Circa Two, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

04/04/2012 - 28/04/2012

Production Details


Theatre favourites, Geraldine Brophyand Jane Keller star in a brand new show, Floral Notes. Written by Geraldine Brophy with song book adapted byJane Keller it promises to be a delightful evening in the theatre.

Two women, Iris and Rosemary, were pen pals when they were young girls.  In their teenage years they lost touch.

Nowadays, Iris lives in a brownstone in New York and longs for a garden on her roof…a sanctuary away from her peculiar family and her busy urban world where she runs an Art Gallery.

Rosemary owns a large lifestyle property in small town New Zealand. She grows nuts and micro-veggies for the commercial market – but lavishes her love on a tiny plot of flowers, just for herself.

Through a twist of fate they re-kindle their friendship and Rosemary offers to help Iris transform her New York rooftop into a garden paradise – via email.

Told with humour and charm, Floral Notes is a touching, sometimes poignant story of these 2 pen pals whose lives are enriched when their friendship is re-newed.

Jane has sourced the songs and music for the show in collaboration with Michael Nicholas Williams who will accompany them in performance.

This is Geraldine’s 11th produced work and her first foray into the musical genre.

“I love going to the musical theatre and have always wanted to create something with music. Floral Notes has fulfilled that ambition.” she says.

Emma Kinanebrings her skill as director to this premiere production.

Performance Times:  Tues – Sat 7.30pm 
Sunday 4.30pm 

$25 SPECIALS – Tues 3 April 7.30pm
Good Friday 6 April 7.30pm, Easter Sunday 8 April 4.30pm 
BOOKINGS: Circa Phone 801 7992 www.circa.co.nz  

Pre-show dinner available at Encore – phone 801 7996 

Rosemary:  Geraldine Brophy 
Iris:  Jane Keller
With Michael Nicholas Williams on the Piano 

Lighting design:  Glenn Ashworth
Lighting operator:  David Cathro
Set construction:  Ross Joblin
Publicity:  Colleen McColl
Graphic Design:  Rose Miller – Kraftwork
Photography:  Chris Coad Photography
House Manager:  Suzanne Blackburn
Box Office:  Linda Wilson   

1hr 30min, including interval

Musical first

Review by Michael Wray 12th Apr 2012

Geraldine Brophy’s new play is a musical examination of the themes that she writes about so well. From previous works, such as Real Estate, we know Brophy is a master at exploring loss, making us laugh while pulling on our heart-strings, but this is the first time she has written a play for the musical genre.

Michael Nicholas Williams provides piano accompaniment with his usual professionalism. Jane Keller has compiled the song book, with assistance from Williams, with a range of songs that link well to the story.

Brophy also plays Rosemary, a woman living in Puketapu with a love of gardening. Keller plays Iris, the New Yorker Rosemary used to correspond with 40 years previously before they lost touch. Through letters and emails, we learn the back-story of the characters, how they lost touch and how it is they have reconnected now. 

This epistolary format creates a problem; the two performers never get to address or interact directly with one another. Director Emma Kinane has attempted to address this by co-ordinating the movement of the two actors as much as possible, without losing the placing of the two locations within the set.

The character of Rosemary gives Brophy room to act as well as sing. Rosemary interacts with her off-stage (in more ways than one) husband Tank, which provides a richness that Iris’ character doesn’t have. Iris’ back-story is only revealed through letters and emails, so we see less of Keller’s ability to act and more of her as a singer.

It would have been nice to see Iris dealing with her daughter or ex-husband between letters, in the same way we saw Rosemary talking to Tank.  


Make a comment

A friendship regenerated like a garden in Spring

Review by Jo Hodgson 06th Apr 2012

“This is what happens, see…”

When three highly-accomplished artists from varied theatrical and musical disciplines come together, what happens is truly beautiful.

Floral Notes is a delightfully woven musical story of two pen pals, Iris and Rosemary, who lose contact in their late teens but (luckily) due to a meddling daughter find each other again some 40 years later. Through email their friendship is rekindled and, although there is initial resistance (by Iris particularly) to remembering the past, the challenges, joys and pains of their lives are shared and each woman becomes the richer for it. 

The beautifully written script by Geraldine Brophy is filled with pathos and humour and is wonderfully realised in the two different characters of Iris (Jane Keller) and Rosemary (Geraldine Brophy).

Rosemary, a widow living on land in the Hawkes Bay, where she grows hazelnuts and micro greens for the commercial market, is a warm, instantly likeable, earthy eccentric and appears to have the ideal life.  Iris, a successful art director, also a widow (and divorcee), living in New York is brash, sarcastic and in control. (“If you can pay the dog, why bark yourself?”)

Iris seems to have everything: money, great career… but her only place of refuge from her ‘Orderly World’ (by Alan Menken) is her roof, which, over the course of the play, is transformed into a floral art exhibition with Rosemary’s help from the other side of the world. (‘Two Sides of a River’ by Tom Jones and Joseph Thalken)

As the friends reconnect, they share not only the past and the events that led to their loss of contact, but also who they are now. Through gorgeous descriptive word painting, each can ‘see’ what the other’s life is like, and Rosemary cleverly uses the meanings of flowers in her garden as metaphors which innocently trigger responses from Iris, leading to her softening and opening up.

As this happens, we warm to her more and see her vulnerability, especially as past tragic events come to light. Jane sings ‘Lullaby in Blue’ by Adam Cohen and Patrick Brock with beautiful tenderness. Another favourite moment is Geraldine’s firstly comic rendition of ‘There are Fairies at the bottom of the Garden’ (Rose Fyleman and Liza Lehmann) but then later in a reprise of this song we are moved with the poignant simplicity.

The songs (most were unknown to us) for these two contrasting contraltos have been chosen with great care and fit like a glove. They are integrated so seamlessly we wonder if the script has been moulded around the songs or the songs around the script. (It turns out the songs came after the script.) 

The very talented Michael Nicholas Williams accompanies on piano. It’s lovely that we can see him: although not an actual character, he is very much part of the storytelling: not only accompanying the songs but providing a backdrop of music which adds to the emotion of the piece. He is totally unobtrusive but always supportive.

This cast, with director Emma Kinane, must have had a wonderful time working on this script, and although there are uncomfortable and sad topics within the play, they are delivered with the right amount of subtlety and sensitivity to allow the audience to join the dots.   

The whole narrative has an organic and very natural flow, growing like the gardens portrayed, complete with the unwanted weeds and root-bound grasses becoming vivid metaphors for challenges these two women face.  (“Why do we need to leave [New York]? The world comes to us!”)

The set (Ross Joblin) and lighting (Glen Ashworth) are minimal and nicely understated, leaving the viewer to imagine and believe the 14,000 km distance between Iris and Rosemary.

The incredibly experienced Jane Keller and Geraldine Brophy bring their own particular set of skills and training to this play (the former as a highly accomplished singer of various musical styles, the latter as a renowned stage actor) and each ventures into the other’s world with great success. Both women are utterly convincing in taking true ownership of their characters and their voices.

Floral Notes affirms the importance of friendship and it is especially beautiful to watch Iris and Rosemary’s relationship regenerating like a garden in Spring. 

Take your tissues and your best friend.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council