Heartbreak Hotel

Toitoi - Hawke’s Bay Arts and Events Centre 101 Hastings Street South, Hastings

26/10/2023 - 26/10/2023

Hawkes Bay Arts Festival 2023

Production Details

Heartbreak Hotel is a new work from creative partnership Eleanor Bishop and Karin McCracken, winners of the 2022 Bruce Mason Award.

EBKM presents

This one is for the young hearts, the old hearts, and the broken hearts.

Join Karin McCracken as a woman navigating heartbreak and Simon Leary as all the ex-loves in a show studded with lo-fi covers of classic breakup songs, bad tinder dates and attempted fresh starts.

In an exhilarating new performance that brings together vulnerable memoir, famous novels and scientific text, a holistic picture of heartbreak’s impact on our bodies and minds is hilariously and poignantly shared.

Heartbreak Hotel is a new work from creative partnership Eleanor Bishop and Karin McCracken, winners of the 2022 Bruce Mason Award. Enjoy a generous, funny and reflective work that explores the benefits of letting ourselves truly feel something: the good, the bad and the heartbreaking.

You’ll want to cry. You’ll want to laugh. Welcome to the Heartbreak Hotel.

“…this show is brilliant, and pitch perfect.” – Theatreview (on ‘Yes, Yes, Yes’)

Toitoi, Functions on Hastings.
Thursday 26th October,
Tickets $25-$35

Performers - Karin McCracken & Simon Leary
Director - Eleanor Bishop
Production & Light Designers - Filament Eleven 11
Sound Designer - Te Aihe Bulter
Stage Manager - Natasha Thyne
Producer - Melanie Hamilton

Development supported by Creative New Zealand, Hawkes Bay Arts Festival, Hannah Playhouse Trust, Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington, and Playmarket.

Theatre ,


Nuanced and powerful; hilarious, heartwarming and moving. You won’t leave heartbroken 

Review by Jo Morris 27th Oct 2023

Heartbreak Hotel, by the creative partnership of Eleanor Bishop and Karin McCracken (winners of the 2022 Bruce Mason Award), is poignant, funny – and fantastic.

Karin McCracken plays a woman working her way through heartbreak, and Simon Leary plays various roles, including exes, dates and other people she interacts with. The show combines memoir, songs and science in vignettes that add up to significantly more than its parts. There’s a playfulness in the shifts between these modes which is engaging from the first direct appeal to the audience. We’re happy, almost immediately, to be on this journey. 

The script is excellent, full of acutely observed moments and pitch perfect dialogue, from deliciously awkward first dates – real, horrible and funny – to intense conversations between couples. At all points, it’s gripping. Even the ‘science’ parts are enlivened (for this emphatically non-scientific reviewer) by vivid personification of the various bits of the body involved in heartbreak.

There’s an assured glide between times and places during the performance, assisted by a well-designed and effective use of sound and lighting: subtle beats and sound effects to create ambience, for example, or a redirection of the audience’s attention through a shift in light-scape. As well, the costumes are simple but brilliant: Leary wearing a t-shirt and jeans that enables him to be the ‘everyman’ figure; McCracken in a lavender suit with a kind of ‘power suit meets cowgirl’ vibe, the clean lines suggesting strength, while the waving fringes signal uncertainty.

At the heart of the show, however, are the compelling performances of Leary and McCracken. With a light touch, Leary sketches out various characters who are more or less distant from McCracken’s character, but then shifts seamlessly into a nuanced and powerful performance as the long-term lover.

Karin McCracken is, quite simply, brilliant. She’s hilarious, heartwarming and moving – often all at once. Right from her low-key opening, she connects with the audience, who respond to the honesty and empathy of her portrayal of a heartbroken woman. Her shifts between mood, and between scene, song and science, seem effortless, and her understated charisma is completely compelling. She owns the stage.

The resolution of this story about navigating the breakdown of a relationship is satisfying, and like the rest of the play feels authentic. You might be left reflecting on your own relationships and the choices that shaped your life, but the play is funny enough that you won’t leave heartbroken.  


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