3 Steps Back

BATS Theatre, The Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

23/02/2023 - 26/02/2023

BATS Theatre, The Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

14/06/2023 - 17/06/2023

NZ Fringe Festival 2023

Production Details

Emma Katene - Writer, Performer, Sound Design
Kate Anderson - Director, Lighting Design, Operator
Salome Grace - Stage Manager

Presented by Emma Katene

“I am always moving forward. I will persist. I will always take another step. If that is of no avail, I will take another, and yet another.” – Og Mandino.

Explore the pathways of my life. Where they go, where they intersect, and why Chronic Fatigue INSISTS on burning my map!

After being diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue at the beginning of 2020, Emma has spent 2 years mapping out her days while consistently being knocked back a peg. What paths have lead you to where you are now? Do they change? How come? Where to next?

Sit back and perhaps even eat some snacks, while Emma sings and dances her way through the feeling of two dimensions colliding. Watch out though, you might even see some of your own pathways reflected.

3 Steps Back is a multi-disciplinary story telling experience.

BATS Theatre – The Dome
23rd – 26th February 2023

BATS Theatre, The Stage
14-17 June 2023
BOOK: https://nz.patronbase.com/_BATS/Productions/3STE/Performances

Emma Katene (she/her) - Ngāti Kahungunu
Kate Anderson (she/her)
Salome Grace (they/them)
Matt Asunder (they/them) - Sound Engineer/pack in crew

Performance Poetry , Theatre , Solo ,

45 mins

A deep, beautiful and poetically passionate insight into disability

Review by Waitahi Aniwaniwa McGee 15th Jun 2023

Moments across time. A reflection of self and a call to the motu – disability is not always seen, and just because you can’t see it, do not assume it isn’t there.

3 Steps Back is a powerful experience, created by creative duo Emma Katene and Kate Anderson, which explores the pathways of Katene’s life: where they go and where they intersect, and why Chronic Fatigue Syndrome insists on messing that all up!

The stage is a cluttered living space, solo performer Katene is visibly exhaused, yet the lighting design by Anderson creates the feel of a homely welcome apartment. This juxtaposition alone tells me we’re in for a treat.

Katene’s use of space, set and sound gives us just the right amount of context to travel to the intangible spaces Chronic Fatigue creates. We’re oriented to debilitating pain, the frustration of ignorant able-bodied peers and the absolutely horrific experience of being paralysed, stuck in place, unable to move or do anything let alone shower.

Considering this is a show about CF, by someone with CF, I am in total awe of Katene’s performance. Katene’s agility to move between forms of Physical Theatre / Musical Theatre / Poetry is incredible, not to mention she has barely broken a sweat.

There is one particular scene that truly twists my insides. Katene shares an experience of seeking help from the public health system.

“Dear Emma, we have reviewed the severity of your case and unfortunately we cannot offer you a place in our clinic at this time. We have to ensure our limited resources are being put where it is needed most. All the best.” 


Now I’m not sure about you, but it is at this moment I am able to see the conversation this show truly opens up to our wider able-bodied communities (specifically myself who is oh so fresh to this kōrero about access).

Cool, so our Public Health system is B R O K E N

If Emma’s experience alone is not one where resources are “needed most” then oh my goodness how severe is this situation in Aotearoa?! And how many more people are being failed by an under-resourced healthcare system?

This year is a voting year dudes… (might just leave that one there)

With all of this in the context of the show, as an audience member I am afraid of being left in this absolute state of hopelessness… but I want to let you know (spoilers) the tactful skill that is Anderson and Katene carefully lifts us back up with soft humour, and subtle sunlight. Late evening reminiscing finishes the show with a deeper more beautiful insight into disability and a poetic passionate silver lining of the lessons Emma Katene has gained despite her disability.

“I’m always moving forward, I will persist, I will always take another step, and if that is of no avail, I will take another and another.”


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Poetic, powerful, visceral, raw, gutsy and unmissable

Review by Lynda Chanwai-Earle 24th Feb 2023

Sneaky…! The lights dim, and that innocuous looking couch centre stage suddenly erupts to life! Present the entire time, still as the dead, Emma Katene (Ngāti Kahungunu) transforms the stage at BATS Theatre with her body, her voice, and the vibrancy of the living.

3 Steps Back is a poetic, powerful piece of physical and verbal theatre. At once a poignant lament, it’s also a fierce howl of rage about living with Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Katene is all generosity, raw courage and funky music!

So, what’s CFS? According to Health Navigator NZ, CFS is “a complex illness that affects many systems of your body, particularly the nervous and immune systems. People with CFS experience extreme tiredness that doesn’t go away with rest and can’t be explained by other causes.”

An estimated 16,000–20,000 people live with CFS in Aotearoa. Indiscriminate, CFS affects people no matter your age, ethnic and socio-economic group. However, women are more likely than men to develop this condition – “Wait, what?” demands Katene. “Why women?” Good question.

Graduate of Victoria University’s Theatre programme, 2020, and a lead actor of 2021’s Destination Mars at Te Papa, this talented performer was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue at the beginning of 2020. Katene spent two years “Mapping out her days while consistently being knocked back a peg.”

3 Steps Back is Billed as ‘performance poetry’ with the NZ Fringe Festival 2023, but Katene does more than just stand at a mic, and there’s nothing polite about this piece.

Within her deceptively simple set, Katene trajects her body from bed to couch, from mirror to shower. Katene shares her lived experience of being trapped within her home, and within CFS, with confronting intimacy and Kae Tempest-like lyricism.

An immediate, in-the-moment actor, Katene is electric to her fingertips. Employing audience engagement, we are at times her confidants, her best mates and her worst enemies. We become the public mirror in which she sees herself reflected, and she struggles to recognise that reflection. We are the public’s judgementalism towards people living with debilitating conditions like CFS.  

I witnessed one of my best mate’s struggle with CFS when she was diagnosed in the early 2000s. She’s an arts practitioner too. I witnessed her cycle of grief, rage and finally strength and peace that comes with acceptance. Back then a lot of ignorance and intolerance around CFS exacerbated her condition, hampering her pathway to healing.  

Katene reflects this cycle of grief and rage to strength and acceptance in 3 Steps Back. Cleverly crafted poetry is arrested by some savage and beautiful physical expression. Katene accompanies herself with her own soundscape, whilst belting out occasional popular songs (not her own compositions) with throaty defiance.

Katene is bittersweet funny as she sings, dances, screams and then woos with razor-sharp wit. Katene takes us on her very visceral journey towards understanding what living with CFS means.

The overall storyline feels subjective, non-linear (kinda like CFS) but 3 Steps Back leaves us wanting more and wanting to know how the hell Katene manages to recover after each exhausting performance.

When I ask, Katene’s reply is a stark reminder of the reality of CFS: “Haha! Calming down the brain is very hard! I tend to have to wind down slowly then a good sleep plan (often medication), then manage whatever symptoms I need to for the following days.”

All I can say is bravo! Please, keep taking us leaps forward with 3 Steps Back. If you want to see a raw, gutsy and unmissable performance, go and witness Katene’s extraordinary journey. It’s a short season. Don’t miss it!


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