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Dolly Parton: 100 Remarkable Moments in an Extraordinary Life  | Regional News

Dolly Parton: 100 Remarkable Moments in an Extraordinary Life 

Written by: Tracey E. W. Laird

Epic Ink

Reviewed by: Courtney Rose Brown

“Writing is my first love… it’s my doctor, it’s my therapist… but it also gives a voice to a lot of folks who don’t know how to express it.” – Dolly Parton. 

Dolly Parton has always been a prolific writer. In her five-decade career, she has penned over 3000 songs, with the first written at age five. She easily steps into the shoes of other people and writes with her heart from a place of truth. However, this skill has led to the banning of some of her songs due to conservative views at radio stations. 

Known for a high head of blonde hair, acrylics, and an hourglass figure, Dolly’s look has remained the same as her character. Author Tracey E. W. Laird ensures Dolly’s personality shines through Dolly Parton: 100 Remarkable Moments in an Extraordinary Life, making it clear that she has been a hard-working, kind, charismatic, smart businesswoman every step of the way.

Coming from nothing, Dolly grew up as the fourth child of 12 in the Smoky Mountains, a place she is always giving back to. She focuses on her faith and love for all without alienating or passing judgement. Over the years, she has donated generously and founded charities, including Imagination Library, which gives a child one free book a month from birth to kindergarten. 

Dolly will always be full of surprises, whether it’s making a rock album in her seventies, writing a thriller with James Patterson, or sealing an unheard song in a time capsule that can’t be opened until 2045. It is hard to sum up Dolly in snapshots of her career, but Laird does well. The author excels when she writes about the stories behind Dolly’s songs and the feelings they evoke, mixed with what she was wearing when performing, transporting you into the moment with her. This novel is a great introduction to Dolly and serves as an impressive collection of her accomplishments throughout her legendary career. 

The World I Found | Regional News

The World I Found

Written by: Latika Vasil

Black Giraffe Press

Reviewed by: Jo Lucre

A few pages into The World I Found, I was ambivalent about whether I was going to enjoy it, but as it happens, I did.

In what is author Latika Vasil’s first foray into the young adult genre, The World I Found is narrated by 15-year-old Quinn. A seemingly innocuous sea-bound trip in the Spirit of Discovery to Campbell Island for a year, with her scientist mother, screams boredom – one personified by the distinct lack of the sweet trappings of youth: shops, junk food, fellow teens, the internet, and most importantly, her best friend Frankie.

The relative safety of the island soon dissipates when Quinn and Jeroen, the son of her mother’s peer Dr Waslander, are swept overboard as the team, hitching a ride on Greenpeace’s Artic Star, makes its way back to the homeland after communications are lost. Afar, something disturbing is afoot. Both Quinn and Jereon wash up, bruised, sea-beaten, and separated from the others on a remote beach on the mainland they came from, but no longer recognise.

They awake to the haloed face of an equally alone 12-year-old boy, Cal, peering down at them. They are soon confronted with the new normal brought about by the ravages of a deadly virus, one quickly spread with little recovery (sounds all too familiar) that has swept the mainland. Quinn, possessed with a fighting spirit yet calm demeanour, quickly realises she has more grit and tenacity than belies her youth to respond. The trio soon meet Jack and Robyn, kindly old folk living off the land, hunkered down and hoping for normality to return. But there’s something nefarious, cult-like, waiting round the bend...

The World I Found has a simple but steady premise. Of course, now that we are no strangers to pandemics and what they can bring, the novel makes you think about what you might do or become in the same scenario – only this time with a more apocalyptic vibe.

Crossing Thresholds: The Air Between Us | Regional News

Crossing Thresholds: The Air Between Us

Created by: Chloe Loftus and Rodney Bell

Tāwhiri Warehouse, 10th Mar 2024

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

The Air Between Us is a captivating aerial dance show performed in mid-air in the new creative space at the back of Te Whaea. Choreographer and dancer Chloe Loftus and multi-award-winning artist and performer Rodney Bell (Ngāti Maniopoto), who performs in his stylish wheelchair, weave an intricate, sensuous, and beautiful story of the literal push and pull of a complex emotional relationship. They seek to “explore our innate capacity to exist in symbiotic harmony, with each other and with our environment”.

They arrive separately, Bell travelling slowly along the aisle between the cushion-dwelling youngsters with their adults and the mostly wheelchair-occupying front row, gently touching them as he passes. Loftus walks in from the audience rostra, and they slowly circle the floor-lit stage before meeting in the middle beneath a double aerial harness. At first, Loftus connects to the harness, flying horizontally around Bell as he gently catches her feet. Then she’s climbing upwards on the harness ropes while he circles below her.

Switching the harness to support them both, they whirl and twist together through the air, embracing, balancing each other, always at one whether together or apart. Finally, Loftus walks calmly away and Bell spins upside down, suspended peacefully and alone until lowering back to terra firma.

It’s mesmerising to watch each exactly paced and balletic movement. Accompanied by appropriately involving music, and their clearly visible rigger Tym Miller-White and his counterweight, their performance is a deeply satisfying work of harmony, synchronicity, and inclusion. The performers are equal in ability and connection in this ungrounded space.

The pleasing sense of inclusivity extends beyond the performers to the attentive staff, seating area that caters to those who can’t or don’t want to sit on the unforgiving plastic seats, and the cost-free entry. It’s wonderful to see the Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts embracing this ethos so wholeheartedly.

At just 20 minutes long, The Air Between Us is a bijou but utterly fulfilling piece that says so much more than words can convey.

Gravity & Grace | Regional News

Gravity & Grace

Written by: Eleanor Bishop and Karin McCracken

Directed by: Eleanor Bishop

Circa Theatre, 10th Mar 2024

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

Everybody fails, sometimes spectacularly. Few write a fearless book about it, but this is exactly what feminist writer Chris Kraus did after her experimental feature film epically flopped at a Berlin film market in 1998. Based on her book Aliens & Anorexia, this bold and innovative stage show seeks to answer the question: how did it all go so wrong?

Co-playwright Karin McCracken takes the lead role of Kraus and is supported by an ensemble cast of four (Nī Dekkers-Reihana, Simon Leary, Rongopai Tickell, and Sam Snedden) who expertly fill all the other roles in her strange life. McCracken is natural and engaging as someone who eventually realises that having no visual imagination is a bad foundation for becoming a filmmaker.

As much cinema as theatre, this stage show uses four cameras positioned beside, above, and on the stage to live-project the actors onto a large screen behind the acting area. Objects (including a gross-looking bowl of cold Campbell’s minestrone soup) also appear, set up on a lightbox at the edge of the stage. The technical work to mix this varying vision with recorded footage, sometimes matching it frame for frame, is astounding. Video designer Owen Iosefa McCarthy, video programmer Rachel Neser (Artificial Imagination), and show operator Natasha Thyne deserve special recognition. Also working seamlessly with the technology is a subtly effective lighting design (Rob Larsen) that lets the actors be seen but never gets in the way of the projections and atmospheric soundscape (Emi 恵美 Pogoni).

Another clever touch in the staging (performance designer Meg Rollandi) is a cut-out section of the screen that has a gauzy covering behind which the actors appear as characters, such as the British film producer Kraus has a long-distance sadomasochistic phone-sex relationship with, who Kraus never meets.

The many awesome technical ideas make the show run a little long at two-and-a-half hours, but this is my only critique of an otherwise fascinating and creatively delivered production.

Beyond Words | Regional News

Beyond Words

Presented by: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Conducted by: Fawzi Haimor

Michael Fowler Centre, 9th Mar 2024

Reviewed by: Tamsin Evans

The attacks on worshippers at the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre on the 15th of March 2019 left a permanent mark on New Zealand. Over the last two years, Muslim communities around Aotearoa have provided guidance and support for this anniversary concert.

Umoja Anthem of Unity, by Valerie Coleman, set the theme – promoting peace and unity through music, deliberately intertwining Western and Eastern musical traditions. Singer Abdelilah Rharrabti, vocalist and daf (drum) musician Esmail Fathi, and saz (Turkish long-necked lute) player Liam Oliver from Ōtautahi Christchurch’s Simurgh Music School were accompanied by the orchestra, somewhat in the form of a concerto. The Eastern tonal structure was strong and the men’s voices were powerfully reminiscent of the grief and trauma suffered in 2019 and since.

Moroccan artist Oum, known for her modern take on traditional sounds, gave a strong vocal performance in Daba, that strength made greater in the way her solo voice faded at the finish.

Reza Vali’s Funèbre for solo violin and strings was a standout, emotional, gut-wrenching experience. NZSO concertmaster Vesa-Matti Leppänen’s versatility and musicality brought a voice from his violin that echoed the voices heard earlier.

In Mantilatos, Kyriakos Tapakis showed us how a virtuoso plays his oud, how impressive it sounds, and how hard his fingers worked as the last bars raced along at breakneck pace.

Arvo Pärt’s Silouan’s Song was beautifully and confidently played and lifted to another level by conductor Fawzi Haimor’s skilful use of silence in the pauses.

The final piece, Ahlan wa Sahlan, commissioned from John Psathas and composed in collaboration with Oum and Tapakis, was about belonging and being safe with the people you know. The five movements traversed cultures and emotions, Oum’s vocals and Tapakis’ oud above the orchestra, reminding us of language and music still not always familiar to Western ears, and that we must continue to learn from the 15th of March.

The Man Whose Mother was a Pirate: The Musical | Regional News

The Man Whose Mother was a Pirate: The Musical

Written by: Nino Raphael

Directed by: Nino Raphael

The Welsh Dragon Bar, Weds 6th Mar 2024

Reviewed by: Zac Fitzgibbon

The Man Whose Mother Was a Pirate: The Musical sets sail off the pages of Margaret Mahy’s treasured children’s picture book of the same name. The story follows Sam (Taipuhi King) as he finally breaks free from his job as an accountant to join his pirate mother (Hilary Norris) on the high seas.

Drawing from the Mahy classic, master composer and lyricist Nino Raphael has created catchy tunes with words that roll off the tongues of the performers. The sea shanties and patter songs are superb, with a highlight being Sam’s ditty about auditing his mother’s books. I would love there to be a wider variety of songs, as I feel this would enhance the musical even more.

Raphael is fantastic on concertina, guitar, and piano. Who needs a philharmonic orchestra when you have a one-man band providing sensational accompaniment and support? He is fantastic at leading both the cast and the audience. We essentially become the ensemble, filling the quaint venue of The Welsh Dragon Bar with lively, rowdy joy. I hope that in future renditions of this show, audience interaction remains a focal point.

All the performers have stunning vocals and a strong grasp of the music despite having a short rehearsal period. They embody their roles – inspired by the original story – with distinct, hilarious characterisations. I understand the musical is intended to be longer and am very curious to see how the characters would grow and develop when given more time on stage, especially Mr Fat (Adam Herbert).

Whilst this is their (sold out!) development season, I am extremely impressed. I can see this upbeat, energetic show becoming incredibly popular. I am very privileged to have caught the first-ever performance, as well as The Welsh Dragon Bar’s Fringe Festival debut. I hope that The Man Whose Mother was a Pirate: The Musical continues to catch the wind in its sails and travels far.

JIMMY | Regional News


Written by: Micky Delahunty with Parekawa Finlay

Directed by: Micky Delahunty

Hannah Playhouse, 5th Mar 2024

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

The writer’s note in the programme sets up the premise for JIMMY, a New Zealand Fringe Festival show, as “our friend Cole Hampton. It’s the story of Jimmy, a character Cole was playing in a script I wrote for him and Ari Leason. We were rehearsing it at the time of his death. We could never do that play. So we wrote JIMMY.” It’s a poignant and tender beginning for a heartfelt love-letter-cum-eulogy to a lost companion.

Five souls are alone in their own worlds: Jack (Jared Lee) is burrowing down an internet rabbit hole on the nature of the universe; Lou (Ari Leason) is creatively stuck by mourning; Orla (Olivia Marshall) is rehearsing for opening night of a Greek tragedy; Puāwai (Parekawa Finlay) is recalling Māori legends in the constellations; and James (Jono Weston) is remembering summer with his childhood friend. These disparate threads weave together over the course of an hour as these friends and relations of Jimmy’s come together to farewell him. It’s a simply effective and highly relatable narrative structure that is reflected daily in funeral rites the world over as people from each branch of an individual’s life join in remembrance. We learn about Jimmy – his daring, humorous, creative nature – through the recollections of these five.

The vignettes of memory, loss, and grief are interspersed with songs, the real strength of this production. Each cast member has written and performs at least one song and they come together to perform two by Cole Hampton himself, the entertaining Weirdo and the uplifting Good, which they deliver as an impromptu wake for Jimmy. The cast are endearing and clearly demonstrate the varying trauma of grief without going overboard. Leason is particularly strong with her beautiful voice and guitar-playing.

The underscoring theme of space and time reflects the ultimate message of JIMMY: even if you die, you still exist through other people. And that’s something we all should wish for upon a star.

Dune: Part Two | Regional News

Dune: Part Two


165 minutes

(3 out of 5)

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

There is no grammatical reason for the word ‘spice’ to be capitalised in Dune: Part Two. The hinge upon which this story turns, spice is the psychedelic drug harvested from the Sahara-esque planet of Arrakis. As the evil Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Stellan Skarsgård) says in the opening line of the film, “He who controls the Spice, controls the universe.” This is all well and fine, but why did they have to go and capitalise spice? In Frank Herbert’s books, spice is rightfully helmed by a small ‘s’. In the real world, we do not capitalise oregano or basil, nor cocaine or marijuana. It’s not a proper noun either. It’s a sparkly, hallucinogenic dust that has turned the Fremen’s home planet into a desolate, battle-torn wasteland; a dust that has destroyed House Atreides and made our protagonist Paul (Timothée Chalamet) both a fugitive and a prophet; a dust that makes the whole world turn.

This grammatical oversight, however, is my biggest criticism. Directed by Denis Villeneuve, Dune: Part Two is a spectacular space saga worth the two hour and 45-minute runtime. I highly recommend watching it on a big screen to become fully immersed in Greig Fraser’s arresting cinematography and soak in the magnitude of Patrice Vermette’s soviet dystopian design. The seats shake to Hans Zimmer’s reverberating soundtrack, a rumbling storm on the horizon threatening to break – a mirror to the unfolding story.  

At the centre of Dune: Part Two are the Fremen, the Indigenous people of Arrakis who are involved in a conflict much larger than they realise. The two Fremen sects are expertly personified by Stilgar (Javier Bardem), who believes Paul is Lisan al Gaib or the messiah, and Chani (Zendaya), Paul’s love interest, who thinks the idea of a foreign saviour was planted by those trying to subjugate them in the first place. Paul’s destiny weighs heavy on his shoulders as he chooses between which fate he must follow. Like it or not, he is at the centre of a universe waiting to explode.

There will definitely be a third instalment, so buckle up – it’s a wild and bumpy ride on the back of a behemoth sandworm.

The Savage Coloniser Show | Regional News

The Savage Coloniser Show

Written by: Tusiata Avia

Directed by: Anapela Polata’ivao

Circa Theatre, 3rd Mar 2024

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

Following their critically acclaimed production Wild Dogs Under My Skirt at the 2018 Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts, the FCC creative team is back this festival, bringing to ferocious life Tusiata Avia’s Ockham Poetry Award-winning The Savage Coloniser Book.

Far from being a simple poetry reading, this is a blisteringly provocative theatrical presentation by six Pasifika actors who speak, sing, and move their way through Avia’s confronting texts. She is totally unafraid to cast an unforgiving and provocative eye over race and racism, coloniser and colonised. The poems cross-examine the cringe-making things white people say, Gauguin’s sexualised utopian vision of Tahiti, white criticism of intergenerational trauma as an ‘excuse’ for bad behaviour, the stereotyping of South Aucklanders, a health sector that uses BMI as a weapon against Brown people, and much more. Woe betide you if you’re a National or ACT voter; Christopher Luxon and Judith Collins don’t come off well at all. That’s not to say the show isn’t funny. It’s achingly so and at many times causes a ripple of laughter and applause through the audience, as well as the odd whoop of righteous agreement.

The exceptional cast of Stacey Leilua, Joanna Mika-Toloa, Mario Faumui, Petmal Petelo, Ilaisaane Green, and Katalaina Polata’ivao-Saute totally own the stage. They are a strong, slick, and superbly coordinated team (choreography by Tupua Tigafua and Mario Faumui) with just six chairs, six machetes, and a mirror as props. They are aided by a superb set and a lighting design (production designers Bradley Gledhill and Rachel Marlow) that cleverly employs projections onto a sheer screen in front of the actors and smoke and lights behind them to emphasise the poetry, along with haunting music composed by David Long.

The Savage Coloniser Show is savage both in its content and its execution, while also being a creation of theatrical artistry. Leaving much to think about and examine in your own behaviour, it is a bold and necessary understanding of the history of Aotearoa.