Covid-19 Alert

NZ moves to the Traffic light system at 11:59pm on Thursday 2 December 2021 with Auckland at RED. The rest of New Zealand level is still to be decided.
Scan QR Codes & get your Vaccination Pass | Save Lives | Be Kind

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Tahi Festival: The Shit Kid - Sarah Harpur (Bats Theatre 16 & 17 September)

There’s a ‘shit kid’ in every family. In Sharni’s case it’s her. Her twin, Nige got to be a champion rower. He wins big at the Olympics and gets recognized everywhere he goes.
She ain't.

Sharni, once married, once divorced, parent of one (oh yeah, two) kids, is not interested in sibling rivalry. Well, ok just a little. She’s on a mission to get back her horse from the rich horse breeder neighbors next door. She trades in black market pony poo and teaches posh kids to ride. She has a plan to get her nag back. 

The only thing standing in her way is her baby, a lack of intergenerational wealth, her temper, and an actual plan. 

After a five-year hiatus from the comedy scene, award-winning writer and funny woman Sarah Harpur (101 Dates (2010), 7 Days (2009) and Everybody Else Is Taken (2017), returns with her hilarious one-person play. She’s built it all on sibling rivalry, Olympic ambition, some very dodgy Mark Todd fever-dreams and a very sexy horse. 

Some people dream of success, winning, taking it all. Sharni is all about being the best at being mediocre. 

To pull it off Harpur has summoned all the ghosts and energies of Lynn of Tawa, the Topp Twins and Sharon from the takeaways down the High Street to bring you the most Sheila-ish character she can muster. 

The laughs come thick and fast. Her anecdotes and punch lines a re course and crass at times. Farm humour, perhaps. Subtly and wit is not called for here. 

The story goes from the sublime to the ridiculous as she reveals clanker after clanker. Such as everyone calling her a bad mum for taking her daughter, Mitzy Evo, to the pub at 1.00AM. Or Mistaking horse semen for ice-cream. Or accidently, on purpose getting a Kaimanawa Wild Mare pregnant to a thoroughbred in a midnight rendezvous. 

Harpur’s execution is part actor/part standup comedian and it totally works. It’s a totally hilarious 55 minutes of quality comedy. 

This is a complex, layered and ridiculous performance. Shortlisted for the 2022 Adam NZ Play Award this is pure fun. Harpur is also responsible for Dead Dads Club, which has also had rave reviews. 

Behind the comedy is a serious message. She told the press that the initial inspiration for Play was the world of equestrian and the lack of access to anyone without a trust fund.

“During the kōrero following the Tokyo Olympics,” she told the NZHerald, “I started to wonder if the Olympic dream is a flawed concept." 

Because of the pressure American gymnast Simone Biles pulled out of the Games.  Then there was the untimely death of Kiwi cyclist Olivia Podmore due to other pressures.  And so many more athletes were sharing their experiences of the destructive power of the Olympic Dream. 

Harpur started to question why the dream was important and the toll that achieving it had on the mental health of competitors. She wondered about the short time the athletes get to be at the top before their body gives out or their mind cracks. 

So, writing it, her story became more about the character's motivation for trying to get into the Olympic world and discovering, through Nige’s experience that maybe it's not all it's cracked up to be. 

Extra credit goes to award-winning and multi-talented Carrie Green (Ngāti Porou), for some clever stage direction, especially the incorporation of a toy hobby horse into a steeple chase race against a Kawasaki farm bike. 

This was laugh out loud, high energy, and thought provoking. I loved this show. If it comes back, make sure you go. You are in for a treat.

Tahi Festival, at Bats Theatre and Circa Theatre is a celebration of solo artists, a 10 day Festival dedicated to showcasing the finest and most engaging solo performance from around the motu.  Check Out the Tahi Festival 

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Tahi Festival: Gag Reflex - A Scanderlous Solo Show (Bats Theatre 16 & 17 September )

Internationally renowned festival performer Rachel Atlas most definitely has a complicated relationship with danger and the extreme. Some may know her from her act with former husband, Charlie called Til Death Do Us Part'.

This show, 'Gag Reflex' debuted back in March and was a huge hit. It won the Fringe Festival. Once you’ve seen it you'll understand why. 

Beginning in darkness, standing atop a rostrum veiled and crowned like a chaste queen from Henry IIIV’s court, she soon strips down to a corset and knickers and reveals her true side. Not innocent in the least. Her exotic, sexy, thrilling tale is her real-life journey from teenage stripper to high class kinky Madam to Vaudeville Circus performer to legalised sex worker, university student and contented bride to be. 

Along the way she’ll tell us about body shaming in her pubescent days, violent controlling boyfriends and a toxic marriage. 

She’ll also add in a few cringe-worthy, gasp-out-loud ‘excretiating’ anecdotes about her time working as a ‘poop specialist’ in the sex industry in New York and a coined operated stripper in London. 

Along the way she thrills us with her sword swallowing (not a singular but a ‘triple penetration’) and knife throwing - with Ms Atlas, herself as the target! 

She’s assisted by a mysterious hand that produces props and costumes from underneath the stage and a 7th foot Death Metal rocker in a gimp mask. The latter throws knives at Atlas with such brutish abandon, I genuinely feared for her life. 

She tells us that she's the only female sword swallower in the motu.  I believe that!  It's incredibly dangerous.  And she does so confidently, like it's nothing more than knitting a scarf.   

Her act pivots from narrator/actor to circus performer.  Throughout the show the capacity audience whooped and cheered her on - in all the sad, outrageous, funny and downright hair raising moments. The woman next to me was so taken, gasping in anticipation every time she saw a dangerous moment or dark swerve in the narrative approaching. I was afraid she’d either wet herself or faint overwhelmed! 

The music and sound were clever. It fitted perfectly with the story and created an instant mind picture of the exact time and date she was talking about – London in the 90’s, the rave culture she indulged in.  Or the bird life of Banks Peninsular which became so prominent during her escape from the Big Apple to a COVID isolation sanctuary in Canterbury. Here and there the cues failed and this was a bit distracting but that’s minor in context of the whole package. 

Credit should also go to costume designer Go Go Amy for the ‘Elizabethan’ shawl, stunning gold crown and velvet dress, a wedding dress, with veil, and especially the raunchy (yet only just modest) corset and underwear. 

Sabrina Martin directed Atlas perfectly, keeping the action close to her audience and ‘real’, as she smashed the fourth wall to talk directly and even engage occasionally with audience member to hold focus. It was like she was speaking right to you and that greatly increased the intensity and honesty of the piece. 

Bekky Boyce quietly and effectively controlled the lighting and projections. One especially effective moment was a text message that came up on the veiled back drop. One tiny criticism was the length of the text, which was just too much to read in the time allowed before the action moved on. But that matters little, overall. 

It was clear that this story runs a parallel between Atlas’ own life, the weight of shame that comes with her chosen occupation and stigma attached.  Her mission was to overcome and detroy that stigma.  And she succeeded. 

She completes with a simple statement: never be ashamed of what you do for a living and your body is nobody’s business but your own. Never let anybody control you or your body or determine how you use it. Atlas reveals at the end that she remains a sex worker. She does it on her terms, and I believe it. 

What a way to begin.  This is her debut show but it was done as if it was but one of many.  Atlas is well rehearsed and a natural on the stage.  She may have been nervous but she won the audience over, and quite rightly. 

I celebrate her honesty, flare, skills and sheer guts. We need more people like this on our stages and in our lives! If you get the chance, make sure you see this production. 

It’s excellent on all levels!

Tahi Festival, at Bats Theatre and Circa Theatre is a celebration of solo artists, a 10 day Festival dedicated to showcasing the finest and most engaging solo performance from around the motu.  Check Out the Tahi Festival 

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Tahi Festival - Agent Provocateurs by Jo Marsh (Bats Theatre 14 & 15 September)

Tahi Festival, at Bats Theatre and Circa Theatre is a celebration of solo artists, a 10 day Festival dedicated to showcasing the finest and most engaging solo performance from around the motu.  

Tonight we were treated to a bit of historical cabaret with a twist.  Australian born, now Wellington based burlesque performer Jo Marsh aka Jo Jo Bellini can be seen on red light stages around town but tonight she was a secret agent in waiting. 

She told us that, like some of her idols in this show, she too had wanted, from an early age to be a spy.  She wanted the romance, the sex, the adventure.  She wasn't too keen on the executions part though. 

Her show mixes wit and wisdom, song a salacious, saucy snippets of history as she profiles 5 amazing female spies and one transgender provocateur.

Cheeky and full of attitude she struts about her simple stage of archive boxes and manila folders whipping out facts on the lives of WWI agent Mata Hari (did you know she was a wife and mother as well as an exotic dancer?), Yoshiko Kawashima (who defied the onset of Mao's Cultural Revolution in the Sino Japanese War), Ace Spy Nancy Wake (better known as the White Mouse, and a Kiwi to boot), Mary Bowser (who's photographic memory helped the Union to win the American Civil War), the outrageous Madamoiselle Chavallier D'Eon de Beaumont (who was really a man, but became a woman) and the WW2 spy Noor Inyat Khan (a woman of colour who spied for the English, right under the noses of the Gestapo).  

Marsh liberally flaunts her favourite playlist ditties - Kim Carnes' Betty Davis Eyes, Blondie's One Way Or Another, a bond theme - Nobody Does It Better - and more, rearranging the lyrics to suit her characters, of whom she inhibits during each number.

My favourite scene was when Jo is talking about Nancy Wake (who was a Wellingtonian - did you know that?) and she reaches into her file box and pulls out a cat puppet with a swastika armband and a mouse puppet who will sneak off with the cheese (a metaphor for stealing war secrets) all performed while doing her best Debbie Harry impression.  

There are other magic moments along the way, too.  Her brash impression of Kawashima 'kicking against the pricks' as a punk rebel hero was also memorable.

If anything Marsh was a little bit let down by her own small falters.  A line missed here, a spill there.  But nothing major.  

Director and former flatmate Sameena Zehra keeps the action simple and effective, relies on the usual flourishes of cabaret, costume play and dance moves but also acknowledges Marsh's own personality and body movement.  She doesn't get her to do anything that looks too posed or unnatural.  This is Jo Marsh onstage, after all. I loved the show, the concept and the very idea of bringing history to life, especially HERSTORY like this is a very worthy thing.  Can't wait to see what comes next from Jo Marsh et al!    

Read more about Jo Marsh at  Blog On The Tracks  

Book and see Agent Provocateurs

Book a Tahi show here:

Thursday, September 08, 2022

Others Way is back!

As the old saying goes, if at first you don't succeed, dust yourself off and try again. So after countless setbacks and last minute lockdowns... the giant is once again awakening from its slumber.

That's right, The Others Way Festival is back!

Save the date! Saturday October 22, when thirty of some of the finest live acts we know are set to play multiple local venues across Karangahape Road!

The full line-up will be unveiled in the weeks to come, but you know you there's going to be a batch of local gems, legends, luminaries and next-big-things! We think you'll be pretty dang happy!

Plus it's all happening on the Saturday of a long weekend, so you've got two whole days to recover. Let's party like it's 2020, 2021, and 2022!