Go Solo 2009

Te Whaea - SEEyD Space, 11 Hutchison Rd, Newtown, Wellington

20/07/2009 - 01/08/2009

Production Details

written and performed by Toi Whakaari third year acting students  

Go Solo is 18 new solo compositions created and performed by Toi Whakaari final year acting students. There are 5 different groups of actors and every group promises a rich variety of individual perspectives and bold theatre making.

As usual this year’s Solos are hugely varied. We go from the sandy shores of Vanuatu, to the homeless hangouts of Wellington. Inspect a new human mating ritual and find out what really happens when we die.

Go Solo 2009 is directed by Sophie Roberts, 2007 acting graduate (Wolf’s Lair, Blood Wedding, Streetcar Named Desire), and Senior Acting Tutor D’Arcy Smith, with support from third year Performing Arts Management students Mike Norman and Eddie Fraser.
Have a look here to see what each group has to offer …

Where:  SEEyD Space, Te Whaea National Dance & Drama Centre, 11 Hutchison Road
When:  Monday 20 July – Saturday 1 August (please see times below)
Price:  $10 / $5 (all 5 groups for $40 – must be booked over phone or in person)
Bookings:  ONLINE or 04 381 9253 (automated line)

Mon 20 Jul:  6.30pm-E; 8.30pm-A
Tue 21 Jul:  6.30pm-B; 8.30pm-C
Wed 22 Jul:  6.30pm-D; 8.30pm-E
Thu 23 Jul:  2.30pm-A; 6.30pm-C; 8.30pm-B
Fri 24 Jul:  2.30pm-B; 6.30pm-A; 8.30pm-D
Sat 25 Jul:  12.30pm-C; 2.30pm-D; 4.30pm-A; 6.30pm-E; 8.30pm-B
Sun 26 Jul  –  –  –  –  – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Mon 27 Jul:  6.30pm-C; 8.30pm-D
Tue 28 Jul:  6.30pm-D; 8.30pm-E
Wed 29 Jul:  2.30pm-C; 6.30pm-A; 8.30pm-B
Thu 30 Jul:  2.30pm-D; 6.30pm-E; 8.30pm-C
Fri 31 Jul:  2.30pm-E; 6.30pm-B; 8.30pm-A
Sat 1 Aug:  12.30pm-B; 2.30pm-A; 4.30pm-E; 6.30pm-C; 8.30pm-D

"Go Solo has proven itself a worthy competitor to the Film Festival for audiences seeking intriguing, bold and new visions" – Thomas LaHood reviewing the 2008 Solos at theatrereview  


Tim Carlsen:  Every Man and His Dog

I have the biggest back yard in Wellington.  I can move my home anywhere.  I have heaps of visitors – some see me, some don’t. Please, feel free to look around my open home.
Dan Hannah:  The Mrs Trilogy
The will to get your project made and the courage to overlook the odds set against you.
Kate McGill:  Duets
If music be the food of love, this ditty has a temporary case of food poisoning.
Sophie Lindsay:  La pièce de musique
Practice makes perfect.

Guy Langford:  Hurry! Hurry! Wait…
All passengers travelling on Flight 815 please make your way to Gate 42. This is your final, finalboarding call.
Jessica Grace Smith:  Fish and Chips
Dannevirke: Our People, Our Place, No Intrusions.
Kay Smith:  Chasing Cows
Marama was raised by her Granddad and remembers his legacy as she prepares for motherhood.
Juanita Hepi:  Po Nanny
If you are mean with the things that grow so freely, then they won’t grow so well." Waihemonga Ihepera Kainamu Cook

Suli Moa:  Was the Son

The person you are with most of your life is yourself. If you don’t like yourself, you will always be with someone you don’t like.
Romy Hooper:  (Insert Problem Here) Anonymous
Whether we are confronted with illness, disease, life or death we tend to meet sterile walls of a hospital. What if what we really met there was ourselves?
Emmett Skilton:  This Boy
We struggle with the complexities and avoid the simplicities.
Emma Draper:  The Importance of a Party
One woman prepares for one day on different days in her life. How much she has changed in the days in between; how much she holds inside her.

Amelia Reid:  Walking Forward Backwards
History is a cyclic poem written by time upon the memories of man. It acts as a bridge, linking our past to our future.
Matariki Whatarau:  "Who’s gonna do the karanga?"
No matter what, whanau will always be there.
Aroha White:  The Leopard and The Peach
In the dark of the night when there’s no more light, a monster begins to stir.
Shadon Meredith:  A Silence Profound as Stars
A photograph is memory in the raw. The goal is not to change your subjects, but for the subject to change the photographer.

Cian White:  The Endeavour

Kia ora and welcome to ‘The land of the rising sun….’, where opinions are rife, time is of the essence and all is not as it seems……
Veronica Brady:  Outside All is Still
Martha Graham once said that a dancer suffers two deaths – the first when they stop dancing, and the second, often less painful, when they die.






Group A:  Katharine McGill, Tim Carlsen, Sophie Lindsay, Dan Hannah
Group B:  Guy Langford, Kay Smith, Jessica Grace Smith, Juanita Hepi
Group C:  Amelia Reid, Suli Moa, Emma Draper, Emmett Skilton
Group D:  Aroha White, Romy Hooper, Matariki Whatarau
Group E:  Veronica Brady, Shadon Meredith, Cian White


Tutor: D'Arcy Smith
Production Manager: Mike Norman
Technical Suppot: Eddie Fraser
Publicity: Jo Richardson, Brianne Kerr
Photography: Philip Merry
Box Office: Priscilla Gough
Front of House: Bette Cosgrove



Parading performance tricks

Review by Uther Dean 14th Aug 2009

Go Solo is the annual season of twenty-minute self-devised solo shows from the graduating class of acting students at Toi Whakaari. There are series of very definite trends to be observed. The shadow of Krishnan’s Dairy hangs heavy, it started as a Go Solo piece and now it seems almost illegal to have a piece that isn’t clearly designed to be expanded out to an hour at the drop of a hat. 

These pieces become the performers’ calling cards so there is a propensity for pieces clearly designed around all the tricks the performer has up their sleeve. This often comes at the expense of focus and story. This year the 18 pieces are divided into five groups; A through E. I saw them all. In one day. All six hours of them. This is what I thought…. [More]
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


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Group D: Gatherings

Review by John Smythe 23rd Jul 2009

Of the 16 graduands presenting solo shows – mostly involving multiple scenes, locations and/or time jumps – very few have maintained the same character throughout. A couple have switched between two characters and all the rest, in various ways, have played multiple characters. This is true of all three who comprise Group D.

Aroha White:  THE LITTER BOX

On a bare wire-sprung bedstead Aroha White, clad in a black tulle frock and brown top hat, strums harp-like on an electronic music gadget and regales us with a song about never marrying: “I’ll be no man’s wife”. But a posh-sounding friend arrives all of an excited titter about her impending date with a promising film maker, provoking dire warnings from a decrepit East European who has been round the traps …

It turns out all three – American, English and European; all played by White – are anthropomorphised cats, which allows artistic licence in dramatising the conflict between embittered experience and star-struck optimism; between living wild and lazing around home. In these fear-ruled times, and especially in the context of actors exploring the full range of human experience, the question, “What if love was the only thing you ever felt?” is pertinent.

A climactic cat fight adds physical vigour. And as with a couple of others throughout the Go Solo season, the question I’m left with (from the point of view of becoming familiar with emerging actors) is, what is this actor’s ‘own voice’ like?


Patients, visitors and medical practitioners pass through Romy Hooper’s hospital settings: a waiting room, a consulting room, a maternity ward and that place out the back where uptight people self-inflict toxins on their systems (i.e. smoke). We’re in Australia (where Hooper’s family resides).

Gradually we get to know the hypochondriac old dear, the “heaps stressed and excited” young woman preparing for her ‘formal’, the busy jargon-spouting medic, the lumpish man wanting to visit his wife and holding back his emotions …

As each story progresses we understand more, at particular and general levels. It’s worth noting that amid the melee of personalities she personifies, Hooper knows the dramatic value of stillness, especially when tenderness is being explored.

Matariki Whatarau:  “WHO’S GOING TO DO THE KARANGA?”

With seemingly effortless skill, comedy and drama are interwoven in this day or two in the lives of people preparing for some sort of event at a small community pa. As he manifests three generations of whanau, Matariki Whatarau certainly achieves his stated goal of “complexity through simplicity”.

Standing with his back to us, he evokes an entire powhiri, whakaekenga, nga mihi and nga whai korero sequence in sound and minimal movement before sparking the substantive plot with a fight between kids that sees Blue’s hoodie-wearing adolescent son Whai take off out of it. Blue’s stolid, mon-syllabic search for Whai provides the narrative spine and the means by which other characters are encountered, including squeaky-voiced Pop and his ancient wife Nana …

Meanwhile a younger brother walks the street with the strange but friendly Chas, who turns out to be a bouncer by night with an interesting take on the tikanga informing his work. And slaving in the whare kai is an aunty, almost at her wits end … Not wanting to give too much away, I do have to say that although the reason for the gathering does become clear, the lack of expressed grief surprises me.
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As in previous years, I greet this new crop of actors with excitement and some trepidation for their post-graduation futures. The creative challenge offered by the Go Solo project arms them with important skills, whether they go on to create their own work opportunities or simply approach scripted work with a greater appreciation of what it has taken to give them that blueprint to work from.
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Click here for reviews of Group E & A and Groups B & C


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GROUPS B & C: Realities Beyond & No-one stands alone

Review by John Smythe 22nd Jul 2009

A particular strength that is emerging from many of this year’s solos is their physicality: the way posture, angularities and other elements of visual language conveyed through the body are used to define and express characters, moods, states of being and other more abstract qualities.

GROUP B: Realities Beyond

Guy Langford:  HURRY! HURRY! WAIT …

A suited man with a small suitcase returns home in deep contemplation as American gospel music plays … What just happened? Rewind to his experience at an international airport, on a grid defined by many short vertical poles.

He is simply trying to catch his flight but this is Paranoia Central and he is automatically suspect. As he navigates his way through this increasingly surreal scenario, Guy Langford – most often live, sometimes via audio – plays a range of broadly-drawn characters: variously innocent, bewildered, petty, malevolent, robotic, oppressive, omniscient; mostly American, one quite English, some very broad Kiwi.

The officials he encounters direct him ever upwards – via a cleverly evoked elevator – to metaphysical climes that leave us with plenty to contemplate once he is safely home again.


Kay Smith’s heavily pregnant Marama is supposed to be training us to use the telephones at the Tickets-R-Us call Centre but her heart’s desire is to write a Mills and Boon romance.

As she fields an array of calls with impeccable professionalism she confides her plans and shares her knowledge of the romance genres. Inexorably – beyond the four sub-genres and four-part structure model – three realities emerge: her working life, her romantic fantasies and her private life outside work.

It’s a simple idea saved from being prosaic by allowing the most important content to be subtly implied. And Marama’s imminent motherhood makes our concern more urgent for what the truth might be behind her ever bright facade.

Jessica Grace Smith:  BATTERED

A bevy of characters inspired by growing up in Dannevirke populate Jessica Grace Smith’s exploration of small town politics and community dynamics, and again the quest for a romantic fantasy alternative to a most unsavoury reality arises to give the discursive narrative an ending.

Initially the fish ‘n’ chip shop, where Tracey and Phoebe work, is where we also meet Rex Marlow, Tracey’s husband, who is running for mayor on a ‘family values’ platform; Megan, who “talks like a Mâori but isn’t but she’s got a Mâori partner so her baby’s half Mâori”; and mature school teacher Glenys who works at the decile 10 primary school and is out on the prowl, cougar-style, for intimate action.

A school gala progresses their stories and it all comes to a head at a town hall meeting where Tracey has to face a moment of truth. While the busy-ness of multiple role-playing mitigates against our feeling empathy for Tracey, the archetypes, social observations and political issues are delineated with skill. In retrospect the title is a good one.

Juanita Hepi:  BE SURE TO WRITE

Encased in a canopy of black, a crouching figure with a chair on her back enters singing “There was an old lady who swallowed a fly …” A wonderfully evoked birth sequence ensues, the girl grows up entranced by the world around her and embarks on a hair-raising mane-tugging horse ride …

Over-arched by the life and death of this woman – as she is married, bedded and becomes a mother – Juanita Hepi’s riveting work also offers glimpses of patriarchs, husbands, sons and a mokopuna into quantum physics.

The song ‘Blue Smoke’ punctuates the action – taking her to America, I deduce – until oldness and coldness takes its toll. Her exit picks up the opening song at the point where the old lady had swallowed a horse … Very idiosyncratic yet somehow profound in its strong emotional truth.

GROUP C:  No-one stands alone


There is a lot going on for Amelia Reid, clad in the nine layers of petticoat and skirt that, her programme note tells us, represent “the women who remind me that no-one stands alone on this journey.” But wherever it is she goes, in a process that absorbs her utterly, she doesn’t take us with her.

We are left to objectively admire her movement skills, her subtly and profoundly changing facial expressions, the recurring tightrope-walking motif … We hear her muffled singing and some wheezy music (melodica and recorder, I think, that I soon tire of) but can only wonder at the animated chat she seems to be having with her multiple hems. The apple is intriguing …

As dance or performance art, such abstraction may be more valid. As theatre, somehow I feel short-changed. I’m happy to be tantalised by mystery en route to revelation but to be excluded completely from something that is clearly meaningful to the performer seems to contradict a fundamental purpose of theatre: to engage, communicate, share experience.

Suli Moa:  WAS THE SON

In his working hours, Saia sorts plastics from cans at a recycling depot: a task as mind-numbing as the smoochy musak that gets him through … Elsewhere he is a promising rugby player, pumped up by his coach’s pep-talks and the haka: he is the man!

Between these highly contrasted states of being, Suli Moa also plays Saias’s coach; the mother who shops for his body-building foods and waits in vain for the promised new car and better house; the Indian shop-keeper who commiserates with her over Saia’s failure to marry; a beer-drinking cuz full of motivational advice for game; a bouncy cheerleader and a graceful traditional dancer …

A brief game sequence suggests an injury. Huge frustration is vented at work … and so to the dance. While I’m not sure what that implies, as an ending, I do feel plenty of empathy for Saia, trapped in a predicament that represents the state of things for many people in all walks of life.


By switching between the embittered woman immersed in her lazy-boy as her 70th birthday party evolves around her, and the bright and brisk little ideal suburban housewife and mother she was forty-something years ago, Emma Draper inspires us to fill the gap between.

While the self-sacrificing nature of suburban housewifery may make her fate inevitable, it is the way she relates to her two sons that reveals how easily and mindlessly inequity and injustice can pass from generation to generation.

The large pink cake that features throughout is splendidly utilised in the final beat to counterpoint the theme of denial and add a sardonic tone to the title.

Emmet Skilton:  THIS BOY

Chatting directly to us about the grandmother who very much formed who his is today, Emmet Skilton may not have employed the most imaginative of dramatic conventions. But his vitality as living proof of the truth of his story does bring substance to the experience.

A busy setting that replicates Grandma Rona’s bedroom provides the props for many re-enactments of memorable moments in their relationship, as he grows up and she moves from being a teacher through various stages of retirement, including Grey Power activism.

At the end a real tape is played from the time when 11 year-old Emmet set up a make-believe radio station in her back bedroom. Intriguingly he has given her a much stronger Scottish accent than she actually had. And her simple value system – that one earns love by being good – offers a fascinating contrast to the relative complexities of today’s moral codes.
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Click here for reviews of Group E & A and Group D


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Groups E & A: departures and poignant profiles

Review by John Smythe 21st Jul 2009

Once more the non-descript Te Whaea basement area, affectionately known as The SEEyD Space,* houses the inevitably eclectic range of solo shows, created and performed by this year’s graduands of Toi Whakaari’s Bachelor of Performing Arts (Acting).

The 18 self-devised 20-minute shows, provoked from some core passion that drives each student’s work, have been brought to fruition over four weeks with director Sophie Roberts. Variously scheduled in five groupings over a two week season (click title above details) these are ‘the calling cards’ for a new crop of professional actors.

Like many before them, some may grow into shows with longer lives (Jacob Rajan’s Krishnan’s Dairy being the most famous example) although these will be the exception. Most will simply serve their purpose as stepping stones that support their capacity to create work for themselves rather than wait to be ‘discovered’ by mainstream producers and directors.  

Simple but effective lighting, sound, furniture and props are wrangled by a peer group team of supporters (each group crews another) but finally it is the actors’ skill in engaging us and our imaginations that bring each piece alive. I review them in the order I saw them premiered.

GROUP E: Departures


A dancer in a bath, her feet bandaged, recalls the ministrations of her mother in the early days of ballet lessons. Now she is adult, living alone with her cat, teaching a video-link correspondence course in dance arts, choreographing a modern dance piece, expecting a lover … 

It’s the little things, at first – trying in vain to open a canister, put on a bracelet, pour the wine – that emerge as early warnings of the fall to come: Motor Neuron Disease. Brady’s litheness and facility in dance is suddenly contrasted with physical limitations. That she keeps her sense of humour (you’ll have to see the show to know what you call a dancer with one leg, or why the MND patient crossed the road) serves all the more to tug at our hearts.

Being unfamiliar with the details but understanding it to be an inexorably degenerative condition, I assume the moments of apparent remission are either memories of how it used to be or evocations of how she feels inside, while "outside all is still". More clarity on this, and some acknowledgement of the fact that living alone is no longer an option, would not go astray, but the performance is strong, focussed and touching.


Through his grandson, Shadon, we witness to a day in the life of Francis Donald Meredith: May 2nd 1978 to be exact. An unconvincing Radio News device (purporting to be Geoff Robinson but sounding nothing like him in voice or phrasing*) allows the ordinary life of FDM to be contrasted against national and international events.

Clever use of a backless office chair gives vivid presence to Donald’s forklift as he toils on the container wharf. On opening night a large group of school children (from Dannevirke, I think) enjoys his real-time consuming of three sandwiches and a thermos of tea, but it looks like padding to me. 

The payoff comes via a news report, when Francis Donald Meredith becomes the topic. I won’t tell you why. It’s a surprise, sure, but not as effective as it could be if we got to know him better, from a bit of yarning perhaps while he’s eating his lunch, about his past, his fanau, his plans for the future … Not bad but undercooked.

*[I have since been told this name was chosen at random and never intended to refer to the well know National Radio broadcaster. I understand he will now me called Rob Jeffrey. – JS]


While I am not sure Cian White achieves her stated aim of revealing the true "ideals, values and heart" the lie behind people’s "harsh, plastic" facades, she does parade an entertaining selection of characters in her airport recollection of the time she (Kiri) spend working as a Te Puia Springs tour guide, to save money for her overseas trip.

There’s a gay boy, a gossip, an old joker who works in the yard, lithping Krithie, the carving school tutor and Te Manawa, the boy who dotes on her and doesn’t know how to say it … They all come together in a kapa haka line up at the culture concert, which doubles as her farewell.

We are left with the final image of her trying to stuff an inflated kiwi into her backpack. She could just pull the plug and scrunch it all up, but what would that say? Intriguing.

GROUP A: Poignant Profiles

Katharine (Kate) McGill: DUETS

Capturing perfectly the accent of a Kiwi woman who has been living in London, Katherine McGill offers an insight into the life of Rhonda, who works in secretarial services and resides in an apartment complex where she is obliged to share a bathroom with 17 others and endure the wandering hands of old Mr Petrovich.

A plastic menagerie of wild African animals, with ordinary human names, are her only companions. But Date Night at a local club may well change all that. Beyond direct address chat with us as she dresses for the event, and eats a cup cakes afterward, her brief ‘speed dating’ encounters across a table are the ingenious means by which we discover her story.

Despite Rhonda’s many social shortcomings, McGill’s true comic sensibility makes us care what happens to her, or doesn’t. Wreaking her revenge with an onslaught of karaoke – which would sound more authentic, surely, with a mic – she finishes on a high. Delightful.


Clearly well researched, this unvarnished portrayal of homelessness is profoundly affecting. A toothless, semi-coherent man of indeterminate age goes though his routine: sleeping rough, cooking up creamed corn or baked beans, busking in a surprisingly rich baritone, trying to get a takeaway feed with insufficient cash, resorting to a shelter for sustenance before starting over …  

It is a strange choice to add video technology to such a story but it works. Having decided to use it to manifest the fox terrier that strays, too briefly, into his life, it becomes part of the baggage he carts around, screening: sunrise and sunset (weirdly rising and setting in opposite directions); his head while sleeping; a community-muralled wall while walking; the odd other sods he comes across … I was going to say all but the dog are played by Tim Carlsen but he inhabits that role too, in a very eloquent way.

I like a story that adds up to more than its parts and this one does, by comparing the way he is treated with and without his dog, not least because of the way the dog affects him. Insightful.


At a very different level of the socio-economic spectrum, Sophie Lindsay brings us pubescent Pearl, in mostly sullen mode, and the tirelessly practical ageing house ‘girl’ Anna, who ‘does’ for the family in Vanuatu.

A piano, set centre stage, is well used throughout and pays off handsomely at the end, when Pearl plays a wonderfully complex classical-sounding piece (composed by Lindsay herself!) Meanwhile a series of scenes reveals that Pearl attends the French school (Lindsay is wonderfully fluent in French too) and is being bullied by other girls (well-realised in a multi-character sequence).

A moment of truth – as in the importance of telling it – brings Pearl to a new maturity, thanks to Anna. Beautifully formed and executed.

Aidan Weekes (formerly known as Dan Hannah): THE CHROME SERIES

In this minor mockumentary, Aidan Weekes manifests a highly idiosyncratic abstract film-maker called Martin Boyle: a legend in his own viewfinder. Obliged to teach to make a living, he tells us, his students, of the modest beginnings that led him to aspire to biblical epics.

We return with him the Greek island there he attempted to shoot his Noah’s Ark including native fauna from NZ, thence to a coke-and-orange-fuelled party and the premiere screening at Cannes … His next meeting with his financial backers is not what he anticipates.

Weekes, too, garners empathy by distilling the experience of an esoterically creative soul attempting to keep faith in himself when all around don’t want to know. Truly eccentric.
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*Named in honour of the show that launched the company of the same name – SEEyD – at the turn of this century, and accessed via the main entrance of Te Whaea.
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Click here for reviews of Groups B & C and Group D
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 




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