University of Otago Bookshop, 378 Great King St, Dunedin

24/03/2019 - 25/03/2019

Dunedin Fringe 2019

Production Details

Stories allow us to shine a light in the darkness and to connect with the world around us; like beacons in the night.

Join us for Light to Light, a celebration of oral storytelling.

Four eclectic guests shine their lights, the only rules are there are no notes and the stories must be true.

Come along and see if you see your light shining back at you.

Secured Entry Advance Ticket (SEAT) gives an audience member the security of having a reserved seat for $3 and they can then make their koha or donation at the venue before or after the show.

University Book Shop, 378 Great King St, Dunedin
SUN 24 & MON 25 March 2019
$3.00 Secured Entry Advance Ticket (SEAT) 
SEAT gives an audience member the security of having a reserved seat for $3 and they can then make their koha or donation at the venue before or after the show.
*Fees may apply  

Theatre , Spoken word ,

A nostalgia-riddled evening

Review by Alison Embleton 26th Mar 2019

A special Fringe Festival edition of Arcade Theatre’s Light to Light series: Dunedin’s answer to The Moth. Stories are told without the aid of notes or prompts in front of a live audience. A simple spot lights the stage, with no set to detract from the raw style of storytelling from each performer. Opening night welcomed Harrison Kennedy, Rosie Howells, Heidi Geissler and Isaac Martin to each share a story from their life, drawing from the theme of ‘On the Fringe’.

While the story itself is truly magical and heartfelt, Kennedy’s inclusion feels somewhat out of place regarding the theme of ‘On the Fringe’, especially with it being the first performance. It doesn’t set the audience up for the theme as well as any of the others could have, which makes me wonder if there were some last-minute changes required for the line up?

Kennedy’s delivery is strong, he commands the audience’s attention well and even has a prop to reinforce the truly delightful climax. His recounting of an idyllic childhood ritual with his Granddad, and the subsequent bittersweet conclusion of said ritual, has the makings of a classic Central Otago/NZ short story. Unfortunately, I think the charm of the story is squandered a little. A lot of effort went into the set up and the pay-off is honestly one of the most magical conclusions to a non-fiction story that I’ve ever heard. It seems a shame to rush the ending of such a beautiful story, lingering over the details would go a long way in this case. I won’t spoil those details here because I sincerely hope to see this memory crafted into a short story or one act play written by Kennedy in the future.

Rosie Howells could teach a master class in the pros and cons of utilising comedy as a coping mechanism. The way she deftly unpacks the complexities associated with ‘owning the joke’ vs ‘being the joke’ is flawless. It would be easy for this story to be overwhelming and to get off topic, as Howells is drawing the audience along a timeline spanning over a decade. But she manages to keep a good pace while also explaining the details needed to keep up: the realisations she had as she grew up are doled out in context of each beat in the story.

From her arrival at a private school as the self-proclaimed ‘weird kid’ and planning to bend the entire school to her will using comedy and confidence, through the shock and pain associated with the ridicule and thoughtlessness of teenagers to the realisation that the ‘flaws’ they were hounding her about were rooted in a complex multitude of medical conditions. Utilising self-depreciating humour as a coping mechanism – a type of armour really – and the inevitable consequences this method had on her psyche.

This isn’t even the end of the story; it’s really the set up for a nuanced exploration of self-acceptance as an adult. And embracing the things about yourself that, despite being perceived by others as ‘flaws’, will shape you as a person. Balancing humour, honesty and sincerity, Howells manages to make her truly unique experiences feel universal and relatable.

Like Kennedy, Heidi Geissler’s story is also rooted in an idyllic rural New Zealand setting. This time the audience is transported to The Catlins, and a free-range childhood shared with Geissler’s two brothers and a solo mother clearly invested in giving her children a joyous and fulfilling upbringing despite any financial strain she may have been under. Geissler recounts various memorable adventures shared with her brothers: elaborate missions along beaches based on half-remembered British military expeditions and an undercover operation to heist items leftover from a nearby bridge reconstruction, which leads to the creation of a monster tree house in the middle of the bush, to name just a few.

Geissler then draws the audience away from the delight of these small-town childhood freedoms to the realities associated with high school, and thus the exposure to the lives of fellow students. She shares the process of realising that her family was considered ‘different’ from most of the other farm kids, with their two-parent households and relative wealth compared to her family. And how she and her brothers were grouped with the other families also considered to be ‘different’ – in this case the only Māori family and the only other family in the district with a single parent.

Geissler is charming and endearing, her story is relatable but not predictable and she strikes a poignant chord in her realisation in adulthood of how much her childhood has shaped her life and how grateful she is to have had such a creative and loving upbringing.

Drawing the evening to a close is Isaac Martin, sharing with the audience his struggle with his weight and the impact this has had throughout his life – both physically and mentally. Like Howells, Martin outlines his struggles with his appearance and his attempts to utilise comedy and performance as a tool to push back against negativity.  While the previous three stories were all delivered in a natural way, Martin’s is the most theatrical performance of the evening, and he brings a very nervous energy to the room. Whether this is intentional or not, his style of delivery helps to reinforce the points he makes about his coping mechanisms and the inherent success and failures associated with them throughout his life.

Plotting the difficult moments through his childhood and adolescence that lead to him gaining weight, Martin highlights many common struggles that everyone faces. But he is careful to avoid cliché and instead crafts myriad vignettes specific to his own experience that nevertheless result in universally experienced emotion. This story ends on a relatively open note: he’s still working on his self-acceptance (aren’t we all?) and he concludes with a reminder of the importance of external voices of support and encouragement. Loving yourself is all well and good, but we all need some help from time to time.

Interestingly enough, the theme of ‘On the Fringe’ has led to each of the four performers sharing stories rooted in their childhoods and, for three of the four, exploring the traumas and/or obstacles only fully realised in their adulthood. This makes for a nostalgia-riddled evening that leaves the audience reflecting on their own childhood experiences and (hopefully) sparing a thought for their younger selves and the trials they endured.

I look forward to future Light to Light events and the positive impact that sharing stories such as these can have on a community.


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