Ambassador review: The Turn of the Screw

The Turn of the Screw 
New Zealand Opera 
Written by: Benjamin Britten
Conductor: Holly Mathieson
Director: Thomas de Mallet Burgess

Reviewed by Xanthe: 

Chilling, haunting, and unforgettable. The NZ Opera production of The Turn of the Screw was the perfect balance of creepy and engaging, and played the story in a way that captured the audience’s attention and didn’t let go. The use of set was interesting and created such a place for the story to be told. The sheer talent of the cast, especially the two children, was incredible to listen to and really made the show into the spectacle it was. The Turn of the Screw plays on your perceptions of what is real and what is not and leaves you questioning and a little creeped out. After all, if you can’t tell who is real, then who can you trust?

Reviewed by Phil: 

The Turn of the screw is a classic British opera written by Myfanwy Piper and Composed by Benjamin Britten set to a gothic tone. The story tells of a young governess who is employed by the housekeeper, Mrs. Grose to instruct and care for two young children, Miles and Flora. However, visits from ghostly figures prove to be tough on all the inhabitants of the home and the governess herself.

From the moment that you take your seat in the venue, you notice the simple set design. This allows for the dramatic piece to jump from one location to the next with very little effort. This is very effective for the actors and lets them focus on what they need to in order to tell the story. The story was quite good and the music played over the dialogue was very appropriate. I did think that, in some parts, the Soprano actors were hard to hear, due to singing over top of each other and the music provided by the band.

All in all, I believe that “The Turn of The Screw” is a very good opera and one worth seeing at least once.

Reviewed by Gabbi:

A captivating performance in all respects. The set was particularly visually appealing and fabricated haunting illusions that blended seamlessly with the beautiful yet at times chilling performances of the singers. The eerie lighting paired with the frightening figures looming behind the curtain set the perfect atmosphere for such a chilling piece and truly made you question the divide between creations of the mind and reality. I was in awe of all the singers abilities to portray such raw, real emotion whilst reaching notes that seemed effortless, which accompanied by the exceptional music of the Orchestra was truly outstanding. I extend my gratitude to the cast and crew of ‘The Turn of the Screw’ for allowing me to come watch their performance, which has set the bar high for any future Operas I attend.

Ambassador Review – The Pink Hammer

The Pink Hammer
By Michele Amas
Director: Conrad Newport
At Circa Theatre until October 5th, 2019 

Reviewed by Gabbi:

Five people from all paths of life come together in the most unexpected place, a backyard tool shed.

In the midst of racy calendars, sawed through stools and Louise’s dreadful kale muffins, what begins as a lighthearted piece morphs into a touching exploration on the common threads between us all.

As the hardships they face are uncovered, I was moved by the love, acceptance and understanding between them as they became strengthened by the time spent together.

A resounding story and captivating performance, I left ‘The Pink Hammer’ reminded that we are far more alike than different.

Reviewed by Xanthe: 

Five very different people find their lives colliding at a carpentry workshop in a back garden shed. The Pink Hammer explores how completely different people can be brought together with a single goal, how small moments of connection lead to strong bonds that transcend circumstances. I fell in love with the gorgeous set the moment I stepped into the theatre, the attention to detail and realism created such a world for the story to play out in and was creative and engaging for the audience.

Reviewed by Jasmine: 

This performance was interesting. It was entertaining to watch but most of the characters were hard to like, and it is unclear as to whether that is intentional or not. At times it felt as though the actors were overplaying their characters and it felt like the message of the play, which was seemingly a good and important one, was lost in the hyperbolic performance of the actors. I actually really did enjoy this show, but I found that the extreme personalities on stage did ruin it a little. Additionally the end (whilst it was theatrically very effective) felt a little rushed while the first half seemed to drag on a bit. 

I particularly liked the acting of the Irish character. Her carefree selfish nature was refreshing to see, particularly amongst all the other fairly uptight characters, and she was the only character that felt somewhat realistic.

Ultimately, it was good, but I wouldn’t see it again. 

Ambassador review: Burn Her

Burn Her
Written by Sam Brooks
Directed by Katherine McRae
Produced by A Mulled Wine
Presented at Circa Theatre

Reviewed by Maddie: 

‘Burn Her’ is a great political drama that reels you in with its story about how the media twists reality. The set is divided into two different worlds which is beautifully articulated through the use of warm and cozy timber next to cold and colourless concrete. The actors carried out stunning performances, fully emerging the audience into the story. Overall, this play and the message it delivers is one not to be missed and was an absolute delight to see.

Reviewed by Jasmine:

After watching this performance, I knew that I just had to write a review about it. In all honesty, when going into the theatre I didn’t think that this play would interest me at all, but as it turns out, I was incredibly mistaken. 

I found this piece amazing, and very moving. The overall theme was an interesting one, as it was so unlike anything I’d seen before, and yet a topic that I wish was more often addressed. The success of this show was in how unique and original it was. The acting was superb and the emotional range of each character was amazing to watch. Seeing this play made it feel as though I was reliving old memories and it truly made me feel things that no other show I’ve watched has made me feel. Again, that is a testament to the incredible emotional acting from the characters. 

A key moment in which this play really stood out to me was George’s monologue towards the end of the play. It was flawlessly executed and whilst the character was incredibly well written, the delivery of the lines were so powerful that I was just awestruck. This was another moment in the play where the importance of the theme really stood out, and I feel as though each member of the audience was aware of it. 

This play was truly powerful, and I am personally grateful to everybody who worked on it to share such a strong and moving piece of theatre.

Ambassador review: The Barber of Seville

The Barber of Seville
Conducted by Wyn Davies
Directed by Lindy Hume
Presented at The Opera House

Reviewed by Maddie: 

From the actors to the set, ‘The Barber of Seville’ exudes charisma and energy. Once you enter the world of this opera, you’ll soon find yourself rooting for the funny and charming protagonists. The quirky colour and design are sure to leave you wanting more with its dollhouse pinks and curious architecture. I can guarantee that you’ll be on the edge of your seat by the grand finale.

Ambassador Review – Waiting for Godot

What are you waiting for?

Waiting for Godot 
Written by Samuel Beckett
Directed by Ross Jolly
at Circa Theatre until 1 June 2019
Reviewed by Maddie, Wellington Home Education Network

Waiting for Godot is one of those play names you often hear bandied around. Any version of the famous (some would say infamous) mid-century play has a lot to live up to, but Ross Jolly’s production certainly does.

While it deals with the subject matter through an absurdist lens, I think what makes this play so captivating to watch is that it is fundamentally human in nature.

We can all relate to the feeling of waiting. Samuel Beckett uses that to his advantage, immediately placing us in the shoes of Vladimir (Andrew Foster) and Estragon (Jeff Kingsford-Brown) as they wait for someone, or something, that may never come.

The play thrives in the grey area between a humorous tragedy, and a dark comedy, and all of the performers tread that line very cleverly. Their exchanges switch back and forth between existential crisis and childish games continuously throughout the piece, and the actors handle both with great skill, taking the audience on an emotional rollercoaster over the two hour duration of the play. I found that the young audience members in particular seemed to have a strong response to the piece, and I was left wondering why that might be.

Did the play strike a chord with my generation because we know that we can’t simply wait for something to change? Did we find it funny because young people can see the childishness within adults much clearer than other adults can? Or do young people not feel that same pressure to be ‘proper’ at the theatre? I am still not entirely sure, but elicit a response it did all the same.

If the character of Vladimir is what pulls the audience into the story with his direct address and existential musings (Foster’s delivery of his lines is fresh and witty), then we are held there by Estragon’s humour and adorable carrot munching (Kingsford-Brown has a wonderful handle on the physicality of his character). Together these two actors form an unbeatable, very human comic/tragic duo, and their onstage camaraderie echoes the very comfortable relationship that the characters have.

While these two actors have to do lots of heavy lifting in terms of stage time, the other performers are just as captivating. Peter Hambleton and Jack Buchanan’s Pozzo and Lucky burst onto the scene part way through act one, and again in act two, providing Vladimir and Estragon with some much needed distraction from their waiting.

The choice to cast a much younger actor in the role of Lucky is an effective one, and makes their master and servant relationship very interesting. With Lucky dressed in his very punk attire, next to Pozzo’s tweed suit, is it a comment on an older generation trying to control a younger one, or is the enslaved Lucky a metaphor for the downtrodden? Buchanan plays the part of Lucky superbly, and I know I felt a twang of pain as Pozzo literally stamps out his free will with the line “That’s an end to his thinking”.

Pozzo is not a particularly likeable character to start out with, pompous, with little or no regard for anyone else, however, Hambleton’s portrayal is an extremely deft one, leaving you feeling an uneasy sense of pity for him by the time he leaves stage. He had great connection with the audience, and was a very engaging character to watch.

The final character, a goat herd who brings a message from Godot, known only as The Boy, is performed by Alex Buyck and Alex Usher on alternating nights, both of whom hold their own alongside the adult actors surrounding them.

Aside from the actors, I also have to give a huge hand to the visual design of the production, which was just superb. Marcus McShane’s powerful lighting illuminates Andrew Foster’s barren, war torn set, and casts eerie shadows against the high concrete walls that enclose the stage (Foster is a multi-talented individual, also appearing onstage as Vladimir). Sheila Horton’s costumes leave the characters stuck outside of time, reminiscent of many periods, but belonging to none, which helps to heighten the timelessness of the piece. The show really was something to behold.

Get along to Circa before 1 June to catch this compelling and thought provoking show.
As they say in the show “Nothing happens. Nobody comes, nobody goes. It’s awful.” Awfully good I’d say, so what are you waiting for?

Ambassador Review – Conversations with Dead Relatives

Heartfelt Stories from The Spirits Above

Circa Theatre; May 2nd 2019
Reviewed by Chantelle, Aotea College 
Written and performed by Phil Ormsby and Alex Ellis
Director: Jennifer Ward-Lealand
Duration: 60 minutes

Conversations With Dead Relatives explores the ideas of our ancestors’ influence and makes us question how much of an effect they should have on our own choices. The script is well-written, interesting and at times breaks the fourth wall which keeps the audience engaged and entertained.

The play is said to be a comedy, however I think it is much more than that. There is romance, heartbreak, adventure and drama throughout their journey through time. These additional genres add to the charm of the play, while not losing any of the comedy.

One of the most memorable and outstanding parts of the play was the Viking story. Phil Ormsby and Alex Ellis cleverly work together to tell this, committing to their accents and facial expressions from the very beginning, and while their incredible acting skills do help, their clear enthusiasm to be acting and working together is what really makes this scene fun to watch.

The exaggeration of body language, facial expressions, great articulation and commitment to accents as they retell multiple different stories with new characters is really what makes this play enjoyable and a stand-out performance overall. Through the play, we are introduced to multiple characters, which all have their own unique body language and accents. These character changes are made cleary to the audience thanks to the efficiency of their acting.

The interesting use of props (suitcases, plates, cups, etc) alongside the photographs/picture frames of family members helps to tell the story of these ancestors visually and utilises the setting.

Overall, this play makes me question my role in continuing my bloodline (as someone who doesn’t want children, it really shocked me to feel like I may have a duty to my ancestors to continue my bloodline), forced me to think about how much of our history is true or has been changed, and how much of an effect our ancestors have. I strongly recommend watching this heartfelt, thought-provoking and genuinely entertaining this wonderful piece of storytelling art.

Ambassador Review – The Children

Circa Theatre; March 31, 2019 
Reviewed by Piper, Heretaunga College 

The Children by Lucy Kirkwood and Directed by Susan Wilson is a play performed in Circa Theatre Wellington, with a duration of 1 hour and 45 minutes and at the cost of $25 – $52.

The Children is a dramatic, humorous and sorrowful play.

From entering, John Hodgkins’ set has taken my eye. The old fashioned living/dining and kitchen area are filled with light and small details grabbing you by its blue coloured cupboards and colourful walls.  

The theatrical piece is well performed by the three actors. Each actor has outstanding skills and performs the sad and deep performance brilliantly. The performance had you on the edge of your seat wanting more. They engaged physically as well as vocally with great power.

The sound and lighting were brilliantly executed. The sound and lighting contributed to the production to make an amazing outcome. They worked well together and made you feel like you were watching a TV show or movie. 

My overall impression of the play was breathtaking. I came away feeling shocked and sad but also relieved. Questions began to be answered throughout the play and the foreshadowing was greatly executed. At first, I thought this play wasn’t going to be my cup of tea but as I sat there on the edge of my seat watching the fantastic art in front of me it became my cup of tea. This show is definitely on a to watch list! It is a huge hit in London, New York and Australia stages and deserves the recognition. The beautifully performed and made performance is a wonderful watch and is well recommended. 

Wellington, NZ. 27 March 2019. Circa Theatre. The Children. By Lucy Kirkwood. Directed by Susan Wilson. Opens at Circa One. 30 March to 27 April 2019. Photo credit: Stephen A’Court. COPYRIGHT ©Stephen A’Court

While this play may not be directed towards the younger generations, it did not fail to entertain and resonate with this viewer. Thought provoking and beautifully acted – a piece for any lover of quality theatre.

Morgan, Hutt Valley High School


Ambassador Review – Mrs Krishnan’s Party

Te Auaha Theatre; September 19, 2018 
Reviewed by Alexandra Hickman, Samuel Marsden Collegiate

Remarkable, welcoming and comforting are a few words that easily spring to mind when describing the sequel to the well-received Krishnan’s Dairy, Mrs Krishnan’s Party. Indian Ink is, once again, pulling heartstrings, continuing the story as Mrs Krishnan moves on with life after the death of her husband. Welcomed into her home by optimistic, fun-loving James, we immediately become the heart of the party and are immersed in the tales of the characters as we soon learn that not everything is quite what it seems, for good and for bad. With aspects of a detailed drama and an interactive show aiming to get its audience thinking, Mrs Krishnan’s Party is a unique experience no one should miss.

In Mrs Krishnan’s Dairy, people of all walks of life are brought together, united in confusion, anticipation and fear, to celebrate the South Indian harvest festival of Onam, in a show where nothing goes quite as expected. Rogers’ and Nagarajan’s brilliant mix of improv, script and pure comedic talent make the show. While Mrs Krishnan’s Party will definitely have you laughing from the moment you arrive, the subtle themes of the show hide a deeper message, prompting audiences to consider the true meaning of family, life’s purpose and grappling with change.

The intimate feel is well-created and nurtured throughout the show as the actors move among you and you truly become a part of the plot. With a two-person cast, it is often difficult to keep the wanted atmosphere but both Kalyani Nagarajan (Mrs Krishnan) and Justin Rogers (James) never fail to entertain. Both actors Rogers and Nagarajan add comedic flair as well as bringing the theatre to an absolute standstill in those tense moments when you could hear a pin drop. For Indian Ink fans, this was a unique peek into the background of Krishnan’s Dairy, with a set that more than makes up the behind-the-scenes of our imagination.

Mrs Krishnan’s Party is a truly one-of-a-kind experience and one that should not be skipped. Mrs Krishnan’s Party will continue to feature in Wellington until September 29th and booking tickets is definitely worth it for a night out of heart-warming, quality theatre.

Y&H Ambassadors Janhavi, Alexandra and Anna with Justin Rogers after the performance of Mrs Krishnan’s Party.