Category Archives: Theatre


Seamless storytelling. Captivating. Bravo!

A super treat last night – my friend Katherine’s company plus a ticket to see Taumata – Four New Works at Q Theatre. A quick Google search piqued my interest, and indeed the brilliant performance of the dancers swept me off my feet!

Delivered in four separate yet connected acts, they took me to the secret place between humanity and divinity. In barely an hour we covered a lot of ground. The black stage set took on, for me, different dimensions throughout the evening – a fertile soil supporting life; imagination; a womb; a final resting place; mystery and desire; the point of no return; black night.

I loved quite a few things about Taumata – the sense of harmony throughout the evening. The way music carried movement and movement submitted to rhythm. Taane Mete’s impressive portrayal of the rawness of birth, living and death. The flowing dresses and startling story of womanhood told through the beautiful women in Sisters of the Black Crow (act 3). The absolute grace and agility of the dancers in Eve, bringing together the poise and beauty of ballet with the strength and fun of acrobatics.

It reminded me of the awesome knowledge that we are small … we are the crown of creation.

Sweeney Todd

Dark and delightful.

NZ Opera’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street took me by surprise. It’s the fifth opera I have watched to date, the first one I have seen presented in English, and the first that thrilled me from start to finish.

When we settled into our plush seats, my eyes saw a simple set – but when the music and show began, I felt a curious sensation; I was no longer on land, but at sea. The luring music of the orchestra and chorus were as rippling waves in a dangerous ocean, surging with secrets that begged to be told. In the opening scene, I saw not a costumed cast, but living ghosts rising from the ground …


Many things come together to make the show what it is. Those accustomed to NZ Opera’s high standards will expect nothing less, and I am certainly once again impressed. Costumes, make-up and the simple but convincing set leave little need for imagination to make the world of Sweeney Todd feel too real for comfort.

As the program writely says – it is indeed “a journey from darkness to illuminated darkness”, brilliantly achieved through the use of contrast. One never escapes darkness throughout the night, but if black is a colour, one sees its many tones and shades, and thus revels in its startling beauty.


Steven Sondheim’s clever lyrics are a pure delight to take in, as is Johanna’s irresistible birdsong (Amelia Barry). The lively Mrs Lovett has me hooked from the time she provides a hearty, flour-dusted whiff of the “worst pies in London” (Antoinette Halloran). Todd’s unrelenting cold hands bring necessary chills and truly, I cannot imagine a better rendition of his role (Teddy Tahu Rhodes).

Darkness builds like a castle of waves as the show progresses – when Tobias goes through the horror of finding a fingernail and other human identifiers in his pie, I am right there with him in his terrible pit of revulsion. Cascading sound and the effective use of stage lights render me hot and cold at once, and I find myself drawing my scarf closer around my body; needing, somehow, a certain reassurance even as I revel in the masterful delivery of this violent tale.


I won’t be hungry for pie for a while, but I am certainly looking forward to my next serving of opera / theatre.

Verdict: An impressive performance by way of dark intrigue topped with a golden crust of spine-tingling humour and exemplary design. A feast which scares and beckons … by all means have your dinner, but leave some room for pie!

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – showing till 24 September 2016 at the Civic Theatre in Auckland. Don’t miss it.

See NZ Opera website for dates and times for Wellington and Christchurch shows.

Images © David Rowland

This post also appears on NZ Entertainment Podcast

If you can talk, you can sing…

If you can talk, you can sing; if you can walk, you can dance.
~ Zimbabwean expression, as quoted by Stan Davis and David McIntosh, The Art of Business

What a treat. Last night, Gudrun and I trailed up to the confusing campus that makes up Auckland University and located, with some trouble, Maidment Theatre. It was well worth it. We stepped gratefully into the warmth (the weather was quite reminiscent of Wellington!)… and into another world.

It wasn’t quite what I expected, admittedly. I guessed that “The Guru of Chai” would be colourful, and fun, and inspirational. And it was. But I didn’t expect it to begin with a philosophical address, and end with a surprising twist. I didn’t expect to witness two men wax magic, conjuring up many characters, many voices, many emotions and a sense of wonder without much help. I didn’t expect a marriage between minimal costumes/props and endless imagination, openness and courage. A dance of talent and practice.

It was so wonderful to bathe in the poignant air of mirth, pathos, thought, and humanity. Watching this, I was at once fully engaged and elsewhere… it made me think of the million ways in which we are different, and the other million things that connect us as people in the world. It reminded me of the hot, bustling parts of Southeast Asia that I grew up in, and the few wayang shows I watched as a child, and coffee from the local coffee shops where we’d sit and sweat in the sheer humidity. It brought to mind Grandma’s shrimp chilli paste – best described as “pungent” within the limitations of English; but stunning applied to bread, or meat. Addictive, even. A blend of simple ingredients that Grandma pounded tirelessly with her mortar & pestle, turning it into a complex paste with an unforgettable flavour… one which I could never (and still can’t) tell where sweet meets hot meets bitter meets… whatever. I can’t describe it…

So… “The Guru of Chai”. If you are in Auckland, you have four days left to catch them before they fly to the good US of A! Go and watch it.

While we’re being arty-farty on this food blog (I figure theatre and music count as food – for the soul)… just last week, I also went to watch a high school orchestra/choir performance, fantastic to watch young talent performing. It was a night which led me down hallways of old dreams, up silent thoughts of what could be – and which cracked open my Russian doll selves and allowed me to be 6, 8, 20, all over again and all at once. I thought about that drama teacher I had in primary school, who was one of the people who taught me the power of Imagination. Do you love music? I hope you tap into its magic…

In other (food-related) news, I finally got to try Oh Calcutta! – I went there this evening with Gill. We shared a bowl of basmati rice and GIGANTIC naan (looked like two full moons tucked into a basket) – and she had lentils, and I the lamb rogan josh (I thought it was quite fitting that we got to eat good food and share good heart and life stories!). Really attentive service and delicious food at this restaurant… Dhanyavād, Meena Anand and team!

The Rick Stein Show: some thoughts

I’m just someone with an enthusiasm for food and a curiosity that’s sent me sniffing around all over the place looking for lovely dishes in all corners of the globe.
~ Rick Stein, Coast to Coast

What I loved most about Rick Stein’s show: the laughter, carefree energy and simplicity that bounced off the stage & screen in waves and rippled back from the audience in equal measure. Just as captivating and satisfying as good food.

Also, have you ever wished you could dive through your TV screen and just SMELL the food being cooked! I have, countless times. This time, I didn’t have to imagine the good smells… (what a dream!)

Here’s Rick Stein himself making a brief appearance at the VIP event before the show, with Mark Sainsbury from “Close Up” (who was a marvellous co-host). It’s a wonder we got their faces in the photo at all, given the number of people swarming around them.

The VIP event itself, in all honesty, left much to be desired… I think food is best shared in a place of generosity, laughter, conversation, sincerity, etc… and unfortunately, I really did not feel much of either of these. Nothing to do with the organisers, or Rick, just the unfortunate combination of people perhaps? (I felt a vague air of stale snootiness… not my thing at all).

The wine was superb, though, as was the goodie bag – and I was seriously glad for Matt’s company!

When we finally got to go in, it was wonderful gazing at the set. What a lot of thought and effort must’ve gone into this! Wow. I also never would’ve thought of theatre and food as a winning combination really, but I stand corrected!

The show itself was peppered with funny anecdotes, quality video footage, yummy smells… and it had something important too: all the signs of an effective and great team. I don’t think you can hide poor rapport on stage, or expect to have a good show – especially a light-hearted, people-and-food-centered one – with a team which doesn’t work well together. Everyone pitched in and almost seemed to be dancing together on stage. The resultant air of fun was contagious.

The cameraman, Mark Sainsbury & Rick Stein all kept us entertained with lively banter and put on a great show.

Loved the sight of the seafood dishes and familiar Southeast Asian ingredients like galangal and belachan, and the way the show led us on an “odyssey” through different regions of the world. I was also pretty entertained by a particularly boisterous pair of ladies sitting near to us. They were utterly pissed (well I hope they can blame it on wine!) and as a result a rather humorous sight to behold…

A copy of Rick Stein’s “Coast to Coast” was included in my goodie bag, and I made his “Roast chicken with parsley and tarragon, poached Puy lentils and roasted vine tomatoes” dish last night (page 30).

Perhaps I’ll try his seafood recipes when I next get down to the market (the photo of moules marinière just about has me drooling)!

Again, thank you Lunchbox Productions for the honour of winning your competition, and this great prize!

“Pronounce my name the proper Celtic way”

If you are in Wellington, please go and watch The Nero Show! Went to watch this with Matt after dinner at Lagerfield (quite delicious, by the way, bread, venison, duck leg, glass of syrah & all) … enjoyed. :-D

There are so many elements that go into making a theatre production super, music, lighting, cast, songs, quality of sound, humour, stage set, timing, costume, vocal variety, plot, creativity – oh, where do I begin!! This is one production which combined all of these very well in 2 hours which sped by far too quickly.

Lagerfield – 21 Blair Street, Wellington – Phone: 04 801 5212

Circa Theatre – 1 Taranaki St, Wellington – Phone: 04 801 7992