Reviews - Regional News | Connecting Wellington


Fatal Fame | Regional News

Fatal Fame

Presented by: Dripping Bottle Theatre

Directed by: Lincoln Swinerd

BATS Theatre, 1st Nov 2023

Reviewed by: Zac Fitzgibbon

Murder becomes a regular in this 50-minute solo thriller-comedy. Fatal Fame is Dripping Bottle Theatre’s debut show, and let’s just say that it opens the company’s canon with a bang… literally. The production follows Annie (Zoe Snowdon) as she rises to infamy in the most interesting way possible. Serial killing.

Snowdon’s depiction of Annie is nuanced and realistic. Oftentimes uncomfortably so, as she embodies so excellently what a serial killer can be. We see the not-so-gentle decline of Annie from socially awkward to sociopath. Snowdon’s mannerisms and stage presence culminate in the perfect depiction of a killer who executes each of her victims convincingly, albeit very humorously.

Comedy and thriller make for a combination I didn’t think possible. Fatal Fame proves me wrong. The thriller provides a thought-provoking commentary on how real and present killers can be, and the comedy provides a much-needed escape at times from the dark themes within.

Fatal Fame foreshadows fantastically. Every word and every action has its purpose in the grand scheme of the piece.

The scenography by Scott Maxim is cleverly done. The harsh lighting makes it feel as if Annie is retelling her story through a police interview. I particularly like the motif provided by sound and lighting whenever a murder occurs.

Popping balloons at the end of the show make me incredibly uncomfortable due to my phobia of this. However, I do commend the symbolism provided. Killers such as the fictional Annie take to murder like a pin takes to inflated rubber.

This show is not for the faint of heart, yet it is well crafted. I would urge you to read the content warnings before taking your seat.

Come to Fatal Fame if you don’t mind joining Annie’s rise to popularity. However, your name will be below hers, and you will become a victim of this scarily comedic show.

The King of Laughter (Qui Rido Io) | Regional News

The King of Laughter (Qui Rido Io)


133 minutes

(4 out of 5)

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

At Wellington’s opening night of the Cinema Italiano Festival, I remember my boyfriend will have to read subtitles during tonight’s screening of The King of Laughter (Qui Rido Io). He then reminds me the movie is in Neapolitan, not Italian, so I too will have to read subtitles. You most likely will as well, but don’t let that stop you from catching the film on the 9th or 12th of November at the Embassy Theatre.

The King of Laughter (Qui Rido Io) is a biopic from director Mario Martone about Neapolitan comic theatre legend Eduardo Scarpetta, played by the acclaimed Toni Servillo. Written by Martone and Ippolita Di Majo, the story is a beautiful symphony, a celebration of the language and the city, its theatrical heritage and its people.

Renato Berta’s cinematography paired with Giancarlo Muselli and Carlo Rescigno’s production design is testament to Italy’s long legacy of crafting cinematic masterpieces I would gladly hang on the wall of a museum. Actor Eduardo Scarpetta, who plays Vincenzo in the film, is the great-great-grandson of the film’s protagonist, proof of the Scarpetta family’s lasting impression and endurance.  

Set in late 19th and early 20th century Naples, the story follows the rise and fall of this pivotal figure of Italian theatre. And yet I had never heard of him until now. Neither had many of the guests I spoke to after the credits. Gabriele D’Annunzio (Paolo Pierobon), Scarpetta’s contemporary and inadvertent rival, is celebrated the world over. But Scarpetta, who single-handedly took on and, at the time, surpassed the iconic commedia dell’arte character Pulcinella? He is hardly mentioned in our history books. Is it because his artform, parody, is not truly considered art that is worthy of enduring the test of time?

The King of Laughter (Qui Rido Io) tackles this notion. What makes something art? Is it how serious the content is? Or is it its cultural influence or critique? Is it the genre? Or is comedy’s accessibility what makes it important? Either way, the film makes one thing clear: we mustn’t take ourselves too seriously.

Poem of Ecstasy | Regional News

Poem of Ecstasy

Presented by: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Conducted by: Gemma New

Michael Fowler Centre, 28th Oct 2023

Reviewed by: Tamsin Evans

Kenneth Young describes his Dance as “a celebration of love and life”. It was glorious and exuberant, and it reminded me of the character dances seen in classical ballet, which took me to a memory of Sir Jon Trimmer on stage in one of the character parts he danced later in his career. Trimmer, who had died only two days earlier, was a neighbour and much-loved member of our community and it was lovely to have a memory of him sparked in that way.

From the joy of dance to Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy, the mood remained high. If ecstasy comes from bringing together a huge number of musicians, a thoroughly mixed assortment of harmony, rhythm, tempo, volume, and orchestration in a way that pushed boundaries in 1908 and sounded as if it is still on the edge more than 100 years later, then this was it. Learning Scriabin was synaesthetic made sense of the music. If sound was colour for me, I imagine I would also want to celebrate that with noise and complexity.

Principal flautist Bridget Douglas, elevated behind the orchestra, under a single spotlight, played Debussy’s modern interpretation of an ancient Greek story, Syrinx. Douglas is an amazing musician and audience favourite. We were captivated. Conductor Gemma New had earlier asked us not to applaud but to allow the mood to carry into Sibelius’ Luonnotar. The strings set off at urgent pace before soprano Madeleine Pierard started to sing her narrative of the Finnish creation story. A demanding piece by all accounts but absolutely no trouble for Pierard. Her voice is stunning, and she made apparently light work of the difficult leaps and incredible range.

The evening finished as it had started, with a stage full of musicians expertly led by an expressive and expansive conductor. Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe Suite No. 2 gave New the opportunity to have the last dance.

The Bicycle and The Butcher’s Daughter | Regional News

The Bicycle and The Butcher’s Daughter

Written by: Helen Moulder and Sue Rider

Directed by: Sue Rider

Circa Theatre, 25th Oct 2023

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

Helen Moulder has been thrilling audiences at Circa Theatre since the late 1970s and The Bicycle and The Butcher’s Daughter is another solid entry in her canon. It’s a lovely story of familial relationships in a changing world seen through the eyes of five members of a famous clan of butchers who sell their products under the cheesy tagline, “On your feet with Patterson’s Meat!”

In this one-woman show, Moulder plays everyone – businesswoman Olivia, patriarch Sir Harold, arty Jennifer, vegan comedian Lexi, and 11-year-old Grace – alongside a mysteriously mangled bicycle. This simple device cleverly mirrors the unfolding tale of the Pattersons and the fake news scandal that threatens to derail their burgeoning product deal with investors in China.

Each character is exactly drawn and, even without the basic costume changes that slow the pace somewhat, they are clearly rendered through Moulder’s acting skill. Olivia is slick, bossy, and constantly on the phone, wheeling and dealing. 94-year-old Sir Harold potters in his garden while ranting about change and drifts randomly back to “pūkeko pies” in comic outbursts. Lexi’s stand-up comedy routine, starting with a half-consumed banana folded carefully in a beeswax wrap, is sweary, angry, and genuinely funny. Estranged sister Jennifer is artily flaky as she struggles with unfunctional plumbing while trying to open her new gallery on Featherston Street. Finally, 11-year-old Gracie completes the narrative circle and we discover why bicycles are so important in the Pattersons’ family history.

Delivered on a typically sparse Circa Two set, this is an intimate production that mostly uses direct address to engage the audience. Sue Rider’s choice to use scene and costume changes is enhanced through the addition of lively Beethoven sonatas recorded by Juliet Ayre and Richard Mapp and straightforward lighting (design by Giles Burton) that keep the changes interesting.

For 75 minutes of delightful entertainment, you can’t go far wrong with The Bicycle and the Butcher’s Daughter.

MILKOWEEN! | Regional News


Created by: Sean Burnett Dugdale-Martin

Directed by: Sean Burnett Dugdale-Martin and Dylan Hutton

BATS Theatre, 25th Oct 2023

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

Milk, meet Halloween. Halloween, meet milk. MILKOWEEN! is the fourth entry in the canon of Wellington’s wettest show. In this blood-curdling, milk-churning improvised comedy, Ruff as Gutz performers make up a spooky story on the fly while we, the audience, throw water balloons at them whenever we want something to change. Three of these balloons are filled with milk. When one of them explodes, the consequences are so dire, it is worth crying over spilt milk.

In the curious, chaotic case of MILKOWEEN!, audience suggestions result in a terrifying tale set in an abandoned aquarium, where the ghost of Justin Bieber roams the halls, intoning “baby, baby, baby” and terrorising the local residents. Namely, dead fish, two sharks named Bob and Nige, and some dude (Dylan Hutton) who’s been trapped in the closet for at least 30 minutes, if not 45. The sexiest teenagers in all the land – Chad the Jock (Emma Rattenbury), Casey the Cheerleader (Tadhg Mackay), Felicia the Goth (Salomé Grace), and Nigel the Nerd (Zoë Christall) – must unravel the great mystery of the Biebs, all while dodging deadly toenails and attempting to learn the Shark Alphabet (Sharkabet for short).

The MILK concept is fun and funny, wet and wild. As you can imagine, forcing performers to change tack faster than a speeding balloon could be a recipe for disaster. Improv is challenging enough under normal conditions! Dugdale-Martin and Hutton in particular are glorious at responding to our cues, and one magical moment between a brilliant Grace and design leader and technician Jacob Banks serves as the perfect example of concept execution. The quick changes score a high laughter rate overall, a testament to the talent of this troupe. The improvisors all commit to their stereotype designations and conceive impressive character arcs in a short space of time, all the while managing to tie together such extraneous elements as unexpected cousins, interspecies relationships, and aubergines into one cohesive story.

Milky, mercurial madness at its silliest, soggiest, and most delightful.

Stoic At Work | Regional News

Stoic At Work

Written by: Annie Lawson

Murdoch Books

Reviewed by: Kerry Lee

Being social is one of the reasons the human being has risen through the ranks to become (for better or worse) the number one animal on planet Earth. But it is also why there are so many jokes about why we hate Mondays. Because while we are very social and love each other’s company, we sometimes get on each other’s nerves as well.

Over 2000 years ago, Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius knew this and wrote Meditations, a book centred around the philosophy of Stoicism: the idea that we cannot control someone else’s thoughts, feelings, and actions, so why bother.

What a wonderful idea, and what a wonderful book Stoic at Work: Ancient Wisdom to Make Your Job a Bit Less Annoying is. The clever writing, super short chapters, and little illustrations by Oslo Davis come together to really make this a wonderful read. Each chapter is just a few pages long, but still manages to impart little nuggets of wisdom from back then that are still relevant today.

One of its biggest strengths is that it’s so relatable. We have all had a hard day at work, suffered through that annoying colleague’s watercooler rant, worked under that overbearing boss. The book succeeds because it’s essentially everyone’s life – at least everyone who has ever worked.

One of my favourite chapters is Don’t Shag The Boss (definitely words to live by), followed by Win Lotto and Resign Well. While funny, there is a ring of truth to each of these rules.

The only downside is that the length of Stoic at Work might make some people think it’s a book for children. I assure you it is absolutely not. It’s well written, humorous, and the accompanying pictures make it a joy to read.

If you see this, pick it up and keep it in your back pocket in case you find yourself in a sticky situation with a pesky colleague or, God forbid, your supervisor. It might just save your job or make your life that little bit easier.

Hoof | Regional News


Written by: Kerrin P. Sharpe

Te Herenga Waka University Press

Reviewed by: Miya Dawson

Hoof is my favourite book I have reviewed for Regional News so far, yet also the book I understood the least. Kerrin P. Sharpe’s latest poetry collection features an eclectic mix of horses, celebrities, and small villages, tied together by beautiful writing throughout. The poetry is evocative in its descriptions and careful in its word choice, full of sentence fragments blending into each other and attention paid to small details. The metaphors and references left me lost several times and I relied upon the Notes section at the end for further explanations, but I liked the writing style so much I didn’t mind. It is how I would like to write if I were a poet!

The book is divided into three sections, each one introduced by a poem about a train that sets the tone as we travel through the chapter that follows. The first features nature and family, the second weddings and famous people, and the third colder climes like Russia, Greenland, and Antarctica.

Several of the poems in the collection have won or been commended for awards, with the ways of rain and te hau o te atua | the breath of heaven being personal favourites. It is easy to see why Sharpe is as widely published as she is.

Voice is given to those usually voiceless: workhorses, trees, and even wind turbines watching over a cemetery. There is a tone of environmentalism in several poems, with still describing deforestation and from letters to Johanna referencing oil spills and global warming. Reverence and respect are demanded for the world and all its inhabitants. The reader also learns about New Zealand’s history of Antarctic exploration. The final poems drop names of explorers, their dogs, and the places they visited like Osman the Great drops off the Terra Nova – a reference you will get if you read the book.

My main takeaway, however, was Sharpe’s way of using brief and specific detail to paint a picture of her world.

End Times | Regional News

End Times

Written by: Rebecca Priestley

Te Herenga Waka University Press

Reviewed by: Courtney Rose Brown

End Times explores the recurring dread of the end of the world. It flips between New Zealand in the 80s and the early 2020s (set post-COVID, but pre-Cyclone Gabrielle).

End Times follows teenage girls Rebecca and Maz as they try to cope with knowing that the future is uncertain. With an uproar of political unrest, the friends find themselves in the punk scene during the Springbok Tour, the nuclear age, and the Homosexual Law Reform Act. However, they leave their punk youth behind as they step through the church door, rebelling the only way they could against their feminist mothers. This time is reflective as they test out “lukewarm Christianity” and explore the need to anchor themselves in something.

Nowadays, Maz is an engineer and Rebecca a science historian. Rebecca is worried about global warming and it’s all she can think about. The book is interspersed with facts about climate change, which are interesting at first. They provide insight into what damage can be done even with renewable energy and the risks we currently face, especially in New Zealand. There’s huge value in knowing the history of the land, what can happen to Earth, and the current state of things. However, the facts quickly become heavy-handed. Imbuing a personal storyline with journalistic intent and switching between the two can be jarring and narratively confusing.

Rebecca tries to find ties to the land, to the country, to the future. She tracks down her maternal family history while she also interviews locals about COVID and climate change. She wonders, when was the best time for humans? Back then, we knew our children would have brighter futures even if our own lives were difficult. Now that we have access to more information, we have better lives but must face the uncomfortable fact that the next generation will not.

End Times is a great resource and Rebecca Priestley has incredible insight into climate change and how it can impact us, but it does build anxiety without providing much hope or many solutions.

Living Big in a Tiny House | Regional News

Living Big in a Tiny House

Written by: Bryce Langston

Potton & Burton

Reviewed by: Jo Lucre

Bryce Langston has travelled Aotearoa and the world to see just how big you can live when living tiny. He documents the many tiny houses he has explored, including those he has lived in with his partner. In Living Big in a Tiny House, each home is a unique expression of choosing to live differently, and it’s interesting to learn about them and their owners with Langston’s insights peppered in along the way.

Whether it is off grid, perched at the back of someone’s yard, nestled in a forest, or hidden from curious eyes, the tiny homes featured all look glorious.

Living Big in a Tiny House is eye-opening. Some of the houses are so intricate, featuring outstanding design elements and extraordinary ways of using space.

Langston describes a World War II-era carriage converted into a tiny house cabin in Colorado, USA as quirky and filled with recycled goodies. By recycled goodies, he means the gorgeous bottle wall, backlit by LED lighting and made up of antique airline mini-bar bottles from the 1950s and 60s. It’s stunning for its rustic charm alone, and more so considering its history and beginnings. With a high roof, glass ceilings, and scalloped mermaid tiles in the bathroom, it’s a beautiful montage of history blending with contemporary art. It’s a stark contrast to the tiny home Serenity, which is equally fabulous but on the larger side of tiny: light, airy, and spacious. Langston describes it as having a Hampton-style aesthetic.

One tiny house occupant has made a home away from home in shipping container bliss, nestled away in a forest high in the Coromandel Ranges. It’s a modern, industrial-looking, off-grid sanctuary.

There are certainly considerations to make when living tiny: the functionality of space, being intentional about the material possessions you need, and ultimately, whether tiny house living is actually for you.

I really enjoyed this book – and dreaming about my own tiny house should I ever become a minimalist, where I could live a little less ordinary with a lot less stuff.