Circa Two, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

10/02/2012 - 25/02/2012

Expressions Arts & Entertainment Centre - Upper Hutt, Wellington

14/06/2015 - 14/06/2015

Circa Two, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

06/11/2019 - 16/11/2019

Regent Theatre, Hokitika, West Coast South Island

05/05/2015 - 05/05/2015


Production Details

Created by Helen Moulder, Sue Rider and Sir Jon Trimmer

Directed by Sue Rider

music by Tchaikovsky, Adam, Weber, Herold, Stravinsky, Bach and Lincke

Willow Productions


“Pure magic ….. together they are magnificent” – NZ Listener

CelebratedNew Zealandstage personalities Sir Jon Trimmer and Helen Moulder together with Australian director Sue Rider return with a season of their acclaimed production, Meeting Karpovsky.

“We are delighted with this opportunity to do the play again,” Helen said. “Jon and I have had a lot of requests from the public and have been talking about a return season for a long time. We are now both available and are delighted that Circa Theatre has programmed us in Circa Two for two and half weeks just before the International Arts Festival.

“In the dance of life Sylvia has two left feet, but Karpovsky has arrived to tutor her in hope and grace.  Years ago, Sylvia travelled the world and its greatest ballet theatres; now she lives alone in a house filled with photographs of her favourite dancer and boxes of her daughter’s unwanted possessions. Sylvia knows all the dances and has all the moves in her head, but is afraid to step out. Then the great dancer Alexander Karpovsky – she has seen him dance 127 times – turns up mysteriously in her lonely room and breaks through her brittle cocoon.” – The Listener

Meeting Karpovsky, which is presented by Willow Productions, premiered at Court Two on November 9, 2002. That year the Listener gave the play a Best New Play Award and another fine review followed the Wellington season in March 2003. Helen was awarded Actress of the Year 2003 in the Chapman Tripp Theatre awards for her role as Sylvia in Meeting Karpovsky. The play went on to tour very successfully to eight major centres round NZ in 2004 and received rave reviews wherever it was performed:

“An extraordinary new work full of humour, delight, drama and surprise, Meeting Karpovsky is an enchanting play. I can’t remember when I last saw a production this heart-warming. I’m still smiling.”  – Faith Oxenbridge, NZ Listener

“Delivers the kind of rewards that only live theatre can offer” – NBR

“We (were) held, moved and enriched by this beautifully crafted piece of chamber theatre.” – Dominion-Post

For Helen Moulder – known for her award-winning stage performances in Wit and Vita and Virginia, for Cynthia Fortitude in The Legend Returns, Sister Aloysius in DOUBT, Claudia in Playing Miss Havisham and most recently at Circa as Lady Churchill in Meet the Churchills – having Jon Trimmer on stage with her again in the play she conceived herself, is a double pleasure. Helen first saw Jon dance in Petrushka in 1967, and also worked with him in the television series, The Fireraiser in 1985. “I knew there would be a wonderful connection – bringing together an actor and a dancer,” she says. “And doing the play again enables us to look at it with fresh eyes, taking the characters further and lifting out the story with more clarity.”

Meeting Karpovsky in 2002, was Jon Trimmer’s first role in the straight theatre for a long time.  Playing the mysterious, legendary dancer, Alexander Karpovsky, the character is silent and gracious. “The fact that I’m not actually speaking makes my part closer to a ballet role,” Jon says. “However, my responding to Sylvia’s spoken word is something that does not happen in ballet.”

Sue Rider, former artistic director of La Boite Theatre in Brisbane, says it is rare to work on a play that has been specially created for the performers involved. “With artists as celebrated as Helen and Jon I knew it would be extraordinary,” she says. “That’s why, when Helen invited me to help write and direct the play, I said yes like a shot. Now I am looking forward immensely to re-visiting it.”

Sue, who has worked with Helen several times in Australia and NZ says, “Helen is a wonderful comedienne, with the ability to switch from being very funny to achingly sad in the flick of an eye. It’s what has always attracted me to her as a performer. Her character in Meeting Karpovsky has never danced before, and some of the funniest moments are when she starts to put steps together.  On one hand, this is a simple story of a woman and a dancer. On the other, it is a delicate journey through shifting contrasts – movement and stillness, silence and chatter, fantasy and reality, awkwardness and grace – towards the balance that comes with wisdom and the courage to face the truth.”

Meeting Karpovsky, with its combination of dance and drama, fits into the high school curriculum under ”Use elements and conventions to structure, record and perform devised drama”. The play can be used to explore different ways of conveying time, action, tension, emotional journey and character. Teacher’s Resource Kits are available on

The music in Meeting Karpovsky is by Tchaikovsky, Adam, Weber, Herold, Stravinsky, Bach and Lincke.

Forums with the audience will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday nights during the run.

Meeting Karpovsky
Circa Two
SEASON: 10-25 Feb 2012

Performance Times:
Tues – Sat 7.30pm, Sun 4.30pm, Fri 24 Feb 5.30pm

$25 Specials Fri 9th Feb, Sun 12 Feb
$38, $33 (Seniors, Groups of 6) $30 (Members)
$25 (Students, Beneficiaries, Under 25’s)

Bookings: Circa 801 7992

Pre-show dinner available at Encore – phone 801 7996

Arts on Tour NZ 2015

Sat 2 May 7.30pm, Sun 3 May 2pm, Nelson
Theatre Royal Nelson
Adults $25; Seniors and Royal family members $23;
Groups 4+ $22; Students $15
Book: Theatre Royal 03 548 384003 548 3840

Tues 5 May 7.30pm Hokitika
Regent Theatre
$30; Students $15
Book: At the Theatre

Thurs 7 May 7.30pm Invercargill
SIT Centrestage Theatre, Don St
Book: Ticketdirect or CUE TV

Sat 9 May 7.30pm Arrowtown
Athenaeum Hall
$25 Book: Lakes District Museum

Sun 10 May 7pm Cromwell
Memorial Hall
Adults $25; SuperGold $20; Student/Child $5
Book: Cromwell i-Site

Wed 13 May 7.30pm Ranfurly
Town Hall
Book: Ranfurly i-Site

Thurs 14 May 7.30pm Twizel
Events Centre
Adults $25; Students $10
Book: Mackenzie Lotto Plus
Twizel Information Centre

Sat 16 May 7.30pm Oamaru
Oamaru Repertory Theatre
$28, $25 Book:

Sun 17 May 7.30pm Timaru
The Playhouse Church St
$30+ $2 (booking fee)
Book: Newmans Music Works or

Wed 20 May 8pm Akaroa
Akaroa Area School Gymnasium $25
Book: Akaroa Museum or 03 304 890003 304 8900

Tues 26 May 7.30pm Tauranga
Baycourt X Space
Adults $28; Senior $26; Friends $24; Student $15
Book: Baycourt Box Office 0800 TICKETEK

Thurs 28 May 7.30pm Wanganui
Royal Wanganui Opera House
Adult $25; Senior $23; FOH $20; Student $15
Special Rates for School Groups
Book: Opera House or

Fri 29 May 7.30pm Hawera
Memorial Theatre
$25 Book: South Taranaki i-Site 06 278859906 2788599

Sat 30 May 7.30pm, Sun 31 May 2pm New Plymouth
4th Wall Theatre
Adults $35; Seniors $30; Students 425
Tables 6+$25

Fri 5 June 7.30pm Whakatane
The Liberty Centre
Adults $25; Students $15
Book: The Good Life on The Strand

Sat 6 June 7pm Whitianga
Town Hall
Book: Whitianga Paper Plus 07 866 569807 866 5698

Mon 8 June 7.30pm Hamilton
Playhouse Theatre, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts
University of Waikato
Adults $30; Concessions $25; Groups 4+ $20; Students $10

Thurs 11 June 7.30pm Whangarei
The Riverbank Centre
Whangarei Suit Hire Rust Ave

Sat 13 June 7.30pm Hastings
Playhouse Theatre
$32; Concessions $27 (booking fee may apply)
or Hastings Community Arts Centre 106 Russell St

Sun 14 June 8pm Upper Hutt
Expressions Arts and Entertainment Centre
Book: 04 527 285104 527 2851

Originally produced to rapturous response in 2002, Meeting Karpovsky toured New Zealand in 2003/4 and won Listener Best Play and Chapman Tripp Actress of the Year. Following popular demand, it returned to Circa and some North Island centres in 2012, toured the whole country with Arts On Tour NZ in 2015 and now returns once again to Circa for a special 11 show season, to celebrate the 80th birthday of Sir Jon Trimmer.

Created by Helen Moulder, Sue Rider and Jon Trimmer with music by Tchaikovsky, Weber, Stravinsky, Adam and Bach.

“Pure magic – together they are magnificent” – The Listener

“This beautiful piece of theatre brings together two extraordinary performers, Helen Moulder and Sir Jon Trimmer, performing a unique pas de deux that interweaves ballet and theatre seamlessly.” – Theatreview

“These are performances of a lifetime from Moulder and Trimmer” – Capital Times

Circa Two
6 – 16 November 2019
Preview 5 November
Tues – Sat 7pm (Note: Start time is 7pm not 7.30pm)
Sun 4.30pm, Matinee Sat 16 Nov 2pm Adult $46 // Concession $38 // Friend of Circa $33 // Under 25s $25 // Group 6+ $42
BOOKINGS: 1 Taranaki St, Wellington, 04 801 7992,

Helen Moulder
Sir Jon Trimmer

Theatre , Dance-theatre ,


Review by Jennifer Shennan 13th Nov 2019

Now here’s something different — a play about the ballet. Sylvia, an older woman living alone, is hanging onto the memories of the 127 times in her life she has seen the celebrated ballet dancer, Alexander Karpovsky, in performance. She uses those memories, and the sorting of her daughter Anna’s possessions that are cluttered in the attic, to keep the surface of each day moving along, and to fill her slow quiet nights.

Apart from the many boxes of Anna’s possessions, the set features posters of Karpovsky in his roles as Petrouchka, Albrecht, Widow Simone and Drosselmeyer. Sylvia converses with each character in turn, venting her woes and frustrations, but hastening to assure herself and us that she is in control … [More]


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A cultural treat that intrigues and delights

Review by Margaret Austin 07th Nov 2019

“Any excuse for a party” is an admirable mantra – and it isn’t just any excuse that gives rise to the party that takes place on the opening night of the return season of Meeting Karpovsky at Circa Two.

Sir Jon Trimmer has just celebrated his 80th birthday. And when you’ve got his grace and stage presence teamed with Helen Moulder’s unique star quality, you’ve got a celebration of a very special kind.

Created by the two performers and Brisbane-based director Sue Rider, Meeting Karpovsky was first performed for the Court Theatre in Christchurch in 2002, and went on to critical acclaim elsewhere.

Sylvia (Helen Moulder) lives alone in an attic adorned with a gallery of life size posters depicting her admired dancer in famous balletic roles. She’s been a dancer herself, as we see when she ruminatively loses herself to music.

Then. in a magical response to her barely expressed longing and unconscious need, the object of her admiration materialises in the form of Karpovsky (Sir Jon). This legendary character gives us a wordless performance, composed of gesture and dance, as he guides and encourages Sylvia in various ballet steps – these in spite of her frozen shoulder and dicky foot.

Music from greats such as Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky and Bach are an integral part of this cultural treat of a production, as is the lighting realisation by Deb McGuire.

There is intrigue as well as delight. Dance becomes interwoven with Sylvia’s story, a story hinted at by some stored costumes and memorabilia. Karpovsky’s care for her is manifested by his teaching and Sylvia’s increasing responsiveness is achingly enacted. Clever verbal interplay between the state of marriage and the ballet steps she is learning provide further food for the growing curiosity of the audience.

There is no denouement here, but rather a fast gathering emotion leading to an ending of gentleness and caring, marked by a pair of white gloves and a shared tea tray.

Sylvia’s last words provide both an answer to a question this rapt audience has been holding and as an assurance of her life-affirming resolve.


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Strong metaphors, accessible theatre, delightful performances

Review by Tess Jamieson-Kahara 15th Jun 2015

As I walk into Expressions foyer accompanied by my father, I can’t help thinking my cheek is about to get pinched whilst being told how big I am getting but, despite being four decades younger than the vast majority of the audience, I leave the theatre feeling that I have been let in on a poignant reminder that grace can only be accessed through stillness.

Sylvia (Helen Moulder) excitedly babbles away in her attic as she completes her ‘family’, consisting of four blown-up canvas photographs on easels, each from famous ballets, of which Sylvia is an avid fan.
Petrouchka: the Puppet who develops a human heart but is under the control of his creator and cannot escape;
Widow Simone: The comic mother from La Fille Mal Gardee (The Badly Guarded Daughter);
Albrecht and Gizelle: Albrecht is Gizelle’s lover but deceives her by hiding his real identity;
Herr Drosselmeyer: Clara’s Godfather (and the magician) in the Nutcracker.

Sylvia has the vexatious job of sorting through her daughter Anna’s things as she has chosen to “lead a life free from material possessions”. (She’s in China with her husband for work apparently.) Just as my mind starts to wander away from the murky details of the story the great dancer Alexander Karpovsky (Sir Jon Trimmer) enters. A star struck Sylvia instantly gets a burst of schoolgirl-like energy and babbles even faster as she finally decides on what tea to get him: Lemon and Ginger with Kahikatea leaf and apricot slice with a just hint of ginger (all of which she thought she had but can’t actually find).

All tea and cakes aside, he silently and gracefully proceeds to persuade her to dance, awkward step by awkward step. The more she starts to dance the more channels of expression open up, allowing the story of her painful past to unfold.

We find out through cleverly associated ballet characters and plot lines, that she, like Gizelle, was deceived in love by her ex-husband. Like Petrouchka, she is resemble a puppet, controlled by fear and unable to cut the strings to face the truth. Like Widow Simone, she feels as if she badly guarded her daughter and should’ve stopped her.

Karpovsky acts as Sylvia’s conscience or the personified truth that she can’t face. When hosting, pleasing, dancing with, berating or even killing him doesn’t free her from her denial, the only thing left to do is have that cup of tea with him.

It’s rare that I can stay so engaged through a silent 10 minute scene as mundane as two people having a cup of tea, but it’s Trimmer’s delicate, poised movements that only an experienced dancer could manage, that allow the audience to do just that. The focus in the theatre is tangible and I find myself getting annoyed when I have to scratch my leg several times, as it interrupts the poignant stillness around me.

The empathy and kindness that Karpovsky shows in the ‘tea scene’ allows Sylvia to enter a space free from babble, anger or expectation where she simply sits with herself. From there she is able to face the truth, to shift the grief and start to reach out from her lonely existence.

The play has several strong metaphors for life, including taped up boxes, paper bags for dispersing unwanted possessions and a train going past, which aid the universality of the themes in the story. Crossing the dance and drama medians furthers that more and makes this play a really strong, accessible piece of theatre.

Both Trimmer and Moulder’s performances are delightful and even though this is the last performance of a six-week tour in a third season, it doesn’t feel like this is the end of Meeting Karpovsky.


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A beautiful story well told

Review by Susan Prendergast 06th May 2015

“I don’t dance,” Sylvia says. 

Sylvia is too confused, scared, old and sore to dance. This is portrayed beautifully and clearly before Helen Moulder’s Sylvia utters her first words in the Sue Rider-directed play, Meeting Karpovsky.

Touring the country until mid-June with Arts On Tour NZ, visiting rural and regional towns, Meeting Karpovsky is taking the show to the people instead of hoping the people travelling to the show.  Just like Sir Jon Trimmer’s dancing, it will a leave an enthralled audience but a small foot print. 

Jon Trimmer and Helen Moulder come together in this insightful play to show us that your life experiences matter more than you know and it’s never too late to make the most of them. 

Just as life can be a beautiful smooth dance or an embarrassingly public awkward stumble, Meeting Karpovsky flows from Sylvia’s seat-squirmingly clumsy first attempts at dancing, to the gentle stillness of a caring friend bandaging her wounds.  The simple, monochrome set reflects Sylvia’s isolation and allows her moods of confusion, despair and hope, to seep out to the audience and draw us in to her closeted world. 

Karpovsky – a man of few words, and possibly even a figment of Sylvia’s vivid imagination – comes to Sylvia in her large, lonely house and teases her out of that isolation.  He plays on her fascination with dance and the stories it tells – but still Sylvia needs more; she needs to feel love and she needs to grieve. 

Sylvia’s journey to find this peace with herself is echoed subtly in the changes of pace between scenes: sometimes nervous and shy, sometimes joyous and free, and other times slow with the ache of despair.  Likewise the lighting carries you through her moods and the passing of her lonely days with the lull of gentle fades to the shock of sharp brightness and clashing sound effects.

I was lucky enough to talk to SirJon after the show and I asked him what Meeting Karpovsky is to him.  He said it is more than a play of words to him, it is a play of words, dance, music, song, light and human emotion and the story of Sylvia’s healing journey can’t be fully told without all of those elements. 

Trimmer and Moulder obviously share that view and work together beautifully on stage.  These two theatrical creatures of great repute hold the audience with them throughout the play, from the minutiae of Sylvia’s bantams and baked potatoes to her deepest fears and grief. 

It was a rainy and stormy West Coast night when I saw this play but we all emerged from the theatre warm with the glow of a beautiful story well told.  Helen and Sir Jon joined us for a chat in the foyer of the refurbished Regent Theatre, where Sir Jon told us that the last time he had performed in the Regent was 1959.  They were friendly and gracious visitors to our wee town and we very much look forward to their next visit, hopefully to perform Helen’s new play, Gloria’s Handbag.

Go and see this play, try to keep a dry eye and when you get home ring your mum and tell her you love her.


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Performances of a Lifetime

Review by Garth Wilshere 16th Feb 2012

I was delighted to catch this play years after it was last staged here.

It was intriguingly conceived by the performers, the redoubtableHelen Moulderand dance/ballet legend Sir Jon Trimmer, with director Sue Rider.

The play is a journey of discovery and suspense, a tour-de-force, with a surprising conclusion.

It is spare, tightly directed, beautifully evocative in its simple set design (originally David Thornley), lighting (Phillip Dexter and Deb Maguire) and conception.

Old ballet photos set the scene among packing cases as Sylvia (Moulder) recounts the narratives of her life, with her daughter now working inChina, interrupted by the entrance of and encounters with, The Dancer (Trimmer), the famous Karpovsky of the photos.

Mute (bar one word near the end) with brilliant mime episodes and dance encounters with Sylvia, Trimmer is transfixing in his mood setting and performances.

Moulder, who carries the play and is the anchor in her exposition of the narrative and evocation of her life story; past, current, “present”, future, is simply magnificent in an, engaging and involving performance.

The multi-layered play it gently builds and draws you into her world and life.
Excellent lighting and atmosphere, the essence of being in a speeding train carriage with the outside lights flashing through the windows, racing to a suspenseful and unexpected conclusion is wonderfully captured.

These are performances of a lifetime from Moulder and Trimmer.  


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The power of silence on stage

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 15th Feb 2012

Revivals can be tricky things in the theatre: the actors can be over confident of success; “improvements” are made; the zeitgeist has probably changed. Miraculously, Meeting Karpovsky seems just as fresh and touching as it did on its opening night nine years ago at Circa Studio, as Circa 2 was then called.

It is a delicate piece of chamber theatre about a middle-aged woman, Sylvia Morton, trying to sort her daughter’s unwanted possessions which are stored in the attic of her wisteria-covered house. Also kept in the attic are four large photographs of her hero, the ballet star Alexander Karpovsky, whom she saw dance 127 times in Europe.

In a state of emotional distress of indecision and grief Sylvia talks to herself about her past, her love of dance, and her unhappy marriage. Nothing is explicit until she starts talking about her hero who suddenly and silently appears in the attic.

Quickly a relationship is formed and he teaches her, without saying a word in a scene of gentle comedy, the pas de deux from Giselle despite her frozen shoulder and her weak ankle. Later Karpovsky appears as the puppet Petrouchka but he also becomes the puppeteer who gives Sylvia heart allowing her to face her grief and find a reason for living. There is an epilogue in which a sprightly, comic, life-affirming pas de deux is performed.

Sir Jon Trimmer (mute throughout except for one word) and Helen Moulder perform together in perfect harmony. One thing other actors, directors and playwrights could learn from them is the power of silence. There is one long scene in which Karpovsky serves Sylvia tea, nothing is said and yet everything is said. The second night audience was held, even the coughers were stilled.

One cavil: Sylvia lists all the famous dancers she has seen and she includes the name Trimmer. No doubt correct but it destroys the illusion for an easy laugh (actually there was only a titter) and it’s a lapse that I don’t remember occurring nine years ago


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Moving mastery

Review by Maryanne Cathro 11th Feb 2012

Circa Two is one of my Happy Places. To date I have enjoyed only the most delightful and moving theatrical experiences in its intimate space, and Meeting Karpovsky is no exception. This beautiful piece of theatre brings together two extraordinary performers, Helen Moulder and Sir Jon Trimmer, performing a unique pas de deux that interweaves ballet and theatre seamlessly.

All we know is that Sylvia Morton is a ballet fan who knows all the steps but has two left feet. In her attic room filled with crates of her daughter’s unwanted stuff and blown up photocopies of her favourite dancer, Alexander Karpovsky, she is frittering her life away. Then one day, the great Karpovsky himself appears as if from nowhere, and compels her to dance.  The rest you just have to see for yourself.

Helen Moulder’s Sylvia is a delight. She is funny and sad and credible, and her journey of self discovery and acceptance is beautifully portrayed, timed and delivered.

Jon Trimmer’s Karpovsky is expressive, engaging and enchantingly enigmatic. He commands the stage without upstaging his partner, and dances and mimes with the grace of a master.

This play is executed in all aspects with the same mastery and professionalism as its two performers deliver and deserve. The set (David Thornley) and lighting (Phillip Dexter andDeb McGuire) are seamless members of the corps de ballet, wrapping around the performers to support and enhance them. A special mention to Deb McGuire whose lighting operation was cue perfect.

I love theatre that unabashedly knows it is live theatre and embraces the opportunities that only live theatre can provide to suspend disbelief, engage an audience, and transcend reality to deliver a more meaningful truth. Such theatre moves us and we are never quite the same again. Meeting Karpovsky is such a piece of theatre.

How blessed we are to get the chance to see this show in its reprised season.  


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