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Interrupting Cow | Regional News

Interrupting Cow

Written by: Sarah Delahunty

Directed by: Sarah Delahunty

BATS Theatre, 4th Apr 2023

Reviewed by: Kate Morris

Surreal comedy meets ridiculous reality is what we are promised from Sarah Delahunty’s newest work, Interrupting Cow, and we aren’t disappointed.

We meet the cast amidst an endless pandemic of annoyance. Annoyance about everything, from shoelaces and global starvation to Twitter and the housing crisis. Our characters appear to be searching for purpose in an ever-changing and damaged world. One (Sarah Delahunty) looks for purpose by being a stickler for the rules – rules she later realises are defined and enforced only by herself. The other (Catherine Delahunty) pursues purpose by surrendering to the endless scroll, constantly glued to their phone and defending the hidden depths of Twitter that go beyond ‘silly pet posts’.

This surreal piece packs so much into 55 minutes, it’s almost overwhelming. The script feels like a free-flowing train of thought, uncovering feelings and fears of most, if not all, the societal, political, and existential issues of today. And yet, with so much said the characters are stuck still, lost. The experience for me is dizzying, but oddly relatable. You know that feeling? The one that makes you want to push for progress, to make a difference, but you just don’t know how? That feeling is at the heart of this piece, driven along by Delahunty’s meticulous and punchy writing.

Ari Leason’s character, a chocolate cake and ukulele-wielding bard of mysterious origins, punctuates the play throughout with original compositions of varying soul and intensity.

The set design (Sarah Delahunty) is a wasteland of tangled tree limbs, overturned chairs, discarded appliances, and traffic cones. Amongst this eclectic array of forgotten items, the characters question whether “this is the right place”. The setting becomes a metaphor for the characters’ feelings of frustration and isolation of not knowing their place in the world anymore.

Interrupting Cow is unusual and thought provoking. It will leave you thinking of the big and sometimes scary things – but will also remind you that when those thoughts get too big, there’s always cake.

Cringeworthy! Swinging in the 60s! | Regional News

Cringeworthy! Swinging in the 60s!

Created by: Andrea Sanders

Directed by: Andrea Sanders

Circa Theatre, 1st Apr 2023

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

Having seen, heard, and loved the 1970s and 80s versions of Cringeworthy, I had high expectations for this production. Those expectations were met, nay exceeded, as four fabulous fashionistas took to the stage in a silhouetted tableau that screamed the 60s and belted out an energetic rendition of Shout, complete with go-go dancers (Amedee Wilson and Annabella Milburn).

Mandy, Sandy, Candy, and… er, Bob (Andrea Sanders, Jthan Morgan, Rebecca Ansell, and Jared Pallesen) kept a full opening night audience whooping, clapping, and laughing as they flawlessly delivered hit after hit, interspersed with loving, nostalgic details of New Zealand in the 60s. For those of us who didn’t grow up here or are too young to remember, these nuggets of history – ranging from the introduction of TV and contraceptives to the Summer of Love and the musical brain drain to Australia – bring to life a different time when our country was an unsophisticated backwater at the bottom of the world.

Sanders deliberately chose songs with four-part harmonies and a cast with the capability to sing them, and these are the highlights of a strong show. Pallesen and Morgan’s vocal gymnastics make The Four Seasons’ Sherry the clear audience favourite. The choreography is excellent too with all the classic 60s moves and grooves.

The production design in the first half (set design by Scott Maxim, lighting design by Mitch Sigley and Gabriella Eaton) is a visual tribute to Coco Chanel with everything in black and white apart from some subtly coloured light. This is reflected in the slick costuming (Show Off Costume Hire and Andrea Sanders). The second half unashamedly embraces the hippy aesthetic with colourful caftans (hilariously enjoyed by Morgan), swirly patterned bell bottoms, peace signs, and psychedelic lighting.

This is a joyous and highly enjoyable tribute to arguably the best decade of popular music, so turn on, tune in, and groove on down to Circa for a trip down memory lane and a night you’ll never forget.

Redemption of a Rogue | Regional News

Redemption of a Rogue


85 minutes

(5 out of 5)

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

The prodigal son returns… to Ballylough. As improbable as that sounds, that is the central crux of Redemption of a Rogue, Irish playwright Philip Doherty’s directorial film debut.

Jimmy Cullen (Aaron Monaghan) returns to his hometown after seven years to say goodbye to his dying father (Hugh B. O’Brien), after which he intends to hang himself. The story begins its slow descent when Jimmy and his brother Damien (Kieran Roche) learn that their father’s will stipulates he cannot be buried in the rain. So it proceeds to rain for 40 days and 40 nights, during which Jimmy is stuck in limbo: Catholic symbolism drenching the town, superstition puddling in the corners. Meanwhile, Jimmy meets Masha (Aisling O'Mara), the self-branded town bike and his Mary Magdalene. Together they embark on a quest to save the town’s children – who have refused to eat or talk – and bring about Jimmy’s salvation.

Director Philip’s brother Joseph Doherty’s production design is soggy and miserable… in a good way. Dank and damp permeate the film, while the nightmarish dreamscape of Jimmy’s mind imbues Ballylough. Cinematographer Burschi Wojnar deserves a shoutout (for shooting entirely in the rain), and the film takes on a blues musical vibe thanks to Robbie Perry’s score. The sharp cuts of Allyn Quigley’s editing style along with the acting take Redemption of a Rogue to the next level.

A mix of absurdism, magical realism, and biblical parables sprinkled with a heaped dose of self-deprecating, deadpan, dark comedy, Redemption of a Rogue is Irish to its core. The story both local and universal. In his flashbacks, Jimmy retains his adult form, making you wonder if you are inside his deranged mind. The Virgin Mary (Lorna Quinn) bums a smoke rather than offering salvation. In a moment of clarity, Jimmy scientifically explains the 10 plagues of Egypt, blaming the rain on the plastic factory rather than his uninterred father.

I will always praise magical realism for its ability to critique the plagues of our reality by rendering the rest of the world absurd through a simple shift in perspective. And for this same reason, I commend Redemption of a Rogue.

Mahler 3 | Regional News

Mahler 3

Presented by: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Conducted by: Gemma New

Michael Fowler Centre, 31st Mar 2023

Reviewed by: Tamsin Evans

Exhilarating. Spectacular. Breathtaking. Magnificent. When something is so good you can’t begin to describe it to others, all you have are words that feel inadequate. Luckily, readers curious as to why words aren’t enough can livestream the entire performance on the NZSO website.

The scene was set by the most beautiful waiata sung unaccompanied and with excellence by the Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir, and a children’s choir comprising Wellington Young Voices and the Choristers of Wellington Cathedral of St Paul. Robert Wiremu’s waiata, Tahuri koe ki te maunga teitei, was written to be performed alongside Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 in D Minor. An unlikely pairing but intimately connected in spirit and intent as well as the music. The 80 singers did an impeccable job, so much so that the ‘ear worm’ Wiremu had embedded (a single bar of Brahms, also found in the Mahler) was at home in my ear for several days.

“I see him as a composer for us and our times.” This was a family member’s response to my report of the Mahler and it captures the feeling I had. 130 years have gone by since Mahler wrote this epic symphony but it sounds entirely contemporary and directly relevant to the complex, disturbed, fascinating, and incredible state of our world in 2023.

There were too many amazing individual and sectional performances to pick out the best, but I cannot let the children’s stamina (a long night for young ones) and Sasha Cooke’s beautiful mezzo-soprano voice go unmentioned. The balance between her voice and the orchestra was just about perfect and her diction was immaculate. “O Mensch! Gib Acht!” O man! Take heed!

We did take heed. The house was full. The applause was long and rapturous and almost everyone got to their feet to congratulate and thank Gemma New, the NZSO, Sasha Cooke and all the singers, over and over, for another spectacular concert experience.

CORE | Regional News


Written by: Hattie Salmon

Directed by: Madeline Kain

BATS Theatre, 30th Mar 2023

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

Erika (Hattie Salmon) and Asa’s (Thomas Steinmann) love story starts as all the best ones do: with a one-night stand gone wrong. Beginning with a brief but passionate encounter that blossoms into a lifelong affair, CORE is about how all-consuming, passionate, and volatile your first love can be.

This 90-minute two-hander is peppered with potential and beautiful moments. The chemistry and connection between our two leads is both believable and engaging. While Steinmann has an easy, natural performance style, Salmon’s ‘Ricky’ is more heightened, poetic. The juxtaposition is interesting to watch and serves the script well, which is real and surreal in equal measure.

Centring on a bed, Sid Williams’ functional set design transports us into the couple’s bedroom, while Max DeRoy’s lighting design conveys the passing of time from night to day. It’s lovely to watch as you imagine sunrays slowly spreading across your bed during lazy Sunday mornings with the person you love; moonlight and the amber glow of the city filtering through your window after a big night out in your favourite sparkly dress. All the while, Roco Moroi Thorn’s haunting sound design echoes the heady fever of young love.  

CORE would benefit from more concision and dramaturgical clarity, especially because time jumps are at play – will landlines still be a thing in the future? Regardless, it stands tall on strong bones: the performances, the design elements, and Salmon’s script, which pinpoints some (unfortunately!) relatable sticking points. I see elements of my past dysfunctional relationships in every beer can, hear them in every telephone ring, read them in every email I wasn’t meant to, feel them in every lingering touch. CORE distils a universal subject down into an accessible story sprinkled with specificity. Just like Ricky, I think it’s the small things that capture the true essence of love, and in those little, carefully curated details, you’ll find CORE’s strength and its beauty.

Where’s My Money? | Regional News

Where’s My Money?

Written by: John Patrick Shanley

Directed by: Oliver Mander

Gryphon Theatre, 23rd Mar 2023

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

American writer John Patrick Shanley is perhaps best known as a screenwriter, having won an Oscar for Moonstruck, but he is also a prolific, award-winning playwright. This lesser-known work is a cleverly structured witty, bitter, and sometimes brutal exposition of destructive relationships and poor life choices.

It starts with old friends Celeste (Gin Mabey) and Natalie (Stacey O’Brien) meeting in a café where the catty conversation turns much darker than either of them anticipates. Next, we see Natalie with her controlling lawyer husband Henry (Leon Beaton) and learn of her murky past with Tommy (Shay Tanirau) that has come back to haunt her. Henry then goes to see his friend and philandering divorce lawyer Sidney (Martin Hunt), whose toxic masculinity is carried through to a violent confrontation with his territorial wife Marcia (Lisa Aaltonen). There are further connections between these characters, but to say more would spoil the plot.

This ensemble cast is excellent, with each actor thoroughly owning the best and worst of their sometimes-over-the-top characters and the literal and metaphorical ghosts of the lies they tell themselves.

The changes of scene are managed through the installation of a revolve, the first I’ve seen on the Gryphon stage. This works well, although a gap between the set and curtains at one side and a central wall that’s a tad too flimsy to withstand the robust action at the end of the play let down the construction of an imaginative design (Oliver Mander). This staging gives a tight performance space for each pair of actors, but Mander’s direction largely uses it successfully to reflect the claustrophobic nature of their relationships.

Lighting and sound (Jamie Byas and Tim Gruar) work effectively to support the on-stage action. A highlight is the gruesome red glow that drenches Tommy the first time he appears.

Wellington Repertory Theatre’s deft production of an expertly crafted script certainly deserves a bigger audience than it had on its second night and is well worth your money.

Red, White & Brass | Regional News

Red, White & Brass


85 minutes

(5 out of 5)

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

Wellington was painted red on the 21st of March – red with the flag of Tonga.

On the 1st of October 2011, Tonga beat France at Wellington’s World Cup Rugby game in one of the biggest upsets in rugby history. First, they thanked God, and then they thanked their fans. Red, White & Brass is the story of this game, but it’s not about the players. It’s about Tongans and their māfana – their feeling of warmth, their pride.

“Straight up, this actually happened”, Red, White & Brass informs viewers on its title page. Inspired by the true story of co-writer and co-producer Halaifonua (Nua) Finau. The movie follows Maka (John-Paul Foliaki), a Tongan superfan who misses out on tickets to the big game. In typical Maka fashion, he comes up with a genius plan: signing his brass band up to play at the opening ceremony. The only problem is he doesn’t have a brass band.

Directed and co-written by Damon Fepulea’i, Red, White & Brass is truly a gem of a movie and another jewel in the crown from the production company that brought us The Breaker Upperers and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Filmed entirely in Wellington, Emily Mafile’o’s production design is *chef’s kiss*. Every scene includes some element of red, every moment is imbued with Tonga. Costume designer Daisy Chiara Marcuzzi employs a similar tactic in her clothing choices, adding red accents to every character’s style. The score by Three Houses Down, which is original and on Spotify by the way, is cheerful, vibrant, and fully embodies the film.

Similarly laudable is the cast of Red, White & Brass. Virtually every actor is a newcomer, yet so comfortable are they in their roles, they seem like veterans of the silver screen. Maka is Foliaki’s first official acting role, and he is superb. But the entire cast should be recognised, as each character is played so authentically you felt as though you left the theatre with a group of new friends.

“There is no I in band”, and it is the whole band that makes Red, White & Brass absolutely brilliant. A work of art and of Tongan ingenuity at its finest, māfana maketh the movie.

The King of Taking  | Regional News

The King of Taking

Presented by: Kallo Collective and A Mulled Whine

Created by: Thom Monckton

Circa Theatre, 21st Mar 2023

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

I was lucky enough to see Thom Monckton’s The Artist in 2020 in my first foray back to live theatre since the pandemic began. I remember summarising the show as “one man procrastinates making art for an hour”, which, sure, doesn’t sound all that interesting. But in the hands of this consummate physical theatre performer, I noted that The Artist was one of the most engaging solo performances I’d ever seen.

The King of Taking is no different, with a summary that could feasibly read: King spends 35 minutes walking to a table to spend another 35 minutes opening presents. I have very few plot points to report and very little dialogue to dissect, save, perhaps, for the syllabic stress on the name “Jonathan”. And yet I could write for days about how every minute, every moment of The King of Taking is a highlight.

Looming centre stage is a stately throne (production design by Gemma Tweedie, set realised by Lucas Neal) that allows for many gags I don’t want to spoil here. Props like candlesticks, rope pulleys, and rolls of red carpet are further instruments of amusement. Clever lighting (Neal) and sound (Amanda Maclean) cues accentuate Monckton’s physical comedy as he makes excellent use of everything around him. This extends to not just the set pieces but to the gifts bestowed on him by the audience prior to the show – a unique concept I’ve not seen on stage before.

Monckton speaks a thousand unscripted words with the mere twitch of a lip, the bat of an eyelash, with an energy that intensifies when it comes time to open the King’s presents. His portrayal of all-consuming, childlike joy that borders on madness emphasises themes of greed, corruption, and power. In short, of taking. This resonates the loudest when the King continues to tear open his gifts without a thought for the wellbeing of his surprise guest, Tess Sullivan. What a showstopping cameo.

A Fat Girl’s Cry | Regional News

A Fat Girl’s Cry

Written by: Celia Macdonald

Directed by: Celia Macdonald

BATS Theatre, 21st Mar 2023

Reviewed by: Zac Fitzgibbon

Passionate, perky, and powerful are three of the many words that can be used to describe Celia Macdonald’s first original show, A Fat Girl’s Cry. Macdonald takes us on a musical journey about the importance of plus-size representation in the musical theatre industry. The show feels autobiographical and strikingly similar to Jonathan Larson’s Tick, Tick… Boom!, but of course with Macdonald’s unique, charismatic flair.

Songs are well placed throughout the show, providing an exciting new context to some beloved musical theatre numbers such as All That Jazz from Chicago and Children Will Listen from Into the Woods. Macdonald and fellow actor Scott Christie performing the treasured As Long as You’re Mine from Wicked feels right and questions why we don’t often see plus-size performers in leading roles such as Elphaba.

I have never seen BATS’ The Stage so stripped down. I feel this aids the performance as it allows Macdonald’s potent story to be the focal point, rather than the razzle dazzle that most musicals bring. I love how stage manager Jess Weston takes part in the show, adding another talented performer into the mix.

My heart shatters into pieces at the climax of the show. The performers execute this perfectly. I feel Macdonald’s pain. No performer should ever have to feel how she has felt. It breaks me to think how toxic the musical theatre industry can be to those who don’t ‘fit the bill’.

Whilst specifically addressing the struggles of being plus size in the musical theatre industry, the show feels universally relevant, touching on the idea that oftentimes the things we get ridiculed for the most are our greatest assets. The final number Absolutely Everybody is a fantastic way to end the show by celebrating people of all shapes and sizes.

Macdonald is a genuine, talented performer and I sincerely hope that she continues to take the spotlight that she deserves.

A Fat Girl’s Cry is truly a show for every body.