Playhouse Theatre, Dunedin

11/12/2014 - 12/12/2014

Production Details

Christmas comedy show tells Mary’s story 

Mary and her devoted husband, Joseph, were audience favourites in the Discharge comedy collective’s award-winning show “What is this, Woman’s Hour?” The couple return to the stage in a new show called “Mary’s Christmas”, on at the Playhouse Theatre in Dunedin on 11 and 12 December. 

In this classic road trip story, Joseph and the heavily pregnant Mary travel to Bethlehem for the census. On the way, Mary prepares herself for the toils of mothering a famous child, three wise men struggle to buy baby-appropriate gifts and Joseph learns the truth about childbirth. 

Mary’s story is interspersed with a series of sketches exploring different aspects of Christmas, including family dynamics, seasonal loneliness and a very unconventional Christmas pantomime. 

Discharge has members in both Dunedin and Wellington. The main storyline was written by sisters Rosie Howells in Dunedin and Abby Howells in Wellington, with others contributing sketches. 

The show will be performed in Wellington with a different director, cast and crew on 16 and 17 December, with all profits from both shows going to Women’s Refuge. 

“In the spirit of Christmas we wanted to produce a feel good show, as well as helping a good cause”, Director Heidi Geissler says. “It has been awesome collaborating with the Wellington group as well. It feels like we are one family with two houses.” 

Bronwyn Wallace, who plays the role of Mary in the Dunedin show, says the show offers a different perspective. “It’s refreshing to see a well known story told in such a different way. Mary is funny, clever and sharp – a joy to play.”

Nell Guy, who played Joseph in “What is this, Woman’s Hour?”, is excited about returning to the role. “I love Joseph. He’s a bit naïve and not as clever as Mary but he’s also well-meaning and very supportive of her.”

The cast is made up of five Otago University students and graduates. They are Rosie Howells, Marea Colombo, Nell Guy, Bronwyn Wallace and Heidi Geissler.

“We’re five stellar ladies doing funny things. It’s perfect for Christmas: energetic, lighthearted, funny and quirky.” 

Discharge’s What is this, Woman’s Hour? won Best Comedy 2013 Dunedin Fringe Festival and was nominated Best Comedy in the 2014 NZ Fringe Festival.

Its most recent show, Benedict Cumberbatch Must Die, written and performed byAbby Howells, Caitlin McNaughton and Kate Schrader (all former Otago University students), enjoyed a sellout season at BATS Theatre in June 2014 and will head south for the Dunedin Fringe Festival 2015. 

The actors say they are planning to reserve a seat to “Mary’s Christmas” for their favourite actor. “We know he’s a great supporter of charities, so just in case …” 

What the reviews said: 

“Lively and unpretentious … ” (“What is this, Woman’s Hour?”, Theatreview) 

“An hour of hugely carried short and sharp laugh-so-hard-you’ll-piss-your-pants type sketches … ” (“What is this, Woman’s Hour?”, Theatreview) 

“Laugh-out-loud…highly entertaining character-based comedy … ” (“Benedict Cumberbatch Must Die”, Theatreview) 

“The audience roared its approval throughout … “” (“Benedict Cumberbatch Must Die”, The Dominion Post) 

MARY’S CHRISTMAS (Dunedin Show) 
Venue: Playhouse Theatre in Albany St, Dunedin
Dates & Time: 11 – 12 December, 8pm 
Booking Details: Tickets $20/$15.
Book at

Assistant Director: Nell Guy

Rosie Howells - Shepherd 2, Wise Man 2, Inkeeper, Various
Nell Guy - Shepherd 1, Joseph, Various
Marea Colombo - Shepherd 3, Herod, Wise Man 3, Various
Bronwyn Wallace - Mary, Wise Man 1, Various
Heidi Geissler - Announcing Angel, Wise Man 3, Wise Man 1, Various

Lighting/Sound Operator - Miriam Noonan
Stage Manager - Miriam Noonan
Costume Designer - Rosie Howells
Publicist - Marea Colombo
Producer - Nell Guy 

Creatively collaborative comedy

Review by Alison Embleton 12th Dec 2014

And they say women don’t make good comedians. If only ‘they’ had the chance to see Mary’s Christmas

A deftly crafted series of short sketches revolving around Christmas, the ladies of Discharge explore what the festive season means to all; from a new flatmate who’s never experienced Christmas to a parish pageant rendition of Die Hard: the pantomime.

The main story line follows Mary and Joseph as they travel to Bethlehem for the census, and King Herod’s outrage at the news from his wise men of the impending delivery of a new “awesome king baby’’.

The motivation behind Discharge is to produce innovative, inclusive comedy with a feminine focus, and this is definitely the result achieved in this production. It’s a delight to see a performance delivered with such evident enjoyment from all involved. Having written and developed the script themselves (along with Discharge’s Wellington counterparts) there is always the worry that the jokes will have become stale and the delivery lack-lustre, but this is definitely not the case. Everything feels fresh and I have never heard an audience laugh so hard for so long. Every Christmas-related and seasonal archetype is present in Mary’s Christmas, allowing for any audience member to connect on a personal level.

The humour is very clever and the cast all employ a lot of dry wit and creativity in their delivery, however I do feel the use of slapstick and more physical comedy overshadows this at times. While the more physical comedic moments definitely have their place, and some are utterly hilarious (I’ll never look at Christmas star ornaments the same way again) it wears a little thin over the course of the evening.

It’s wonderful to see a comedy act work so inclusively together as an ensemble. There is never a moment where anyone is overshadowed or pushed out for the sake of another, and it’s a testament to their abilities that this doesn’t mean the show suffers, in fact it’s part of what makes it so entertaining. Seeing these actors play off each other highlights their improv skills and their commitment to creating a performance that accentuates each individual’s particular talents.

Artfully directed by the talented Heidi Geissler (with assistance from Nell Guy) this show is the perfect example of collaborative creativity. But while it is a strong ensemble piece, Rosie Howells is a particular stand out; her natural affinity for comedy is not to be missed. Nell Guy is also worthy of note; her ability to fully embody such a wide range of characters is astounding.

But again, all these women are very talented and definitely worth seeing. If not for Discharge, we would never have learned the story of Mary’s Christmas and the festive season would have remained dominated by that jolly, fat guy with rosacea!  

Only one more night to see the show, so hurry and book your tickets. All proceeds are being donated to Women’s Refuge who provide 24 hour support, advocacy and accommodation for women and their children experiencing family violence.


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