An Exploration of Moby Dick through Shanty

Breaker Bay Hall, 150 Breaker Bay Road, Seatoun, Wellington

16/04/2021 - 17/04/2021

Production Details

Sail ashore for a salty singalong with the W.S.S.S at their barnacled barn in Breaker Bay! Brace the mainsails for more rousing renditions of your favourite shanties, but this time interspersed with tempestuous tales of Ishmael, Ahab and THE WHALE.  

Moby Dick is to be read aloud. There are things in it that simply have to be heard – Orson Welles. 

New Zealand’s Most ‘Sea Worthy’ Shanty Group™ have been belting out traditional and original sea songs from Aotearoa, France, Spain, the UK and more, since time immemorial (2012). They have recently been featured in The Guardian (!), The Spinoff, The Wall Street Journal (Why?), The Project (it’s a primetime tv show), and all over the bloody internet.

Sailors and landlubbers from across the country have been battered by the rousing chorus of this 2-man tempest of pure shanty. The W.S.S.S believe that ‘a shanty shared is a shanty savoured’, so they pass out shanty song sheets to one and all so people can sing along.

The W.S.S.S have toured New Zealand and France multiple times and are known for their raucous and participatory live shows. They have performed at Paimpol (one of the world’s largest shanty festivals), Splore, and a number of other festivals in NZ and France. They’ve released 3 albums: Now That’s What I Call Sea Shanties Vol I, Now That’s What I Call Sea Shanties Vol II, and, Ahoy! – a French/English album made with our French friends Croche Dedans.

The W.S.S.S comprise Vorn Dont le Père Etait Marin and Lake Davineer. Vorn is on squeeze box duties, while Lake strums the git-fiddle. Rousing harmonies and raucous foot-stomping abound!

This show will feature the full 4-person squall with drums and fiddle! + Storyteller extraordinaire Louis Tait.

Breaker Bay Community Hall, 150 Breaker Bay Road, Breaker Bay
Friday 16 & Saturday 17 April, 2021
7 pm
Buy Tickets [SOLD OUT] 

Theatre , Musical ,

2 hrs

A magic night of story and song

Review by Maryanne Cathro 17th Apr 2021

I arrive at the Breaker Bay Hall in plenty of time, unsure of parking (there’s heaps) and I’m not the only one. What an amazing wee space. The stage featuring a mural of the bay itself is the focal point, its blues and green glowing in the pre-set lights.

Having been handed a booklet of lyrics to shanties, we grab seats around the edge – and as people seem to pour in, they grab seats and fill in the gaps, but there’s a definite dance area left empty. It’s all very casual, with the added delight of people dressed as sailors in striped tops and white hats, pirate hats and newspaper hats, and even life jackets! It’s like they know what is about to happen! By the time the show begins it is standing room only.

As the band takes to the stage, plugging things in and setting up, the door to the side of the stage opens and a spotlight falls upon storyteller Louis Tait. Microphone in hand he starts to weave a tale of the sea, to riffs of music from the band. These spoken word interludes appear throughout the show and give it an extra level of drama and delight.  

Back to those booklets of lyrics – this whole show is a sing along and it is with great enthusiasm that the first shanty begins and the audience sings and stomps and laughs.

It’s hard to describe the impact of stadium concert level audience euphoria in a small community hall, yet that is what it is. Bopping bodies, bathed in coloured light, so into the music, which is just fantastic in every way. The dance area is more like an ecstatic mosh pit.

What is it about shanties? They came out of shared singing and so they lend themselves to this, I guess. But what Vorn Dont le Père Etait Marin and Lake Davineer bring to these songs is a thoroughly modern, old-fashioned sense of fun and magic.

I am reserving specific comment for the currently most famous shanty in their repertoire, ‘The Wellerman’. They put this Kiwi shanty back on the musical map, but a Scottish postie turned it into a TikTok sensation during 2020. It is magnetic for a reason – dark minor chords and a driving beat that are compelling even by shanty standards. The crowd goes wild! The stomping probably puts the hall onto Geonet. I would not have been surprised if a giant cracken had appeared and body-surfed the crowd.

All in all, a magic night of story and song!


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council
Waiematā Local Board logo