Regent Theatre, The Octagon, Dunedin

10/09/2020 - 13/09/2020

Production Details

Dear Boobs on Stage is BACK with new dates after COVID19 tested our resilience!  With this passage of time we have taken the opportunity to incorporate even more wonderful moments into the show, and we are thrilled to present to the community our refined production for your viewing pleasure! 

Dunedin’s Suitcase Theatre in association with The Dear Boobs Project present a never-before staged, landmark performance of Dear Boobs, a collection of intimate, inspirational, courageous [and often hilarious] letters written by women affected by breast cancer to their breasts.

“After agonising over why I was so sad about losing my floppy, uneven, cancer-filled breast, I wrote a letter: ‘Dear Boobs…’. Writing that letter helped.  Reading it back helped too.” Emily Searle, The Dear Boobs Project.

Dear Boobs was published in late 2018 and to date more than 1,200 copies of the book have been sent around the world, reaching and helping to support those affected by sharing honest and inspiring conversations. Suitcase Theatre saw the opportunity to take this inspirational collection to the stage, giving the Dunedin community a unique theatrical interpretation, which would not have otherwise been available.

Taking a selection of the Dear Boobs letters onto the stage for a sincere and respectful story-sharing performance allows audiences to experience the material in a different medium – instead of reading the letters, they can be part of a community of people sharing the letters as they come to life.

Dear Boobs on Stage’ marries together The Dear Boobs Project’s vision of ‘sharing wisdom, inspiring healing, and celebrating the breast cancer community’, with Suitcase Theatre’s vision of ‘producing theatre with heart, inspiring conversations, and supporting our community.’

Suitcase Theatre is proud to present a talented all-female cast of local performers, with original live music performed by The Dragonfly Rustlers to complement the stories. 50% of the proceeds will be donated to The Dear Boobs Project to assist them in sharing more of Dear Boobs with the world.

Performances at the Regent Theatre’s Clarkson Studio from Thursday 10th to Sunday 13th September, a total of 5 shows. We are pleased to announce that the Saturday Matinee will be ‘deaf-friendly’ with an interpreter in attendance.

Regent Theatre, Clarkson Studio
Thursday 10 – Sunday 13 September 2020
Thu 10th – 7.00pm – SOLD OUT
Fri 11th – 7.00pm
Sat 12th – 2.00pm ‘Deaf-Friendly’ with a NZSL interpreter in attendance
Sat 12th – 8.00pm – SOLD OUT
Sun 13th – 2.00pm
Tickets are $20 ($15 concession)
Available from The Regent Theatre (

Interested parties can learn more about The Dear Boobs Project here:  

Further information on ‘Dear Boobs on Stage’ can be found on the Facebook event page: 
or through Suitcase Theatre’s Facebook page:

Kimberley Buchan 
Lesley Eaton
Mārama Grant 
Denise Casey 
Helen Fearnley
Harriet Moir 

MUSICIANS: The Dragonfly Rustlers
Jess Dobson
Rohana Weaver

Stage Manager - Rosie Collier
Technical Operator - Rosie Collier
Poster Design - Hannah Wynn
Lighting Design - Craig Storey
Photographer - Nick Beadle
Videographer - Gabby Golding
NZSL Tutor - Brydee Strang

FOH, Bar Staff, Ushers, Security supplied by The Regent Theatre

Theatre , Spoken word , Music ,

Therapeutic theatre

Review by Barbara Frame 14th Sep 2020

There may have been one or two men in the audience, but if there were I didn’t spot them. Dear Boobs is a very female affair, about a very female topic: breasts, and women’s relationships with them. 

Inspired by the book Dear Boobs, One Hundred Letters to Breasts from Women Affected by Breast Cancer, a collection of real, intimate letters by New Zealand women to their missing boobs, director Laura Wells has developed a stage show, originally intended for this year’s Fringe Festival but cancelled because of Covid-19.

Mostly, in Suitcase Theatre’s competent production, the six performers – Lesley Eaton (one of the book’s contributors), Kimberley Buchan, Marama Grant, Denise Casey, Helen Fearnley and Harriet Moir – direct their words to the auditorium. The range of emotions expressed is vast, from accusation, resentment and rage to affection and acceptance, with a sprinkling of wry humour. 

Musical accompaniment is provided the Dragonfly Rustlers, Jess Dobson and Rohana Weaver, before, during and after the show.

There are some minor awkwardnesses. Lines not originally intended for stage performance can sound odd, and some of the action seems self-conscious or artificial.

Overall, Dear Boobs is therapeutic rather than theatrical, earnest rather than dramatic. Throughout there are strong overtones of courage, optimism and gratitude to family, friends and the medical profession. 

On Thursday night the 80-odd audience sat close to the stage but not too close to each other, the theatre’s size allowing for social distancing. 

The 50-minute production will run until Sunday 13 September, and Saturday afternoon’s performance will be deaf-friendly.  Suitcase Theatre have pledged a 50% donation of all profits to the provision of Dear Boobs books in Dunedin waiting rooms and clinics – a great example of community theatre in action, and a worthy undertaking. 


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Courage, humour and insight

Review by Terry MacTavish 12th Sep 2020

Bloody but unbowed, the Dunedin arts scene is struggling to its feet. As Brenda Harwood’s comprehensive feature in the last Star News revealed, not only our many theatre groups but the venues that support them have been wrestling with COVID-19 restrictions in a valiant attempt to bring back live theatre. At last we have a show to celebrate.

Dear Boobs, with generous assistance from Regent Theatre Manager, Sarah Adamson, has transferred from an intimate space in the Clarkson Studio into the 2,000-seat beautiful main theatre.  Knowing Suitcase Theatre’s trademark style of community theatre, I was concerned this would destroy the intended modest intimacy of a play devised from letters by women who have undergone surgery for breast cancer.

But gentle music by the Dragonfly Rustlers and a warm and moving karakia by Fran Waiata, combined with the paradoxical comradeship of a socially distanced audience, creates exactly the inclusive atmosphere Dear Boobs requires. The audience (the maximum allowed for Level 2 – in fact the whole season is sold out) seems entirely invested in the performance. This is not surprising, as one in every 8 or 9 New Zealand women will experience breast cancer, and those in the audience who are not themselves survivors will certainly be close to someone who is.

Following her own surgery, Emily Searle found writing a letter to her lost breast so therapeutic that she invited other women to do the same. In no time she had so many letters she decided to gather them into a book “to start conversations about how women felt about their bodies and breasts after surgery, to validate the emotions involved… to address the impact of altered body image.” 

As such it was seized on by experienced director Laura Wells of the Suitcase Theatre, which works closely with the community, creating such works as Mental Notes and The Night Shift as well as mounting scripted plays like Crunchy Silk and The Vagina Monologues. Wells saw the theatrical possibilities, and the opportunity to further Suitcase’s aim of initiating valuable conversations on subjects that are often taboo. She has deftly selected, and welded into a coherent whole, letters expressing joy and gratitude as well as pain, fear and anger.  

Five accomplished actors take some four or five letters each, mostly delivered as monologues, but varied by choral movement grounded in the warmly supportive feeling amongst the cast. Wells has ensured the emotion is powerful but controlled. Costumes are simple, black t-shirts each emblazoned with a ‘b’ word chosen by the actors for their personal significance. The actors’ own lively personalities appear to match their lines.

Helen Fearnley (Blossom) with sharp intelligence describes protective feelings for her breast, the process of reconstruction, ‘a sisterhood thing’, then fires up with sudden rich anger not for herself, but for what cancer would cost her family, anger that actually gives her the courage to fight.

Kimberley Buchan (Bright) is cheerful and disarmingly quirky: “You never provided an erogenous zone in fun times!” – which leads to an amusing group piece on ridiculous ‘Advice’ from well-meaning friends, concluding with, “At least you get a boob-job out of it!” 

Marama Grant (Bewitched) exudes charm and motherly warmth: “Thank you for feeding my babies, and apologies for squeezing you into places you didn’t fit.”  (Interestingly the women are more aware of the nurturing than the sexual connotations of their breasts – I wonder if men feel the same?)

Then there’s Denise Casey (Brea, Irish for Loved) her delicious accent perfect for whimsical lines like “I miss you – well, not the part where you tried to kill me.” She succeeds in sharing the valuable lessons she has learned without being too pious.

And finally, the stroppiest of the group, Harriet Moir (Badass) with her defiant refusal to accept the blame for her ‘treasonous’ breast: “It wasn’t me; it was you!”

Despite such accusations, the mood of Dear Boobs is optimistic and loving, there is much laughter, and the women find many things to be grateful for, not least the kindness shown them and the friends they have made. Sometimes the sentiments expressed are repetitive, but this seems only to underline the shared experience and sense of sisterhood. The letter writers may not be totally representative of New Zealand – they seem middle-class, and certainly they are articulate – but hopefully they speak for those less so.

From the trademark suitcase, Lesley Eaton, a health worker from Mercy Hospital, draws printed B words, forcing us to give each due consideration: Buddies. Betrayal. Bruised. Balance. Breathe. Technicians Craig Storey and Rosie Collier, in what must have been a terrifyingly short time, have achieved sympathetic lighting. The vast darkness of the empty Regent Theatre behind the restricted group of patrons (matrons!) presses us towards the stage and actually creates a sense of intimacy.

Sofie Welvaert has sensitively choreographed the more abstract passages, which include a lovely moment with hand-held blue lights as the women create an illusion of the Milky Way. Dragonfly Rustlers provide soft backing music for some of the scenes – and as the actors take their bow, the music swells and the Rustlers sing again while the audience applauds, then the music lingers after the show.

In typical Suitcase tradition, the cast and crew mingle (safely!) with the audience, and there are tears as more stories are shared. Clearly the audience has been strongly moved, but comforted too, the camaraderie palpable. Emily Searle, compiler of the book Dear Boobs, who has come to Dunedin from Tauranga for the performance, is radiant in the aftermath, as is Rebecca from Christchurch, thrilled to find her very own letter is the first to be read.

As fine actor Diana Rigg, whom sadly we lost to cancer this very day (11 Sept) once said, “Reality excites and shocks and amazes and astounds.” Be prepared to be astounded by the courage and humour and insight of these real stories, uplifted and brought tenderly to life by Laura Wells and Suitcase.


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