LAST MEALS: A nine course buffet

BATS Theatre, Wellington

09/02/2016 - 14/02/2016

Your FAV - Memorial Theatre Foyer (Student Union Building, Victoria University), Wellington

29/02/2016 - 02/03/2016

NZ Fringe Festival 2016 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Production Details

“I’m not saying I’m guilty, I’m just not saying I’m not.”

Last Meals is a gritty, intense, piece that introduces nine women with nothing left to lose. From young teens to elderly women, each inmate has a story, a reason for being where they are. You may think they are seeking redemption and understanding – the truth of Last Meals is that these characters are after no such thing.

Come and join our female death row inmates as they dine on their Last Meal – One last courtesy granted to them. Are they innocent? Guilty? That’s up to you.

Venue: BATS Theatre – The Propeller Stage
Tues 9 Feb – Sun 14 Feb, 9.30pm
Full: $18.00
Concession/Student: $14.00
Fringe Addict: $12.00
Duration: 60 MINS
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Your FAV – Memorial Theatre Foyer (Student Union Building)
Mon 29 Feb – Wed 2 ar, 5pm
Duration: 15 MINS
Rating: PG
Full: $15.00, Concession/Student: $10.00, Fringe Addict: $10.00
Tickets for this event are sold directly from –

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Top rate performances

Review by Ewen Coleman 10th Feb 2016

Another series of monologues, but in total contrast to the above is Keely Meechan’s Last Meals: A Nine Course Buffet, playing late nights at Bats.

There are nine characters on stage, all on death row and, as the title suggests, nine meals are served up, the last for each.

Although these are nine individual stories, director Ben Emerson has creatively choreographed the movement around and between them into a very stylised presentation. [More


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Like all good tragedies it erupts with comedy

Review by John Smythe 10th Feb 2016

Having got a taste of a third of this show at last year’s inaugural Wellington Short+Sweet Festival I leapt at the chance to review the full menu and am not disappointed. Directed by Ben Emerson, the nine monologues from women murders ‘on death row’ and facing their imminent mortality create shocking, poignant, insightful and powerful theatre. Local writer Keely Meechan (who also painted the promotional pictures) is clearly a force to be reckoned with.  

All nine women own their disparate and highly credible characters totally, engaging us in the abiding questions: Who did they murder? Why? How? What would I have done? Is justice being served?

The ‘last meal on the eve of their execution’ is an astute device for ramping up the downward pressure to produce both drama and comedy. It is not to be taken literally, however, given most of the characters come from, and are presumably imprisoned in, countries that don’t have capital punishment. Their life sentences are metaphorical death sentences.

There are no character names; each is named for their last meal choice and the way they relate to it adds emphasis or counterpoint to what they say. What’s left unsaid is also eloquent sometimes. It does need to be noted that more than once a key word is lost on opening night. A couple of accents also impede our understanding frustratingly. Hopefully these issues will be quickly rectified.

[While spoilers are hopefully avoided below, you may prefer to see the show first then read this later.]

A slim and very unappetising looking Hamburger greets Hannah Kelly’s 27 year-old inmate from Tottenham, England. She didn’t want pickles or tomato but the lack of mayo becomes the focus of all her anger at the sexual abuse she suffered from countless men before she took justice into her own hands, thereby saving others.

A slice of white-iced red velvet Birthday Cake evokes happy times until Keagan Carr Francsh’s grieving mother (37) from St Louis, USA, reveals the fate of her eight year-old, spelling-bee trophy-bearing son at the hands of a police officer taking so-called “necessary action”. Her dispassionate description of how she went about proving we are all the same under the skin is a challenging counterpoint to the impotent fury most of us will feel at the USA’s out-of-control gun culture. 

A thick French accent conspires with the way Ellie Stewart wields her Salami Stick to make her 26 year-old actress from Leon redolent of iconic European sex-symbol ‘screen sirens’. Énigmatique one might say. What exactly has she done? It seems réalité and fantaisie have become indistinguishable, with lethal consequences.

As Georgia Lattief eats her Plum she reveals her 16 year old from Goroka, Papua New Guinea, was eight when she was promised for marriage to a 64 year-old man, nine when she became his third wife, ten when she had her first child … Where do human rights and justice sit in this scenario?

Playing a 45 year-old from Perth, Australia, Karen Anslow is reconciled to her final Sunday Roast, knowing she did the right thing by her daughter regarding her husband, the father, all those years ago. She just wants to explain it now that her daughter’s a woman … The simplicity of this one makes it no less poignant.

Of course Death Row houses the odd psychopath and Lucy McCarthy’s 22 year-old for Los Angeles USA is one. Her orange-flavoured Tic Tacs become symbols of her victims as she makes an art form of the stare, the sudden smile, the unnerving pause.  

Every prison has its inmate hierarchy and a 34 year-old from Edinburgh, Scotland is clearly ‘top dog’ here, as played by Spaghetti Bolognese-loving Jean Sergent. Intimidation leavened with charm and wit does not finally distract us from realising what the relationship was between her perfect-bodied, ever-loyal girlfriend and the lesser mortals in their basement.  

Speaking of dogs,* Trae Te Wiki does a stunning impersonation of one as her 29 year-old Wellingtonian chows down on a plate of Dog Food. Her diatribe becomes poetic (but not doggerel) as she proves she is not a ‘dog’ because “dogs get empathy”; people love dogs. Once more the causal chain that leads to crime comes under scrutiny.

Jessica Old’s 28 year-old wife and mother from Nelson who also had a paying job has chosen a Pinot Noir (called Fickle Mistress according to the programme) as her farewell tipple. Whoever she was or could have become became buried in the grinding routine of domestic and conjugal duties that recur in choric repetition until we too are in danger of being mesmerised. To what extent can a person thus captivated be held responsible for their actions? What she did was terrible, of course. Inexcusable.

It is she who provides the log-line for the whole production: “I’m not saying I’m innocent. I’m just not saying I’m not.” (And this makes much more sense than what was used last year, and in the pre-publicity for this season: “I’m not saying I’m guilty, I’m just not saying I’m not.”)

Having drawn these very different personalities into a cohesive whole, director Ben Emerson has worked with his actors – and Rowan McShane as lighting designer with Ruby Kemp as operator – to vary the visual dynamic in crafty ways. From their immobile, intriguing yet quietly threatening presence at the start, seated on chairs in the gloom, through to the flying wedge they form at the end, the nine-strong ensemble creates the context and ambience that facilitates each other’s differently delivered monologues. And when the lights leap to life, we too are implicated.

Don’t be put off by the content. This is powerful theatre and like all good tragedies it erupts with comedy in a good way.

*My companion observes this seems to be the year of the dog, in Wellington at least. They have made memorable appearances in Dog & Bone, At The End of My Hands and now Last Meals


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