Various venues - on tour, New Zealand wide

04/11/2012 - 25/11/2012

Production Details

Home Tour – November 2012  

A series of songs that tell an affecting story – or a story intercepted with musical interludes? Either could be a description of the Single Malt Cooperative’s Home, which gives insight into early 20th century nation building through the eyes of two Scottish immigrants to New Zealand.

Based around traditional songs from a book bought in Invercargill in the 1890s, interspersed with dialogue, Home features the superb musical and acting abilities of Rowena Simpson and Stuart Coats, ably assisted on piano by Douglas Mews. Written and directed by the award winning Jacqueline Coats, Home tells the story of Maggie and Johnnie, who meet and marry just before World War 1, and the difficulties they endure when Johnnie goes to the Front.

Audiences have responded with laughter and tears – and a strong connection to the New Zealand history in the show.

Opening in Upper Hutt on 4 November, Home tours the country with Arts On Tour NZ until 25 November. (See itinerary below)

A heart-warming production with a beautiful, elegant simplicity. – Michael Wray on theatreview.org.nz

Under the direction of Jacqueline Coats, the two performers do a sterling job, both in portraying the emotional highs and low of the characters, and singing majestically….Douglas Mews does a wonderful job on piano. – Ewen Coleman, Dominion Post

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Sunday 4 November Upper Hutt 
Expressions Arts & Entertainment Centre 2pm
Adult $30, Friends/concessions $25
Book: Expressions 04 527 2168 www.expressions.org.nz 

Thursday 8 November Hastings 
Assembly Room, Hawke’s Bay Opera House 7.30pm
Adults $25, Seniors/Students $20, Groups 10+ $15, Encore Club $18 Service fees apply
Book: 0800TICKETEK or www.ticketek.co.nz 

Friday 9 November Opotiki 
Senior Citizens Hall, King St 7pm 
$20 Book: The Travel Shop, Church St 

Sunday 11 November Putaruru 
The Plaza Theatre 4pm 
Adults $16, Seniors/Students $12 
Book: Plaza Theatre, Putaruru i-site, Tokoroa i-site, www.eventfinder.co.nz 

Tuesday 13 November Omapere 
Copthorne Hokianga 7.30pm $15 Door sales 

Wednesday 14 November Whangarei  
The Old Library 7.30pm 

Saturday 17 November New Plymouth
Alexandra Room, TSB Showplace 6pm 
Adults $25, Seniors $20, Groups 6+ $20 Service fees apply 
Book: www.ticketmaster.co.nz or Box office 0800 111 999 

Tuesday 20 November Reefton  
Reefton Area School Hall 8pm 
Adults $10, Students $5, Family $20 Door sales or phone 03 732 8542 

Wednesday 21 November Okarito 
Donovan’s Store 8pm 
$25 Book: Debbie 03 753 4017 or Edwina 03 753 4014 

Friday 23 November Arrowtown 
Athenaeum Hall 7.30pm 
$20 Book: Lakes District Museum 

Saturday 24 November Oamaru  
Inkbox Theatre, Opera House 3pm 
Adults $25, Seniors $20, Group 8+ $18 
Book: www.ticketdirect.co.nz or 03 433 0770 

Sunday 25 November Ashburton  
Ashburton Trust Event Centre 7.30pm 
$25 each, $22.50 each for 2 or 3, $20 each for 4 or more, Door sales all $25 
Book: Ashburton Event Centre or www.ticketdirect.co.nz 

Arts On Tour New Zealand
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 and liaises with local arts councils, repertory theatres and community groups to bring the best of musical and other talent to country districts. www.aotnz.co.nz 

Rowena Simpson (Maggie) 
Stuart Coats: (Johnnie)
Douglas Mews: (Pianist)


Hamilton raised Rowena Simpson (soprano) studied at Victoria University of Wellington and performed with groups such as The Pocket Opera before leaving for The Netherlands in 1997. There she gained a Master’s Degree in singing at The Royal Conservatoire and participated in master classes with Michael Chance and Elly Ameling, among others. While based in the Netherlands she sang roles in Carissimi’s Jephte and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, performed with Dame Malvina Major on European tours and worked with several chamber music ensembles. Since returning to New Zealand with her young family in 2006, she has performed with many of NZ’s baroque music ensembles as well as the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus.

Stuart Coats (baritone) grew up in Christchurch and Hawke’s Bay, and studied with Emily Mair at Victoria University of Wellington. In 1993 he was a member of the NZ National Youth Choir that toured North America, and was one of the original company performers for Capital E's National Theatre for Children. He has toured NZ schools with Class Act Opera, and, with the comedy group Speedos, was a recipient of the Wellington Fringe Festival's Hot New Things Award in 1996. Most recently Stuart has toured NZ with Operatunity. He is a member of the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus and has also been the Company Manager for NBR NZ Opera.

Douglas Mews (pianist) graduated from Auckland University in 1979 with a Master’s Degree in organ and harpsichord, having studied with the late Anthony Jennings. He continued his harpsichord studies at The Royal Conservatoire in The Hague and later expanded his interest in historical keyboards to include the fortepiano. While living in Nelson, Douglas taught at the Nelson School of Music, directed choirs (Polyhymnos and Nelson Civic Choir) and was Director of Music at St Mary's Catholic Church. He is currently the Wellington City Organist, Artist Teacher in organ and harpsichord at the New Zealand School of Music., does broadcasts for Radio NZ Concert FM and is Director of Music at St Teresa’s Church in Karori. 

Beauty and fortitude between a warm welcome and a fond farewell

Review by Kirsty van Rijk 09th Nov 2012

Home is short, sentimental, sweet, and familiar… and I mean all of this in the most positive sense.

Short: Any greater length would have belaboured the simplicity of the story: a Scots immigrant couple, Maggie and Johnnie, meeting, courting, marrying and being separated by the First World War.  Opening at the end of a concert for the Caledonian Society, and a sing-along, it then segues between years, following the couple’s lives, marking the local and global events and the effect they have on the pair. This is all punctuated by the songs the migrants brought with them, and learned here. 

Sentimental: Home ticks the right boxes, but not too many; here it is sweet sentiment, real sentiment. The sing-along Scots tunes well known to the audience add to the ‘concert’ motif, and engage the audience effectively.

As Maggie, Rowena Simpson evokes the calm, strong reserve of kind-but-stern Scots grannies many New Zealanders will remember.  Johnnie (Stuart Coats) brings an edge of enthusiasm and verve to his character that recalls the ‘young Turk’ of many a war story.

Sweet: This has to be Simpson’s clear bell like voice and excellent diction. Like a bellbird she sings to the rafters but brings an intensity of emotion to her songs that the restrained Maggie could never voice. Of particular note must be the harmonies between Simpson and Coats when Coats is offstage – it is difficult to manage harmony without direct visual with your partner. Coats sings with gusto and is particularly strong on the songs that require his energy.

More than a nod to pianist and ‘Skinny-malinky’ Douglas Mews, who plays beautifully. 

Further development of Maggie would be welcome, perhaps in dialogue as most of the story is told through the epistolary device of letters, diaries and newspaper reports. To see her feistiness in her argument over politics with Johnnie would be more engaging than hearing his report of it. 

A spare set, the visual device of the clothes lines probably speaks more to function than visual effect, with the cast heading off to their next venue daily, performing in 12 towns before the 26th. The stalwart migrant attitude will be required!

Familiar: We all know this story; it is the story of our grandfathers, the stories we’ve been raised on and remember every ANZAC Day. For me, my grandfather and great uncle; for my companion, her grandfather. The woman sitting next to us recalled her father and grandfather. Just as coming home is returning to the familiar, the play reacquaints us with cultural history we all know, that we feel safe and comfortable with, and comforted by. 

A warm welcome and a fond farewell, what more could I want but to enjoy a little Auld Lang Syne? 


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Perfectly pitched

Review by Garth Wilshere 07th Nov 2012

Home resonates for local audiences, it’s woven from diary entries, letters and songs, the story of Scottish immigrants culminating in the period of WW I.

Jacqueline Coats’ spare and elegant text tells the story of the meeting, courtship, marriage and impact of going way to war on Johnnie (Stuart Coats) and Maggie (Rowena Simpson). The story is traced by references to Scottish immigrants within the farming, agriculture and mining industries from 1873’s founding of the Mosgiel Woollen Company through to Caledonian Societies, A&P Shows, Waihi gold mines, and miners’ strikes in 1912, and WW I and its impact on families and the lives of New Zealanders.

Quotes and humour leaven the tone, and interspersed are apt Scottish song choices, beautifully performed by Stuart Coats and Rowena Simpson each with appropriate accents and clear affecting singing supported by Douglas Mews’ piano.

The production is simple and effective: a clothes line of blankets, a few well-chosen props and wonderfully constructed period costumes (Leimomi Oakes) set the scene and the acting and interaction of the two performers, along with excellent singing propels the story along with style.

Gentle and affectionate, it is moving and heart-warming with emotional power from natural, believable performances without unnecessary sentimentality. The story is sentimental but told in a straightforward way and the more telling for that.

This gentle but strong piece of musical theatre, perfectly pitched in length and dramatic tone, made its point most effectively.  


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Songs shine in delightful tracing of the Scottish thread in our settler heritage

Review by Michael Gilchrist 05th Nov 2012

Maggie (Rowena Simpson) and Johnnie (Stuart Coats) are two Scottish immigrants to New Zealand, who meet and marry just before the First World War. Home tells their story in admirably economical fashion, showing how important traditional and popular songs of the period were in mediating the changes in their lives: from Scotland to New Zealand, in romance and in the trials of battle.

Jacqueline Coats’ script is well researched, well judged at every moment and really allows the songs to shine. They are also beautifully performed. Douglas Mews provides exemplary accompaniment, and both Rowena Simpson’s soprano and Stuart Coats’ tenor are technically and colloquially faultless – and powerful and accurate when needed. The songs are always well acted in addition to being well sung.

Highlights for me included the ‘Skye Boat Song’, whose lyrics of 1884 recall the defeat at Culloden in 1745. Here the song is perfectly contextualised in the journey of the NZ Expeditionary Force to Egypt and eventually to Gallipoli, looking both forward and back to the Scots’ brave, optimistic and unfortunate history in battle.

As the programme notes, the play focuses on one thread of the fabric of New Zealand’s settler culture and this strategy works well. It displays the distinctive dialect and flavour of earlier Scottish songs, particularly nationalist songs, and shows how the development of the characters’ national identity progresses, particularly through their adoption of other songs.

Their love of music makes them open to new ways of understanding their situation more generally. The climactic duet of “Po Atarau” or “Now is the Hour”, sung in te Reo, works wonderfully at every level.

Home is a delightful small production. It does make one want more: the writing and the performers could easily sustain a show of up to an hour and a half of running time, provided there was also a modest lighting plot. Even in this production, a lighting operator was sorely missed, as some simple shaping of the lighting would have added another dimension to the emotional contours of the piece – as well as relieving pressure on the necessarily skimpy set. While budgets are tight in the Arts on Tour scheme, this may be something to consider for the future. 


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