The Wellingtonista

Random stuff about Wellington since 2005

Review: Illegally Blind

by Emma Maguire on December 7, 2021 in Theatre

Now, I’m literally in this show so I figured probably not the best for me to review it. This week we’ve got the lovely Cordy Black writing some kind words!

The experience starts in the foyer, after a ritual of scanning and phone-waving – the default programme for Illegally Blind is presented to the visitor in spacious, pleasantly bumpy Braille. With a token ‘accessibility’ programme for the sighties, of course. The show’s vibe carries its sweet-and-sour mix of sarcasm and charm through the rest of the entertainment.

The person of the hour, Susan Williams, welcomes the audience like guests to a messy home, sharing a snippet of insight (heh, a vision joke) into their day to day. The production is fully designed around Susan’s own character – undeniably charming, a little wonky and cluttered, with dashes of belly-shaking humour. For example, the script never loses the feel of being slightly off-the-cuff and alive, despite being planned with captions.

A play about the senses needs great design. Special shout-out to the lighting design by Brynne Tasker-Poland, which really gives life to the space at crucial moments and includes captions in fun as well as practical ways. Voiceover work by audio describers Eddie Kerr and Anastasia Matteini-Roberts (also the show’s director) lets the production crew bring some extra comic moments to the piece. Sound design (Emma Maguire) is delicate enough to let Susan do their thing, stepping forward where it needs to flesh out a scene or set a stronger mood.

Susan themself brings a delightful physicality and poetic verve to their performance – they’re an adept narrator, making bits of set transform, flinging props around and bringing joyful make-believe to the Stage’s black box. BATS regulars may know them as an improvisor, and they’re also prone to bouts of spoken word poetry – those influences come through in the show. But it’s their physical presence, in a large stage that could intimidate any solo performer, that really draws you into their world. I’d come visit again.

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Review: The Little Mermaid

by Emma Maguire on November 22, 2021 in Theatre

Somehow it’s nearly Christmas again, and that means Circa Theatre’s annual pantomime is back! I’ve been going every year since I moved to Wellington, and I’ve gotta say, it’s still a fantastic and very ridiculous experience.

This year it’s a wet and wild ride through The Little Mermaid, written once again by Circa stalwarts Simon Leary and Gavin Rutherford.

It’s 3021 and most of Pōneke is underwater. Taken over by merpeople – created when the Wellington sewerage pipes finally burst for good and flooded Upper Hutt (or so we’re told), the remaining human population lives on top of the hills of Wellington – ‘Wellington Heights’. An endless – though seemingly quite chill – forever war has been going on between the merpeople and the people of Wellington Heights, and that is where we set our scene.

Coral (Natasha McAllister), a mermaid, is fascinated by the human world, and saves the life of Lyall Bay (Jake McKay) a human man when his boat capsizes in the harbour. So interested she is by the land people, she is tricked into having her tail and voice taken away by her evil aunt Bermuda (Kathleen Burns), so she can go onto land to find Lyall. Meanwhile, King Lando (Simon Leary) and the Dame, Shelly (Gavin Rutherford) have reunited after 20 years apart, and are dancing around each other, clearly madly in love. Along for the ride is Crabby (Trae Te Wiki), Coral’s crab assistant, and Shaggy (Jthan Morgan), King Lando’s NZSL interpreter (who is a shag – like, the bird). Jthan also plays Neptuna, Bermuda’s sister, to a delightfully chaotic effect.

Look, it’s a fabulous show, as it always is. In particular this year I really appreciated the choreography, and the score, which is quite the earworm and has some endearing leitmotifs sprinkled within. As pantos do, there’s a ton of songs we know well in it – I particularly enjoyed Kathleen’s rendition of Pokerface, and the show concluder fun.’s Some Nights. 

All the performers are very strong and a pleasure to watch. Both of Jthan’s performances were truly excellent, and I really liked the sheer committeemen Trae gave to Crabby, who was part crab, part puppy, and all parts very charming.

A particularly clever aspect of this year’s show was that a lot of it was conducted in New Zealand Sign Language, and the ‘audience interaction’ piece, where children would usually go up onto stage but couldn’t due to COVID-19 restrictions, involved us all learning parts of a song in NZSL. As Coral loses her voice for a large portion of the piece, I found the use of NZSL particularly clever, and a great inclusive way to go about performing without dialogue. Having performed portions of a show in NZSL before, I know how challenging it can be to sign and speak at the same time, especially if you’re new to it, and all performers took to signing with great joy and aplomb.

There’s something for everyone in this year’s panto, with the usual innuendo and sauciness from the Dame to some very prescient notes about Wellington life in other moments. There was also a joke about APRA which I am certain I’m the only one in the audience who laughed at it – so I just wanted to mention that and say, hey, I feel you, and I understand.

Though the audience was slightly smaller this year due to Level 2 distancing requirements, the room was full of joy and delight throughout, and I left the show yearning for the sea. In times of such uncertainty it is so good to see a piece of theatre that’s full of energy and excitement, where evil is vanquished and everyone finds love by the final notes.

As I say every year, Circa panto greatest hits album when?


Tickets are very limited for this show and it is mostly already sold out, but if there’s any left, dive in and pick them up here.

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Review: Hole

by Emma Maguire on November 21, 2021 in Theatre

I’ve been on a reviewing spree this week, so I passed this one onto our lovely guest reviewer, who took up the mantle very well for his first time reviewing. Check out his piece below!

Hole is unbelievably charming.

The play itself is cleverly written, utilizing the charm of the characters to get important information across to the audience. And honestly, what a cast to get the lot across. Greenpeace, Pollution, O-Zone Girl, Speights, Romance, Cold. There’s lots to laugh through, in early awkward interactions, language, Belgian confused for French (and understandably so).

The staging was tight, nothing felt off or forced. All throughout I felt like I was witness to people existing and responding, never a choreographed piece. The given circumstances were never lost either, you ALWAYS felt like it was cold. Attention to detail was crisp. I was also thoroughly impressed with the intimacy coordination. There was a lot of great tension building throughout but this paid off the absolute most when it came to the intimate moments.

The relationships were incredible. Props to the entire cast, I was genuinely amazed throughout but Stevie Hancox-Monk blew my mind. I’ve never seen them so charming, so lovable. I laughed with them and felt their pain, they were so emotionally generous – I was spellbound. To add one more point, their French accent was very solid.

Elle Wootton’s drunk acting was by far the best I’ve ever seen. Knowing this is a feat even seasoned actors struggle to achieve, the believability of her character’s intoxication was a standout for me. So sick.

Lights (Isadora Lao) and sound (Phil Brownlee) were brilliant, complimentary to the world we were in and to the scene setting, alongside the projections layered on to the block set pieces. The use of the projections (designed by Rachel Neser) in general were a winner here; for scene, for story, for combining purposes with acting.  The set was simple and I never felt a need for more set. Used efficiently. Supply Boxes as boxes. Supply Boxes as chairs.

I was really pleased I got to see this show, I’m really stoked that I got the chance to be in the audience.


Hole is on at Circa Theatre until the 18th of December. Tickets are very limited due to distancing rules. Pick them up here

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Review: Poprox Improv

by Emma Maguire on November 18, 2021 in Theatre


Poprox Improv is the brainchild of a bunch of Wellington theatre stalwarts: Pippa Drakeford-Croad, Dylan Hutton, Austin Harrison, Nina Hogg, Jonny Paul & Nino Raphael, and it is a show absolutely worthy of their talent. Performed for the first time this night at Miramar’s gorgeous new performance venue – Roxy Live (a glorious new space in the foyer of the Roxy Cinema on Park Road), this show is immersive, delightful and truly the most unhinged improv I’ve seen in a good long while.

(I mean that in a very complimentary way.)

A cabaret of the whimsical, the show is broken into several games, which I’m presuming will change across different iterations of the show. Warming us up with a rhyme game (with Nino setting the scene on the keyboard), we’re encouraged to boo when someone messes up, but there’s nothing at all malicious in it. Then Jonny plays four scenes with each of the other performers ducking in to play the other character in the scene, there’s a love story about two film projectionists, a vigil for a cat and a frankly horrifying scene at the dentist.  The show culminates in a power ballad reminiscing on what had just happened.

There is a certain kind of joy in seeing performers who like each other perform on stage together, and that is certainly obvious in this piece. There’s a degree of stitching-up, a certain kind of tease, a nonsense and a delight in the uncanny that makes the hour and change of this show pass very quickly.

This group delights in misfirings, with bizarre ask-fors taken, some questionable object work and misheard audience prompts, but that’s the joy of it all.  Finding the awkward and absolutely powering through it is so enjoyable to watch, and genuinely quite a skill, and throughout the show I’m frequently laughing so hard my chest hurts.

The chemistry and the improvising talent of this group cannot be understated. Though there are some challenging aspects to performing in a place like this – size, shape and breadth of the audience are all unusual – they take to it incredibly well and provide us with a hilarious, fantastic work.

Absolutely bloody good, check out the next one next time they’re about, it’ll make your night.


For more details about Poprox Improv, hit them up on Facebook.

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More posts…

The Weight of a Thousand Oceans – review & giveaway

by noizyboy November 9, 2021

Wellington writers increasingly (and entirely justifiably) are viewing the ongoing climate disaster as a rich source of material for creating intriguing, imaginative speculative fiction. Based in future worlds where humanity has failed to stop a catastrophic, civilization-altering change in the climate system, these stories of what might be, if we don’t sort our shit out, […]

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Review: Medea

by Emma Maguire October 7, 2021

The Victoria University Ancient Theatre Society’s adaptation of Medea is an unique combination of both the Euripides and the Seneca play – and I must say, I like where it goes. It’s a fresh take on two classical scripts, and they meld together well, adapted by VATS’ Rebecca Drummond and Rebecca Scholtz. The show itself […]

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Review: Best on Tap’s Community Noticeboard

by Emma Maguire September 15, 2021

This is the only theatre show currently running in Wellington, we’re told, as Community Noticeboard begins. It’s a little surreal to be back in a theatre – I’ve personally not been in one since like… June? – and it is especially surreal to be wearing masks and spaced out across a traverse in BATS Theatre’s Dome stage. […]

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Review: Maximum Benefit

by Emma Maguire July 11, 2021

I’m out of commission at the moment brain-wise, and couldn’t get to this show, but the work got lovely comments from those there in my steed. The show season is completely sold out, but I’m certain these two will be about town performing at a later date – they’re a talented pair and deserve your […]

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Things are getting surreal at Te Papa

by Joanna June 22, 2021

We might be stuck in New Zealand for a while, but that doesn’t mean the world can’t come to us (especially if they’re rich, apparently). That’s the cool thing about the new exhibition Surrealist Art: Masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen He Toi Pohewa: He Toi Marupō o Muhiama o Boijmans Van Beuningen. You’ll get a […]

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World Refugee Day exhibition – 20th June @ The HUB

by noizyboy June 17, 2021

This year’s United Nations World Refugee Day is on 20 June, and to mark the event the ChangeMakers Resettlement Forum,  Voice of Aroha, and Living Wage Movement Aotearoa NZ are hosting the My Life … to Live photo exhibition at the Hub (Victoria University). The exhibition opening starts at 11am and runs from 11am to […]

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