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

24/09/2013 - 28/09/2013

Production Details

It’s the middle of the 19th century and rich people hate poor people like, a lot. In England they are trying hard to rid the streets of the lower classes.

Through no fault of her own, Betty the maid is thrown in with the scamps and tramps on a ship bound for the factories of Australia. Forever an optimist, Betty finds some likeminded souls amongst the riff raff who share her dream of a life undivided by class.

Director’s Forward

Well well well...This is the product of four months work of testing and playing. As a project for my masters, the intention has been to explore ways of working when making a show from scratch. Some things worked… and some things bombed! Oh boy did they freaking bomb. I owe huge thanks to my tutors and fellow artists for their support and guidance. And above all I would like to give much thanks to my team. The cast, the crew, the helpers… all of them have given so much. Your generosity and trust astounds me.

We hope you enjoy the show, see you in the bar after for a drink and a grope *sly wink*


(PS to the two teachers who caused me to start being an actor….I blame and thank you….for all of this)

Tuesday 24th- Saturday 28th September 
$13-$18 tickets 
BATS Theatre – you can book online or turn up

Andrew Paterson – Actor 
Phoebe Hurst – Actor 
William Duignan – Actor 
Jacquie Fee – Actor 
Ruth Armishaw – Musician 

Joshua Hopton-Stuart – Composer
Theo Wijnsma – Designer
Antony Goodin – LX Design/ rigging/ops
Te Aihe Butler – SFX design 

Nicole Arrow – PM/SM
Sarah Carswell – Costume construction
Remma McArdle – Marketing
Ria Simmons -movement/choreography

An ‘end-of-year show for friends’ feel

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 27th Sep 2013

Maybe I shouldn’t have seen I Betty, a crass musical farce, straight after Chump Change because I feel I was the only person in the audience who wasn’t having a good time from the guffaws and screams of laughter that greeted every crude, corny joke or piece of physical comedy. 

I Betty is a romp but actors ‘corpsing’ – breaking character by laughing – and over-doing Benny Hill’s trade mark aren’t-I-naughty smirk did not impress. But I was impressed by Theo Wijnsma’s setting of moveable furniture, piano, and sails for a ship and the deliberately amateurish shadow play.

This musical farce with screechy singing of songs borrowed from Wilson, Lloyd Webber and others seemed to me to be an end-of-year show for friends and relatives and any old joke, swear word, or sexual mime would go down a treat.


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A highly entertaining pastiche

Review by John Smythe 25th Sep 2013

According to director Daniel Pengelly’s programme note, “This is the product of four months work of testing and playing. As a project for my masters, the intention has been to explore ways of working when making a show from scratch.” And it has been a rigorous learning curve.

From an audience perspective, of course (and for whom else do we make theatre?), there needs to be a greater purpose in developing a story to tell and the means of telling it in theatrical form. And this time a writer – Hamish Russell – has been brought in to knock the comp-any-devised raw material into shape and, presumably, develop it somewhat.

A stylistic cross between a Music Hall melodrama, complete with songs, and a Pythonesque sketch with satirical bite, I Betty Ya Didn’t Know This About Colonial New Zealand is a highly entertaining pastiche, wilfully peppered with many linguistic anachronisms.

On opening night the majority of audience seem to know the actors, so the crucial performer-audience bond that Music Hall thrives on is effortlessly achieved with a wink that’s as good as a nudge, so no more need be said. For a ‘GP’ audience on other nights, however, I’m guessing the usual conventions for warming up the audience and getting them on side may need to be employed.

Production Designer Theo Wijnsma’s hyperbolic costumes and ingenious set – of mobile boxes and an upright piano (housing an electric keyboard), all of which have hinged flaps to be exploited in various ways, plus calico drops that become curtains, sails and back-projection screens for some excellent shadow-play – combine with Antony Goodin’s lighting and Te Aihe Butler’s sound design to carry multiple characters through a variety of settings on land and sea, with light-hearted alacrity.  

I’m not quite sure why Ruth Armishaw’s tail-coated and top-hatted pianist moves to her stool as if she’s mechanical, but her playing throughout is sublime. The pastiche tone is beautifully captured in her renderings of the British and Australian national anthems, ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and other traditional airs.

Joshua Hopton-Stuart’s compositions are consciously parodic, if not blatant plagiarism. At the very least a programme note is needed, acknowledging a debt to Sandy Wilson (‘A Room In Bloomsbury’ from The Boyfriend), Jeff Silbar and Larry Henley (‘The Wind Beneath My Wings’), R Kelly (‘I Believe I can Fly’), and Andrew Lloyd Webber and Charles Hart (‘The Music of the Night’ from The Phantom of the Opera). I guess these liberties are taken because it is a student exercise, albeit presented in a public season.

The action begins in Dickensian England, where a posh couple (Andrew Paterson and Phoebe Hurst) tell their equally insufferable friends (Jacquie Fee and William Duignan) they’re off to a “life of leisure” in New Zealand, which is “totally empty” apart from the “Mayawries” who must of course be met with violence if that’s what it takes to settle the land. Cue the airy lilt of ‘All We Want is a Place in New Zealand’.

Their casually appalling treatment – just because they can – of Betty Turner, the maid (Jacquie Fee), leads to a derisory ‘trial’ and her being transported to Australia, on a ship festooned with unsavoury types and rats. “It’s better than nothing,” she sings, optimistically. “Life could always be worse.”

Paterson, Hurst and Duignan play a range of characters to keep Betty’s story rollicking along. Paterson’s sleazily predatory Lesbian Leslie – a grossly un-PC creation – causes Hurst’s Alice to ‘corpse’ a few times to many, although this could be construed as a meta-theatrical premonition of where she is headed.

As suggested above, these aspects would work better if Music Hall conventions were more comprehensively employed.

The twists and turns of fate combine with some pro-active interventions from an increasingly assertive Betty to see the quartet of convicts – Betty, Alice, Leslie and the dashing Charles (Duignan) – divert to Tasmania and thence to New Zealand.

While a strongly theatrical ending ensues, it seems to me remiss that Betty does not catch up with Henry and Margaret in New Zealand, where – to complete the myth-making – they get their comeuppance in a relatively egalitarian society that has more use for the survival skills of the ‘working class’ than unearned wealth and privilege.

There is so much that’s good about it that I’d like to see I Betty Ya Didn’t Know This About Colonial New Zealand realise its full potential. But as a directing exercise pursuing the objectives articulated above, it has clearly unleashed a talent worth watching. 


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