BATS Theatre, Wellington

01/12/2010 - 11/12/2010

Production Details

MINGE is coming. What is MINGE?

MINGE is a slang word for the nether regions of a lady.

MINGE is a play at BATS Theatre in Wellington from 1- 11 December 2010. MINGE, a celebration and an interrogation of womanhood in New Zealand, is a lively musical extravaganza for people of all genders. A perfect way to kick start the festive season.

MINGE is a year-long project that has sprung from the desire of many of Wellington’s young female theatre practitioners to make theatre by women, for women and about women. It involves women from four award winning theatre collectives, Binge Culture Collective, The PlayGround Collective, Three Spoon Theatre, andTheatre Militia as well as many independent theatre practitioners ranging in age from 28 years to 15 months.

MINGE, a celebration and interrogation of womanhood in New Zealand, is a show about what it means to be a young woman.

Drawing on stories of themselves and women across Wellington, the MINGE ladies will attempt to perform their version of the story of finding womanhood. Late night Caberet meets pantomime and the traditional hero’s quest and features puppetry, helpful hints, a Mortal Kombat homage, dance and song. 

Fed up with society and tradition’s version of what it means to be a woman in the 21st century, the MINGE ladies revolt against the MC to try to tell their own story. Will a group of women be able to decide on anything? Is womanhood able to be pinned down? Is their version something all young women will agree with? Can the complex story of a woman’s life be told in 60 minutes? Traversing such areas as birth, childhood, puberty, food, sex, alcohol, careers, sexuality and friendship, MINGE is a hilarious and moving account of what happens when we try to put women into boxes. 

Material has come from a collection of stories and collections from women across Wellington. Enthusiasm in the community resulted in far too much to put into the show so accompanying the show will be a Minge-a-zine (home-made magazine) containing the collected stories, complemented with delightful illustrations by Erin Banks and Hannah Smith. MINGE launched its facebook fan page just over three weeks ago and has already attracted over five hundred fans, generating debate and discussion and is considered one of the country’s most lively facebook pages. MINGE have become an inspiration for the Wellington Young Feminist’s Collective. This generation is beginning to re-embrace feminist ideas and the MINGE Collective is proud to be a part of this movement. 

MINGE is directed by Fiona McNamara, produced by Hannah Banks, and is performed by Eleanor Bishop, Erin Banks, Ally Garrett, Rose Guise, Rachel Marlow, Heleyni Pratley, Jean Sergent and Hannah Smith, with music played by Steph Cairns and Helen O’Rourke. 

MINGE, a celebration and interrogation of womanhood in New Zealand

1-11 December, 7pm
BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace, Wellington
Tickets 18 (waged) 13 (unwaged) book@bats.co.nz / 04 802 4174

Performed by Eleanor Bishop, Erin Banks, Ally Garrett, Rose Guise, Rachel Marlow, Heleyni Pratley, Jean Sergent and Hannah Smith, with music played by Steph Cairns and Helen O'Rourke. 

Better than the script

Review by Lynn Freeman 10th Dec 2010

When a play programme features actors the calibre of Erin Banks and Jean Sergent, expectations are high. This though is a classic case of the material not doing them and the rest of the cast full justice. There are moments when you can see what it might have been, but they pass and the cast goes into another song and dance routine. 

Here the women all give themselves female archetypal personas, from the Tomboy (who comes out of the closet) to the victim, maiden (who’s a sexoholic) to the fat one, the overachiever to the power woman who wants it all. They are provoked and counselled by the MC, a commanding performance by Ally Garrett, who (according to her) has advised many of the great women throughout history. She tempts the girls with cakes while encouraging them to reveal their deepest secrets.

The monologues are a mixed bunch. The best ones are Sergent’s ‘Mother’ who discusses the benefits of her having abortion when she wasn’t ready to be a good mum, ‘Rose Guise’s ‘Power Woman’s’ genuinely disturbing memories of a rape, and Banks’ Tomboy. Others squandered their time in the spotlight with cameos that were not compelling, partially though being less well conceived and partly through playing too desperately for laughs. That’s a shame because there is a lot these women want to say in Minge. 

Perhaps next time, and I hope there is a next time for this collective, getting in a dramaturg who isn’t one of the actors would be helpful.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


Make a comment

Frankness with comedy

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 07th Dec 2010

Minge is a revue made up of what are essentially monologues but they are performed with eight actors and two musicians on stage all the time. The director, Fiona McNamara, states that she wants “women to be understood and more than anything else, to come together and understand each other.” Nice sentiments but the performers of this collaborative show, as they admit, are all the same age, class, race, and education.  

The MC (Ally Garrett), an eternal agony aunt dressed as an18th century aristocrat and with a psychiatrist’s couch at hand, advises and consoles seven women who wear sashes bearing such titles as The Victim, The Overachiever, The Tomboy, and The Fat One. They sing, dance, manipulate amusing hand puppets and speak about their situations with frankness and a heavy reliance on comedy.

It was received on its second night with rapturous applause from a largely female audience but I couldn’t help feeling that Minge seemed to have ignored the fact that men exist on Earth too and the interaction between the sexes could have played a more important role in the interrogation.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


Ms Pedant December 9th, 2010

I wonder if you've seen the films "Laurence of Arabia" or "Bridge on the River Kwai"? It seems war films and feminist theatre have one thing in common: they are largely about one or the other gender.

Make a comment

Timely, insightful and very entertaining

Review by John Smythe 07th Dec 2010

I was there at the birth of feminist theatre in Melbourne when the Australian Performing Group at the Pram Factory spawned the Women’s Theatre Group in 1974. Their work was mostly devised political revue and ‘popular people’s theatre’ in style, characterised initially by a ‘men are to blame for everything’ anger then blossoming into a robust ‘claim the space’ celebration of being women. 

Wellington saw the Women’s Professional Playwrights Association (WOPPA) and the Women’s Play press formed in 1993, to support the development and production of homegrown plays by women (Jean Betts, Cathy Downes, Lorae Parry, Vivienne Plumb, Fiona Samuel, Renee Thompson, et al).

The Magdalena Aotearoa Trust was founded in 1997 to encourage and promote the work of women in the performing arts in Aotearoa (New Zealand). It was inspired by the Magdalena Project, an international network of women in contemporary performance, and now MINGE has joined in their gatherings.

In 2000 the Shebang Festival* comprised eight plays by women: Betts, Parry, Renee, Ruby Brunton, Briar Grace-Smith, Gabe McDonnell, Jo Randerson and Jackie van Beek (details below). In recent years that gender-specific take on the world has largely been carried by women comedians.

Minge: a celebration and interrogation of womanhood in New Zealand is timely, then. The Minges, as they call themselves, are the daughters of women who grew up in a world of feminist consciousness and activism. And as they say in their show, they grew up being told women could do anything and took that to mean they should do everything.

In taking stock of their state and status they also admit their perceptions come from a white, middle-class, well-educated, 21st century experience of being young women. While their loose revue format is somewhat redolent of those Melbourne shows, the issues they confront are very different. What’s more they approach them from a perspective of personal responsibility, not necessarily for what happens in their lives but for how they respond to experiences and what they make them mean.

Ally Garret’s bewigged and frocked up mistress of ceremoniespresents as a high class ex-courtesan who has now made it her mission to be ‘mother confessor’ and counsellor to seven young women who are trying to find their way in this world. Like Virginia Wolfe’s Orlando, she has lived through many ages and therefore has much experience and wisdom to offer. That or cake (a touch of Marie Antoinette, perhaps?).

Each of her brood wears a sash that names the stereotype they identify with; the role they’ve either chosen for themselves or been assigned by a world that compulsively categorises and judges people. This is the codified self they reflect and project; the self they may now accept, reject or modify.

The individual stories, punctuated with ensemble song and dance, see each of them confronting themselves more than the world, claiming themselves and their place in the world, and one way or another liberating themselves from the restrictions their role – or their denial of that identity – has placed on them.

The Victim (Heleyini Pratley) sings a gut-wrenched song that suggests her world view is fundamentally affected by someone (a parent?) leaving when she was a child. It emerges she has channelled this sense of injustice into political activism.

Rachel Marlow’s The Maiden – ironically named? – believes in love and casual sex. The paradox she embodies is played out obliquely in an apple-slicing sequence that I assume evokes Eve escaping the Garden of Eden.  

The Tomboy (Erin Banks), hilariously nagged by her alter-ego sock puppet (they all have one of those in a big chorus number), is feeling pressured to come out as a super lesbian. Her passionate song about sex is a high point of the show, closely followed by her recollection of needing to emulate boys by wearing boys’ undies and being topless on the beach at the age of eight. The question of gender-reassignment surgery remains unresolved.

Rose Guise’s The Power Woman tells a story about a night out, dropping a guy home in her new car, stopping off at his place … By just telling it as it was, she compels us to share her need to discern and evaluate what exactly happened and who was responsible for what … Who had the power and did anyone abuse it?  

“Cakey all round!” is the MC’s answer to that.

The Mother (Jean Sergent) presents, first, as the Kitchen Queen then explores the question of motherhood further with a standup-style riff on the morning after pill, pregnancy tests and abortion. This segues into another compelling story that reeks of someone’s true experience. 

Hannah Smith’s The Fat One makes declaring her fatness a matter of honesty and personal integrity – which doesn’t stop her trying to diet. Some issues are not so easily resolved, and again we share the dilemma.

The Over-Achiever is splendidly manifested by Eleanor Bishop as she attempts to repair a flat tyre on a bicycle while answering questions about women and feminism. This precipitates a series of authentic confessions plucked from a hat and read by the cast, admitting to actions, preoccupations and desires that may not be politically correct but which are human. Welcome to the real world.

Of course we, the audience, all sit in silent judgement of the revelations, although we probably agree with the concluding vision of a world made blissful because “we all stop judging each other and ourselves.” Yeah right. Meanwhile doing and being the best we can while embracing human fallibility as part of life’s rich tapestry is pretty well the way to go.

Given that dramatic resolution, the impression that Minge: a celebration and interrogation of womanhood in New Zealand remains – like life itself – a work in progress is appropriate. It is a timely, insightful and very entertaining show. 
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
*The Shebang Festival 2000
At BATS: The Misandrist written & directed by Jean Betts; This is me & Tango Road by Ruby Brunton, directed by Paula van Beek; When Sun and Moon Collide by Briar Grace-Smith, directed by Roy Ward; The Inept written and directed by Gabe McDonnell | At DOWNSTAGE: Vagabonds by Lorae Parry, directed by Annie Ruth; Never Never by Jackie van Beek, directed by Emma Willis; The Unforgiven Harvest by Jo Randerson, directed by Jonathon Hendry; at CIRCA Studio: Missionary Position, written and directed by Renée.  
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


Make a comment

Anything and everything in dual purposed show

Review by Helen Sims 02nd Dec 2010

I can only assume I am the absolute target audience for Minge – a woman in my mid-late 20s who has been to university and studied (amongst other things) feminist political theory, who has ruminated about gender discrimination and the portrayal of women in the media, and is now in the workplace confronting more issues of gender relations (as one prominent female lawyer once said at a Women in Law event, “You’re either the bitch or the secretary – or the dumb bitch on maternity leave”). 

The lead-up to this show indicated that there is an appetite for this type of theatre making – the project was embraced by Facebook followers, with “friends of Minge” being willing to share contributions and comments. The prescriptiveness of femininity /girlhood /womanhood and the rigid representation of women are hardly new issues, and I was looking forward to a witty and fresh take on the subject by women theatre practitioners who seemed to reflect me and the challenges women of my age routinely face. 

On a luridly colourful set, the show is conducted by the MC, a sort of agony aunt throughout the ages, with a lot of celebrity friends. Despite the media release, the girls /women don’t revolt against her, but turn to her for help and “cakey”. 

Ally Garrett is resplendent as the MC in a pink gown and white wig, doling out advice, anecdotes and treats. She draws the audience in and provides an important thread that holds together an otherwise jumbled show. Garrett’s excellent comic timing and strong stage presence ensures that the show moves along at a good pace. Quotes and allusions to feminist texts and prominent women are cleverly woven into the MC’s script.

The rest of the cast each assume a female trope, written on a beauty contestant style sash – the Victim, the Tomboy, the Maiden, the Mother, the Powerwoman, the Overachiever and the Fat One (I thought initially this said “Cat One”). Each trope delivers her story – of how she struggles with the stereotype and ultimately bucks against it to be her own person (although interestingly, the sashes stay on). Some stories ring more true than others. 

The coming out /gender identity story (delivered by Erin Banks), the abortion /motherhood story (delivered by Jean Sergent), the dangerous sexual experience story (delivered by Rose Guise) are more successful as they are told simply and truthfully, without being deliberately played for laughs. This is not to say there isn’t humour in these stories, just that not playing them for laughs means they carry more impact. 

Others’ stories felt – on opening night – strained and deliberately heightened for comedy. Amongst these were the Maiden’s story of sexual promiscuity, the Overachiever’s dilemma of being able to do anything being interpreted as having to do it all (which was rushed in an apparent effort to keep the show to an hour), and the ‘coming out’ as a fat person, which unfortunately lost impact due to being intercut with lines about the quest to be skinny. 

The Victim’s story was incoherent, although I did enjoy the self defence dance. As the feminist mantra goes, “the personal is political”, and the stories that felt like they carried the most personal risk and were more intimate carried far more weight with me.

Interspersed with the monologues and dialogue is variety-show and cabaret style song and dance. Although the live music, provided by Stephanie Cairns and Helen O’Rourke, is excellent – and a real highlight for me was the upbeat ‘Food Calypso’ – the music had a tendency to drown out the words to songs, or sometimes even dialogue.

There is a humorous recognition at the beginning of the show that the ‘Minges’ onstage (being, as a rule, white, middle class and well educated) are not representative of women generally, and therefore cannot ‘speak’ for all women. They then walk a fine line between the general and the specific by donning sashes of representative female tropes, but telling stories that are intended to subvert the stereotypes. Sadly, at the conclusion of the show, the work falls into the trap it appears to recognise from the start (and one that has confronted feminism repeatedly) – that of replacing one form of representation of women with another. 

The show degenerates at the end into generalities, and becomes a tad prescriptive – as the Director’s Note states it, the Minges end up “speaking for their sisters”, rather than to them (my emphasis). Despite extolling the virtues of openness and being non-judgmental, we are given a take home message; a ‘right’ way of thinking about the issues addressed.

As you learn in advocacy 101, the best way to undermine your case is to overstate it. This happens at several points in the show, but most annoyingly for me, in the over-simplification and misstatement of New Zealand’s legal position on abortion. 

The Minges also seem to forget at several points that although this is a political feminist act (as Producer Hannah Banks notes in the programme), it is also a theatrical act. For a project that was a year in gestation, I was expecting more structure, rather than the jumble of song, dance and monologue that is presented. There is simply too much going on for a one hour show – trying to reclaim words, bodies, ideas; trying to provide reassurance and support; trying to be representative and yet specific. 

In being told they could do anything, the Minges have attempted to do everything. As with so much devised work, the result is that this show is less than the sum of its parts. As a feminist act it shows the extent of what you can do politically with humour, but also tends to overstate its case. 

The full title of the show indicates that it has a dual purpose as a celebration and an interrogation of womanhood in New Zealand. As a celebration I would say it is successful, as a triumphant mood permeated Bats on opening night. As an interrogation, the production is less successful, and this is a shame given the significant research that is described in the programme. 

It’s a spirited and at times subversive contribution that does challenge perceptions of female creativity. But the collaboration doesn’t carry the overall impact that at times it seems capable of.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council