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Ophelia Thinks Harder | Regional News

Ophelia Thinks Harder

Written by: Jean Betts

Directed by: Ivana Palezevic

Gryphon Theatre, 28th Oct 2020

Reviewed by: Petra Shotwell

Ophelia Thinks Harder tells the story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but this time with a feminist focus. We watch as Ophelia (Aimée Sullivan) learns the difference between love and hate, and finally takes control of her own life.

Seeing the traverse staging, I’m immediately excited to see what director Ivana Palezevic chooses to do with it. The scenography utilises the stage well, giving us plenty to look at before the show begins (set design by Amy Whiterod). On one end of the theatre sits a large throne, while on the other end Ophelia lays patiently on her bed, surrounded by books and clothes, as the crowd finds their seats.

While mostly the costuming is simple, I’m particularly drawn to the very cover-of-Vogue attire donned by Hamlet (Isham Redford), along with the Queen’s (Lydia Harris) vibrant, floral gown (wardrobe design by Crystal Pulkowski). The sound (Evangelina Telfar) and lighting (Darryn Woods) complement each other well during the party scene, where the atmospheric soundscape and purple lighting create a unique sensory experience. I’m often distracted by the flashing of one broken light, but despite this, the lighting feels satisfying throughout the show.

A highlight is the fun metatheatrical plotline, where several cast members perform a play of their own. Filled with irony, this is one of many moments where the audience gets to see the actors filling the shoes of multiple characters. I particularly enjoy the performances of Allyn Robins, who charmingly plays Horatio, Harris, who has the audience in fits of laughter, and Sullivan, who impressively depicts the complexity of Ophelia’s emotions. Redford’s stage slap isn’t convincing from my viewpoint of the traverse stage, however his overall portrayal of Hamlet is powerful.

Quite forward-thinking when it was first published in 1994, the inclusion of derogatory terms in the script feels out of place, preventing it from appealing to the diversity of a modern audience. Despite this, it’s a wonderful change to be told this story through a feminist lens, where Hamlet’s actions are frowned upon, and where Ophelia really does think harder.

Drag Class! The Ultimate Amateur Drag Competition | Regional News

Drag Class! The Ultimate Amateur Drag Competition

Presented by: Hugo Grrrl’s Gigs

Produced by: Johnny O’Hagan Brebner

Ivy Bar & Cabaret, 27th Oct 2020

Reviewed by: Petra Shotwell

For 10 weeks, the Drag Class ‘classmates’ have been given performance assignments focused on different aspects of the drag artform, aiming to impress not only an audience, but an array of esteemed judges.

Tonight, Ivy Bar is jam-packed and the crowd is buzzing to see the now-graduates battle it out for the finale; Drag Class will finally crown a winner. With the deafening sound of a school bell, Hugo Grrrl (MC and Drag Headmaster) takes to the stage, glamorous as ever, to start the show.

Jack Christoph sets the bar high with his always-impressive costuming and a gender-swapped Cruella de Vil act. Tess Tease and her blow-up doll leave the audience both laughing and crying. Daya T, showing us that she’s more than just a pretty face, hides a skirt under her skinny jeans. While changing wigs mid-act might be a little dangerous, Louisiana Perkins performs a funny, passionate Britney Spears tribute. Jezebel delivers a killer lip-sync, and, after vigorously devouring her glass of fake blood with passionate pop-punk energy, leaves the stage sopping wet. With Marsha Mellow’s incredible stage presence and performance skills, audience members are wiping away tears as she transitions from queen to king, powerfully representing the transgender flag. Vixie and James Bondage, not often seen on one stage, both blow the audience away wearing a suit and ‘porn-stache’ on one side and a dress and pink hair extensions on the other. Wearing a gown made from images of her own face, Brenda? Areyouintheaudience (yes, that’s her name) takes self-love to another level in perhaps the most iconic moment of the night. Finally, the moment we’ve been waiting for, the imaginative Ju Májin takes the crown and the title of Grand Drag Class Dux with an extraordinary performance dedicated to his competition journey.

As one of many audience members with near-perfect attendance to Drag Class shows, I’m in awe of every performer’s progress, and can’t wait to see what they bring to the future of Wellington drag.

The Witching Hours  | Regional News

The Witching Hours

Presented by: A Mulled Whine and My Accomplice

Written by: Uther Dean and Eamonn Marra

BATS Theatre, 27th Oct 2020

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

Created by Uther Dean, The Witching Hours is a podcast anthology of eerie audio adventures featuring guest writers and actors. This spooky, kooky production has swooped into BATS Theatre just in time for Halloween, with two episodes performed each night, live and in the flesh.

Tonight, we are treated to The Yeast with Two Backs by Eamonn Marra and Cyber Space by Uther Dean. Sepelini Mua’au and Lucy McCarthny work together with narrator Jonny Potts to tell the stories as Jennifer Lal’s lighting design cloaks them in purple and blue hues and shadows. Sound designer Oliver Devlin sits centre stage, creating sound effects in real time. Sound effects is quite the understatement. Devlin delivers sonic pyrotechnics from a ridiculously delightful range of props spanning silly putty to bread.  

Onto the bread, then. The Yeast with Two Backs starts on Tinder and ends the morning after, but the middle of the story does not your typical hook-up make. Tiffany the sourdough starter takes the term ‘yeast infection’ to a whole new level. I couldn’t help but screech, shriek, and flinch my way through this one in the best possible way.

Cyber Space follows a Hole Puncher (a mythical police-type entity who definitely doesn’t have plasma blood) as she seeks to discover the source of a mammoth drug empire over one night in a dystopian cyberpunk world where people live in two-square-metre dwellings if they’re lucky. Abstract examples have concrete ties to our world. The story might be set in space, but Dean’s inspired words still hit too close to home.

The performers deliver such vocal nuance that you could close your eyes and almost have the same experience, but then you’d miss the subtle expressions that add flits of light and laughter to these already uproarious works. Plus, you’d miss seeing an actual wizard at work (here’s looking at you, Devlin). I would see The Witching Hours every night if I could. What a riot of a time.

Timeless | Regional News


Presented by: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Conducted by: Hamish McKeich

Michael Fowler Centre, 24th Oct 2020

Reviewed by: Tamsin Evans

Just when you think you have had the best musical experience in ages (Richard Strauss’ Metamorphosen, just a fortnight earlier) the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra turns out another one. The NZSO under Hamish McKeich is clearly bursting with pent-up, COVID-constrained energy.

In my household, we say “Classical classical” to describe a programme including works by the big names of the period that developed the symphonic form. On paper, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven. In performance, classical, classical, and absolutely brilliant and extraordinary.

Energised after touring the programme in the North Island, the orchestra dived into one of Mozart's most famous symphonies, No. 40 in G Minor, K.550.  Written near the end of his life, No. 40 seems the epitome of Mozart: complex, interlaced orchestration; distinct musical themes; marked changes in volume and timing; and fabulous use of the whole orchestra. Beautifully played as a whole, the double basses stood out for their fine example of the high-speed dexterity demanded from all strings in the fourth movement.

The subtitle, Tempora Mutantur, of Haydn's Symphony No. 64 in A Major, refers to the changes the passage of time brings. The orchestra and McKeich created lovely forward momentum without rushing. In what was becoming a performance to showcase the strings, this time it was the perfect, exposed sound of the violins in the second movement that shone through.

If you didn’t know, Grosse Fuge was Beethoven’s. You would be forgiven for some confusion. Stravinsky said it was “the most absolutely contemporary piece of music I know, and contemporary forever”. The wind section was gone, leaving only the strings. Almost defying analysis and description (there are not enough adjectives to do it justice), this is three fugues and a coda and a terribly difficult piece to play. The strings played their hearts and minds out in a bravura performance that will stay with me for a very long time.

Di and Viv and Rose | Regional News

Di and Viv and Rose

Written by: Amelia Bullmore

Directed by: Stephanie McKellar-Smith

Running at Circa Theatre until 7th Nov 2020

Reviewed by: Jezelle Bidois

If you’re in need of feeling that familiar ache that proceeds a good laugh, whilst wanting to have your soul warmed by nostalgia, you need not look any further than Di and Viv and Rose at Circa Theatre. Though this piece is set in the 80s and shows three girls making the transition from teenagers to adults, the word ‘timeless’ seems best to describe Di and Viv and Rose, a production not to be missed.

What floored me the most about Di and Viv and Rose is the performances of the cast members. Julie Edwards (playing Rose) enters the stage first with an energy that radiates out to the audience, setting the upbeat tone for the rest of the show. Lara Macgregor (Di) gives a hearty performance, sending the audience into fits of laughter then instantly causing them to hold their breath in concern. And Jodie Dorday (Viv) adds more complexity to the trio with a stage presence that overshadows any male wanting to confine a woman to the “social construct that is a waist”. Through costume design (Sheila Horton), their characters’ personalities are further highlighted. As this is a show made by women for women, this trio brings to light that in spite of their characters’ differences, female camaraderie is a force not to be trifled with. 

Under the direction of Stephanie McKellar-Smith and the cohesive set design (Debbie Fish) and lighting design (Jennifer Lal), a palpable atmosphere is felt by everyone. They made the flat of Di and Viv and Rose a comfortable and empowering environment that no viewer wants to leave. 

From the opening night alone, I can tell the season is set to blow audiences away. This West End production has premiered on our shores exactly when it is most needed. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Di and Viv and Rose provides a resurgence of quality entertainment that has been missed since lockdown. 

Melancholy | Regional News


Presented by: Orchestra Wellington

Conducted by: Marc Taddei

Michael Fowler Centre, 17th Oct 2020

Reviewed by: Dawn Brook

The ever-ebullient Mark Taddei pointed out that a theme of this concert was youth. The works of two of the featured composers, Josef Suk and Sergei Prokofiev were composed at the astonishingly young ages of 18 and 19 respectively. As well, the concert featured the Arohanui Strings, a group of young string players from Lower Hutt and Wellington, joining Orchestra Wellington players as they do annually. They were conducted by young assistant conductor, Luka Venter, to perform Domino Effect, a tuneful, innovative, and fun work composed by Alissa Long, a young Taiwanese New Zealander. So much talent on view!

Orchestra Wellington performed Suk’s Serenade for Strings well, capturing different moods and tempi convincingly: sunny and lyrical in the first movement, lilting and merry in the second, soulful and romantic in the third, and energetic and playful in the fourth.

My favourite work of the night was Prokofiev’s virtuosic first piano concerto with Jian Liu at the piano. The piano leads with a memorable, jagged, and discordant dotted-rhythm theme which returns several times throughout the work. Slight though Jian Liu is physically, he packed a punch in the first movement and again in the last with its running octave chords and glittering cadenza. In the middle movement, he and the orchestra created a more gentle and pensive mood without any intensity being lost.

Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 3 completed the concert. Though in best romantic tradition it has many beautiful melodies, they are not lingered over. Rather, the lush is interspersed with the dramatic and the lyrical is interrupted by great climaxes supported by the large brass and percussion sections. It was a feast for all instruments, and to the audience wonderful visually as well as to the ear.

That there was an almost full audience despite the attraction of election night results testifies to Orchestra Wellington’s popularity.

The Little Boys’ Room: A Drag King Show | Regional News

The Little Boys’ Room: A Drag King Show

Presented by: Hugo Grrrl’s Gigs

Produced by: Willy SmacknTush

The Fringe Bar, 17th Oct 2020

Reviewed by: Petra Shotwell

According to Hugo Grrrl and the internet, Wellington has more drag kings than any other city. Every couple of months The Little Boys’ Room brings a handful of them to the stage to show that when it comes to kings, the capital has quantity and quality.

Hugo, tonight’s MC, begins the show with his usual infectious energy and an audience warmup, which involves a sliding scale of orgasm sounds (“low groans” which escalate to eye-rolling screams). He informs us that “whatever sexuality you came in with, you won’t be leaving with it,” and introduces the first of many performers to prove his theory.

Up first, Ju Májin emerges from behind the sequinned curtain, showing us exactly how to tease an audience. Bjorn Toolove makes his debut by ruining rubber ducks and evidently, childhoods; the audience can’t help but love it. In a hilarious tribute to Jack Black, Mr Mellow delivers a super tight lip-sync with the hole in the crotch of his pants undoubtedly stealing the show. Dan the Comedy Man has the audience in eruptive laughter; his deadpan, dirty dad jokes are the perfect ingredient for brewing the most delicious awkwardness. Also bringing something different, Eddie D’amore’s goosebump-inducing singing spoke to my soul, while Hannah Harlot stunned the audience with classical dance to remind us that the planet is burning. Painted in Earth-like blue tones which slowly reveal fiery body paint, their makeup artistry had me in awe. Jack Christoph energetically “serves sexy” with an amusing and nerdy strip tease, followed by a jaw-dropping performance by Timothy Taffy, whose hilariously aggressive ‘masturbation’ left Hugo cleaning up a lot of white silly string after the show. Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now will never sound the same.

Yet again, The Little Boys’ Room left the audience begging for more. We’re treated not only to drag king staples like tearaway pants and fake phalluses, but powerful political statements, stand-up comedy, and live singing. It’s safe to say this show has something special for everyone.

On the Rocks | Regional News

On the Rocks


96 Mins

(3 ½ out of 5)

Reviewed by: Sam Hollis

In the words of the late great Roger Ebert, “it’s not what a movie is about, it’s how it is about it”. On the Rocks doesn’t break new ground, nor does it try to. Instead writer-director Sofia Coppola presents an elegant take on an old story, elevated by the ever-captivating Bill Murray.

Laura (Rashida Jones) has settled in New York with her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans), who’s career is taking off rapidly while she, a budding writer, struggles to put pen to paper. When Dean’s behaviour leads her to suspect foul play, her loving father Felix (Murray) makes it his mission to help get to the bottom of it.

On the Rocks presents Coppola at her most subdued, but at times her most poised. In lesser hands, this may not have been a story worth telling, or rather retelling. We’ve heard it all before, and with that, our focus quickly shifts from story to style; thankfully, this film has that in spades. The jokes, both visual and verbal, consistently land. A sparse sax-heavy score and lingering shots of the New York cityscape add the required dose of class, and with this framework the cast has all the necessary tools to flourish.

Enter Bill Murray. There is perhaps no comedic actor more capable of stealing a show, and unsurprisingly, he does it again. Aided by an intelligent, stall-free script, Murray’s Felix is charming, flirtatious, at times apathetic, and always funny. Have you ever talked your way out of a speeding ticket? Did you manage to get the cops laughing while giving your lemon a push start and wishing you well on your way? Didn’t think so. Jones thrives in her role as the film’s emotional anchor and enjoys warm chemistry with Murray. Wayans is the only detraction. While he delivers a fine performance, he simply feels miscast.

The final moments of On the Rocks are sadly predictable and much less emotionally driven than the preceding 75 minutes led me to expect. Still, the film adds yet another, lighter feather to Coppola’s hat.

#UsTwo | Regional News


Created by: Sarah and Catherine Delahunty

BATS Theatre, 13th Oct 2020

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

Sisters Sarah and Catherine Delahunty are high-profile New Zealanders renowned for their work in theatre and politics. In #UsTwo, playwright, director, and theatre matriarch Sarah joins with former Green MP, activist, and author Catherine to share six decades of personal and political history, starting right from the very beginning – with their births, one year apart in 1952 and 1953 respectively.

One of the highlights of the show is the audience’s reaction to the nostalgia the Delahunty sisters so eloquently evoke for this era. I’m delighted by the person sitting next to me, who nods fervently at every reference to 50s and 60s New Zealand. While I can’t relate as a 90s kid, it’s interesting to hear about growing up as a woman in these times and provides illuminating context for the rest of the story, filled with sharp turns, knotty twists, and more sexism than you can shake a stick at.

Over the next hour the Delahuntys take us through the changing landscape of feminism in Aotearoa from then until now. By the end of #UsTwo their brave, witty candour makes it clear to me that so much has changed, and so much hasn’t.

I am engaged and entertained throughout but distracted by the addition of a third performer, Ari Leason. While Leason has buckets of energy and a beautiful voice that lends itself to stirring three-part harmonies, her presence puts the focus on the technical aspects of the show rather than the family dynamic. Had Sarah and Catherine picked up their own props and made their own sound effects, #UsTwo would have felt more like two sisters in their jimjams sharing stories to me. I think a stripped-back rendition with lower production values would have the sort of intimacy that draws you in and stays with you.

Funny and authentic, #UsTwo packs a real punch and makes me want to throw a punch at the patriarchy in turn.