dance moves, especially from Neiman and Mulholland’s lizard-like hips, strong singing voices, a gorgeously pink set (Shiloh Dobie), funky lighting (Joshua Tucker), and ridiculous get-ups (Sanders and Creative Show Off Costume Hire), this show is fun with a capital F. Audience participation, singalongs, and clapping are strongly encouraged and don’t forget your lighters (read cell phone torches) for the finale of Crowded House’s Hey Now.

Long live the 80s!

Spring Symphony | Regional News

Spring Symphony

Presented by: Orchestra Wellington

Conducted by: Marc Taddei

Michael Fowler Centre, 21st May 2022

Reviewed by: Dawn Brook

The undoubted highlight of this excellent concert was The All-Seeing Sky by John Psathas, Orchestra Wellington’s composer-in-residence. The work is scored for orchestra and two percussion instruments, marimba and vibraphone. They were played by Swiss artists, Fabian Ziegler and Luca Staffelbach, with whom Psathas worked during the composition process. Quite apart from the music, this was a visual delight with the percussionists wielding their mallets like magicians.­

Psathas described the music as grim, dealing with Dante’s underworld. But in fact, while there was furious strength and rhythmic drama, there was also great delicacy and the creation of beautiful soundscapes. This was partly thanks to the qualities of the solo instruments, and partly to the beautiful passages where they were coupled with individual instruments such as the bassoon, cello, clarinet, harp, and whispering strings.

Enough of Psathas! There were two other wonderful performances in this concert! Orchestra Wellington’s theme for the season is Circle of Friends featuring works by Robert Schumann and his wife, Clara, by Felix Mendelssohn and his sister Fanny, and by Brahms and others whose lives were intertwined.  

Fanny Mendelssohn’s Overture in C opened the concert. After a thoughtful and graceful introduction, the work breaks out into a very attractive liveliness which leads to a bold, final burst of energy. What might Fanny have produced if she were not a woman at the wrong time in history, constrained by family wealth and position as well. The orchestra gave a sparkling performance of her work.

It was only when Robert Schumann married Clara that he turned to symphonic composition producing the masterly Spring Symphony, conducted by Mendelssohn at the first performance. It is a hugely joyful work with new life flowing and bursting out relentlessly. Taddei luxuriated in both the energy and the tender passion expressed in the work.

Thank you, Orchestra Wellington.

Tigre Gente | Regional News

Tigre Gente


93 mins

(4 ½ out of 5)

Reviewed by: Harry Bartle

Part of Doc Edge Festival’s virtual screenings, Tigre Gente is a powerful documentary that is brilliantly told by director Elizabeth Unger. Using the contrast of two completely different worlds, it provides viewers with a jarring look into the destruction caused by the jaguar trafficking industry and those willing to risk their lives to stop it.

The director of the Madidi National Park in Bolivia (Marcos Uzquiano) is determined to investigate and put a stop to a new, deadly jaguar trade that is sweeping through his park and South America. On the other side of the world, a young journalist from Hong Kong (Laurel Chor) goes undercover as she investigates the selling of jaguar teeth in China and Myanmar – connecting the dots between the trade in China and the influence of Chinese business in South America.

The strongest element of Tigre Gente is the parallel perspectives it uses to tell the story. While Uzquiano and his team tirelessly chase illegal hunters through the Amazon’s vast bush and rivers, audiences are left shocked as Chor witnesses the horrible effects of wildlife trading on the streets of Hong Kong and the attitudes that surround it. The film cuts between the two stories and as each new secret is releveled in Bolivia, its influence immediately becomes clear in China. The film showcases visually stunning cinematography. Unger captures the mystic beauty of Madidi National Park as well as the activity on the streets, markets, and cultural hubs of China.

Tigre Gente is extremely educational. In South America, the emotional connections with the jaguar are explored while it also investigates Chinese culture and misconceptions about those on the other side of the trade. It builds suspense when necessary – this element is most prominent when Uzquiano and his rangers are almost shot by a group of hunters they are pursuing. Told in Spanish, Chinese, and English, the documentary’s yellow subtitles were sometimes hard to read but this was just a small mishap in what was a compelling watch.

A unique look into the global jaguar trafficking trade, Tigre Gente is a fantastic take on a modern nature documentary that uses raw storytelling and breathtaking cinematography to touch on several important issues.  

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness  | Regional News

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness


126 mins

(1 ½ out of 5)

Reviewed by: Harry Bartle

Marvel’s latest film Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has again proven why the franchise should have started fresh after Avengers Endgame in what was a fantastic, emotional, and natural end. However, the unfortunate reality in the movie world is that money talks, meaning that Marvel will continue to pump out mediocre movies that hide behind a popular overarching storyline for as long as… well possibly forever. 

Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is swept up in a journey across the multiverse as he looks to protect his newest powered companion America Chaves (Xochitl Gomez) from fellow superhero Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen). Witnessing the power of the multiverse, Wanda has embraced her evil identity as Scarlet Witch, taking extreme measures in her pursuit of America’s power.

My problem with Multiverse of Madness is that it is not a good movie. Now that may sound like an unimaginative statement but hear me out. Marvel is such a beloved franchise that they don’t seem to need to make, or care about making, a good movie anymore. Instead of pushing the boundaries as they did for the original Iron Man, Black Panther, and Endgame, recent films like Morbius, Eternals, and Multiverse of Madness are cursed with uninspired effects, disappointing performances, and nonsensical stories. Sadly, the simple act of inserting a superhero from days gone by is enough to get crowds clapping and cheering for more.

Director Sam Raimi couldn’t even decide what genre Multiverse of Madness is – horror, action, family? We have also reached the point where CGI is not just overused, but it doesn’t even look great. Another issue is that you need an overwhelming knowledge of the Marvel universe to even understand what is going on. Gone are the days when you could enjoy most Marvel films as standalones, no, you now need to watch five films and a couple of TV shows to have a chance.

Half a star for some entertaining fight scenes and the odd funny joke but overall, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness had the chance to step away from the mediocre, run-of-the-mill films Marvel has been pumping out – it didn’t.

Bunny | Regional News


Written by: Barnie Duncan

Directed by: Barnie Duncan

BATS Theatre, 17th May 2022

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

Having thoroughly enjoyed last year’s Taphead, another show by comedic polymath Barnie Duncan was too good an opportunity to pass up. Written in the wake of the death of his adored mum Robyn, Bunny is a much more personal performance exploring grief through his love of clubbing.

For a bit over an hour, Duncan takes us on an acid trip of verbal and physical comedy accompanied, and sometimes facilitated, by a scrolling LED sign. This effective piece of technology is by turns illustrative, mocking, and directorial, asking us to laugh and applaud at appropriate moments and becomes a sidekick character to Duncan.

Duncan aptly describes Bunny as “a porcelain vase wrapped in a protective layer of dumb jokes”. His trademark dad jokes are here (“That’s a good sign”, he says as he points to a kind word passing across the face of his digital companion), but comedy is best when it comes from a place of vulnerability and it’s the segments where he talks openly about his mum’s decline and eventual death that are the strength and heart of this show.

In between these short and more serious ruminations are entertaining mimed sequences of a hard night’s clubbing to a banging house music soundtrack by DJ and producer Dick ‘Magik’ Johnson and what a David Attenborough documentary might look like while high on LSD. Duncan’s slow-mo butterfly causing a confused turtle to cry so it can drink his tears is something I won’t quickly forget. His alternative meaning of clubbing (no seals were harmed during the making of this show) and his break from the nightclub for a sneaky cigarette morphing into a male emperor penguin carrying an egg on his feet during the polar winter were equally memorable.

Having steadfastly refused to offer up the emotional denouement of his show, Duncan leaps back into hardcore dancing and then delivers it anyway to stunning effect. For a hilariously unique take on grief, Bunny is hard to beat.

Dillinger’s Who Dunnit? | Regional News

Dillinger’s Who Dunnit?

Directed by: Luke Eisemann

Dillinger’s Brasserie & Bar, 14th May 2022

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

I dare you to say “1920s-themed murder mystery and cocktail night” and not get excited. Go on. That’s right, it’s impossible because it’s the coolest premise ever. Dillinger’s Who Dunnit? lives up to the hype.

From the minute I walk through Dillinger’s doors I’m immersed in the world of the speakeasy. A wonderful band plays while actor Calvin Standrill (playing Vincent Monoghue) greets me in a stellar American accent and gestures towards a free drink, my favourite kind. In this case, it’s a French 75 and it’s delicious. Costume designer Jessea St-Louis has done an exquisite job of decking the actors out in 20s garb, with audiences rising to the challenge too. Some are so well dressed I can’t tell them apart from the cast, which shows the level of enthusiasm at play here.

It's prohibition time, but thankfully, we’re treated to drinks that are totally not alcoholic or illegal. There’s rosemary not-gin, cinnamon barely-bourbon, and I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-absinthe, which we sample from Clara Cameron (played by Susannah Donovan), Jack Boggins (Tyler Clarke), and feminist icon Daphne Montgomery (Rebecca Wilson). Each character pours out their tipples and their hearts as sinister secrets start to emerge.

When mob boss Babyface Morraine (Blake Willis, who delivers minimum dialogue with maximum impact) dies under suspicious circumstances, it’s up to the audience to figure out whodunnit and why. We’re presented with clues while we snack on sliders and more nibbles in what turns out to be the tastiest treasure hunt ever. Audiences pry actors for more details and more tips, with some tables discovering titbits others don’t. Then, detective Lisa Mason (Ana Clarke) has us put it all together in an interrogation where we must uncover the murderer.

Every detail of this experience has been meticulously thought out, with total commitment from all parties on all sides. There’s even a special cocktail menu that utilises the ‘teas’ we’ve been sampling. Audiences are free to mingle or partake, but we all give it 100 percent in what turns out to be a dazzling evening filled with great food, drink, theatre, and laughter. Hear, hear!

Dry Spell | Regional News

Dry Spell

Presented by: Footnote New Zealand Dance

Opera House, 11th May 2022

Reviewed by: Leah Maclean

Choreographed by the promising Rose Philpott and performed by five dexterous dancers, Dry Spell dives into budding external relationships and fraught intrapersonal relationships through hedonistic contemporary dance and introspective movement.

The dancers, Oliver Carruthers, Emma Cosgrave, Veronica ChengEn Lyu, Levi Siaosi, and Cecilia Wilcox, impress their youthful exuberance and release their inhibitions in this passionate work. They modulate between moments of unity and synchronicity and highlight their tight group dynamic in the way they share the stage and effortlessly weave their bodies together. There are impressive feats of contortion and evocative moments of choreographic repetition. However, the work lulls in parts and there is a lack of transitional cohesion, but it doesn’t make it any less enjoyable to watch.

The beginning of the performance packs a punch with a fun retro sequence of movement and music, which seems to shift through different eras and into a futuristic existence. The dancers cackle and occasionally vocalise their thoughts and feelings, and we are briefly led to believe that the manic scape before us is in the head of one of the dancers. The overall vibe is a playful one but there is an underlying darkness and pressure to the work, which is particularly highlighted when each dancer mounts a set of stairs and then leaps off into an unknown abyss.

The diverse soundscape of Eden Mulholland is an excellent accompaniment to the undulating rhythm and mood of the piece. The dancers respond well to Mulholland’s loud and demanding composition and seem to thrive with its challenge. There is rarely a moment of reprieve, and each artist brings a unique energy to the stage. The standouts are Wilcox and Carruthers, the latter being a dancer that I have been impressed by before.

While aspects of Dry Spell could be teased out and explored a little more, Philpott has a distinctive style of artistic direction, and her dancers commit themselves wholeheartedly to the work, making for an engaging evening of contemporary dance.