A Tart on Tour

Q Theatre, The Vault, Auckland

14/02/2023 - 18/02/2023

Basement Theatre Studio, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

18/04/2023 - 22/04/2023

BATS Theatre, Studio, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

13/09/2023 - 16/09/2023

TAHI Festival 2023

Production Details

Andrea Kelland - Writer, Producer, Performer
Paul Sonne - Co Writer
Directors - Alison Quigan and Tom Sainsbury

Produced by Art Casting

A one woman show starring Andrea Kelland, opens at Vault Q Theatre, .From Tuesday 14th to Sat 18th Feb 2023.

A History of Andrea’s Touring in theatre from 1969 to 1996. Talented, and with wild dreams of becoming a famous Mime Artist, Andrea struggles with her quest for the Ultimate Good Time colliding with her ambitions. Spanning nearly 30 years and with geographicals from Taumarunui, Auckland, Sydney, Paris and London, this hour long show will keep audiences guessing.

Vault – Q Theatre – Feb 14th to Feb 18th 2023
6.15 pm
Book at Summer at Q.
$29.00 Adults
$25.00 – Students, Seniors, Equity

Basement Studio, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland
18 – 22 April 2023

As part of the TAHI Festival 2023
BATS Studio, 13 – 16 September 2023

Theatre , Solo ,

50 mins

A testament to her skills, resilience and capacity to survive where others have not

Review by John Smythe 14th Sep 2023

By the time Andrea Kelland, the eponymous ‘Tart’ of A Tart on Tour, has shared her experiences as a touring thespian from 1969 to 1996 – leaving Taumarunui to ply her passion in Auckland and around the North Island, then on to Sydney, Paris and London – we have to count it as a minor miracle that she is alive, let alone as healthy, self-aware, articulate, talented and entertaining as the hour just past proves her to be.

In classical style she starts with a non-verbal ‘dumb show’ that, I assume, lightly traverses the emotional tour she is about to take us on. Her first and last words – “Can you see me?” – reminded me of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead in which death comes down to, “Now you see me, now you – ”. Yes, we see her. And by the end we really see her for who she has been and who she is now.

The innocence of Andrea’s fantasising about becoming the first female ‘Marcel Marceau’ is only temporarily derailed when, as an Auckland teenager already acquainted with weed, she has to endure the family’s move to Taumaranui. The local Repertory offers a lifeline, albeit with sexy farces supposedly espousing liberation. That’s my opinion, by the way – Andrea doesn’t editorialise. She just tells it how it was, holding true to how she thought and felt at every point of time in the journey, and leaving us to wrestle with our moral dilemmas and pass judgement, if we are so inclined.  

Financially sustained by selling Buddha Sticks, Andrea becomes assimilated into the small town culture. The aftermath of a riotous rugby party becomes the traumatic turning point that launches her escape back to Auckland, into the exciting but erratic world of professional theatre and off on the next of the many learning curves she will scale, slip from and scale again.

Schools tours, Primary then Secondary, get her career on track but her insatiable quest for the next Ultimate Good Time (UGT) keeps threatening derailment – especially when she hops the ditch to Sydney. More schools touring, a box office job, adult theatre at last – albeit in Penrith – Street Theatre and Stripping run parallel to the persistent quest for the UGT.

Now I’m reminded of Hamlet’s awareness of “The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks / That flesh is heir to”. The entertainment factor of her fallibly human and often funny experiences cannot help but be offset by wondering what hurt she is trying to medicate.

Paris brings the potential realisation of her dream: entry into the Jacques Le Coq mime school! That learning curve is steep. Consigned to the back of the class, a magic moment involving a neutral mask, exquisitely deployed, is all-too-brief. The perhaps inevitable fall takes Andrea’s other quest to the next level. Here we see the paradox of how seeking the high can take us low. Yet Europe’s alternative theatre scene can always offer performing gigs – and there are strategies for overcoming visa restrictions that enterprising artistes can always employ.

An unexpected twist brings Andrea back to New Zealand, where solo motherhood might provoke a change of direction. Mercury Theatre – in the time of Jonathan Hardy and Jan Prettejohns – offers work and feminist theatre is embraced. And more slings and arrows, self-inflicted, provoke the wake-up call that has allowed Andrea to create this show and take it on the road a quarter of a century later.

The deceptive ease with which Andrea relives those liberating and libertine years of living dangerously, seamlessly morphing in and out of countless deftly drawn characters, attests to her skills as a storyteller and actor, her admirable resilience and her capacity to survive where others have not.


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A quirky personal show about courage, love and bad decisions

Review by Lexie Matheson ONZM 20th Apr 2023

I’m reminded of the words of the inimitable Sir Donald Wolfit as I trudge up the stairs to The Basement Studio. He is reported to have said, “I used to be a tour de force. Now I’m forced to tour.”

I’ve always loved that phrase because, being an old hoofer, I’ve done my share of ‘smalls’ in the provinces and touring is in my DNA, so this elderly agony, engaged step after step, up the stairs, is worth all the effort I need to expend to get to the top.

Why? Because I’m going to see – experience – the work of Andrea Kelland, a favourite, from what seems like a thousand years, and many lives, ago. You see, our paths have unwound ahead of us, and almost touched on so many occasions, and rarely does the theatre provide any of us with such a narcissistic opportunity.

I doubt Kelland knows any of this, but I do, and this bit is shamelessly about me.

Kelland was a young actor at Theatre Corporate when I started out. I began my journey there too, only a couple of years behind her. She and the late Caroline Claver were my fairy heroes, not that I was telling anyone that then.

Many of Kelland’s memories ring absolutely true and my memory is jolted by similar reminiscences … But I get ahead of myself as is my wont.

Loads of my experiences at The Basement have been fun and filled with the laughter of recognition, and this before I even get into the performance space. Actors are, after all, actors wherever they are in the world and The Basement is no different. This, sadly, is not one of those fun occasions. I had booked an extra ticket to take an additional guest – Kelland has pulling power – so arrived in plenty of time to pick it up, but there is no one at the box office during the twenty minutes I wait to hand my money over. Sure, the young things at the bar exude a greater degree of fascination than I do these days – but, at the end of the day I have the keyboard so here goes.

Kelland is the client, and she has been let down and that’s not good enough. I have no doubt Kelland will earn every cent of the ticket price and she deserves to have my money. Once I finally get to the top of the stairs, the young man on the door could not have been less interested in his customers. He is rude and perfunctory, so I think some sort of FoH training might be in order.

The wee programme reads like a Who’s Who of my life: Alison Quigan (big hugs on the way in and more on the way out), clever Tom Sainsbury, the delicious Paul Sonne, Derek Ward, John ‘Gibby’ Gibson, David Mahon, the late Dean Parker, and a cast otherwise too numerous to mention. 

I do wonder about Kelland. I needn’t have. From a cheeky first entrance to exiting after more than a few curtain calls, what I see is an artist in her prime and in control. This should not be the case, I muse. Her joints should be like mine, arthritic, her hips and knees should have begun to crumble just as mine have done, she should have her orthopaedic surgeon on speed dial as I have (Hi Andrew) but there is no evidence that any of this is the case, and it pleases me immensely.

So, to the show.  

We meet her mother, and we don’t like her very much. Towards the end of the piece, we meet her again, and she is as monumentally unattractive then as she was at the beginning. We are so impacted by those who shape our early years.

An unwelcome shift sees her relocate to Taumarunui and, while we have already warmed to Kelland, we don’t feel the same about the capital of the King Country even if it is ‘on the main trunk line’.

When you have the opportunity to see A Tart on Tour – and I hope you will – please be prepared, as this section is heart-rending and not at all fun. The acting is understated but the narrative is not and having lived for some years in the world she is revisiting – Taumarunui in the ’70s, bloke central, shearers, rousies, farm workers – I find myself getting inordinately angry. Kelland transcends her material however and we move on.

These are extraordinary moments of rare theatrical quality: Kelland’s Ophelia audition is sublime, as are all her references to that 70s hit Boeing Boeing. There are moments that, having ‘been there done that’, are a form of exquisite agony.

‘Story Theatre’ and ‘TIE’ (Theatre In Education) provided wonderful opportunities for a few of us to really learn our craft. I recall watching Kelland in TIE and being absolutely blown away by her talent.

We learn more than what ‘Story Theatre’ and ‘TIE’, taught us, of course, because there were the parties, the drinking (casks of Babich’s dry red) and tarting ourselves around. Buy me a drink and I’ll spill the beans about being back in Taumarunui, how that turned into a day with Bob Marley, and the making of a sweet memory that I will take to the grave.

We were, of course, given this exquisite opportunity by a man who certainly earned the right to call us tarts and, here we are fifty years later, still celebrating this. Kelland relates an occasion when she was called the ‘C’ word, and this was not unusual. Now it’s everyday parlance but it wasn’t back then.

There are memories of the Mercury, and a tantalising snatch of her Mary Ann Sailors from Dylan Thomas’ Under Milkwood, as touchingly beautiful today as it was when I first saw it all those years ago. Sailors is deeply religious and believes that Milkwood is the Garden of Eden. My memory of Kelland delivering the simple phrase “the old man playing the harmonium” is enough to bring tears to the eyes.

Then there’s the stories of the giant koala, which cracks me up in a way that seldom happens, a car crash that doesn’t, the narrative of the boy with magic hands, brief snippets of Jonathan Hardy, Jan Prettejons, and a subtle but powerful impersonation of an iconic trade unionist from the 1930s until his death in 1963, Fintan Patrick Walsh. The hat does it for me.

Then it is time for the watershed that was Vita and Virginia – and bingo, another production I love despite initially not wanting to go. It changed everything for Kelland. And now, in the blink of an eye, the evening is almost over. 

So, what is it – apart from a quirky personal story featuring a wonderfully talented actor? Well, it’s a unique track through our theatre history that’s immensely important. We need more of them. If the arts in Aotearoa are a national park, stories like this are the tracks that criss-cross the landscape giving us an intersecting network of pathways to the past, no two tracks the same. Kelland Track has great signposts and you’re welcome to wander wherever you wish.

It’s a show about courage, love and bad decisions. It has exceptional moments, a wee 10-minute flat patch (it might have been me) and is beautifully structured. It winds up as it should, how it should, and when it should.

“My name is Andrea, and I am an addict. I have been clean and sober for 27 years.” Hearing this is like a bash in the chest with the blunt end of a fence post, a reminder of all those dark places I’ve been pretending I never went to, yet I know I did. Who can deny six months of cold turkey at Lake Alice? I tried, but I don’t anymore. I wear it like a badge.

Andrea’s story makes me inordinately happy. Why? Because I am Lexie, and I am an addict. I have been clean and sober for 47 years. In 1976, the theatre and its people – Kelland was one of them but it seems she didn’t get the message at the time – saved my life.

I’m proud of her, of us, of ‘Frederick’, Jonathan, all the Paul’s, Jan, Deb, a brace of David’s, my old new mate Chris, of Jude, Erin, Linda, Gill, Kelly, Cliff, Peter and Peter and Peter, École Internationale de théâtre Jacques Lecoq, Rangimoana, Johnny, and a cast full of equally tasty tarts, some met on tour, who are just too, too sweet to mention.  

Because what happens on tour, stays on tour. Thanks, Andrea, for this raw and bloody trip down memory lane, a stumbling, bumbling lurch into a past that I wouldn’t change a single second of for all the fame and riches in the world. Forced to tour? I’d go tomorrow – or as soon as I’ve scratched out these wretched and inadequate words of praise.


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