DAFFODILS [inspired by true events]

Q Theatre Loft, 305 Queen St, Auckland

14/03/2014 - 29/03/2014

Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland

08/04/2015 - 12/04/2015

Meteor Theatre, 1 Victoria Street, Hamilton

15/04/2015 - 18/04/2015

Central Lakes Trust Crystal Palace, Wanaka

22/04/2015 - 23/04/2015

Turner Centre, 43 Cobham Road, Kerikeri

25/04/2015 - 25/04/2015

TVNZ Festival Club, Arts Centre, Christchurch

27/08/2015 - 28/08/2015

Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch

16/09/2015 - 19/09/2015

Festival Mainstage, Founders Heritage Park, Nelson

15/10/2015 - 15/10/2015

Pacific Crystal Palace, Masonic Park, Tauranga

22/10/2015 - 23/10/2015

Traverse Theatre (Venue 15), Edinburgh, Scotland

06/08/2016 - 28/08/2016

Festival of Colour - Wanaka

Nelson Arts Festival 2015

Christchurch Arts Festival 2015

Tauranga Arts Festival 2015

Edinburgh Fringe 2016

UPSURGE 2015

Production Details



This is far, far more than boy meets girl. This is real life romance – Kiwi cabaret style.   

Featuring songs by Crowded House – Bic Runga – Chris Knox – The Mint Chicks – Dave Dobbyn – The Exponents – Darcy Clay – The Mutton Birds – Th’Dudes – The Senators – The Swingers – Blam Blam Blam

Pull the cover off your favourite vinyl and discover a rich sonic world in Daffodils. Travel through a landscape of live music and heart-aching theatre in this beautiful love story about a teddy boy and a farm girl: their first meeting, their marriage and the New Zealand pop-rock soundtrack that shapes their lives.

Rose was 16. Eric, 18. They met at the lake by the daffodils. The same place that Eric’s parents met 20 years earlier. Was it destiny? Perhaps. But what happens after years of misread moments, too many maybes and unspoken thoughts that never go away?

Starring Colleen Davis & Todd Emerson.

Daffodils is a multi-sensory experience that captures the bittersweet nuances of Rose’s and Eric’s life in a ‘mix tape’ of New Zealand’s greatest hits. Inspired by private letters, real interviews and family myths heard only at garage piss ups, the production unfolds against a backdrop of 1960s Kodak stills, Super8 home movies and fashion photography created by one of New Zealand’s leading image makers, Garth Badger (Lorde, Nike). 

Prepare to have your indie soul rocked.

Connect with Bullet Heart Club on Facebook
Supported by Creative New Zealand, Auckland Council and Q Theatre
Sound and AV sponsored by Edwards

Recommended for persons 13 and over. Contains strong language.

DAFFODILS [inspired by true events]
13-29 March 2014, 7.30pm
Q Theatre / Loft

For more info and to view the promo trailer click here.

Best Play Nomination / SWANZ 2014
Best Debut / Metro Magazine 2014
Auckland Theatre Award Winner 2014

“It’s a work of genius. Daffodils should play all over the country. It should play all over the world. It resonates so strongly as a piece of our own mixed-up, precious culture, it should be our new national flag.”Metro

One of Auckland’s favourite plays of 2014, Daffodils, is coming back to Q Theatre in April. However, this time, the award-winning Kiwi cabaret that had people begging for tickets, is making a quick stop before hitting the road.

2015

8 – 12 April – Q Theatre, Auckland
15 – 18 April – Meteor Theatre, Hamilton

UPSURGE 2015
Venue: The Turner Centre
Date: Sat 25 April 6.30pm
Duration: 70 mins no interval
Early $32 | Full $34 Plus Service Fees

CHRISTCHURCH ARTS FESTIVAL 2015
Thursday 27 August 7.00pm
Friday 28 August 9.30pm
WHERE:  TVNZ Festival Club, The Arts Centre
TICKETS:  $41 / Conc $36
BOOKINGS:  ticketek.co.nz | 0800 TICKETEK (842 538)

CHRISTCHURCH
Isaac Theatre Royal
16-19 September 2015

NELSON ARTS FESTIVAL 2015
Festival Mainstage
Thurs 15 Oct, 7.30pm
70 mins, no interval
SOLD OUT

Tauranga Arts Festival 2015
Pacific Crystal Palace
Thursday 22nd – Friday 23rd October, 08:30pm
TICKETS $45

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016
Traverse Theatre (Venue 15)
Aug 6-7, 9-14, 16-21, 23-28
Times vary. Click below to view the calendar
Book here


ERIC - Todd Emerson 
ROSE - Colleen Davis


KEYS - Stephanie Brown
GUITAR - Abraham Kunin
DRUMS - Fen Ikner


Directed by Dena Kennedy
Produced by Kitan Petkovski & Rochelle Bright
Film and photography by Garth Badger/ Thievery
Film Edit by Erin Geurts/ Thievery


Lighting Design & Production Management by Jane Hakaraia
Sound Design by Emily Hakaraia
Graphic Design by Adam Abernethy & Jaime Robertson
Dress by Suzanne Davis
Hair by French Revolver Studio


Featuring songs by
Crowded House - Bic Runga - Chris Knox - The Mint Chicks - Dave Dobbyn
The Exponents - Darcy Clay - The Mutton Birds - Th’Dudes - The Senators
LIPS - The Swingers - Blam Blam Blam


DAFFODILS [inspired by true events] was written at the Robert Lord Writers Cottage. Original development in 2013 was supported by Auckland Live.


The world premiere took place on 15 March 2014 presented in partnership with Q Theatre, as part of Q Presents.


For Graham & Mary


“This is my parents’ story. Everything you’re about to hear is true – except for…” 


Theatre , Musical ,


1 hr 10 mins

Slick, honest and truly beautiful

Review by Acushla-Tara Kupe 14th Aug 2016

Daffodils (A Play With Songs) is a love story. Two young people meet by chance, fall in love, life gets in the way and disintegrates the already flawed relationship. Heartache. A story we know. Of course there are deviations to add tension and drama but overall this is not a new story. The way the story is told is where the interest lies in this production.

A circular projection on an upstage screen intermittently projects black and white images and video. A three-piece band on stage plays live music and at times the musicians double as characters. They are boxed in by two strips of carpet on either side, running from the back to the front of the stage. At the front of each strip is a microphone on a stand.

Eric stands on the stage right strip, Rose on stage left. And that’s where they stay for the entire show, looking outwards to the audience. All members on stage are confined to their areas and we know they can’t leave. This not only adds interest but is used effectively to create feelings of confinement, tension, intimacy and longing. 

Daffodils (A Play with Songs) is a love story. It doesn’t set out to solve a societal issue, to prove a moral stance or to comment on the political landscape. It wants you to feel and with this in mind it is a complete success. It is sweet, charming and honest.

Colleen Davis performs with beautiful subtlety and her voice is absolutely stunning. She navigates her character Rose’s ageing and growth wonderfully: youthful and naive at 16-years-old, gently maturing as the play progresses. Her choices are executed superbly and overall she is captivating.

Todd Emerson as Eric is charismatic and has great energy and presence on stage. He too ages subtly, moving from the cockiness of youth to a rather cynical and mildly depressed older man. Emerson is wonderful to watch and together with Davis we are made to feel deeply for these characters.

What amazed me is that a good 20 minutes into the show I realise they have never looked at each other; always out to us. Yet I am still feeling their chemistry, energy, emotions, perhaps even stronger than I would have had they been close to each other and making eye contact. The execution of this is incredibly slick.

This convention means we were told the story from two honest perspectives, emphasising the moral strains of the latter half of the play in a way I’ve never experienced. It also allows for smooth transitions between direct address and dialogue which can often feel clunky. 

The overall design of the show is stark, so the few design elements used really stand out: the carpet, Eric’s suit, Rose’s red dress and blonde hair, a disco ball, the projections. The projections are fantastic. Black and white stills and video are used throughout to highlight or support specific moments. At times they are of our actors, others are environmental, and as this show is ‘inspired by’ there are a few that could possibly have been of their muses.

Lighting is used well to support the story and performers: a soft blue for our onstage band, spotlights for our actors that diffuse, sharpen, increase and decrease in intensity; door silhouettes – all very minimal and used effectively.

The music either underscores the dialogue or becomes the backing for a song. These songs are frequent and slot in well both in timing and plot. The lyrics for each song support the place in the story we are at and are spaced well throughout the show. I felt a deep connection with these New Zealand classics, such as Anchor Me, and I wonder how these songs are experienced by those unfamiliar with the music. The integration of song amongst dialogue is smooth and effective in supporting the story. The musicians Stephanie Brown, Fen Ikner and Abraham Kunin have created a fantastic score for this show and perform their arrangements superbly.

It is a show like Daffodils (A Play with Songs) that reminds me how powerful theatre can be when it sets out to make you feel. Yes I’m sure there are other motivations in making this show, and yes I do leave ruminating on the moral responsibilities that come with being in a relationship, but what I truly enjoy is that I leave feeling. Feeling for the characters, their love and their heartache.

Daffodils (A Play with Songs) is a slick, honest and truly beautiful piece of theatre. If you’re up for a great performance piece, grab your tissues and head along to the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh – On until August 28th.

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A profound change-inviting play and musical masterpiece

Review by Emily Mowbray-Marks 23rd Oct 2015

The world’s waiting to see Daffodils: see it while it’s here.  

The smell of frangipane blows into the night as hubby and I walk past Harrington Street – destination Daffodils, here in the Tauranga Arts Festival for 2 shows only. Before Daffodils sells out, heads for ‘her’ tour of Oz and a more comprehensive OE, book your tickets: she’s a goodie.

The Pacific Crystal Palace (down beside Phoenix, The Strand), aka the Spiegeltent, always makes me nostalgic for Wellington and her festival, the grandmother of Aotearoa’s Arts Festivals. Tonight’s warm winds (sent from Wellington?) laced with Pacific perfume transport me to the year of Les Art Saut and the wild French late night dancing.

In 45 minutes Daffodils is due to start and the Spiegeltent has other geeks in it, wanting to nab an excellent seat. The booths are not popular for this show. We can see the projector screen, the mics and band set up. We’re up and down in seats (the women folk) looking agitated, our men following, making gentle suggestions.

We choose the table and two chairs above the main seated area. The main (middle) space is slightly raked, so you can see ‘sweet as’. Husband is perplexed: none of the predominantly 50/60 year-old crowd are going for the seats at the front. Too loud? “They’re mean seats,” he says. We’re happy watching the tent’s tomato circus ceiling billow as we wait. The band walks on stage – we’re on. 

An unassuming clipped fresh female voice (Stephanie Brown) speaks into the microphone above the ‘synthesizer’: “This is a true story,” and she says more. I think to myself, hmm, the band as narrator: Janet Roddick from 6 Volts comes to mind. So the keyboardist is going to double as an actor somewhere, somehow along the way? Curious. I don’t know whether to believe her or not? Based on letters, she says. Are they one couple’s love letters, or is this a story based on love, based on love letters from a generation. Somehow “this is true” frightens me. Even before I know nothing.

Now the ‘real’ actors come on. There are only two: Todd Emerson and Colleen Davis. Two actors who play two characters, apart from their respective mothers and fathers. But this is not so important. So, two main characters. A boy and a girl: 18 and 16; Eric and Rose. It’s the sixties. We’re in Hamilton. East. Grey Street.

I’m not grabbed by the beginning. Is it cos it’s opening night? Is it cos the characters are ‘clumsy’ with each other. Is it cos most of us feel all judge-gy when we first ‘meet’ someone. Who’s this? Where do they come from? What ‘compartment’ can I put them into?

Later, I ask my husband as we walk under the frangipane and he says, “The show’s an 8 out of 10.” He reckons, “The guy took a while to warm into it, at the start. And the bit with the Dad got a bit weird” and that “was the only time I looked at my watch.” Maybe that’s when I had a visual of the programme.

Daffodils. Featuring songs by: Crowded House, Dave Dobbyn, The Swingers … 70 minutes (no interval), and realised I needed to go to the toilet. I wonder if one of the Dad jokes could’ve been axed? Do we see too much of the dirty Barry. We put people into ‘compartments’ pretty quick and pretty easy. Maybe Barry took the stage for just a touch too long, after all, we really don’t want him ruining this party anymore than he has to.

After about 10 minutes, I’m in love. This show is awesome. It’s a real love story. With a live soundtrack, sung impeccably with a tight band with intelligent musical arrangement and edible harmony. This wow of a story. I can find myself in it, even though I was found in the 90s, not their 60s. The confessing I’m a virgin to a ‘boy’ – me searching his face in the dark for what that meant. Rose’s broken lips and twisting hands when Eric announces his OE trip is booked and there’s no invitation. And fast forward to the line, “Your mother doesn’t love me anymore.” The playwright read my diary?

This tale is epic. You will be found in it. The love, the glory, the pain, the no-ness.

The true story keeps f-ing with me. Noooo. Surely not. When another missed-moment (akin to Romeo and Juliet) happens, after the one before. The audience are wanting to call out: Save our dear Rose and Eric! Talk to one another. Share yourself. Look. See. A lesson, an opportunity for the audience to squeeze the knee of the lover next to us, to kiss more deeply before turning over tonight.

The actors/singers do a sterling job. It must be a lonely one. In all these shows they’re performing (because they’ve toured pretty much all of New Zealand’s festivals, this show’s that HOT) these actors :look only out into the void (never at each other). They show us, them, and never themselves.

And it’s reflections like this that I wonder about the production. This is genius: the complex layers of direction (Dena Kennedy); the arrangement, both musical and physical. A great collaboration between Rochelle Bright and LIPS? I love the arm warmer scene, Davis’ bold animated arm movements. And the way Todd Emerson dances (a little like Liam Gallagher) whilst ‘eating’ the microphone with passion and never free-ed frustration.

The tragic fight is a stand-out theatrical moment. Emerson sings with endearing untamed presence, whilst Davis wears that red dress and shouts out her silence, passion hurling into the void that is us, the audience, rather than one another. Again we find ourselves. Where we break. Where we love.

This is a gift of art. One (Rochelle Bright – playwright) shares her pain to alleviate or prevent another’s.

Those actors take us there, to the love, to the suffering. In Eric’s breath as he describes that 3am phonecall. When he allows us to hear his voice break in song, in contrast to his reality with his wife where he reveals nothing of his personal truth.

And Rose. We watch Rose shift. Her character lets us see. Her voice tracks this too. With that heart-rendering rendition of ‘Fall at Your Feet’ and ‘Anchor Me’. Davis’ belt is something to behold. And those low notes, like walking through a paddock of long wet grass on a summer’s eve. I don’t know where to stop.

Perhaps with my favourite line of this profound change-inviting play and musical masterpiece, one which invites us to see the other: “If I ever told you I wasn’t afraid I’d be lying.”

Go see Daffodils people. The world’s waiting to see it, see it while it’s here.

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Laughter, pathos and memories

Review by Gail Tresidder 16th Oct 2015

There is a House Full sign on the door and inside is a lovely buzz of anticipation and excitement mixed.  Perhaps because this is such a personal story, a story that resonates with us all, the voluminous space feels strangely intimate. 

Throughout there are tears and smiles of recognition – and laughter, lots of that. There is also poignancy at this portrayal of a love affair and marriage, where, so typically – though not in New Zealand 2015, one hopes – the man doesn’t talk about his feelings and the woman doesn’t ask.

Apart from a small problem with the sound at the start, quickly sorted, Todd Emerson’s strong clear voice is a perfect foil for Colleen Davis’ wistful and sweet tone of delivery.  They mesh beautifully, exceptionally so in Crowded House’s  ‘Whenever I fall at your feet’. 

As Rose, in her rose-red dress, Davis is convincing and true.  And Emerson as her boyfriend then husband Eric is also 100% believable.  His energy fills the stage.

The band, led by Stephanie Brown on keyboard, has Abraham Kunin on guitar and Fen Ikner on drums.  They are an integral part of the whole.  Not only is their enthusiastic playing of so many hits of the 60s onwards impressive but they are also backing singers – and very good too.

Great lines (Rose’s mother: “This never happens to good Presbyterians”) and great memories: Eric’s big OE leaving on the Northern Star and numbered letters home to Rose; The Starlight Ballroom, a revolving silver ball in the roof taking us back, taking us there.  It is lovely. 

Early on, Eric’s athletic interpretation of Ray Columbus’  ‘She’s a Mod’ really gets the audience going.  Later, Rose’s version of The Mutton Birds’ ‘Anchor Me In The Middle Of Your Deep Blue Sea’ stills the house.  There is much more marvellous, evocative music throughout the show. 

This is a special night of laughter, pathos and memories.  A really wonderful performance and it is a privilege to be here.  Actually unforgettable and the best, truest, New Zealand production this reviewer has ever seen. 

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Exquisitely crafted

Review by John Smythe 17th Sep 2015

This tragical, comical, historical and semi-pastoral love story-cum-cautionary tale, simply told through a seamless blend of spoken-word, song, music and projected images, resonates deeply at many levels. What more can we ask of theatre?

Working from “private letters, real interviews and family myths heard only at garage piss ups”, writer Rochelle Bright could have developed her parents’ story a number of ways. I am not privy to how it gestated and came to be born as Daffodils [inspired by true events], featuring Eric and Rose, but the form – as directed by Dena Kennedy – is ingeniously fit for purpose.

It starts in charming romcom style. Speaking for Bright, keyboardist Stephanie Brown takes us to Hamilton in 1964 where Eric, a young electrician, is joyriding round the lake. Todd Emerson, as Eric, steps up to one of two mics and captures the carefree mood brilliantly with Th’ Dudes’ ‘Bliss’: “Yaaaaaah ya ya ya ya …”

Rose is drunk in a daffodil patch and a long way from her strict Presbyterian home. As good boy Eric takes her all the way home, Bic Runga’s ‘Drive’ is beautifully pitched by Colleen Davis to express Rose’s semi-conscious feelings.

It could have ended there if Rose hadn’t tracked ‘He’s a Mod’ Eric down to the electrical shop where he worked, which was where you bought records back in the day; if she hadn’t asked him to a movie – even though he just wanted her to “Come over to my house / Come on girl just come round” (The Mint Chicks: ‘Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No!’). Did she choose a scary movie so he’d save her again?

Even though they tell their stories in the past tense, we are now fully engaged in each present moment of their story. Or should I say I’d defy anyone not to be.

It takes Eric a while to forget about the last one(s) and settle on this other, not least because he’s off on his long-planned ‘OE’, on the SS Northern Star … Rose brings a deep yearning to The Mutton Birds/Don McGlashin’s ‘Anchor Me’ – whereas there ain’t no place Eric would rather be (as The Swingers put it in ‘Counting the Beat’).

And so the love story unfolds, judiciously enhanced by Garth Badger’s black and white images, edited by Erin Geurts: stills, some of which find Davis and Emerson in role; Super 8 films, which includes some actual family footage; some fashion photography to further reflect the form and pressure of the age.

The excellent backing band band – Stephanie Brown (keys), Abraham Kunin (guitar) and Fen Ikner (drums) – sustain a rich sound scape, enhanced by Emily Hakaria’s sound design, and Jane Hakaria’s lighting design.

Once Eric realises he hadn’t known what he’d got till he’d gone – he’s thinking about her and nothing else – their romance culminates in engagement. What better than Chris Knox’s ‘Not Given Lightly’ to express their love, and this is their first duet. Yet even now, as has been the case from the start, they don’t look at each other.  

The theatrical device of avoiding eye-contact evokes the all-too-common syndrome of their being entranced with the romantic idea of each other rather than each real other. This is why the songs are so appropriate: because in their real world both Rose and Eric keep their true feelings to themselves.

Here lies the tragic nub of Daffodils: for all their sharing of thoughts and feelings with us, they are chronically incapable of communicating clearly with each other.

What happens next I’ll not reveal here. Suffice to say the songs that carry the story’s essence include:
‘There is No Depression in New Zealand’ (Blam Blam Blam);
‘Fall at Your Feet’ (Crowded House/Neil Finn: “Lying in the dark … You’re hiding from me now…”);
‘Language’ (Dave Dobbyn: “And when I needed you most / I couldn’t find the language / When I needed you more / I couldn’t say a word”);
‘I’ll Say Goodbye (Even Though I’m Blue)’ in a much more poignant rendition than the Exponents’ original.

Heart-felt empathy is palpable in the packed San Fran venue as we consider our own lives and loves in contrast or concert with Eric and Rose, hoping against hope for the happy ending that could so easily have happened, if only …

En route, Daffodils treats us to a quintessential taste of middle-of-the-road Kiwi life through the last four decades of the 20thcentury. Its portrait of these particular Baby Boomers digs well below the clichéd mythology to show that liberation from conditioned behaviours is not so easily achieved.

It is a universal and timeless story the world deserves to see in this exquisitely crafted form. Under the auspices of the Performing Arts Network New Zealand (PANNZ) Touring Agency its tour of New Zealand is well under way.

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Exquisite

Review by Erin Harrington 28th Aug 2015

Daffodils is a rare treat – a perfectly formed bloom that marries the profoundly personal with the quintessential. It is presented with clarity and the utmost integrity, bringing together two actors, three musicians, five voices rough with emotion, and a room full of witnesses in an outstanding opening to the Christchurch Arts Festival.

Eric (Todd Emerson) and Rose (Colleen Davis) meet as teenagers in the mid-1960s, fall in love and construct a life together, and we bear witness to the shifting fortunes of their relationship. The two performers are joined by Stephanie Brown (keys), Abraham Kunin (guitar) and Fen Ikner (drums), and together the five present a story of love in small-town New Zealand that is as intimate as it is familiar.

Songs from the ‘great Kiwi songbook’, including music from The Muttonbirds, Bic Runga, Dave Dobbyn, Chris Knox, and The Exponents, are braided through the performance, although it would be a gross disservice to call Daffodils a jukebox musical. Instead, the songs are worked meaningfully into Eric and Rose’s relationship, and each does its own share of narrative heavy-lifting.

Many of the songs featured have been beaten into bloody submission after years on hi-rotate on middle-of-the-road ad-free weekday radio countdowns, reduced to jingles for supermarkets and bread, and rendered contemptible in their familiarity. Here they are refreshed and revived, and through the raw and tender performances of the five performers we are reminded of their well-crafted lyricism and emotional potency.

The musicians provide the soundtrack to the couple’s lives in other ways, too, marking each beat of the relationship with a shift in tone and musical style, and occasionally acting as distant participants in, and the spectators to, the relationship, much as we in the audience do.

In the show’s most optimistic moments – especially as the two, as teens, meet and fall in love – the performances are nostalgic and sentimental without being gauche or saccharine. However, while Eric and Rose sing with, to and against one another, they never look to each other. Instead, their performances are directed out to the audience and there is a powerful tension in this combination of the intimate and the distant, especially as the relationship and the story moves through to an unexpected and poignant conclusion.

This musical relationship and the performers’ physical proximity is augmented through the use of images that are projected, as if through an iris, and burnished with age. Home movies, photos and slides, and recreations of key moments of the relationship that have since taken on the quality of family myth all play with the fluid nature of memory and memorialisation. They serve to ground the action, reminding us of the human story that underpins the cabaret-style presentation.

Daffodils is a beautifully presented and coherent package that appears deceptively simple, but which has been crafted meticulously by its production team. Exquisite.

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Rocked by the noise of love and the music of life

Review by Alan Scott 26th Apr 2015

The music is loud at the Turner Centre as the Bullet Heart Club’s production of Daffodils runs its course, but not as loud as the voice in my head at the end which keeps shouting: “That was so good!” And the audience seems in complete agreement with me as we file out. 

But it is a puzzle, too, for it is hard to pin down why Daffodils grabs you so much. It is a boy-meets-girl story told through dialogue, music and song and we have all been there before. 

But not quite like this, for it isn’t London or New York, and it is not Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice or Sondheim and any number of Broadway and West End movers and shakers. 

It is simply boy-meets-girl in Hamilton and they play out their lives through the soundtrack of Blam, Blam Blam, Ray Columbus, The Exponents, Dave Dobyn and a number of other New Zealand bands and singers. It is a New Zealand story and in the way it is written, presented and performed it could well be classic New Zealand theatre. 

As the star-crossed lovers Eric and Rose, Todd Emerson and Colleen Davis are perfectly cast and deliver superb performances. They face the audience and never each other. Though separated by space, with eyes out front, you feel and hear the intimacy of conversation sparking between them, at first playful and then loving.  They both have big singing voices, easily capable of rocking it up, but capable too of delivering the emotional weight carried by some of the songs, as their relationship changes and eventually breaks down.  

The backing band, too, show their class. Led by Stephanie Brown, the threesome belts out rearrangements of old songs, sometimes driving the narrative and sometimes blending in the background and filling in the spaces in the story. The combination of music and story, of song and dialogue, is more cabaret than musical theatre, But Daffodils is not a floor show. It is a distinct piece of theatre in its own right. 

In the end, though, Daffodils is not a New Zealand story only. The songs are ours and Hamilton East is where it is, but when the years fly by and Eric and Rose inch further apart the play takes on a universal dimension as it explores why we do what we do to each other. 

There is any amount of heartbreak here, as love still blooms but miscommunication and misperception destroy it. As an audience member, you try to understand it. Just one extra right word, or one extra loving look and it would all resolved. But faces turn away, and the mouths dry up. And whether you are in Hamilton or Rome, you despair at the complexity of the human mind.

But out there in the foyer, what comes back is the joy of people, the noise of love and the music of life. Daffodils rocks; you’d better believe it.

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Coming to care for characters who stay with you

Review by Pip Harker 23rd Apr 2015

The sound of grumbling greeted me as I took my seat in the Crystal Palace and I soon discovered why – we were squashed in like sardines on hard seats and visibility was not great.  But, to the show….

Daffodils is the debut work of the Bullet Heart Club Company which launched last year.  It is the love story of Eric and Rose – inspired by true events – with the title referring to the meeting place, in the ’60s, of the lovers (and spookily it turns out Eric’s parents met there too). 

More of a musical or cabaret than a play, the actors perform at microphones to the audience throughout the performance, only actually looking at each other once – and that moment is heart-breaking.   

Brilliant use is made of many iconic Kiwi songs throughout, sung live and – oh joy – the actors can really sing!  Woven throughout the drama are remixes of these nostalgic songs – by The Swingers, Chris Knox, Darcy Clay, Dave Dobbyn and more – played live onstage by Lips and Abraham Kunin, who add so much to this production they almost steal the show.  

Luckily the leads, Todd Emerson and Colleen Davis, are so good that we really come to care for both their characters.  We badly want to sit them down and make them communicate when their relationship is turning to custard, and when they see each other in the street years later we are desperate for them to give it another go.  (Sorry, spoiler). I personally like a happy ending, given a choice, but this is tricky when events are based on real life and Rochelle Bright’s intimate story of her parents obviously ended badly.  I have to be brave. 

A lovely black and white video screens throughout the show – enhancing the scenes and later on the treat of real family-movie footage. 

The sign of a great play is when the story and characters stay with you after the show and this certainly does stay with you.  Now, I must away to dig out some of those tunes …. 

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Both bring charismatic pleasure to the songs

Review by Mark Houlahan 16th Apr 2015

Daffodils is selling well for its final three shows in Hamilton, and soon will be performing in Wanaka and Kerikeri. Later in the year you can see it in the Spiegeltent at the Tauranga Arts Festival. I urge you to see it and, perhaps more importantly, hear it.

It is a fantastic home grown antidote to the pre-processed offshore megamusical. The play tells a strong, real story through words and through the power of popular New Zealand songs. 

It is especially good to see this in Hamilton, as this is a Hamilton story, and the producers have worked hard with the Meteor to bring the show to us. There are not many stories that dare to take Hamilton seriously. 

It’s 1964. Eric works in a record shop in Hamilton East. One night he comes upon Rose, quite drunk, wandering among the daffodils that fringe Hamilton’s lake. He drives her home, over an hour away to her family’s farm. Next day Rose comes back and spends hours flicking through records, trying to get his attention. Over the next 80 minutes or so they tell us their story. This is a love story, but, it is fair to warn you, not necessarily a happily ending musical comedy kind of one. 

Eric and Rose occupy a separate track of carpet, a long cat-walk style rectangle. They each have a mic on a stand. Sometimes they tell us their story in counterpoint. And then they sing. Emotions they cannot express in words to each other they access through terrific New Zealand songs. There is a three piece band on stage throughout. What we get then is a cross between a ‘play’, a concert and a gig. Many times I felt constrained by the seat I am in, and should really be moshing somewhere off to the side.

I know the show weaves words and music together, but I am expecting a solid gold /greatest hits approach, with songs from specific years in Eric and Rose’s life. Instead the songs span across the decades – emphasising material from Crowded House, Don McGlashan, Dave Dobbyn, Bic Runga – and comment on the story in brilliantly apt ways.

This would not work if the actor/singers, Todd Emerson and Colleen Davis were after imitation of the originals we know and love. Instead, aided by the kicking backing band, the songs are reinterpreted. Emerson and Davis have lovely voices on stage. They can belt out the big notes and then dial back for plangent moments that are heartbreaking.

They both bring charismatic pleasure to the songs of Eric and Rose’s lives. Emerson scorches through ‘Counting The Beat’ and looks like he is having the time of his life, though he cannot possibly have grooved to this when it was a hit in the 1980s. When he reaches the top notes in ‘Fall At Your Feet’, you hold your breath in admiration. Davis is his equal, making ‘Anchor Me’ all her own, in cabaret, torch song mode.

All the songs used are difficult to sing so all credits to the musicianship on display throughout from the band and the singers. The Meteor is a great venue for this, with the sound bouncing off its black and gloomy walls. The staging is very pared down. Eric and Rose stay in their dance hall clothes as we first meet them, gorgeous red dress for her, white shirt and trousers for him. Both are in bare feet, which is so grounding and relaxed for generating sound and pathos from the body. I always wonder why we don’t do all shows this way. 
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Bullet Heart Club are currently preparing a follow up show featuring Todd Emerson solo: The Deliberate Disappearance of My Friend Jack Hartnett. This will also be an ‘indie-rock story’, the programme tells us. Or call it a micro-musical. This one will have songs newly written for the purpose. This premieres at the Loft in Q Theatre, Auckland, from July 23. Don’t miss it.

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Finely crafted, superbly delivered

Review by Penny Dodd 09th Apr 2015

Daffodils – a Kiwi story told on a stage by two singers and a band; a story of connection and disconnection, with two actor/singer soloists who narrate their combined story in word and song from their own positions.

In a corner is the three piece band, taking focus or melting into the shadows as required by the narrative. In the background a B&W movie throwing light on the happenings, or not, with some footage of the actors, some family archive footage of the family whose true story this is (except for…). If you need a box to put it in it could be cabaret, certainly it is music theatre. 

Colleen Davis and Todd Emerson are quite superb in their actor/singer roles of Rose and Eric.  Colleen’s impressive vocal range and power is equalled by her intense portrayal of a quirky, vulnerable young Technical Institute student through to embittered middle-aged mother. Her rendition of ‘Anchor Me’ is a standout, serving equally the song and the story.

Todd takes us from teenage exuberance, through his wide eyed OE and ‘Counting the Beat’, on through ‘There is No Depression In New Zealand’ to cleaning up the mess of his wayward father with a sense of mute anger. You can see him age before your eyes.

They stand at their own microphones on stands with two foldback monitors and a line of stair carpet each, emphasising their separateness. They communicate only through us, the audience, describing the events that happened. You don’t realise how much you long for connection until there is a fleeting moment, a glance not returned, an almost collision of hands on a microphone. We see them together in the filmed episodes, but their stories remain apart on the stage. 

The subtle and superb band comprising Stephanie Brown, Abraham Kunin and Fen Ikner provides everything from filmic underscores to highly arranged musical scenas, to full on ballads. The band plays it just right, with great presence but also the ability to accompany to support the narrative. 

The musical constructions combine pop song with classic musical theatre devices of scenes, vamps, underscores and sung sections. These are finely judged, well crafted, and most effective, furthering the story without ever feeling like a pop song has been shoe-horned into a story. The colours and textures range from solo guitar and five part harmony to full on guitar and drum frenzy, with a full range of sounds including witty touches from the keyboards.   

New Zealanders can be emotionally reserved and that is the nub of the tragedy of this story. Eric never cries. Rose never wavers from her course. These things cannot change so there is no redemption. Eric can’t tell Rose what he did the night his father died which allows her to grow a pearler of a grievance (that presumably destroys the marriage) from the grit of a misconception.

If only they could actually talk to each other, but perhaps the fact that they can’t is corrosive enough. It was an age where good Presbyterians didn’t do a lot of things, especially tiptoe drunkenly through the daffodils. The daffodils change from the romantic setting for their first meeting, albeit drunk and incoherent, to a symbol of a failing marriage. Hardly surprising our storyteller isn’t so keen to check the daffodils down by the lake in Hamilton out for herself. What if history repeated? What if history didn’t repeat? Yeah, nah.

This is the kind of show that I love to see in our theatres: our own stories in our own musical voice, and superbly delivered. The work that has gone into this show is fully evident, it’s been worked, it’s been honed and perfected, it’s engaging and entertaining.

Special applause goes to the songwriters, a roll call of Kiwi greats, for giving permission for their works to be incorporated into this piece. And hats off to Rochelle Bright whose personal family story this is (except for…); for being writer and producer and visionary in bringing this finely crafted piece of musical theatre to the Q Rangatira stage.

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Love note to Kiwi songwriting not forgotten lightly

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 17th Mar 2014

What may well be the quintessential Kiwi love story is brought to life in an utterly charming show that has intimate family history blended with a heartfelt tribute to New Zealand songwriting. 

With a very tight band and two actors who are both strong singers, Daffodils delivers stripped-down versions of a brilliantly chosen assortment of great Kiwi love songs. 

The performances are stylishly complemented by Garth Badger’s superb video capturing the innocence and exuberance of a classic 60s romance. [More

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Love not given lightly

Review by James Wenley 17th Mar 2014

Watching Daffodils is like watching a little miracle come into bloom. Praise has already been high for this remarkable debut show from Bullet Heart Club, but allow me to add my voice too: this is an incredibly special theatre experience of a kind that almost never comes along. I go to the theatre again and again in the hopes of experiencing a show like this. It’s an intimate personal story about playwright Rochelle Bright’s family, a boy meets girl classic, a love-filled tribute to her parents that does not shy away from their flaws. 

That’s the first layer of success. The second, is the way we are invited into their story. A track list of favourites from the kiwi songbook (your Dobbyn’s, McGlashan’s, Runga’s etc), remixed by Lips, and sung by the actors Todd Emerson and Colleen Davis, opens the shared experience, a ripe nostalgia, the kiwi mythic. The combination is an extraordinarily effective and affective 70 minutes spent in the theatre. [More

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A good, deep, marvellous New Zealand story; a story of us

Review by Simon Wilson 15th Mar 2014

What a thrill. Right now, upstairs in the Loft at Q Theatre, there’s a play to turn you inside out and set you back, heart pounding and eyes all wet, terribly upset, terribly full of thanks that it could be so good. It’s a new-formed, fully fledged wonder. I love it. I think it’s a work of genius. I can’t, as you may have guessed, praise it enough.

Daffodils. The story of how a couple of Hamiltonians meet in the 60s, fall in love, get married, carve out a life. Set to the music of Neil Finn, Dave Dobbyn, Bic Runga, Don McGlashan, Ray Columbus, Chris Knox, Jordan Luck… all the old farts who have lit up our lives at one time or another, their songs re-imagined, renewed, worked over so they belt you round the chops and – with a wrenching clarion splendour you probably thought you would never feel for them again – call to you in your soul. I’m sorry, I know I already said it, but I can’t praise it enough. [More

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Heart-wrenching, personal, near-iconic New Zealand theatre

Review by Stephen Austin 15th Mar 2014

Eric (Todd Emerson) is eighteen and Rose (Colleen Davis) is sixteen when he picks her up, drunk, having fallen in a daffodil garden by a lake.  This is the exact location where his parents met two decades earlier, so this love at first sight feels like it may be fate, but events conspire to force them both to examine their futures and relationships with the past and the greater world around them. 

All to the tune of some of the great rock anthems of twentieth century New Zealand. 

This cabaret-style work is brought to life with immense class and vivid style by Bullet Heart Club, a collective of super-talented musicians, performers, filmmakers and artists.

The two central characters are based on playwright Rochelle Bright’s own observations of her parents and culling of many clippings, love letters and reminiscences, but we are introduced to them by band leader Stephanie Brown as if they were her own through a brief bookending narration from her contemporary voice. 

Brown, better known as part of New York based electro pop act LIPS, has been asked to take iconic Kiwi songs and re-contextualize, remix and re-arrange them to this story and she embeds them all in an impressive soundscape wall that wraps its warmth around the audience and sustains the mood throughout. 

All of the music is suited to both performers by the arrangement and rendered on the loud side of immersive by the perfectly timed 3 piece band. Any more volume and it would have been just too much for the audiences eardrums in this intimate space. 

Every well-known local pop act and genre is represented here, from Ray Columbus to Darcy Clay, Blam Blam Blam to Crowded House.  Some songs are used in Baz Lurmann fashion to bring the historically removed into a more modern context – Columbus’ ‘She’s A Mod’ is right beside Bic Runga’s ‘Drive’ in the opening moments, for example – and some odd choices of songs are juxtaposed against each other in duet: the meeting of ‘There Is No Depression In New Zealand’ and ‘Jesus I Was Evil’ is somewhat inspired. 

As the central couple, Emerson and Davis are spectacular.  And they never look at each other once.  Instead, they are positioned at microphones, barefoot, their performance space a small stage length strip of carpet apiece.  It’s fully clear that they’ve both worked the material together, focussing the intimacies towards the remoteness required of the staging, and this makes the whole work all the more poignant. 

That Emerson doesn’t always reach those top notes can be totally forgiven as his performance is utterly grounded in the relatable, free-spirited character of Eric.  His closing off within the relationship and tight-lipped keeping of secrets are the heart of the narrative and he delivers it all with aplomb.  His performance and re-contextualisation of Dave Dobbyn’s ‘Language’ late in the piece is startling and utterly devastating.  

Davis is a spectacular foil, dressed in tasteful fifties red lace with excellent presence and bubbling with graceful emotion.  When she’s given free-rein with her songs it’s something akin to torch-singing and packs immense punch.  She realises the emotional breakdown at the core of the character of Rose with a fragile, harried credibility and buttoned-down sensuality. 

The stygian space is enhanced with a portal of black-and-white cinematics behind the performers which subtly enhances the history and supports the themes with poignant intimacies.  The footage is both created especially for the production and found from historical footage, never detracting from the simply-placed down-stage performances but acting as an excellent bridging device for the whole work.

Cabaret performed with so much context and passion to a satisfying narrative end, as it should be.  This is heart-wrenching, personal, near-iconic New Zealand theatre.  

A world premiere standing ovation, very richly deserved.

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