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Print Version

New Zealand Festival 2014
Written and performed by Ursula Martinez
directed by Mark Whitelaw

at Hannah Playhouse, Wellington
From 8 Mar 2014 to 15 Mar 2014

Reviewed by John Smythe, 9 Mar 2014

Hi Ursula 

I saw your show at the Hannah Playhouse last night and the only thing that disappointed me by the end was that there were no emails from New Zealand so I am going to pretend that this is one.

The story of your Hanky Panky magic show being filmed and uploaded to YouTube illegally and the emails you received as a result has been well publicised as the premise for My Stories Your Emails.  The mystery that remains – even after we see it screened at the halfway point in this show – is how you make the red hanky disappear when you are totally naked, apart from your black high heels.

Actually I am surprised at the quality of the clip, with its multi-camera angles, audience reactions and all. I'd expected something sneakily captured on an i-phone from one spot, between heads. It's not another trick, is it: the whole idea that you were hard done by? But then illusion is the name of your game.

Like your ‘set' of two lecterns flanking the screen. You read out Twitter-like snippets of your life story from one then, after the video, read out emails from the other, accompanied by the images your fans sent in. It sounds a bit boring, described like that, and yet it's not.

We get to know as much about your life experiences and the quirky personality it produced as we'd get from any conventional drama. That innocent smile is such a delightful contrast to some of the stuff you relate. And the emails give us a ‘verbatim theatre'-like insight into a very real world hiding in the supposed privacy of its own laptops.   

Something about the way you deal with material and language we might have thought rude, offensive or even obscene simply places it truthfully as part of the imperfect world which is grist to the mill of all theatre and storytelling forms.

You're pretty good at all those accents too, from various parts of the USA, the UK, Spain, Sweden, Jamaica … A couple of ‘Sarf Lunnun' vowels slip into your Australian accent briefly. How I'd love to hear you tackle New Zillin (our Prime Minister offers a good model).

So there it is. Under the guise of a reading from notes about your life and a PowerPoint presentation of correspondence, My Stories Your Emails fulfils the conditions for good theatre. It certainly holds the proverbial mirror up to show us ourselves and the world we live in, as well as your very entertaining self in all your naked glory. There is poignancy too, and pathos, in both halves of your show. It takes us places we couldn't have gone on our own.

Thank you.
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 Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] (The Dominion Post);