BATS Theatre, Wellington

17/02/2010 - 21/02/2010

Downstage Theatre, Wellington

18/03/2010 - 27/03/2010

NZ Fringe Festival 2010

Production Details

Bare Hunt Collective

18 – 27 March, 7pm
Downstage Theatre.

Candid, revealing, funny and completely human: storytelling at its most direct.

How awkward was your first kiss? When was the last time you experienced a death? Have you ever had to tell someone for the first time that you were gay?

They say everyone has a story to tell – and we’re telling them.

Bare Hunt Collective brings you back/words, a new piece of documentary theatre.

Five of Wellington’s freshest acting talent have gone out into the community to interview a range of Wellington individuals – everyone from an eight year old girl, to an elderly couple, to a young gay man.

Their stories have been recorded on film, and will be acted out on stage – word for word. Every movement of the person, every voice quirk, every shifty sideways glance, will be acted out. Honest words, from real people.

And if you thought it was hard enough to act out the lives and stories of real people, we’ll have their voices in our ears. Using iPods while on stage, we’ll be reminded exactly how they told the story.

back/words is a unique form of theatre, and is a performance that shouldn’t be missed. Check out the fantastic new show at
BATS Theatre
17th-21st February
8pm part
Book at BATS on 802 4175 or email
Ticket Prices: Full: $16, Concession: $13, Fringe Addict card: $12
Part of the New Zealand Fringe Festival, thanks to Creative NZ.


Jackie Shaw

- Young Woman on couch

- Young Mother

- Middle Aged Woman

Catherine Wright

- Little Girl

-Young Woman with scarf

- Gay Man

Victoria Abbott

- Young Woman on cushion

- Young Man (standing)

- Grandmother

Chris Dawson

- Irish Girl

- South African Man

- Grandfather

Scott Ransom

- Little Boy

- Irish Girl

- Young Man (Seated)

- Middle Aged Man

Producers - Victoria Abbott, Jackie Shaw & Catherine Wright

Production Manager/Stage Manager- Sophie Dowson

Dramaturg- Leonie Reynolds

Lighting Designer/Operator- Sarah Ransom

Technical Editor- Caleb Carr

Poster Design- Gordon Minns

Theatre , Community-based theatre , Verbatim ,

Intriguing, humorous, moving

Review by Hannah Smith 19th Mar 2010

[DOWNSTAGE Pick of the Fringe Season #1]

I have never been to a piece of verbatim theatre before – it is a term I have heard used, but I could not go so far as to say I am familiar with – and for this reason at the very least back/words is an intriguing piece of theatre and a worthy inclusion in the Pick of the Fringe.

For the benefit of those, like me, ignorant of the finer points of the concept, it is this: interviews are obtained with real people who share stories of their lives. The actors then perform these stories in the precise words and speech patterns of the interviewees. 

This is a challenge to performers – not to create a character of their own, but to accurately replicate one that already exists – and an attempt to achieve a greater authority or ‘truth’ by using real words and real voices. In back/words the challenge is extended further by the performers wearing iPods, they listen to the recorded interviews and perform them simultaneously.

So far, so fascinating. And back/words is fascinating. The Bare Hunt Collective have gathered stories from sixteen characters, based loosely around the provocation ‘first and last times’, and edited them into an hour long script in which the five performers (Jackie Shaw, Catherine Wright, Victoria Abbott, Chris Dawson and Scott Ransom) directly address the audience.

They confess moments of love, truth and sorrow in a series of vignettes that are intriguing, humorous, and really quite moving.

There is a lot that is successful about this piece, and a lot that is less successful. The script edit is done well and we never linger with a character long enough to tire of them. The performances are a mixed bag, with the men more watchable and likeable than the women. The staging is extremely filmic, and works by and large, though the transitions from couch to chair to table do become wearisome after a while.

The chief problem is that the subject matter is far too various, and does not form a coherent whole. There is no overarching trajectory. It seems to me these stories, whilst absorbing, are not enough to make a play. The interviews need to be tied to a specific historical event or subject – like a documentary film, documentary theatre needs to be about something. 

As it is this piece is about the process, rather than the work itself. This is further highlighted by a half hour question and answer session that follows the show. Rather then letting the play stand on its’ own legs as what it is, we are explicitly asked to consider it in the light of how it is made. Furthermore, the forum is not optional – something that I think could be reconsidered – and much of the information covered could easily be included in the program or a display in the foyer, rather than teased out at length. 

These things aside, this is an unusual and interesting piece of work, one that I happily recommend, and I cannot wait to see what The Bare Hunt Collective will do next.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


John Smythe March 19th, 2010

In the brief on-stage introduction to Back/Words I think it should be said that the interviewees were asked to talk about 'a first time' and 'a last time'. This would give the audience a handle on the snippets it starts with and give them access to what connects the diverse stories as they unfold.

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Absolutely worth it

Review by Lynn Freeman 24th Feb 2010

Back/words is documentary/verbatim theatre which is nothing new but I find always fascinating. Everyone has stories worth hearing and the 13 people who shared their stories with the cast, and through them to us, certainly did have experiences worth hearing about.

The actors use i-pods so they can replicate the breathing and words of the people. Personally I find this annoying and unnecessary, disturbing the flow to the action. The five actors are terrific in all their roles, canvassing children through to grandparents.

The structure is built around significant moments in life moments – childhood, adolescence, first sexual experiences, death etc. The problem is, with 13 different characters who sometimes say little more than a line or two, and each actor playing both genders, it is confusing at times.

But absolutely worth it.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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Honesty and depth of feeling

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 19th Feb 2010

Even more innovative and unusual [than Who’s Neat? You!] is Back/Words, currently playing at Bats. An exercise in verbatim theatre – replicating another person’s speech and action exactly word for word – it is just as the title suggests, relating back to the audience words from interviews they have conducted previously. 

The cast of Jackie Shaw, Caroline Wright, Victoria Abbott, Chris Dawson and Scott Ransom interviewed 13 people about their “first and last times” which were then edited into a 50 minute show. This five actors on stage then listen through Ipods and repeat to the audience exactly what they are hearing, pauses, stumbles and all. 

Fascinating and intriguing, the pieces ranged from hilarious to incredibly emotional covering such topics as first time at kindergarten, first kiss, first sexual experience, first time standing up for oneself against an abusive step-father, first encounter with death.  

Speaking directly to the audience the actors rarely interact yet they create a great sense of ensemble playing and although it may not be considered conventional theatre, the honesty and depth of feeling they bring to the piece and their ability to portray the personae of each of the interviewees makes this compelling theatre.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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Distilled, focused and very engaging

Review by John Smythe 18th Feb 2010

Bats bragged too early (to friends on its emailing list) about not having seen a couch brought in yet, but fear not: this is not a play set in a flat. The couch, some chairs and a couple of tables suggest the locales for a range of interviews – or snippets of them – being recreated in theme-connected segments.

It is a form of ‘verbatim’ and ‘playback’ theatre that literally involves the five ear-plugged actors playing back – to themselves – fragments of interviews on their i-pods and simultaneously recreating the words, syntax, rhythms and accents of their 16 interviewees.

The request was for them to talk about their ‘first and last times’. Thus we get glimpses of memorable moments in the lives of three young women, two young men, two Irish girls, a young mother, a little girl, a little boy, a middle-aged woman, a middle-aged man, a gay man, a grandmother and a grandfather, variously evoked by Jackie Shaw, Catherine Wright, Victoria Abbott, Chris Dawson and Scott Ransom.

Back/words becomes a fascinating study in how subtly and authentically character and relationships (some speak in couples) can be evoked, given the actors’ skill in ‘becoming’ the people whose speech patterns they are recreating. The only drawback is that some sometimes speak softly, fast and/or indistinctly; probably fine on mic and in the ear but not so good for us in the theatre. But that only happens very occasionally (with the little girl and boy, mostly).

A wide range of mostly ‘first time’ experiences are covered, including first days at kindergarten, schoolyard friendships and ‘wars’, drinking, kissing, having sex, declaring gayness, dealing with death, coping with step-parents (two very contrasting stories), first dates, feeling love, getting cheated on, having children, public humiliation and getting a handle on who you really are.  

Much is tantalisingly brief and I often wish we could spend more time with some of them and find out more, but –tip-of-the-iceberg-storytelling has its own charm and qualities, and it’s better to be left wanting more than stuck wanting less.  

When such fleeting insights into human experience are so often explored and expressed in hyper-upbeat comedy and improv shows, the subtly distilled and focused nature of this performance style – which nevertheless recreates the full spectrum of emotional states through many ages and stages – is especially welcome and very engaging.

PS: While the promo image for this show is captivating, it has little to do with its form, style or content.  
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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