Nelson Musical Theatre, 95 Atawhai Dr, The Wood, Nelson

27/04/2017 - 27/04/2017

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

22/03/2014 - 19/04/2014

Repertory House, 167 Esk Street, Invercargill

11/05/2017 - 11/05/2017


Production Details

A modern magical mystery with music from The Magic Flute
STARRING Helen Moulder
22 MARCH – 19 APRIL 2014

“Moulder is a consummate performer” Capital Times

Helen Moulder is delighted to premiere her enchanting new solo show at Circa Two. 

What would you think if your elderly mother suddenly spent $11,000 on a handbag? 

It is 2021 in Nelson and Gloria, aged ninety-seven, hasn’t long to live. Her son Craig is pushing her to move to a “retireville” but she wants to die in her own home. On a whim, Gloria buys an extraordinary designer handbag.  This purchase not only meets with huge disapproval from her son but sets off a series of unusual events which transform Gloria’s remaining days and enable her to send a message to the future.

To find the elusive bag for the show Helenhas trawled through TradeMe and hunted op shops and factory outlets throughout New Zealand.  “It’s been a lot of fun,” she said. “I’ve always had a very basic handbag, but there are a lot of amazing ones out there!” Eventually Helen and director Sue Rider decided on having a one-off bag created by costume designer Gillie Coxill. “There’ll be nothing like it anywhere,” Helen said. “It is extraordinary.” 

Once again Helen has collaborated with Sue Rider to write this new show. They will be remembered for their acclaimed work together on Meeting Karpovsky and Playing Miss Havisham both of which enjoyed huge success and performances throughout New Zealand.

With original music composed by Gareth Farr, piano music recorded by Bruce Greenfield and lighting by Phillip Dexter, this will provide another outstanding production from this talented team. 

“It’s imperative to have a good handbag when you’re on the way out” 

“Funny, poignant, thought provoking” Sunny Amey 

22- March – 19 April 2014
Performance times: TUES – SAT 7.30pm;  SUN 4.30pm

Ticket Prices: 
Adults $43, Concessions $36
Friends of Circa (to 6 April) $33 
Groups (6+) $39 (20+) $36 
Under 25’s $25 
$25 Specials: Friday 21st & Sun 23rd
Bookings: Circa 801 7992 or 

After show forum/feedback sessions March 25, April 1, 8 & 15. 

SHOW DURATION: 1 hour 20 mins approx (No interval) 

Pre-show dinner available at Encore
Reservations: 801 7996 



Thursday 27 April 7.30pm Nelson
Nelson Musical Theatre
$25, $20, $10 Book:
0508iticket and Nelson i-Site

Saturday 29 April 7.30pm Hokitika
Old Lodge Theatre
11 Revell St
$20 Book: Hokitika Regent Theatre

Sunday 30 April 5.30pm Christchurch
Gloucester Room, Isaac Theatre Royal
Adults $35; Concessions $30

Tuesday 2 May 7.30pm Timaru
The Playhouse Church St
$25 (includes booking fee)
Book:  Newmans Music Works 

Wednesday 3 May 7.30pm Oamaru
Inkbox Theatre, Opera House
$25+fees Book: Ticketdirect
and Oamaru Opera House

Thursday 4 May 7pm Roxburgh
Town Hall
$20 Book: Roxburgh Information Centre
Door sales

Friday 5 May 7.30pm Alexandra 
The Cellar Door
Adults $20, Gold card holders $15, Child $10
Book: Alexandra i-Site, cash door sales

Saturday 6 May 7.30pm Bannockburn
Coronation Hall
Adults $25, Super Gold $20, Student/child $5
Book: Cromwell i-Site

Sunday 7 May 7pm Hawea
Lake Hawea Community Centre
$25 Book: Sailz store, OCD Café
@ medical centre and via LHCC FB Page

Tuesday 9 May 7.30pm Arrowtown
Athenaeum Hall
Adult $25, Child$10
Book: Eventfinda

Wednesday 10 May 7.30pm Te Anau
Fiordland Events Centre
$30/$25/$15 (fees apply)
Book: Eventfinda Door sales from 7pm
Presented by the Southland Arts Festival

Thursday 11 May 7.30pm Invercargill
Repertory House
$30/$25/$15 (fees apply) 
Book: Eventfinda | Door sales from 6.30pm
Presented by the Southland Arts Festival

Friday 12 May 7pm Owaka
Owaka Memorial Centre
$20 Book: Catlins Café

Sunday 14 May 7.30pm Twizel
Events Centre
Adults $20, Students $10
Book: Twizel Information Centre

Monday 15 May 7pm Lincoln
The Laboratory
$20 Book Eventfinda or at the Laboratory

Wednesday 17 May 8pm-ish Onekaka
The Mussel Inn
$15 Book: Eventfinda for presales

Friday 19 May 8pm Upper Hutt
Expressions Whirinaki Arts Centre

Saturday 20 May 7pm Waipawa
CHB Municipal Theatre
Adults $25, Students $20, Dinner pack $40
Book: Eventfinda

Monday 22 May 7.30pm Opotiki
De Luxe Theatre
$20, Students $10
Book: Travel Shop or on the door

Tuesday 23 May 7.30pm Paeroa
Little Theatre
$20 Book: Arkwrights Antiques and Positive Paeroa

Wednesday 24 May 7.30pm Tauranga
16th Avenue Theatre
Adults $25, Seniors $22, FOB members $20

Friday 26 May 7pm Whitianga
Town Hall
$18, Under 18 years $10
Book: Paper Plus Whitianga

Saturday 27 May 8pm Coromandel
Hauraki House Theatre
$20 Book: Harcourts Coromandel

Monday 29 May 7.30pm Whangarei
Riverbank Centre
Reyburn House Lane
$25 Book:

Tuesday 30 May 7.30pm Mangere
Arts Centre
$25,$20, $10
Book: Info 09 262 5789

Wednesday 31 May 7.30pm Putaruru
The Plaza Theatre
Adults $20, Seniors/students $15
Book: The Plaza, Diamond Jewellers Matamata,
I-Site Tokoroa and Eventfinda

Thursday 1 June 7.30pm New Plymouth 
4th Wall Theatre
$30 Book: 0800 484 925 

Friday 2 June 7.30pm Wanganui
Royal Wanganui Opera House
Adults $28, Senior $25, Friend OH $23, Student $15
Special rates for school groupsBook at venue or

Sunday 4 June 4pm Hamilton
Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts
University of Waikato
$25, Concessions $20, Groups 4+ $18pp, Students $10
0800 383 5200 or Academy Box office

Arts On Tour New Zealand (AOTNZ) organises tours of outstanding New Zealand performers to rural and smaller centres in New Zealand. The trust receives funding from Creative New Zealand, support from Interislander, and liaises with local arts councils, repertory theatres and community groups to bring the best of musical and theatrical talent to country districts. The AOTNZ programme is environmentally sustainable – artists travel to their audiences rather than the reverse. 

Theatre , Solo , Musical ,

1hr 20mins (no interval)

A gorgeous little gem of a play

Review by Hannah Kennedy 12th May 2017

“Keep finding the magic,” we’re urged, in this magical, whimsical and charming play. And find it we do. In abundance.

Gloria’s Handbag is a one-woman show performed masterfully by the incredible Helen Moulder. It tells the story of Gloria, a 97 year-old lady coming to terms with the year 2025. Having accumulated a lifetime of treasures and memories, Gloria is facing losing them to move to a rest home.

Moulder’s portrayal of the elderly Gloria is sensitive and poignant. She delights us with magic and Mozart (goodness me, that voice!), and connects with the audience immediately. In fact, the audience involvement is one of the best done aspects of this piece, enveloping us in her story deeply and almost physically.

But there’s so much more to this play. Moulder portrays at least six distinct characters, each one clear and nuanced, and her transitions between them are seamless. The story is clever but not overdone: we’re left with a few things unanswered, but not so that it frustrates us. Rather we can enjoy reflecting on our own ideas of what might have been left unsaid, and how we might see things developing.

The setting, in the future, is interesting. The play explores ideas of ownership, materialism and our connection to our history through our possessions, and is done against a dystopian background. This version of the future is imaginative and well-conceived, with just the right amount of details to make it believable (if unlikely). It’s unexpected, but effective at giving us a space to reflect on those themes, and consider them in a new light.

The set is simple but gives a clear sense of space. Lighting is used effectively and the props are clever and subtle. Honestly though the details fade away against Moulder’s superb performance. It’s no mean feat to keep a room of people enthralled for 80 minutes straight but we could watch this story for hours.

All in all this gorgeous little gem of a play is a must see for a lesson about ageing, the “stuff” we own, and above all the importance of having a really good handbag.


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Powerhouse performance brings pleasure and pathos

Review by Melanie Stewart 29th Apr 2017

Gloria’s Handbag, written by Sue Rider and Helen Moulder, is directed by Rider and performed by Moulder. Gloria is a 97 year old women who discovers online shopping and purchases for herself a handbag.  She knows her time is limited and the bag purchase precedes a series of events and interactions that are often outrageously funny and sometimes very sad.

We are introduced to the handbag in its human form, Buonissimo. Gloria’s son, Craig, Granddaughter, Nic, the gardener and a teacher from the future. All have their own distinct personae and are delivered with finesse and skill by Moulder. She attacks the forth wall with a vengeance and takes no prisoners when inviting the audience to participate in the story.

The play is set in 2021 and includes, but does not focus on, technological over use including an amusing look at the development of the spoken language into text speak where everyone shortens words into one syllable. Craig’s description of the hand bag as a “gast bit of frib” draws a good laugh. The play also switches to a time 50 years in the future, where unnecessary possessions are banned, a very frightening concept for those of us with an inclination to gather objects of interest.

The set is simple: a table, 2 chairs and a stand that houses the bag. Gloria’s treasures, her teacups, books, ornaments and dinner sets are symbolised by 27 coloured blocks that, during the performance, are stacked, dropped and rearranged several times.

Helen is a powerhouse of energy, performing for 1 hour and 20 minutes without a break, creating multiple characters seamlessly, performing magic tricks and singing. There are moments of pure pleasure, when she reveals the garish hand bag to the audience in its jewel encrusted finery, and moments of pathos, when you realise the extent of her son’s interference with her finances.

Snippets from Mozart ‘s Magic Flute are sung by Helen in her beautiful tuneful voice including a duet: no mean feat for one person. The connection, I am assuming, is the similarities between the life-changing potential initiated by both the magic flute in Mozart opera, and the magic handbag in the play. Whether this is intended is not entirely obvious, nor is it important.

This is the first show in an Arts On Tour NZ five week / 28 show journey throughout the country. If it is coming to a town near you I highly recommend it as a very accomplished, entertaining and thought provoking performance.


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Handbag chock full of entertainment

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 25th Mar 2014

Mozart’s The Magic Flute has been described as ‘the most fantastic mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous ever put on the stage’. 

While Gloria’s Handbag, which contains arias from the opera, may not be in quite that league it certainly mixes the ridiculous with magic tricks, the future, an unhappy family and the very real predicaments of an elderly woman living alone.

A great deal of Helen Moulder’s engaging performance of Gloria Williamson, who announces she is 113 years old but later revises to 97, is as delicate, gentle and genteel as the coloured handkerchiefs she uses in her magic tricks.  But underlying Gloria’s occasional dottiness Helen Moulder lets us glimpse, when the slightly over-long and highly convoluted plot allows, a stoical, realistic woman approaching the end of her life. 

But everything goes topsy-turvy almost from the start when in a moment of retail madness (Gloria has discovered internet shopping) she buys an inordinately expensive – and excessively vulgar – Italian handbag.

When the handbag is first opened, Gloria is confronted by the bag’s genie, Belissima. She is its proud designer, an irrepressible, sprightly Papageno-like figure who takes over for a while, commenting on Gloria’s family and teaching the audience some basic Italian.

The events swerve wildly from the present (2021) when Gloria’s daughter-in-law is leading a political party in an election to the future (2071) where we, the audience, are holograms at a lecture being taught how to memorise everything.

Gloria’s son is a slick businessman with financial problems and wants to get Gloria into a home and sell off all her assets, and her granddaughter, whom she talks to on a new-fangled Skype, has problems with the Malaysian police. Oh, and then there’s Julian the handyman.

Throw into this farrago some audience participation, a Mozart duet in a solo show, some very funny sequences, and you have a highly enjoyable entertainment which seems to me to lose sight of its themes of materialism, heritage and “passing  the parcel,” to use Alan Bennett’s phrase from The History Boys.

Helen Moulder received a standing ovation from an enthused opening night audience.


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Well worth rummaging through

Review by John Smythe 23rd Mar 2014

In the guise of a play about a 97 year-old woman spending up large on a handbag and resisting her son’s attempts to put her in a twilight home, Helen Moulder has, with her co-playwright and director Sue Rider, fabricated our possible future. From 2021 to 2037 technology, language, politics, education and value systems progress – if that’s the word – in fascinating ways, while other elements of humans being remain ever thus.

It’s not so much sci fi as socio-political fiction, delightfully presented in more than one magical mode: snippets of The Magic Flute, a magic handbag called Bellissima, some conjuring tricks and the simple sorcery of Moulder’s multi-character solo performance of a highly imaginative script.

Phillip Dexter’s lighting design (operated by Deb McGuire), Gareth Farr’s sound design (incorporating Michael Vinten’s piano arrangements of Mozart’s last opera played by Bruce Greenfield) and Gillie Coxill’s glorious handbag design add to the 80 minutes of pleasure.    

Gloria Williamson from Nelson wants to hang on to a lifetime of stuff (she is still in the house she grew up in) because that is what keeps her memories alive. Twenty seven wooden blocks represent an eclectic array of things – inherited from her ancestors as well as accumulated by Gloria – but Gloria fears the emerging orthodoxy, according to her daughter-in-law’s New Way Party, is that there needs to be a limit on owning personal objects.

Craig, Gloria’s globally wheeler-dealing son, interfaces with clients and colleagues via an i-pal both on his wrist and in his ear. His favoured expletive is “frack” or “fracking” while his daughter Nikki – arrested in Malaysia for a more old-fashioned kind of possession – calls awesome things “astral”.

Initially it seems Craig’s habit of dropping the last syllable from words is his personal “pretensh” (pretention) but a couple of generations later – as imagined by Gloria, unless she really is 113 – it is the newspeak of the New Way era. Kate, Craig’s politician wife, is prime minister, and Nikki’s ‘daught’ Astra is cyber-seminating with us, as hologram scholars in the late 2030s, about why 2021 was “the commencing time of the Great Shift”. It’s the magic of “manual cognicizing”, in which we are schooled, that returns us to that future.  

The set-up seems quite convoluted when one tries to disentangle the components but the flow of the show is entirely consistent (I imagine) with the fertile mind of a nonagenarian who has suffered a stroke and is facing socio-political change as well as her mortality. Not that all is fantastical. WordPal allows her to communicate to Julian, the odd job man who grounds her, the play and us in a reality we can recognize.

The titular handbag, bought online and delivered early in the play, has a charmingly seductive Italian persona. The diametric opposite of ‘an old bag’, Bellissima becomes the repository for the odd artifact to be wondered at in the future, and the vanishing remnants of Gloria’s life which re-materialise as flimsy wisps of coloured cloth, magically metamorphosing as metaphors for change and loss.

Gloria is also minded to sing snatches from The Magic Flute that hauntingly express such inner states as sweet devotion, death and vengeance, the silence she is sentenced to and desolation.

Helen Moulder is so relaxed and connected in performance it is easy to take her writing, acting, singing and conjuring talents for granted. There are so many goodies in Gloria’s Handbag it’s well worth rummaging through in retrospect.


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