A Love Tail

BATS Theatre, Wellington

23/02/2010 - 03/03/2010

NZ Fringe Festival 2010

Production Details

“Two different creatures – who’ve never listened to teachers – end up side-by-side and in jail”

Can we choose who we fall in love with? Is it written in the stars? Is it a cruel joke that the Gods made up one day when it was raining?

Jezebel, is a pissed off pussy-cat with a death wish for the human race. She is caught by authorities ‘cleaning up our world’, taking-out one human at a time, and hurled into captivity under the charges of crimes against humanity. On her first night she meets a stranger’s voice through a hole in the wall; Rob-Roy. He serves his time for ‘accidental’ murder – crimes of ‘passion’ – he has killed and will kill again. But in his heart of hearts he is a good Mutt. He is glad to have someone to sing to. She is glad to have someone to plan with.

Told through the eyes of a Cat and a Dog, A Love Tail pokes holes in what we humans call ‘Love’ but it is probably just animal instinct. 

A Love Tail is an old, familiar story of two lovers that can never be. One is a feline the other a hound, they fall into an unfortunate love…

Spotted with peculiar rhymes and new music A Love Tail is sure to delight and intrigue even the most cynical of souls.

23rd February – 3rd March 6.30pm.
BATS THEATRE 1 Kent Terrace
book@bats.co.nz (04) 802 4175  

Aroha White: Jezebel
Matariki Whatarau: Rob-Roy

Near perfect

Review by Lynn Freeman 03rd Mar 2010

Wow, pick of the Fringe so far for this critic is A Love Tail written and performed by Toi Whakaari grads Aroha White and Matariki Whatarau with director/co-writer Kate McGill.

It’s not only a new twist on star-crossed lovers but it turns the Romeo and Juliet
doomed love story on its head. A Love Tail is set in an animal correction centre and the two “flea-ridden” inmates strike up a friendship which goes deeper.

White is a ball of muscular energy as Jezebel the feline terrorist, while Whatarau plays Rob the Dog with a winning mix of attitude and gentleness. While Jez rails against her incarceration, Rob is resigned to his fate – one hinted at by Thomas Press’ chilling soundscape.

McGill’s direction is spot on in this thought provoking, near perfect hour long play.


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Winning performances

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 25th Feb 2010

A devised oddity at Bats this week, about a cat and a dog, who represent the human male and female, in an hour-long vehicle, so the programme states, “for looking at societies’ conventions through a light hearted tale”.

Somerset Maugham once wrote that in a story, as in a play, you must make up your mind what your point is and stick to it like grim death. If the devisers of A Love Tail had stuck to the point it could have been made in half the time; the point being that sometimes appearances can change everything whether you’re a Christian or a Muslim, Romeo or Juliet or a cat and a dog.

Jezebel Black (Aroha White) is thrown into an animal correction centre in a cell next to Rob the Dog (Matariki Whatarau), who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and has been inside for 14 dog years. With feline (read feminine) ingenuity Jezebel devises a Heath Robinson-like structure from wool, rubber piping and spokes of an umbrella attached to the electricity supply to blow their way to freedom. Rob does his bit to help but is really just an amiable, incompetent male.

What saves the day are the winning performances of White and Whatarau who have stage presences that most actors would die for. The production is also greatly assisted by Thomas Press’s lighting and sound design that conjure up totalitarian terror most effectively. 


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Skilfully co-ordinated creativity

Review by John Smythe 24th Feb 2010

Devised theatre can achieve excellence and A Love Tail proves it. Inspired – along with thousands of other stories – by Romeo and Juliet’s ‘star-crossed lovers’, this puts a twist in the tale by inverting it: we know long before they do each is not what the other thinks. And in the end …

Two pet cages downstage centre offer the first clue. A prisoner – Rob – vegetates on one side of the stage as we take our seats. The programme tells us the setting is an animal correction centre. He swipes clumsily at his guitar. A protesting female – Jezebel Black – is flung into the other side of the stage. It soon becomes apparent that they are in adjoining cells, they can’t see each other and he is a dog while she is a cat.

Matariki Whatarau’s institutionalised Rob – he’s been incarcerated for 14 dog years, the programme tells us, for being in the wrong place at the wrong time – is excited to realise his neighbour is female. Aroha White’s Jezebel is only interested in escape. She is a specialist in ‘bomb construction, deconstruction and removal’, according to the programme – something she mutters obsessively when she’s first imprisoned – and her goal is to find and utilise the wherewithal to regain her freedom.

The script could take some time to reveal more of their back stories and more clearly establish the rules of this universe – e.g. that the guards can’t understand them so it’s OK for them to shout secret stuff to each other through the invisible wall. Plays cannot rely on programme notes to be fully understood or appreciated.

Jezebel soon gets to know Rob well enough to include him in her plan and, in the process of pursuing their project, they grow close … One of many special moments, close to the end, sees them face-to-face in loving, empathetic intimacy on either side of the wall …

Given the anthropomorphic convention that informs this dramatisation – which also plays on the premise that humans are animals in essence; that females are cats while males are dogs – it is fair enough that the mechanism Jezebel masterminds and builds, with Rob helping according to her instructions, is highly abstract in its form.

The balance between human and feline/canine characteristics is splendidly explored in the actors’ physicality and vocalisations. All the way through we get telling – or should I say showing – glimpses of people and pets that bring a strange familiarity to these surreal characters in this extraordinary situation.

The excellent sound design by Thomas Press adds a great deal, along with his lighting design, to the mood and feel of the piece, in the sparsely effective set design by Ian Hammond and Richard Larsen. The eerie sound that represents the system that has Jezebel and Rob incarcerated is truly freaky and the explosion is brilliant. It is here that the convoluted contraption comes into its own, as a visual representation of something a literal set could never achieve (without a massive budget).

Director Kate McGill has co-ordinated all the creative elements with great skill and a deft touch when it comes to finding the balance between over- and under-stating (my gripe above notwithstanding).

The final moment is fantastic, distilling the essence of its premise and leaving us with something of substance to chew on. It is a thrill to see work made by recent graduates of Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School that makes the most of all the skills they have developed. That will be talents to watch.


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