GOD-BELLY

A cosy, secret location, Wellington

15/02/2014 - 23/02/2014

Q Theatre, The Vault, Auckland

09/09/2014 - 13/09/2014

BATS Theatre (Out-Of-Site) Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington

30/09/2014 - 04/10/2014

NZ Fringe Festival 2014

Production Details



Local Play Asks New Questions About Anorexia 

Holy anorexics, bodybuilding, a saint having an erotic religious experience… GOD-BELLY is an exploration of the way religion has shaped our relationships to our bodies. See what happens when a couple navigates this knotted terrain through rap, riddles and wrestling.

It’s the mid-14th Century, Italy : a young Dominican nun starves her body to perfect her soul.

It’s 21st Century, Auckland : a sixteen year-old high school student starves herself to win at something, to keep her mind off the future – according to her psychiatrist.

Both try to overrule their biology.  What brings them to do so? 

GOD-BELLY uses religious history to explore our relationships with our bodies; be this the desire to discipline, to bulk up, or to starve the body.  The show questions what is truly creating these motivations.  Christianity is so often blamed for creating a repressive attitude towards the body, but could a very similar ‘religious’ psychology be found throughout the secular world as well?  The salvation of the gym, the idols of the catwalk, and the wonders of photoshop will all come under close scrutiny.  

In asking these questions, GOD-BELLY invites its audience to reconsider the narrow ways we often look at religion.  The two-person cast flows through a variety of different characters, ricocheting between different points in history, across different countries.It marries the austerity of medieval Christianity with the fierce playfulness of contemporary hip-hop.  Monks will rap, nuns will wrestle and an argument will break out over a Wendy’s chicken combo. 

The play hinges on Catherine, a nun ahead of the times, looking for personal answers about God beyond what the Church is allowing her. Suspected as a heretic, and by others a witch, she is being closely watched over for both the safety of the church and, when her appetite starts to disappear, for her own physical safety. 

Anorexia is on the rise in New Zealand, but remains a somewhat taboo subject in conversation, as in most countries.  Co-artistic director and cast member Rosie Tapsell explains; “Having recovered from an eating disorder and being distanced from it now, I feel that a lot of the time it’s addressed with a great deal of preciousness, or confusion….  So with this show I’m wanting to bring humour to the subject matter…and to question stale assessments of it.” 

Pressure Point Collective is a new theatre company that aims to “open up discussion within its audience.  We believe that the state of mind and willingness to talk that an audience leaves with is as important as the content itself.” (Co-artistic director and cast member Andrew Gunn) 

Hence, to make its audience feel welcome, the show will be held in a student flat.  The audience is invited to take tea with the cast before the show commences. 

God-Belly: 
Venue: A cosy, secret location.
Email pressure.point.collective@gmail.com  for directions
Check fringe website for details    http://www.fringe.co.nz/
Season: February 15th, 17th, 19th, 21st, 23rd  
Time: Doors open 8pm, performance begins 8.30pm
Bookings: contact pressure.point.collective@gmail.com,  koha entry
Website: http://god-belly.tumblr.com/ 

Auckland 2014

Rapping Nuns. Crumpet demons. Explosive bouts of wrestling – 
GOD-BELLY is an existential romp, a bold exploration of religion and our bodies that ricochets between a 13th Century French monastery and a student flat in 21st century Auckland.

Catherine, a subversive Dominican nun, pushes her body to such extremes that she catches the attention of the Vatican, and a senior monk is sent to keep an eye on her. Jude, a chronically-over-achieving Auckland B.A student develops a fixation on fitness that starts to jeopardise her relationship with her tentatively-Christian-stoner boyfriend, George. Both Jude and Catherine struggle for salvation in worlds apart, but their worlds begin to collapse on each other as they push their bodies to breaking point. 

Following a well-received season in this year’s New Zealand Fringe Festival, and receiving a Highly Commended in Playmarket’s “Playwrights b4 25” award, Pressure Point Collective have honed their debut work into an even more physical and condensed incarnation. 

GOD-BELLY is smart and sensual, entertaining and energetic. Andrew Gunn and Rosie Tapsell, without a doubt, are two newcomers to watch … Go see this play.” – Lori Leigh, Theatreview

See more at:  http://www.qtheatre.co.nz/g-o-d-b-e-l-l-y#sthash.BhjMqcuj.dpuf 

Q VAULT
9-13 Sept
Ticket price: $18-$20 (service fees apply)
BOOK HERE 

Wellington Sept/Oct 2014 
Bats Theatre (Out-of-Site)
Tue 30 – Sat 4 Oct | 6.30pm


Writer/Co-director/Performer:  Andrew Gunn
Writer/Co-director/Performer:  Rosie Tapsell
Dramaturge/Co-director:  Simon Haren
Producer:  Meredith Rehburg
Videographer:  Peter Gedye
Photographer:  Alan Waddingham



Refreshing intelligence, insight and physicality

Review by John Smythe 01st Oct 2014

Visceral, physical and very watchable, God-Belly parallels obsessive quests for perfection, manifested through eating disorders, in two very different eras and contexts: ancient and modern.

Given to singing ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo’ (‘Glory to God in the highest’) and playing ‘Sacred Mvsic’ [sic] on his Ghetto Blaster, a young man we come to know as George (Andrew Gunn) shows special reverence for the fast-food treat he is about to eat when sprung by his girlfriend, Jude (Rosie Tapsell). 

Jude is completing a cleansing diet and heavily into a fitness regime which George tries to align with. She holds out on him sexually which he copes with patiently, being a sweet and caring kind of guy. But when she’s hanging out with her friend Steph (Gunn), Jude’s behaviour is less assertive. “She has really set opinions on things,” Jude explains. “I really like that.” So where does that leave George?

Intercut with this contemporary story is that of Sister Catherine (Tapsell), a nun (Dominican according to a media release, in 14th century Italy; there is no programme on opening night to let the audience know). She is given to self-flagellation as well as fasting and when her Father Confessor, Raymond (Gunn) attempts to show compassion and leniency against the orders of the unseen Abbess wants, he finds himself at the wrong end of Catherine’s flagellum.

The bizarre distortions of Catholic beliefs and the inevitable surfacing of sexual desire in contradiction of the repressive regime of celibacy is powerfully implied in a production – co-directed (with the performers) by Simon Haren – that is very strong on non-verbal communication.

Dark red underwear is the basic costume. The whole play (two hours including an interval) plays out on and around a large square of judo mats. Increasingly rigorous bouts of judo – by which Jude and George sublimate their carnal desires and/or vent their frustrations? – punctuate the always inventive and varied action. Their white judo jackets (uwagi) and belts (ogi) are also put to creative use in the Abbey scenes.

Crumpets, strewn about the space, are the motif for both forbidden food and the sacramental ‘host’. Playfulness – including rap songs which are as unintelligible as the genre seems to demand – and dramatic intensity are judiciously juxtaposed to compel our engagement as the universal themes of God-Belly are explored.  

There is a depth of intelligence and insight into human behaviour that belies the youth of its creators (it was highly commended in Playmarket’s Playwrights B4 25 competition this year). That and the refreshing physicality of its exploration and expression make God-Belly well worth catching.

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Huge potential

Review by Cherie Moore 11th Sep 2014

Rosie Tapsell and Andrew Gunn explode on to stage in GodBelly, in Q Theatre’s Vault this week. Pressure Point Collective’s Auckland debut is a revised second season after its success at the NZ Fringe in Wellington earlier this year.

Described as an existential romp, GodBelly asks the question of how far the human soul can go, and how long your demons will haunt you if not dealt with. This is an eclectic and innovative show that pushes the boundaries of form more than most shows we see in Auckland theatres, which is refreshing. GodBelly does come with some issues however, and I do hope there will be further development to refine this piece as it has a huge amount going for it. 

Set in parallel worlds between a modern Auckland flat, and a Dominican convent, the demons haunting the main four characters in GodBelly begin to collapse on each other and these worlds start to collide. Tapsell and Gunn each play multiple characters to bring this world to life. They are well matched and complement each other on stage.

In the modern setting of the play, Tapsell brings a beautiful truth to her portrayal of the character Jude. This character and her journey feel personal to Tapsell and watching her honesty is a treat.

Gunn is very relatable as George, and he has real strength in playing comedy. There are times, during more serious moments, when he doesn’t trust himself enough to draw the audience to him. The moments where he simplifies are intensely interesting and I crave more of that. 

The setting of the convent is easily transitioned to with the use of costume and a physical convention repeated throughout the play, which is a great decision. Tapsell and Gunn don’t quite hit the right cultural feel with the convent, but the material is good. As we get further into the journey of the play, we start to be visually presented with words that serve as a sort of title card to the beginning of a vignette highlighting each topic.

It is from here that we start to see these two worlds begin to collide and how these characters straddle time and space. There is a rap during a bad ecstasy trip that is well crafted and contributes to the story nicely, but the re-emerging of rapping later in the play starts to be a bit painful. 

There is a Brechtian feel to the work, as the performers operate the lights and sound on stage. This is a nice touch but does result in some moments hanging longer than they should, as the action on stage does not fill the technical transition time in a potent way. The most physical scene of the play, while impressive in performance and concept, is not supported enough by the lighting or sound and what could be a high point falls flat and becomes awkward when Gunn mouths words to Tapsell like it’s too loud to hear each other, when really we could have easily heard him if he was speaking. 

According to the programme, there is no director attached to GodBelly (there is a dramaturg), and it seems to me this is its main issue. Physically and conceptually this is a really fantastic and exciting piece. Where it needs help is in the direction – especially of the dialogue and transitions, and the editing.

I enjoy the work greatly, but it is forty minutes too long and there is a lot of material that just doesn’t need to be there. I leave with wonderful thoughts of moments in life that define people, and the rituals humans put in place, and break as they grow. If GodBelly were distilled into a one-act ninety-minute piece I would be wowed.

Tapsell and Gunn have made something with huge potential that seems to mean a lot to them, and there is real promise for this company in the niche they are carving out for themselves, if they get good honest help on board. 

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Delving into the spiritual #2

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 20th Feb 2014

More interesting [than Madame Blavatsky and The Astral Light] but again not wholly satisfying is GOD-BELLY devised and performed by Andrew Gunn and Rosie Tapsell in St Michaels Church Hall, Kelburn.

In fact Gunn and Tapsell do everything from welcoming the audience to running the shows lights and sound as well as performing in what is a very physical and at times entertaining show.

Two stories run in parallel.  The first is that of a medical nun Catherine who becomes overly zealous in her quest for spiritual enlightenment taking penance to the extreme. The other is Jude a young school girl whose quest for perfection also takes her to extremes.

How the two stories are interlinked is poignantly and well played out at the end. The problem is however that it takes far too long to get to this point with numerous extraneous threads hindering the forward movement of the narrative.  At two and a half hours long (advertised as one and a half hours) it becomes a major ask for the audience to sustain their interest.

However there is no denying that Gunn and Tapsell are two extraordinarily confident performers, especially in their physicality and work exceptionally well as a team.

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Smart and sensual, entertaining and energetic

Review by Lori Leigh 16th Feb 2014

Soul and body. Spirit and flesh. God and the Church. North Korea and Finland. E and Chocolate Mousse. Rap music and Gregorian chants. Through these juxtapositions, GOD-BELLY explores the relationship between religion and our bodies – Why are we hungry? What does one do with hunger? And what are we hungry for? – highlighting, perhaps THE most existential question of all time: Where do we find or locate God in us? In the world? 

The play finds itself most fittingly at St. Michael’s Anglican Church Hall. The intimate stage space is lined with green gym mats caged by various lamps, a laptop, speakers and a microphone. Two extraordinarily talented actors and makers – Andrew Gunn and Rosie Tapsell – contain the entire piece, controlling all of their own technical elements from this world and enacting all the roles.

The piece itself, however, is a shared event: everything from direct address monologues to an interactive cross-fit class where audience members are invited to jog laps around the stage and discuss their spirit animals with Terrance, the trainer.  (As part of our motivating pep talk, I am also asked to guess how much Jane Fonda could bench press. You’ll have to see the show yourself to find out.) 

Two stories are cleverly interwoven: one of Catherine, a Medieval nun; the other of George and Jude, two Auckland teenagers who meet at MUNA (Mock United Nations Assembly).

Believing that she is divinely ordained to sense others’ sins, Catherine is counselled by Father Raymond, a priest sent from the Pope, because the Abbey is concerned with her outrageous acts of excess penance, mainly extreme bouts of fasting. 

Meanwhile, George and Jude make a romantic connection over running. The tensions in their relationship — George, a Steiner kid who keeps crumpets in his room and wants to “maybe make pottery” when he gets out of school; Jude, who loves order and control and wants to be a diplomat so she can fix world problems – soon reveal that Jude has a secret where her rigorous self-discipline has crossed the line to self-punishment.

In places the stories are thematically linked (using phrases such as “athlete of the spirit”) and in other parts they ingeniously begin to blur so that Catherine and Jude can be read as one in the same.  

Lest this material sounds all too heavy, I can assure you the script is full of comedy, including a singing duet of Ana (anorexia) and Mia (bulimia). Gunn and Tapsell both deliver sensitively nuanced and emotionally committed performances. Shifting from poetically moving dialogue to relatable and quirky colloquial banter, the script is well-written. 

Just as the content itself is layered, the format employs a variety of theatrical genres, but it is the physical theatre that is most impressive and captivatingly visceral.  Not since the Frantic Assembly performance of Beautiful Burnout in the 2011 International Festival of the Arts have I seen physical theatre so enthralling and explosive (no small comparison I might add).

Transitions are wrought with the ritualistic whipping of white robes across their bodies. Emotional struggles are physicalized through wrestling stints. When the characters grapple with their bodies, the actors palpably struggle. They run. They sweat. Their bodies quake. And the two actors are almost seamlessly in-sync with one another. The whole piece plays out like a delicious dance. 

There is an element that haunts the success of this piece, however.  The play (including a ten-minute interval) is nearly two-and-a-half hours long on opening night.  It’s not only that I worry about audiences, who are accustomed to Fringe plays being around an hour, and the actors, whose bodies surely cannot sustain this type of work for this long night after night, but the real issue is that in many places there is unnecessary and extraneous material that detracts from the work. It could be trimmed or removed entirely to make a more powerful, forward-moving journey. 

As these two develop their work, I sincerely hope they make the cuts so that the work can see its full potential.

GOD-BELLY is smart and sensual, entertaining and energetic. Andrew Gunn and Rosie Tapsell, without a doubt, are two newcomers to watch and GOD-BELLY is so far one of my favourites of the Fringe.  Go see this play.

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