Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

02/03/2011 - 06/03/2011

BATS Theatre, Wellington

23/08/2011 - 27/08/2011

Auckland Fringe 2011

Production Details

The makers of the hugely successful 2009 Auckland Fringe hit Ruby Tuesday present the residents and associates of Shady Meadows Retirement Home. Dentures, dominoes, catheters and crime. Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.

"Up-and-coming performers…whose humorous and detailed character sketches [are] fantastic." – NZ Herald.

VENUE: The Basement
TIME: 7pm
DATES: Wed 2 – Sun 6 March
TICKETS: Adult $16, Conc $13, Child $13
BOOKING: (09) 361 1000    

BATS Season
Tuesday 23rd August Saturday 27th August 2011 
Time:  6.30pm 
Price:  $18 Full / $13 Concession 
Length:  1hr min 


Urine and boiled cabbage

Review by Lynn Freeman 01st Sep 2011

Isla Adamson and Josephine Stewart-Tewhiu are an impressive double act. What is so delicious about them is their genius at storytelling and their keen observational skills, allowing them to bring us people we can recognise and relate to on stage. Both actors are masterful at changing characters in less than the blink of an eye, so we get, in this case, a whole resthome full of inmates, visitors and staff.  

Resthomes offer wonderful potential drama and let’s face it, most of us are going to end up in one, voluntarily or not. In Chalk, we have some residents of Shady Meadows desperate to break out, some on death’s door, some hounded by money grubbing relations and others feeling dumped and forgotten.

With a minimum of props, Stewart-Tewhiu and Adamson take us inside the home, you can just about smell the urine and boiled cabbage, and you can certainly sense the frustration and helplessness. But not all is lost, some of the residents hold on to their spirit and their memories, and Chalk reminds us our elders are have much to teach us.

Abigail Greenwood’s direction is spot on, and there are exquisite touches where puppetry and music are used to enhance an already unforgettable night at the theatre. 
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A comical and never cruel take on age

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 25th Aug 2011

The action of Chalk is confined to a large square marked out in chalk on the black Bats stage. Within the square are two chairs and a few props including a ukulele which one wouldn’t expect to find in a rest home called Shady Meadows.

But then Chalk is made up of a lot of unlikely things that take one very pleasantly by surprise considering it covers the well-trodden ground of old age. It starts with two young performers, still in their 20s, performing ‘old’ (shaky hands, doddery walk) and then they start an arthritic soft shoe shuffle that is funny, touching and never cruel.

Suddenly Isla Adamson and Josephine Stewart-Tewhiu morph into Clint and Karen, two workers at the home, one interested in branding with a stamp the address of Shady Meadows on the arms of the inmates with dementia and the other with her sex life and chatting to the old dears. Then they morph into the fragile old dears as well as their visitors and families.

There’s Hemi who comes to visit his nan who has her bag packed as she thinks he’s going to take her home, there are the relatives who appear only when they are short of cash, there’s the interminable watching of TV (one is in love with Dr. Phil) and then there’s the rest home’s relentless routines, and there’s no escape. Or maybe there is a way out.

But it is the performances of Isla Adamson and Josephine Stewart-Tewhiu, who seem to be in total harmony with each other, and the tightness and simplicity of Abigail Greenwood’s direction that make this fifty minute play absorbing as well as funny and, at its core, a solemn reminder of what it means to be old.  
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Chalk one up to love

Review by John Smythe 24th Aug 2011

“I want my daughter to see this,” a young mother said on her way out. For all the joy Chalk offers those who love to watch versatile young actors create multiple roles with wit and skill, it is confronting the realities of an aging population that has the most profound effect. This play delivers on its purpose.

Old age touches us all and it behoves us well to ponder its implications as age with its stealing steps subtracts the odd faculty and physical capacity from those who have cared so much for us; until ‘care’ becomes a place they go into, cared for by strangers and visited by family once in a while if they’re lucky.

It was cogitations about becoming old codgers themselves that got these twenty-something deviser/performers – Isla Adamson and Josephine Stewart-Tewhiu – and their director Abigail Greenwood started. “What would happen if we couldn’t look after ourselves?” their programme note asks. “What if our families couldn’t care for us? What if we had no family?”

A chalk-drawn square defines the space. The odd small prop awaits its moment at the periphery. Two red chairs offer respite for creaky limbs and increasingly chalky bones. Herein, by the alchemy of minimalist theatre, the inmates, staff and visitors of the Shady Meadows Retirement Home come into being.

Names of the characters in the programme would help us recall and value those we encounter all the more. In the absence of such info, I hope I have this right …

Adamson, who is especially adept at minimalist, internalised character studies, gives us: relatively refined patient Glynn and her spendthrift grand-daughter who is a teenage mother and wants to fleece her nana for x-box upgrades and such; Clint, the intensely unconventional care-worker; Nina Reihana whose bags are always packed, awaiting liberation back to the whanau; an immigrant care-giver from the Indian subcontinent; Mrs Lemon, the nana of Alice who would rather she was her sister Katarina ….  

Stewart-Tewhiu, whose characters vary between demonstrative and minimalist, treats us to old Mr Frederick (Fred); Heather the crisply efficient manager; Karen, the wannabe sophisticate caregiver who keeps wanting to make Clint more experienced; Jason, the immature father of Glynn’s great grandchild; Alice, who strikes up a friendship with Nina and silently suffers her Nan’s unwitting hurtfulness; Nina’s moko-faced nephew, whose whanau has restructured …

With Greenwood directing they weave a seemingly elusive yet magically coherent picture of disparate lives randomly brought together at Shady Meadows and ingeniously chalk up an ending that is simultaneously heart-warming and a bit of a worry.  

As with their Ruby Tuesday last year, laugh out loud moments punctuate poignant insights. Grab the opportunity, if you are in Wellington, to see this talented team. This show is made with love and you will love it too. 
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Wonderful to watch and thoroughly engrossing

Review by Keziah Warner 03rd Mar 2011

Chalk is set in the Shady Meadows Retirement Home where the residents dream of escape and the visitors can’t wait to leave. Devised and performed by Isla Adamson and Josephine Stewart-Tewhiu, Chalk presents us with a varied ensemble of characters who represent different facets of a working retirement home and offer their own perspective on what it means to be old.

Clint, a worker at Shady Meadows, believes that in order to keep track of all the residents they should stamp Shady Meadows’ address on their arm. He has even taken the liberty of having the stamp made and has begun stamping as many people as he can.

His colleague Karen is more interested in chatting to the visitors and showing off than getting on with her job. She offers to kiss a recently deceased resident in front of Clint if he thinks the “girl-on-girl action” will turn him on, but even she is shocked when she hears a sixteen-year-old mother and her boyfriend trying to extort money out of her Grandma. 

Alice’s grandmother is a drunk who pays her no attention because of her Maori father, but Alice desperately wants to get to know her before it is too late. Whilst she is waiting to visit her Grandma she meets Nina, who always has her bags packed ready to go home and she believes that today is the day she will finally get to leave but her family have other ideas. Nina and Alice align ….

This touching and often hilarious piece is told with immense skill by Adamson and Stewart-Tewhiu, who both morph effortlessly from one character to another. Their ability to fully embody each new character without the need for extraneous props and costume is a true testament to their acting talent and to Abigail Greenwood’s brilliant directing.

The use of physicality to evoke their surroundings is extremely effective, particularly when Shady Meadows worker Sukhdeep is reprimanded by her boss whilst they change a resident’s bed sheets. And the opening dance sequence is inspired!   

Often a show will provide you with two or three beautiful moments that stick in your mind long after the lights have gone up; Chalk, however, has moments like this in nearly every scene and it is the sum total of these small touches that make the show wonderful to watch and thoroughly engrossing. 

After the success of their show Ruby Tuesday two years ago, it looks like Adamson and Stewart-Tewhiu have another hit on their hands.

This review kindly supported by The James Wallace Arts Trust

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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