Q Theatre Loft, 305 Queen St, Auckland

14/10/2016 - 16/10/2016

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

22/06/2018 - 30/06/2018

The Piano, 156 Armagh Street, Christchurch

01/08/2019 - 03/08/2019

Gisborne War Memorial Theatre, Gisborne

12/10/2019 - 13/10/2019

Tempo Dance Festival 2016

Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival 2019

Christchurch Arts Festival 2019

Production Details

Meremere is a performance autobiography featuring the extraordinary stories and talents of Rodney Bell (Ngati Maniapoto), who left Aotearoa 12 years ago to pursue a career in integrated dance on the international stage.

Meremere powerfully layers movement, music, projected imagery and documentary footage to bring his stories to life in an hour-long work. His experiences, memories and aspirations are woven into a beautiful, funny, sonic and intimate performance experience that invites you inside Rodney’s journeys.

Meremere has had contributions from a variety of professional and personal communities that Rodney has engaged with over the past 20 years.

Sign language interpretation and audio description* is only available on the 16th October.

*Audio description includes touch tour. To confirm a place they need to email

A post-show forum and artist talk follows the performance on Friday 14 October.

Fri & Sun 6.30pm

Tickets:  $18 – $28 (booking fees may apply)



Circa One
1 Taranaki St, Wellington
22 – 30 June 2018
$30 special 21 June! 
Tues – Thurs 6.30pm, Fri – Sat 8pm. Sun 4pm
$25 – $46

More information

Bell’s journey is unique and compelling. Brought up in Te Kuiti, Bell spent many of his early years immersed in culture and sports. At the age of 19 he acquired a disability. A motorbike accident left him paralysed from the chest down. A year spent in the Auckland Spinal Rehabilitation Unit brought things into focus. “As I recovered, I had to adapt to a new way of being, wrapping my head around this new vessel that was my body. It took time.”

Exploring new ways to be physical led to a placement with the New Zealand wheelchair basketball team. “This helped me rebuild my strength, and gave me a taste of international travel”. And then, he says, “Dance came into my life.” Bell was inspired to dance by Catherine Chappell. He became a founding member of Chappell’s then new company Touch Compass Dance Trust in 1997, and went on to perform with them nationally.

Eventually, Bell attracted international attention which lead to an invitation from Oakland-based AXIS Dance Company. In 2007, he relocated to the US and embarked on a successful international dance career that would see him win numerous awards, including a coveted Isadora Duncan Dance Award in 2009.

In 2012, Bell’s life started to unravel; he found himself in a perfect storm – jobless and struggling to survive on the streets of San Francisco. The catalyst was a fire that burnt down the apartment block in which he was living. Bell lost everything and found it difficult to find a new home. Then his work with AXIS ended, and lacking the means to come home, he fell into homelessness.

Bell spent the next three years navigating the streets of San Francisco, sleeping on park benches and in homeless shelters, before – with the assistance of San Francisco based charity HandsUp – he was finally able to return to New Zealand.

“It was a time of learning to endure,” Bell says. “You draw on superhuman powers when you’re in survival mode. On the coldest nights I’d wrap clothes around my head. I’d be able to sleep through a lot of it because I was super tired. Negotiating the streets is a marathon. You’re always moving, trying to find essentials like running water.” 

Christchurch Arts Festival 2019 

The Piano, 156 Armagh St, Christchurch Central 
Thursday 01 August  7:00pm Buy Tickets
Friday 02 August  1:00pm Buy Tickets
Friday 02 August  7:00pm Buy Tickets 
Saturday 03 August  7:00pm Buy Tickets 
Conc.$45 –
Full$50 –
Service fees apply.
Location Accessible 

Thursday’s show is brought to you by GoMedia and Friday’s show is brought to you by Stuff.

Christchurch Arts Festival 2019
26 July — 4 August
Buy Tickets 

Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival 2019
Saturday 12th Oct – 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Sunday 13th Oct – 5:00pm
A Reserve $25, A Reserve Concession $20, B Reserve $20, Children $15.
Saturday at 2PM is a relaxed performance intended to cater for those who respond differently to live performance.
Due to safety and restricted viewing, children under 10 years are not permitted in the first row of the Circle (Rows A, B and C upstairs).
Wheelchair seats must be reserved in advance, please call iTICKET direct.
Theatre box office and refreshments open one hour before each show.

Performers: Rodney Bell & Eden Mulholland.
Guest performer Brydie Colqohoun or Bianca Hyslop

Tikanga, Te Reo, Matauranga Maori Dramaturgy: Tui Matira Ranapiri-Ransfield
Dramaturgy: Emma Willis
Set Design: John Verryt
Lighting: Ruby Reihana-Wilson

Choir Orchestration: Robin Kelly 
Graphic Design : Ian Hammond 

Performance installation , Multi-discipline , Maori contemporary dance , Integrated dance/mixed ability dance , Dance , Contemporary dance ,

1 hour

Weaves text, movement, light and sound in startling and compelling ways

Review by Jo Thorpe 14th Oct 2019

This year’s inaugural Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival has a simple kaupapa: to celebrate artists and connections to place, while welcoming the world.

Rodney Bell’s Meremere fits perfectly with this kaupapa. It is a skilfully crafted autobiographical work which investigates connection to home, place, whanau and whakapapa, while drawing on Bell’s experiences dancing in the US, then finding himself unemployed and homeless, living on the streets of San Francisco.

From the opening recorded monologue accompanied by the percussive swoops of Eden Mulholland’s score, to the moving final segment, Meremere is all about connection.  Twenty-six years after he was paralysed from the chest down in a motorbike accident, dancer Rodney Bell connects so deeply with his audience that he elicits a standing ovation – not the footstomping rah-rah type of ovation, but one of born of aroha and respect, and admiration for his artistry and unfailing optimism in the face of what others might experience as crushing adversity. 

Although the meremere of the title is created from a piece of black maire – one of the world’s hardest woods – the tone of this work is anything but hard.  Rather, it is one of gentleness and humour; modesty and wonder.  

In a series of impressionistic vignettes, Bells tell us stories, primarily through the spoken word, then amplifies these stories through dance.  He give us insights into growing up on the marae in Te Kuiti, the wonder he felt at winning an Isadora Duncan Award for dance in America – “I thought to myself, this is a good thing” – touring with Axis Dance Company and then, when his contract ends, trying to find ways to survive three years of living on the streets.

In one segment he uses audience participation to introduce us to Paradice – a dice game he develops in order to make money off tourists.  He plays the harmonica, sleeps by the sea, calls on Ranginui and Tangaroa to connect him to home.

The whole work weaves text, movement, light and sound in startling and compelling ways.  And it is this weaving together which fits so perfectly with Te Tairawhiti Arts Festival’s kaupapa – and that of Tuia 250 ki Turanga.  Carving his meremere in the opening scene, Bell tells his audience, “I was trying to make this beautiful thing.”  One hour later, when the work draws to a close, we in the audience know we have experienced a ‘beautiful thing’. 

Produced under the banner of Movement of the Human (MOTH), Meremere is directed by the highly acclaimed Malia Johnston.  Over her long career, Johnston has worked with a diverse range of performers and arts organisations, including 15 years on World of Wearable Art Awards shows.  In Meremere, her artistic collaborators shine.  Eden Mulholland’s extraordinary score incorporates bird calls, muffled voices, the whoosh of the taiaha and percussive explosions of sound.  Mulholland performs live on stage throughout, alert and responsive to Bell at every moment. 

John Verryt’s simple set design consists of a white triangle in the shape of a wharenui.  At the apex is the tekoteko, a carved human figure, its paua shell eyes catching the light. 

AV designer Rowan Pierce uses shadows and projections to throw up evocative images – a fallen Statue of Liberty, maps, a cross.  And feathers, symbols of flight and freedom.

Lighting designer Ruby Reihana-Wilson plays lines of red and black light over the white canvas of the set – arresting kinetic sculptures in their own right.   

And Rodney Bell dances.  Attached to his wheelchair as the tekoteko is attached to the gable of a whare, he employs expressive movements of arms, hands, upper chest and head.  Sometimes the movements are swift, angular, percussive.  At other times they are smooth and sculptural. 

In a pivotal scene, Bell is joined by guest artist Bianca Hyslop, who rises from the audience and dances with him.  In a series of fluid rolls, high leaps, percussive kicks and driving spirals – at one point lying balanced across his back as he freewheels round the stage – she seems to personify flight itself. He is on his way home.  Flying. 

Talking to the NZ Herald about his time on the streets of San Francisco, Bell says, “the Maori perspective helped me get through”.  In the context of Tuia 250, this seems particularly apposite.

Hours after drafting this review, I attend a First Meetings Korero organised by Historic Places Tairawhiti and linked to the Tuia 250 commemorations.  An impassioned question from the floor to the 8 speakers in this talkfest highlights the power and importance of first-person narratives: people telling their stories, with their contexts, in the way that they choose.  The world premiere of Witi’s Wahine which opened the Te Tairawhiti Arts Festival, does that. Meremere likewise. 

From Turanga/Gisborne, Meremere heads to the Hawkes Bay Arts Festival.  It will be performed at the Blyth Performing Arts Centre (Iona College) on October 16th.  If you haven’t yet seen it, pull out all the stops. 


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Life-enhancing encounters

Review by Dr Ian Lochhead 02nd Aug 2019

Since its premiere at the Tempo Dance Festival in 2016, the multiple award-winning work Meremere has been toured extensively, making its appearance during the Christchurch Arts Festival particularly welcome. There was a definite sense of excitement among audience members in anticipation of the performance and they were not disappointed.  From the moment Rodney Bell appeared from between the angled walls of the set, until his departure from the stage 54 minutes later, their attention was held by this remarkable piece of theatre.  Bell’s compelling narrative unfolds with apparently casual ease but its staging has been expertly crafted to create the illusion of spontaneous development.  The fact that Bell, a paraplegic since a motor-cycle accident in 1993, is confined to a wheelchair, seems almost incidental by the time the piece reaches its conclusion.  The centrepiece of the work is the time Bell spent living on the streets of San Francisco, following the end of his contract with Axis Dance Company. 

The precise circumstances that led to this situation are never explained but there is never any sense of recrimination of self-pity in Bell’s account of these experiences.  We are introduced, instead, to a series of encounters that made his experience not just bearable, but ultimately life enhancing. The one legged seagull, whom he names Moana, teaches him strategies for survival and provides companionship. The curiously named street dweller, Pink Cloud, whose shopping trolley has been continuously robbed, reveals the secret of eating well on the leftovers of affluent students.  A repertoire of wheelchair tricks, performed for families and tourists, who made their choice by rolling dice, provides the entry to ‘Paradice’. This portmanteau word derives from paraplegic and dice but alludes to the distant islands that Bell yearns for, the New Zealand that his street audiences associate with paradise.

The transition from the streets of San Francisco to his home in Te Kuiti, and his reconnection with place and whanau, is made through a duet with dancer Bianca Hyslop, who rises from the audience to share the stage with Bell.  Although she is not assigned a specific character, Hyslop’s role suggests a bird, free from the constraints of gravity, the embodiment, perhaps, of the one-legged Moana who has the freedom to transport Bell across Tangaroa to his home.

The return to Te Kuiti and the carving of the meremere that gives the work its name, brings Bell full circle, but he now sees the world with a new awareness derived from his experience in San Francisco.  Whereas the streets of the North American city are presented through maps and projected photographs, the houses of Te Kuiti that have special meaning for Bell are signalled by the enclosing arms of the maihi, abstracted as red projections against the set. It is surely no accident that the plan of the stage employs these same angled forms.  The performance culminates with Bell scattering earth across the stage as he executes a series of high-energy, wheeling, turns; he has finally returned home to the soil of his ancestors. 

Meremere is, in one sense, a personal testimony, but the success of its staging also derives from the creative skills of a gifted team of collaborators, from Malia Johnston’s guiding hand as director,to  the precision of Rowan Pierce’s audio-visual design, the simple but effective set design of John Verryt and Eden Mulholland’s supporting music, performed live.  The attention to detail extends to the design of the programme, which is elegant evocative and informative.

Meremere is well on its way to becoming a classic piece of New Zealand theatre; Christchurch audiences would be remiss if they pass up the opportunity to attend the remaining performances. 


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Many moments to love in this show with heart

Review by Emily Mowbray-Marks 02nd Aug 2019

We’re walking. We’re running. She’s sliding. She’s skipping. I’m skipping. We’re skipping. The carpark. Margaret Mahy Playground. The Piano. A winter’s eve. Otautahi. Mittens donned. Scarves wrapped. To see Meremere in the Christchurch Arts Festival.

I’ve brought middle child: evidently it’s a show fit for school year 3+. She’s 7 years old, so she fits the bill. I’m soon to find out there’s a few fucks in it, but that’s about it. She’s wearing pink and mustard, and matches the sole musician Eden Mulholland’s neon rose skullcap.

The theatre is waiting. She’s brightly lit. The soundscape is playing. Urban. Electric guitar whining, like a city can.

A stately woman (Tui Matira Ranapiri-Ransfield) wearing a moko and long noir shawl walks in, and takes a seat in the front row – she’s going to do something.

The conversation of the foundationed lipped, people; the scarved, wool coated, straightened-haired feminine; the claret, camel, russet-red bodies and others are greeting one another. The music of talk crescendos.

The smiles multiply as arms and legs and torsos fill the seats. One can no longer hear the keening strings that opened. The stems of red and gold are lifted and turned, alcohol dancing between the walls of The Piano.

Dry ice gently plumes from upstage. John Verryt’s set is a 3 dimensional diamond (without a lid), white, a floor with two walls, creating an apex – soon to be projected onto with Californian sunset colours, and smiles of those our hero and performer Rodney Bell has met.

Our noir-shawled kuia sends a karanga gently and strongly through the space. Does she say inuhia – drink it? Drink it up – this gift of a show. And that we do, complete with standing ovations, thundering of feet and a tautoko from the local iwi, that makes my eyes bleed tears and heart peel open.

In some ways it’s a simple show:
One dancer/storyteller.
One musician.
One visitor that rolls a dice.
Another to dance.

But in other ways it’s multi-dimensional.
The stand outs (apart from Bell’s lack of pretence, that smile that reaches around us all in this Piano’s room, his generous storytelling) are the music from Mulholland and Rowan Pierce’s AV Design.

The music supports Bell. It has whale-rider-esque moments, where I can hear the heartbeats of beings greater than us, the sounds of the sea. Later, in a climactic moment of the show Mulholland’s vocals soar, like the call of birds, his voice chocolate, and instantly I want to share this song with the world, my family, my friends, and play it over and over, louder and louder.

Historical footage of Bell dancing with Movement of the Human (NZ) and Access Dance in Los Angeles is at one time projected onto a giant white book, like your favourite Primary School Teacher may read to you from. There is a theme of the tamariki in this tender show.

At another point we meet Bell’s young-self, perhaps his inner child, perhaps even his inner critic too. Photos of the children Bell met, whilst living on the streets of San Francisco for three years, feature with their fresh faces of promise.

Bell’s older self, the one telling these stories with us, his whanau for the night, is young-spirited, is playful, has a delight and forgiveness I recognise in the still, watching, pink and mustard, sitting next to me.

She leans over and asks only one thing, this 7 year old, during the 54 minute piece of theatre: “Is there going to be someone without wheelchairs?”
I shake my head, cos the long answer may take too long and be too disturbing for the neighbours flanking our date-night.

And as if like magic, Bianca Hyslop slips from her jacket at the end of our row, with grace takes the stairs and dances a sensual duet on stage with Bell.

The show had opened with a conversation-of-dance between Bell, in his chair, and another body-less chair. The body-less chair like a moving sculpture. Performance Art. At one point the black silhouette back spinning like a kid in the 80s.

Now Bell and Hyslop play with lifts, counterbalance, with tastes of martial arts – with high kicks and low to the ground crouches – and lyrical hip hop (or as some people call it, break-dancing) with shoulder stands suspended against one another, and whiffs of contact improv. It feels gentle, at times daring, others melding, like lovers meeting and sharing an act close to their hearts.

Is it Bell’s poetry or Emma Willis’ dramaturgy – or a meeting of the two? The comedy and whimsy of the spoken word sometimes light, sometimes profound. Bell replies to the incredulous question “Do you go for a walk?” from the voice of his younger self: “Yup, I go from a stroll, a step and a roll”.

Earlier Bell says, after carving the meremere as a gift for his brother, “I ask the wood for forgiveness cos it’s a living tree you know.” And moments later he confesses, “I was trying to make this beautiful thing, but you know, it was beautiful already. Why didn’t I give it to my brother, just as it is?”

There are many moments to love in Meremere. It’s a show with heart. A show that reminds me, we can’t control life, but we can control how we respond to it. Rodney Bell is a leader. His ability to be empathetic, to be genuine, to be vulnerable would have Brené Brown double high fiving.

Bell gives. He shares a show that speaks of people, of relationships and compassion. “In the middle of an iwi I was born, in the middle of an iwi I stayed.” He shares a show that acknowledges land, manu, maunga, awa, whānau. All the things that matter, perhaps now, more than ever. He speaks of returning. I see the coming home to ‘self’.


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Māori dance artist's life-affirming dance work brings audience to its feet

Review by Ann Hunt 27th Jun 2018

Meremere is a unique solo work performed by Māori dance artist Rodney Bell, (Ngati Maniapoto.)

This autobiographical, multi-disciplinary and life-affirming survival story drew the cheering opening night audience to its feet.

Director/choreographer Malia Johnston is part of the project-based, cross-discipline company, Movement of the Human. Their creative collaboration here is stunningly unified.

Totally in sync are John Verryt’s minimal yet versatile and intimate set; Ruby Reihana-Wilson’s  striking lighting design with its clever use of shadows; the superb AV and graphic designs by Rowan Pierce and Ian Hammond, and the lynchpin composition, live playing and singing of the brilliant Eden Mulholland, Meremere is inspiring.

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Profound... and wonderfully crafted

Review by Sam Trubridge 23rd Jun 2018

Circa Theatre should be commended for making space on its main stage for a work as profound and wonderfully crafted as Meremere, an autobiographical performance by Rodney Bell, presented by Movement of the Human (Malia Johnston, Eden Mullholland, Rowan Pierce, and Ian Hammond) in partnership with Touch Compass Dance. After their hit of the NZ Festival this year, Rushes, it is great to have MOTH back with another equally stand-out production.

Rodney Bell speaks softly and gently. He has an innocence and an enthusiasm that has somehow survived a motorcycle accident in his youth and living rough on the streets of San Francisco after his contract expired with Axis Dance Company a few years ago. Hardship often makes hard men, but instead Bell has embraced some other part of himself to give him strength and survive the challenges life has thrown him. He makes friends with a one-legged seagull, he invents tricks to play in his wheelchair so that he can make money on the street, and he puts feathers in his shoes… His wide eyes miss nothing, so that when he witnesses someone being stabbed in front of him in a night-shelter over a chair, he knows how much people will fight for the smallest thing that they may call their own.

His performance is embraced by a breathtaking production, which is choreographer Malia Johnston and her collaborators’ gift to the story. Johnston is a choreographer who can weave movement, light, sound, and text together with amazing fluency and sensitivity to each element of her composition. Visual, material, textual, and kinetic dramaturgies all become choreography to her. The result is a stunningly moving performance from across all media, which owes as much to the amazing team that she has assembled. Rowan Pierce is an AV designer who paints with light, colour, and image – using the projector with masterful subtlety to adjust the space, sometimes just beyond detection of the eye. Thus a shadow will break off from Bell’s own shadow on the wall, washes of texture or colour will tint the stage, or lines scan the space. At other times he plunges us into environments, with his imagery filling the white walls and white floors of John Verryt’s set. Eden Mulholland’s live instrumentation, mixing, and vocalising lends another palette to the experience – with drifting guitar soundscapes, whispering voices, and a final bittersweet song. The soundtrack is brilliant, and it is great to see Mulholland and Johnston still working together, more than ten years since the blisteringly cool Dark Tourists. The beautifully designed programme by Ian Hammond provides a lasting artefact of the performance, honouring this sophisticated work with an equally sophisticated arrangement of text and image about the show.

The combined result of these elements is a production that is skilfully composed down to the finest detail to create moments of pure stage magic – a book that Bell opens on stage to reveal video of his dance career in the USA, the stage that becomes a map of his home town Te Kuiti, and finally the wings that open to fly him home to Aotearoa. Perhaps here we can see the strength that has sustained Bell through the difficulties that he shares with us: the power of his flights of imagination and his boundless joy. It also gives a clue to the meaning of the title. The ‘meremere’ is either a shoulder feather, or a short weapon, like a cleaver. 

The latter is usually made from pounamu but in this story, Bell’s weapon for facing adversity is soft and gentle, like a feather: his disarming optimism and hopefulness. Bell, Johnston, and her team disarm us all with this Meremere, that starts gently, slowly weaving a story that gathers emotional weight through the persuasive power of all the media working in unison. At one pivotal moment Bell invites a dancer (Briedi Colquhon) from the auditorium to join him on stage. We see him navigating her world, where legs go, where they move around each other, above and below, in a dance of negotiating space and multiple directions. But we also see him elevate her, turn her, carry her, and move her in the way that the male dancer does for the ballerina in classical dance – on his back, on his shoulders. Video projection shows him soaring high on wires, on his own or in similar partnering. It would be great to see some of this on stage as well, but the projected imagery is just as moving and exciting.    

Meremere is a small but beautifully formed production that takes us on a journey of undiminished hope and wonder. It is fantastic that its tour has also included several small towns and Hawkes Bay Regional Prison. It is a deftly woven story and a spellbinding performance that deserves to be seen and loved by many. So with only a week’s season at Circa Theatre I encourage all to catch this outstanding show while it is here.   


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Homecoming celebrated in beguiling dance work

Review by Raewyn Whyte 24th Oct 2016

Performer extraordinaire Rodney Bell has been away from New Zealand for 12 years performing with American integrated dance companies.

Dance fans here will remember him from the early years of dance company Touch Compass when his spin turns and derring-do flying wheelchair were a highlight, but just as many will remember him for the sensitivity of his dancing.

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Potent commentary through words, dance, objects, design and sound

Review by Jenny Stevenson 19th Oct 2016

Central to the multi-disciplinary work Meremere is the voice of dancer Rodney Bell – manifested both in a literal and figurative sense. Throughout the work Bell relates his personal stories through dance and the spoken word, with the dance segments being supplementary to the dialogue, or acting as an exposition of Bell’s awakened sense of self. 

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Very real connections generously made

Review by Leah Carrell 15th Oct 2016

Meremere is a sharing of a most remarkable story; Rodney Bell’s autobiographical journey from an international career in integrated dance, through years of homelessness in America, to returning home to Te Kuiti, Aotearoa. His is an incredible story, told with complete honesty and humility. Bell is highly skilled in all areas of performance and Meremere is the ultimate combination of theatre, dance, music, and production elements; of storytelling and image evoking; of power and play.

We enter the space amongst a voiceover of conversations, a cityscape; a transportation to the streets of San Francisco. The space, white and angled, is a gallery waiting to be filled with artwork of memories. The back walls appear sturdy and frames the space like a solid barrier to what is beyond but they are later backlit revealing the walls are made of paper, some sheets are folded like bricks, showing an unsuspecting delicacy -a metaphor perhaps of Bell’s journey. A tekoteko at the back is central; an ancestor watching, an anchor grounding him home.

We hear the story of Bell carving a meremere for his cousin’s 40th and the modes of reflection this process gave him. His voiceover uses metaphors of his carving to draw on concepts of creation, sacrifice, beauty, loss, transformation. An evocative image, a piece of wood being carved into a meremere, and the idea of how our lives might sit in this process of whittling away something in order to become another. What do we make of those shavings? Those sheddings? Those memories? What do we leave behind in order to become something new? The carving was a meditation for Bell, a chance to reflect on his life, and this dance work is a performative exploration of that process.

From a hidden position, he presents a meremere, then an arm, then a staff. He enters the space. When the staff hits the ground the music stops. In this opening dance phrase, a modernised taiaha sequence requires the audience’s involvement, “shh, shh, shh” we say. Through this, we are invited in to his world of street performance, and we experience that very real connection that occurs between performer and audience, a connection that transcends the dramatic situation of a black box theatre. Bell’s haka, the strength in his arms, breath, and exertion, is not violent or confrontational but inviting and warm, a discovery not a struggle.

Although this is a solo, he is not alone in the space. He dances a duet with his girlfriend -his wheelchair who carried him around for 10 years- but I see that he is dancing with himself, introducing the man who lived through the experiences we later see. The second wheelchair remains in the space throughout; the former self always present. But the chair also remains a symbol of others who Rodney has carried, or have carried Rodney, through his journey. Rodney speaks with a projection of himself, their dialogue is the all too familiar workings of our inner conscious. This conversation is clever, humorous and plays against traditional conventions of theatre performance. Bell summons a collective of people via the projection, his family, his friends. There are familiar figures in there and I know that the dance community is his family. As we get to know more about Bell, I begin to understand him beyond his performative self. It is a remarkable feat that a performer can be so completely vulnerable that we see all of him, on a deeper level than every talented performer, we see him. An audience member enters the space, dancer Sean MacDonald, and begins a duet with Bell. It is choreographed, but the moment appears spontaneous, entirely natural, as if it could have been anyone in the audience standing to offer a response and because of this my connection with Bell strengthens, as if MacDonald’s movement is speaking my thoughts, as if he was embodying the idea of meeting someone new and instantly becoming friends.

He also is never alone as his production team are as present throughout the performance as he is. We watch Eden Mulholland layer live vocals, keys and electric guitar to prerecorded music. It is a haunting soundscape of memories; emotions of love, loss and hope; ideas of loneliness, struggle and triumph. Mulholland is a gentle performer, gracious in his shaping of the piece. Bell contributes too to the score through a stunning harmonica solo, and using the microphone to capture the rhythm of his movement. AV designer Rowan Pierce’s projections add incredible depth to the stories and images of Bell’s journey. Projection brings to life Bell’s depiction of his home, brings others into the space, brings landscapes and cityscapes to the walls of the theatre. A most striking moment is Bell’s opening of a large book to a page full of projected video of his previous performances, a diary of his life, brought to life. Ruby Reihana-Wilson’s lighting is soft, circles on the ground, sunlight on Bell, street lamps on the pavement.

Under artistic direction from Malia Johnston, this is a powerfully dynamic team. They understand each other’s craft well and it would not be the work if any of those parts were missing; it is an incredibly moving autobiographical work. Emma Willis’ dramaturgical work allows us to hear the stories as they appear in Bell’s memory, rather than in a linear timeline. It’s extremely well crafted, a natural conversation, emulating the tide of our memories, and events in my own life flick in and out of consciousness. Bell carries out sawdust and dumps it off his lap, he dumps everything he shares with us tonight. He sprinkles them over his body, traces tracks through the floor as if he is parting his thoughts, shifting them, shaping them, reorganising his memories as a mode of reflection and evaluation. His generous offering to the audience is meet with gratitude and thrilled applause.

This successful premiere most definitely deserves a return season.

Sign language interpretation and audio description are available on the 16th October. Audio description includes touch tour. To confirm a place, email


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