Tararua Tramping Club, 4 Moncrieff St, Mt Victoria, Wellington

24/09/2016 - 08/10/2016

Production Details

A modern twist to the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale The Emperor’s New Clothes.  

Guy Langford’s fresh new work looks at what happens when Marianne A La Mode can’t find anything to wear for her the upcoming fashion show. Everyone has opinions and ideas but only MC Style can help.  What will she do for her outfit when the fashion world waits for no one?

Be entertained and captivated as the fashionistas take you into their hilarious world. With our usual kiwi twist on traditional fairy stories, songs and audience participation (as well as a few jokes for the adults) Emperor’s New Clothes is sure to delight!    

Strut your stuff down the catwalk ­ All the way to the Tararua Tramping Club to see Emperor’s New Clothes!   


Tararua Tramping Club, 4 Moncrieff St, Mt. Victoria, Wellington
24th September – 8th of October, 2016 
Performance Times: Monday ­ Friday 11am and 2pm, Saturdays at 11am    
Tickets: $10, Groups of 10+ $9.00 each, Children under 2 Free  
$7 Special Opening Preview, Saturday 24 September  
Bookings: fohkidzstuff@gmail.com / 04 385 0292 / www.kidzstufftheatre.co.nz

Theatre , Family , Children’s ,

A trend you can buy into

Review by Moana Ete 25th Sep 2016

I remember the story going something like this: Some trickster weavers convince the Emperor that there is a new thread that is invisible only to the foolish and incompetent. They present to the Emperor the clothes made of this so-called thread then they convince said Emperor to parade his outfit to his subjects resulting in the ruler parading his polka-dot boxers before a sea of commoners.

I’m eager to revisit this story for the details I’d dropped and I’m excited to see how writer Guy Langford and director Deborah Rea will re-vamp this 19th century tale for contemporary audiences. I expect that much of the traditional plot will remain intact. Either way, I do believe these classic adaptations are an opportunity to succinctly express the real-time concerns we have for the next generation while allowing us to investigate the less desirable aspects of adult behaviour through the lens of a child. And it’s not hard to derive more key messages from this exuberant production of Emperor’s New Clothes

Two oh-so stylish Fashionistas (Catriona Tipene and Jasmine Leota) welcome us into the Tararua Tramping Club adorned in loud animal print coats and sparkly hats. The fashionistas endow their guests with the splendour that one requires for the cut-throat world of glitz, glamour and high fashion. Checkered across the stage are countless magazine covers with ‘STYLE STYLE STYLE’ emblazoned on the front.

Tipene and Leota are a well matched duo, equally strong in presence, equally generous and conscientious in performance.

The Emperor, in this adaptation, is Marianne A La Mode (Katya Romanski) the CEO and editor of the prestigious fashion magazine ALA-MODE. But before we can meet Marianne properly we must go through Intern (Catriona Tipene) who has been working at Ala-Mode magazine for no pay for 15 years now! She bumbles through all her various duties including fetching Marianne’s coffees and scheduling Marianne’s various meetings every day. The Intern is obviously over-worked and exploited but naively remains hopeful.

Tipene is very skilled in establishing rapport with the audience and this relationship is crucial as children are invited to engage directly with the actors throughout the play with fun movements to copy and call-and-response type routines. 

Marianne A La Mode’s fierce reputation certainly precedes her. Romanski presents a sharp, French, direct, straight-shooting CEO which is, quite simply, quite scary. She is an unexpected antihero in my opinion. Fragile almost. Marian’s power appears to be built on a foundation of insecurity and a desperate need to literally keep up appearances.

With Marianne’s first song I note the great singing voices across the cast. The singing that features in every scene is clear and reaches all corners of the hall. The backing music (produced by Hen Priestly) is pre-recorded and played from speakers while the singers sing unmic’d. To my ear the backing tracks are made up of keys and some simple synthesised orchestral strings but are missing percussion. What happens throughout the play with the absence of a simple beat is that the song drags and the actor has to work double-time to find a groove to pick the energy up. Because of this the songs with backing tracks create a noticeable lull where I feel there should be momentum.

Out of nowhere really, which is testament to the lightning-quick costume changes achieved by the ensemble, appears MC Style (Jasmine Leota) to promise Marianne A La Mode the next internationally coveted fashion craze. This 80s-inspired Hip-Hopping, rapping, dabbing character is the reinvented trickster of the tale.

MC Style presents to the children fabric that she has discovered but we cannot see. “Can you see this thread?” MC Style asks the kids in confidence. “Noooooo!” we reply. And so MC Style must invent the story that only people with ‘true style’ can see the fabric and this is the story we run with here on out.

With the audience’s help, MC Style even convinces the Intern of the invisible thread. When the new clothes are presented to Marianne A La Mode, Marianne has her doubts and she voices her fear of not being in style but this concern is fleeting. Besides, the weight of the fashion industry lies solely on Marianne’s shoulders. Marianne digs deep and dives into her new invisible frock for the sake of style. 

Time for the big reveal. The fierce Marianne we met at the start struts like the pro she is… only now she is in her pink boxers and petticoat. I did wonder how they would treat this scene but the inevitable costume malfunction is handled tastefully. Don’t worry folks, no nip slips or bum cheeks. It’s up to Romanski to play up the shame and humiliation of being in what is essentially shorts and a singlet. The children go nuts over this and I find the whole mishap as amusing as it was the very first time I heard the story. 

The key messages Langford allows us to take home from this particular adaptation are the value of authenticity and feeling stylish in whatever you choose to wear. Moreover, the morals embed in the original story still ring true like the vapid/fickle nature of mindless conformity and the perils of vanity. 

This show is well suited to boys and girls because personal style and insecurities around how we present ourselves is an issue that effects all genders. Though it does not deliver on the more traditional Hans Christian Anderson appropriations (with the Kingdoms and the Emperors and stuff…) this KidzStuff production is definitely a trend you can buy into.


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