Te Whaea National Dance and Drama Centre, 11 Hutchison Rd, Newtown, Wellington

12/02/2016 - 13/02/2016

BATS Theatre, The Heyday Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

18/05/2016 - 21/05/2016

Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

28/02/2017 - 03/03/2017

NZ Fringe Festival 2016 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Auckland Fringe 2017

Production Details


A lone woman talks, sings and dances her way through the triumphs and heartbreaks of looking for love on the road; to move forward you must often step back. 
Love and travel can turn you upside down and inside out. 
Art can sustain you but it can also send you mad.
She never knew what to expect and neither should you. 
She will paint the town, or paint herself. 
She will create a nuclear family or a nuclear bomb. 
She will dance as if no one is watching, or masturbate furiously knowing that they are. 
She will build a lover from scraps of cloth and then rip him apart to make herself a bed. 
She will be a tiny dot in a city of millions, and all at once a tower-crushing Godzilla. 

CASTLES is a cross-artform performance, combining contemporary dance, cabaret and absurdist theatre. In 2014 and 2015, Eliza Sander’s created and performed her solo work ‘Pedal.Peddle’ at Toi Whakari Centre for Dance and Drama, Wellington, and QL2 Dance, Canberra. CASTLES continues from the place that Eliza’s last solo, Pedal.Peddle left off, ‘The question of a Muse. A search for Home. An attempt to orgasm.’

This new work takes these same questions and investigates them through a new lens: a reiteration of old experiences, a layer of new ones, and a cogitation on the self as a work of art, shaped by experience. CASTLES is ambiguous, allowing the audience to interpret both text and movement as anything from a commentary on feminist ideas, to a trip into a psyche ward, to an allegory of birth and freedom. 
The text is a combination of semi-sensical ramblings, taken from movement rhythms and absurdist poetry. Sanders scores the piece with her own voice, switching between singing, talking, and play with animal sounds. The work incorporates live art and expressionistic installation-costume. The piece is a literal transformation of place and person through a variety of media: art, design, movement and the voice. 

While the work is movement based it also contains substantial text elements including original text as well as text and songs from various artists such as Regina Spector, Kate Bush, Nick Cave, Laura Marling and Alt J, Nicki Minaj.

May 18 & 20 at 7pm (alternating with PEDAL  on 17, 19, 21 May at 7pm)
45 mins

Performance installation , Multi-discipline , Dance , Contemporary dance ,

45 mins

Defying normal choreographic logic

Review by Raewyn Whyte 08th Mar 2017

A mercurial mix of constantly changing movement and text, image and association – this is the stuff from which Castles is made.

Produced by the Australian cross-disciplinary company House of Sand and well performed by Eliza Sanders, this is a show which defies any normal logic. It is immersive and engaging, and you have to admire Sanders’ performance, even while you are puzzling over what it all adds up to or whether it adds up to anything at all.

There are clearly demarcated sections marked by lighting and costume changes, and at various times, Sanders is accompanied by tracks from Alt-J, Opus 7 and Opus 28 by Dustin O’Halloran, and and Kate Bush. She manipulates patchworked fabric in several intriguing ways but that’s where standard theatricality ends and associative logic takes over.

Read the review



Make a comment

Schizophrenic, enigmatic and perplexing yet rivetting

Review by Carrie Rae Cunningham 01st Mar 2017

Entering the dark, cavernous theatre at The Basement, there is Eliza Sanders in black underwear undulating just inside the door.  As the audience sits down she continues to undulate, tying herself in all sorts of knots – a hopeful but seemingly hesitant contortionist.  She seems to be wrapping and unwrapping herself around herself.  I worry this is going to be another contemporary dance show full of contemporary dance (yawn).

But then she sings!  And she does much more.  Eliza proves me wrong about this being just another contemporary dance show (phew).  The movement vocabulary unwraps, unravels and undulates in the same way as her dialogue and her, um, costume/prop/friend/fill-in-the-blank.  Castles is schizophrenic, enigmatic and perplexing but absolutely riveting to experience.

Eliza is not only technically proficient as a dancer, but she has quite a way with words as well.  She sings God is in the House (Nick Cave), turning the lyrics of the chorus into a series of statements like a logic problem: God is in the House becomes God is in the Closet.  Her treatment of COUNTRY is equally as amusing.  Her Tourettes-like rendering of words, phrases, and noises complement the wildness in her dancing, delivering a stream of consciousness performance that oozes a glorious 45 minutes of reckless abandonment that is quite captivating.

She sings Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush (whom all gay men love, apparently) while deconstructing her patchwork prop/costume thing of sorts onto a clothesline strung across the stage to create a colourful web.  The web becomes another layer of the tangled beautiful mess of movement, dialogue, shouting, barking [mad], writhing, frothing, singing and pretty much everything else that explodes out of Eliza’s body, brain and mouth in a final (and impressive) show of stamina that brings together all the bits and pieces of this work in a pile that Eliza wraps around her (literally and otherwise).

She exits singing Ne Me Quitte Pas (“don’t forget me”).  We certainly won’t.  How could we?

Pedal / Peddle, the second part of Castles, is on for one night only at The Basement on 4 March – I highly recommend you see both works.



Make a comment


Review by Chris Jannides 20th May 2016

Eliza Sanders is the virtuoso maestro of performance versatility. She is a fun maker of work with no holds barred. She will take clothes off. She will put clothes on. She will dance. She is a contortionist. She will stand on her head and talk to us. She will sing story songs and recite poetry, both of which are crammed with an overabundance of words, word play, niceties, not-niceties, images, pop-jazz-folk-rock lyrics and appropriations, and slice-of-life mayhem. She will gender-fleck (I don’t know what that means, but I like the sound of it) and queer-orise (I made that up because it resonates with theorise). She will hybridise herself as an Aussie-Jewish-New York-erite of highy mobile and mercurial intelligence and sharp witticisms and observations. She will transform a clothesline into an oversized Joseph’s Technicoloured Dreamcoat spider’s web for an alien monster. She will bark furiously like a dog straining on its lead. She will throw herself around with wild abandon. She will charm and smile as she projects verbal barbs and clevernesses that evoke laughter because of the way she delivers them but whose content is really not that funny. She will wonder if God is in the present vicinity and hope that if he is in hiding he might come out, particularly if he’s in a closet. She will prance, preen, high kick, tumble, roll, splat, exhaust herself, run out of breath audibly and ultimately pull out every dance move and intricate high speed gestural hand and arm movement that she can think of. This is for us, but it is of her.  It is the artful histrionics of solo display. It is a platform for a big talent, a boundless imagination and an energy of force and confidence. She will genre-defy. Clearly a dancer – and to this shrine she bows with mandatory pure dance moments redolent with hinted-at meaning and physico-emotive fluidity that are respectfully choreographed to gentle piano music – but with so many other performative layers added that this first language of her training and background becomes swamped. There is so much to take in that it is hard to summarise or absorb critically. 

This is the second time I’ve seen this solo, the first being in one of the studios at Toi Whakaari Drama School. It is interesting seeing it in a ‘theatre’. I’m not sure how effective the transfer is or how well this piece sits in the slightly more formal setting of BATS to an audience that mixes friends and colleagues with general public. There was an intensity of effort in Eliza’s more public circumstance that was missing in the slightly less pressured environment of a school.

I also found myself wondering more about the link between movement and language. Language, even when it’s poetic, absurd or illogical in its juxtapositions and associations, carries a literalness of meaning in each word unit that can’t be removed. When married to intricate movement there is an implied connection of understanding between the word and its associated gesture. The result is pantomimed language. Except the abstracted dance gestures, which don’t go all the way into the literalness of pure mime, thereby remain meaningless. Although the meanings of the spoken words or phrases are infused into the accompanying choreography, this only highlights movement’s inability to communicate even more, given the addition of outside verbal assistance. I’ve seen this device used often in dance. Lloyd Newson, the director of UK’s DV8, does it frequently and is a master of this word-movement marriage style of work. I am often left wondering if the movement is extraneous or if it’s drawing greater attention to the verbal content and its delivery? Similarly, I wonder if the words help us view the movement in a uniquely different way. Sometimes it simply looks like a case of ‘look what I can do’. I have no answers, but I enjoy having work like this raise these questions.

A stand-out aspect for me, outside the stream-of-consciousness barrage, is the clarity and interest of the various visual images that Eliza creates. I find these more memorable and easier to retain than the numerous thematic threads that make up the complex word and poetry-driven dimension of the work. Many of these visual images are formed by a cleverly constructed mass of multicoloured cloth that morphs and changes in size and function in surprising ways. The giant cobweb I’ve already mentioned. I really enjoy its transformation into a ballroom dance partner where it becomes a kind of Jungian shadow-other through its attachment to Eliza’s heels, just like real shadows do. My thoughts shoot off in a crazy lateral direction here. I see a human dancing with a placenta-like double, its first soul-mate in the womb. An umbilical association is evoked by the thread-like stretching of the material along the ground to which she remains attached. The German philosopher, Peter Sloterdijk, has made much of this first embryonic relationship between child and placenta, theorising that our desire for close companionship in life is a way to re-establish this deep-seated first intimacy. My appreciation for Sloterdijk and his speculations are evoked in this kinetic moment of engagement with Eliza and her cloth double, giving testimony to the power and purpose of theatre art, and to the work of this young deep-thinking artist.

I have to say, however, I really don’t know what the game is that Eliza is setting up with her audience. The work involves direct address. She talks to us and at us all the way through. She makes us complicit but the ever-changing verbosity and musical-style singing mode keep us out. Audience members respond readily to the more obvious provocations, witticisms, sexual references/innuendos and popular song references, almost from relief, but between these moments I, for one, find myself dislocated and distanced. There is the over-the-top facade of entertainment, but this work is ugly and aggressive. Towards the end, we are seemingly invited to respond to a question regarding an odd-one-out pattern of three. Our lack of ability to reply produces dejection and Eliza immediately cocoons herself in fabric before disappearing into darkness through the seated cocoon of us. Comfort, connection, loneliness, desertion, plaintive, abusive, confrontational, messed up, unfixed. Nice frequently, and bitter too. Castles has a quality of personal buried under camouflage. It is sweet, laced heavily with sour. 


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council