Reviews - Regional News | Connecting Wellington


Legacy: Lalah Hathaway sings Donny Hathaway | Regional News

Legacy: Lalah Hathaway sings Donny Hathaway

Performed by Lalah Hathaway and the NZSO

The Opera House, 19th Oct 2022

Reviewed by: Finlay Langelaan

The 2022 Wellington Jazz Festival starts in style with international R&B superstar Lalah Hathaway. Supported by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Benjamin Northey, with concertmaster Donald Armstrong at the helm, the entire evening is a delight for the discerning enthusiast. From ballads to bops, Hathaway makes her New Zealand debut with grace and panache.

From the first note of the first song, Hathaway has the audience entranced. An orchestral performance is always impressive, but combined with a grand piano and Hathaway's GRAMMY-winning vocal talents, we are elevated into a world of jazz fusion and soulful blues. Every person on stage is excellent, and each solo garners a well-deserved round of hearty applause, but I would be remiss not to mention Daniel Hayles on keys. A Song For You is the highlight of the show in no small part thanks to him.

While the performances are impeccable, I find myself distracted by static during what should have been moments of silence. The scenography is wonderful, with gentle lighting changes so in tune with the music you would think you can see the melody.

Even between numbers, I catch myself on the edge of my seat as Hathaway engages the audience with casual charm and brief anecdotes. This is the first performance of her career devoted entirely to performing her father's music, and the love in both the singer and the songs is palpable. Hathaway truly brings with her a legacy of musical talent and influence.

Hathaway has just released a version of Donny Hathaway’s This Christmas, singing a duet with her father from a rediscovered recording. She treats us to a performance of the song and closes the concert with Be There, leaving the delighted audience in a festive buzz. The show received a five-minute standing ovation and undoubtedly deserved it. If this is how the Wellington Jazz Festival starts, I can’t wait to see what else is in store.

Pudgy Mediocre White Men Solve Your Problems | Regional News

Pudgy Mediocre White Men Solve Your Problems

Created by: Dylan Hutton and Austin Harrison

BATS Theatre, 18th Oct 2022

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

Welcome to the Hataitai Bowling Club and Dave and Bryan’s Improvaganza! They’ve just spent six weeks attending community “impro” classes (drop the V to be really cool) and will now solve your problems using their newfound passion and skills. As they claim, “There’s no issue you can’t ‘word at a time’ your way out of!”

Dylan Hutton (playing Bryan) and Austin Harrison (Dave) are veterans of the Wellington improvisation circuit and have created a cute premise and charmingly deliver a simple concept for an hour-long show that delighted its opening night audience. Dave and Bryan are indeed a bit pudgy in their colour-coordinated polo shirts and jeans, but the performers certainly aren’t mediocre as they bounce around their homely set and interact warmly with the crowd.

They’re ably assisted on keyboard by the oddly hirsute, 14-year-old Gabe (Matt Hutton) who needs to go home at 9pm and Scotty (Scott Maxim) who, with his trusty fire extinguisher Old Veronica, provides inspired lighting choices to elevate the action. His spotlighted diversions from the main scenes created some of the biggest laughs of the night.

Improv shows need a hook to distinguish them and in this case Harrison and Hutton turn audience members’ domestic and workplace annoyances into (somewhat dubious) life lessons by reinterpreting them through classic improv games and offering post-scene analysis to the problem’s owner. They achieve their aim of reframing issues such as a snoring girlfriend with varying degrees of success but always with a lot of laughter. They even manage to incorporate a couple of topical references, including the current stoush over funding for Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand’s University of Otago Sheila Winn Shakespeare Festival, and end with a sweet song about their friendship.

While improv is a common feature of Wellington theatre, Harrison and Hutton have created a show that is fresh and engaging with their own energy and problem-solving spin. And I now know why my cat has furballs (something to do with licking the carpet, apparently).




The River | Regional News

The River

Presented by: Orchestra Wellington

Conducted by: Marc Taddei

Michael Fowler Centre, 15th Oct 2022

Reviewed by: Dawn Brook

An annual delight of the Orchestra Wellington season is the collaboration of the orchestra with Arohanui Strings:  lots of kids, very well rehearsed, some of them extraordinarily young and very cute, drawing their bows confidently and straight over their strings. Their principal item was Well Within the Madding Crowd, an attractive commissioned work by Glen Downie featuring the children on strings, and brass and percussion highlights from the orchestra. Even younger children joined in another handful of items. Wonderful.

Reflection by Julian Kirgan-Báez was another premiere in this concert. Kirgan-Báez is normally a trombonist in the orchestra but is also part of the orchestra’s composer mentorship programme under John Psathas. This was very assured composing, extraordinary considering Kirgan-Báez is largely self-taught. The work was very descriptive and evocative of the natural environment in both calm and agitated condition. It used the full resources of the orchestra and not surprisingly, some wonderful brass.

The audience was wowed by Amalia Hall’s performance of Violin Concerto No. 2 by Joseph Joachim, a work that draws on Hungarian, Jewish, and Romany traditions.  Hall’s virtuosity is remarkable and this reportedly Everest of concertos seemed barely to test her, though perhaps it felt like a musical Everest to her. While there were some lovely expressive passages, it was the pyrotechnics that impressed: trills, runs, glissando, double-stopping, speed. You name the extreme technique, Joachim included it.

The concert concluded with the lovely Symphony No. 3 Rhenish by Schumann. I wondered if beauty and shape was sacrificed to pace and urgent momentum in the first two movements, with the Rhine River charging along rather than rolling and unfolding. The fourth movement which was inspired by Schumann’s awe at the Cologne Cathedral was wonderfully expansive, with brass and woodwind creating haunting and grand moments. The exhilarating finale brought the concert to a fitting close.

High Rise | Regional News

High Rise

Written by and performed by Cameron Jones

BATS Theatre, 14th Oct 2022

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

It’s the early 1980s and Henry Lewis, in a world of nobodies, wants to be a somebody. After a shaky start door-knocking to pitch property deals, he becomes a top real estate salesman, then successfully invests in stocks and shares. He finally achieves his dream of building New Zealand’s first New York-style, deluxe high-rise apartment building in Auckland’s Herne Bay, the Shangri-La (which is still there).

Described as a “solo adventure”, High Rise is a captivating one-man work of extraordinary physical theatre that started life as a Toi Whakaari student project and has grown and expanded into a fully fledged, award-winning tale of hubris and excess. It draws on the Ancient Greek myth of Icarus as Henry’s dubious moral choices lead him to fly too close to the metaphorical sun of financial affluence, causing him to crash and burn.

Cameron Jones uses little more than his body, a briefcase, swivel chair, hard hat, and a stack of papers, plus some well-placed lights and music, to tell Henry’s story. With clown work, self-created sound effects, and outstanding physicality, he brings us along on the road of ‘greed is good’ in an entirely original way. Anyone who remembers the 80s will revel in this yuppie character you love to hate, but this is one who can stand on his head on top of a briefcase holding a yoga pose while cheesy affirmations play.

Jones’ physical theatre prowess makes High Rise highly entertaining and fun, while posing interesting moral questions about the human desire for wealth and status. If you’re sitting in the front row, expect to be drawn literally into Henry’s world as Jones breaks the fourth wall and ad libs with the audience. The poignant ending to the story is a stab in the heart.

High Rise combines great storytelling with strong characterisation and unique presentation from an entirely committed actor to create a production that will leave you pondering the meaning of success long after you leave the theatre.

Sense and Sensibility | Regional News

Sense and Sensibility

Written by: Joy Hellyer and Paul Kay

Directed by: Joy Hellyer and Paul Kay

Cochran Hall, 13th Oct 2022

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

Jane Austen’s classic tale of restraint versus passion is given a freshen-up for the stage by zooming in on the thoughts of Elinor Dashwood in this new adaptation. The novel is written strongly from Elinor’s point of view, so it’s a logical step for her to become the narrator as well as one of the main protagonists. Joy Hellyer and Paul Kay have resisted the temptation to add much content of their own, a wise choice that allows Austen’s words and stories to shine.

As Elinor, who is on stage for almost the entire play taking part in or quietly watching the action, Amy Vines carries a huge responsibility. She manages it with dignity, grace, and strength as her reserve is offset by the bigger, more histrionic characters around her.

Hellyer and Kay’s decision to use a smaller cast and double several roles is an excellent one. The actors are highly capable and make the most of their opportunities to multi-task. Paul Stone’s boisterous Sir John Middleton and bilious Doctor Harris are a delight, and a moment of comedy gold is provided when Lee Dowsett morphs from the shy and awkward Edward Ferrars into his uncredited second character.

As Elinor’s sister Marianne, around whose love life much of the action revolves, Talia Carlisle is beautifully dramatic, her animated eyebrows deserving a credit of their own. The rest of the cast provide expert support and work together well as an ensemble without the urge to scene-steal.

The large costume team led by Meredith Dooley has done an outstanding job with a lush wardrobe that aptly suits the wealth and class of the characters. Amy Whiterod’s pretty set design, supported by Dave Soper’s lighting, is appropriately Regency as well as allowing the flexibility to house several locations through rearrangement of furniture.

Altogether, this is a successful adaptation and KAT Theatre production that will please Jane Austen fans and entertain those less familiar with her work.


Soft Carnage | Regional News

Soft Carnage

Created by: Brynley Stent

BATS Theatre, 11th Oct 2022

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

Brynley Stent’s got Mummy issues. The character, that is! The real Stent, a well-known New Zealand comedian and actor, plays a version of herself in this solo sketch comedy show, set in a therapist’s office over one painful session that costs $200-and-something but thankfully has a good outcome... in the end.

The whole premise of Soft Carnage is highly entertaining. We watch on as Stent uses humour as a coping mechanism, trying to avoid the hard questions by presenting comedy sketches that exasperate her therapist to no end but delight each of us in turn. Especially when we get handed a Cookie Time or bag of Mexicano Corn Chips. Pro-tip: sit in the front row.

As my plus one points out, solo sketch comedy is hard. Stent nails some sketches with massive energy (particularly when she does parkour), slick transitions, and an excellent incorporation of technology, from projections to sound effects to voiceovers by both automated voices and people with voices that sound automated. The best sketches feature super relatable content, like the torturous process of calling the IRD or getting rid of empty tech boxes. My favourites – which I’ve taken the liberty of naming here – are Peeing at Night, Throw it Away (Kids’ Edition), Bake Sale for Carol, and Mambo Italiano. As you can probably tell, this show is absolute chaos and I’m here for it.

Where I think Soft Carnage would really benefit is in the unpacking of some of the poignant themes within. I’d love to see Stent lean into the vulnerable moments, dive deeper into the big stuff. I absolutely get that humour as avoidance is a running theme of the show, so it’s clever that this literally plays out onstage. At the same time, I think the best comedy is the kind that makes you think, makes you feel, maybe even makes you cry as well as laugh. Stent hits the ball out of the park for the laughs, so I can’t wait to see her bounce the baby to the next level. Inside joke.

Smile  | Regional News



115 mins

(4 ½ out of 5)

Reviewed by: Harry Bartle

The latest horror to terrorise screens around the globe, Smile has really got me thinking: should someone be able to review a film when they had their eyes covered for half of it? That question just about sums up how good – or in other words how freaking terrifying – this movie was.

Smile follows Dr Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) after she witnesses a bizarre, traumatic death involving a patient she just met (Caitlin Stasey). After this incident, she starts experiencing frightening occurrences that she can’t explain. When this overwhelming terror begins taking over her life, smiling at her as it does, Rose must confront her troubling past in order to survive and escape her horrifying new reality.

Smile is by no means a genre-defining idea. Plenty of horrors in the past have taken something that is usually associated with happiness – clowns for example – and twisted it into something quite the opposite. However, director Parker Finn and his team have taken this formula and executed it to perfection. From start to finish the story gleefully plays with audiences’ expectations to create some genuinely nasty moments, unpredictable jump scares, and tension-filled scenes. Each upside-down camera shot or suspenseful piece of music is calculated in its use while the seamless transitions mean you can hardly stop for a breath – much like the main character, who is brilliantly portrayed by Bacon. Unlike her friends and family in the film, you can genuinely feel her fear and emotion as you root for the tortured clinical psychologist to find a way to escape from what haunts her.

Smile also plays with some deeper themes, adding depth to the surface-level terror. It speaks to the impact of trauma and the effect this has on mental health. Although somewhat predictable, the action-packed conclusion had me on the edge of my seat. I was taken out of the moment somewhat due to some poor visual effects, but this was just a small blemish in what was a red-blooded crowd-pleaser throughout.

Having never smiled less in my life, Smile is not for the faint of heart. Horror fans however can delight in its jarring story that dances with the smiling face of evil.

Why Are My Parents So Boring? | Regional News

Why Are My Parents So Boring?

Written by: Dan Bain

Directed by: David Ladderman

Tararua Tramping Club, 4th Oct 2022

Reviewed by: Tania Du Toit

What a fun silent show for the kids! My four-year-old (going on 40) son absolutely adores the characters and laughs from his belly as the cast members Laurel Mitchell, aka Mum, and Riley Brophy, aka Dad, start engaging the audience even before the show starts by looking for their oh-so-bored son, portrayed by Damon Manning. The kids all get involved in the hunt and their reactions are so funny.

This KidzStuff Theatre for Children production is suitable for all ages and has every child and parent laughing and participating. It really paints the picture of boring parents and an active, imaginative child. There are some unexpected surprises and tricks that keep you engaged – so much so, that my poor potty-training son almost didn’t go to the loo during the show, because he didn’t want to miss out on anything!

The costumes and props, created by Amalia Calder and David Ladderman, are great and well designed to change with the scenes. Amalia and Chrysalynn Calder did a great job with the sound effects and music, which bring the actions of the characters to life. I also have to mention that the theatre itself is very welcoming and upon entering, you get a whiff of freshly popped popcorn for sale as well as some lollies, and you get a very warm greeting from Tom Kereama. The seating area is versatile, and you have a choice of sitting in rows, along the wall, or even on the carpet right in front of the stage.

I loved asking my son what his favourite part of the show was. He answered that the kite was his favourite. It was pure magic to him, and based on the reaction of the other children, it definitely made an impression.

Why Are My Parents So Boring? is well worth a watch these school holidays!

Don’t Worry Darling  | Regional News

Don’t Worry Darling

(R-13 )

123 mins

(3 out of 5)

Reviewed by: Harry Bartle

Olivia Wilde’s most anticipated film as a director yet, Don’t Worry Darling was a tale of two halves that had the potential to be a lot better. However, thanks to some outstanding performances, glamorous cinematography, and unique twists, I still found myself thinking about the film days after watching.

In the 1950s, Alice (Florence Pugh) and Jack (Harry Styles) live in the idealised community of Victory, an experimental company town where the men work on a top-secret project daily. While the husbands toil away, the wives are free to enjoy the seemingly carefree paradise. But, when cracks in her idyllic life begin to appear, Alice can’t help but question exactly what she’s doing in the ‘perfect’ little town.

I didn’t enjoy the first hour of this film. The mid-century decor, candy-coloured cars, and picturesque homes make for pleasant viewing but the story itself was frustrating as Wilde and her writers tried way too hard. I felt like their only goal was to remind me that Don’t Worry Darling was a psychological thriller through a barrage of consecutive scenes intended to shock me. Instead, many of them fell flat and seemed unnecessary. Comparing this to a masterpiece of the genre such as Jordan Peele’s Get Out where the hair-raising revelations are subtly revealed in between scenes with substance, it simply felt amateur.

Just as I was about to write it off, Don’t Worry Darling suddenly had me on the edge of my seat. This turnaround was mainly thanks to the brilliance of Pugh – who supplies another characteristically strong and layered performance – and a gripping finale that ends with an outstanding final twist (don’t worry, I won’t spoil) that I would argue was well worth the wait. The longer, more dialogue-heavy scenes gave fellow star Chris Pine the chance to show he plays an equally good villain as he does a hero while Styles proved he has what it takes to shine on both the big screen and stage. The eerie score by John Powell continually added to the building pressure.

Although I’ve had more trouble deciding whether Don’t Worry Darling is good or bad than I would like, psychological thriller fans should definitely give it a chance.