University of Otago Bookshop, 378 Great King St, Dunedin

26/07/2019 - 03/08/2019

Production Details

Jo and Murph are sisters. Jo and Murph are nothing alike. But Jo and Murph need each other, badly.

Me and My Sister Tell Each Other Everything is a thorny, funny and deeply personal story of two sisters dealing with Tinder, mismatched socks, depression, a childhood dollhouse and Mary Poppins.

Jo has a job and a boyfriend but has never left home. Murph is in a band but sometimes can’t get out of bed. Jo and Murph are figuring out those often uncomfortable, painful, joyful moments of being siblings and caught up in ever-changing family dynamics.

Me and My Sister Tell Each Other Everything is presented by arrangement with Playmarket.

Arcade’s 2019 season is supported in part by the Dunedin City Council’s professional theatre fund and is sponsored by Southern Lights.

Upstairs at The University Book Shop (378 Great King St, North Dunedin, Dunedin 9016)
26 July – 3 August 2016

Josephine ‘Jos’ Willcott:  Kate Schrader 
Meredith ‘Murph’ Willcott:  Kat Kennedy 

Stage Manager/FoH: Beth Waite
Producer: Amy Wright, Catherine Wright, Alex Wilson
Design and Publicity: Angus McBryde
Lighting Design: Anna Sinton
Set Design: Ian McDowall
Costume Design: Ross Heath 

Theatre , Musical ,

Sisters’ story achieves good depth

Review by Barbara Frame 30th Jul 2019

Two little girls are given a dolls’ house, with tiny furniture and a little wooden family, which they are expected to share nicely.  

Instead, Jos – organised, tidy and bossy – takes charge of it until the day Murph – messy, impulsive and destructive – wrecks the whole thing.

The dolls’ house takes on a symbolic role throughout the play as the sisters grow older, bicker, and don’t tell each other very much at all, until … [More]


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Lively, engrossing, challenging

Review by Terry MacTavish 27th Jul 2019

Me and My Sister Tell Each Other Everything. The title, in all its ungrammatical colloquialism, surely strikes fear into the hearts of men. Everything?? Everything!! Spirited young director Heidi Geissler has said she aims to redress the deficit of young female voices in the theatre, so initially it seems odd that this play about the relationship between two sisters is by a male playwright. But despite the obvious handicap, Uther Dean succeeds triumphantly in giving authentic voice to these loving/hating, nurturing/torturing siblings.

Much analysis has been devoted to the place of a child in the family and the stereotypes ring true. This very day a photo of my own sibling’s christening is printed in our iconic Otago Daily Times. Cuddled by my happy mother, my baby brother sleeps blissfully, while from the safety of my father’s arms, my toddler self glares at him with an expression of appalled disgust. The pattern is established for life. This cute newcomer may steal my place in the sun, but for sure will spend his life striving in vain to catch up.

Kate Schrader is impeccable as Jos, the bossy elder sister, claiming her rights over the treasured dollhouse, burning with musical ambition but ultimately still living at home, super-organised, with a steady job and boringly reliable boyfriend. Kat Kennedy, alternately bubbly and anguished as Murph, desperately tries to emulate her sister – with disastrous results as far as the dollhouse is concerned – but despite her own musical ability, ends up a muddled mess. The characters are not unfamiliar (Renee’s impressive canon, for instance, often ponders the tortuous relationship between sisters) but these girls are alarmingly contemporary. 

Schrader and Kennedy are both experienced, polished actors who give charmingly zingy performances, flicking easily between the different ages of their characters, giving fine renditions of the songs, and establishing a credible, touching sibling relationship with all its sudden flare-ups and deep underlying need. Their simultaneous accounts of the doings of a day are very funny, efficient Jos frantically filling every moment with unsatisfying ‘busyness’, while depressed Murph occupies her time with reruns of the Gilmore Girls “and a half-hearted wank”. 

It saddens me to see on the programme “Contemporary NZ Drama – contains themes of suicide” This issue is indeed distressingly timely, brilliantly addressed by Dean with mingled humour and pathos. Director Geissler gets it, making the most of the climactic transition from the girls’ hilarious grief and outrage at the thought of anyone but Julie Andrews attempting a remake of a Julie Andrews film, to the shock entry of a blood-bespattered Murph, which sends one audience member staggering to the exit. 

Arcade is interested in found spaces rather than conventional theatres and their last show, The Bald Soprano, was very successfully staged in the warehouse precinct. Me and My Sister is upstairs at the University Bookshop, a barren space that offers great potential but is perhaps not the best venue for winter – warm clothing is seriously recommended. Within it, Ian McDowall has designed a set with a small stage for the performance numbers, adjacent to a wall of large brightly-coloured dollhouse rooms.

The dollhouse the girls play with, however, is represented by cardboard boxes, and in one delightful scene the girls actually become the dolls, moving stiffly while they prattle from the doll viewpoint (something familiar to us from Toy Story), father doll wishing his legs would bend so he might enjoy his chair, the others ‘enjoying breakfast’, by having their heads banged into the table. This is also the scene that for me makes sense of the dollhouse metaphor: the dolls are portrayed as being much happier when someone is in control of them, holding them tight and making their decisions for them. It will be interesting to compare with Henrik Ibsen’s interpretation in the upcoming touring production of his classic, A Doll’s House.

The audience is arranged in an L-shape, so the actors play from side to side and cannot remain too long in one spot. Geissler utilises the stage imaginatively, helped by Anna Sinton’s fluid lighting design, and certainly keeps the actors moving – their confident physicality is a strength of the show – while there are arresting moments when each actor claims one side of the audience in which to confide. We ‘side’ with one then the other as they argue, fight over the dollhouse, dissect their parents’ collapsed marriage and connect over shared memories.

Sometimes the actors speak in unison or in overlapping monologues, which can mean words are lost in the unconfined space of the UBS, but is usually very effective, expressing their involved, troubled relationship. Although the script could do with a little tightening in the second half, the performers’ energy never flags.  Moving smoothly from childhood to mid-twenties and back again, aided by nothing more than a couple of pinafores (costumes by Ross Heath), while comparing their versions of history, Schrader and Kennedy create a palpable bond, that shows to particular advantage when they break into a catchy song and dance number. Some of these are jolly, some haunting: “I’ve become a forest for the trees… You can’t see me.”

The story I relish most, the one that demonstrates to perfection the completely different perspective siblings will have of the same childhood event, is the one about The Sound of Music. Desperate to act 16-going-on-17 Liesl, Jos recklessly commits her younger sister to playing sweet little Gretl. She is then furious to find that the cute youngster is garnering the praise, her own performance as she thinks overshadowed, while all along Murph is actually hero-worshipping her big sister, convinced she herself will never catch up.

Could it be Jos’s fault that Murph is suicidal? Does that mean she must always take responsibility for her sister? But has being responsible left Jos unable to follow her own dreams, to be free? As a bossy big sister, I naturally have my own opinion, and this lively and engrossing production provides us not only with challenging questions, but with plenty of material for the next pitched battle with our own beloved siblings.


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