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

01/09/2018 - 22/09/2018

WTF! Women's Theatre Festival 2018

Production Details

What would you do if you found Kate Sheppard in your bed?

Modern Girls in Bed is an irreverent comedy about sisters, strength, and what happens when two young women come face-to-face with five trailblazing wāhine from Aotearoa’s history.

Shortlisted for the 2017 Adam NZ Play Award and led by acclaimed director Rachel Lenart (Constellations), this new work is a razor-sharp, poignant collision of historical heroines and present-day family politics.

When life gets too hard for best friends Ally and Petra they decide to go to bed, John and Yoko style – except not for ‘Peace’ – forever. But something strange is going on in the house, and taking a stand proves harder than they thought. Kate Sheppard won’t stop bossing them around, Katherine Mansfield keeps making demands, and Heni Pore is going into labour. As Ally and Petra’s bed gets more crowded and real life becomes too hard to avoid, will the women of their world come together or fall apart? 

A play for anyone who knows that women are complex and courageous propagators of change, who can also watch a lot of Netflix. 

“I was very good in bed, I thought. One week I read Little Women three times in bed.”– Mum  


Maria Williams as Ally
Isadora Lao as Petra
Amy Tarleton as Kate Sheppard/Aunty Cate
Bronwyn Turei as Heni Pore/Aunty Jane
Alex Lodge as Katherine Mansfield/Aunty Lena
Renée Sheridan as Helen Hitchings
Maia Diamond as Akenehi Hei

Set Design: Tony De Goldi
Lighting Design: Lisa Maule
Composer, sound design: Ryan Prebble
Costume Design: Sonia Costin 

Stage Manager and Technical Operator: Deb McGuire 

Theatre ,

What’s Good Wellington? #2

Review by James Wenley 12th Sep 2018

I knew that if I was going to do New Zealand Theatre Month properly, I needed to travel beyond just the theatre of Tāmaki Makaurau.

So last week I flew to the capital for one night. Fortunately, I did not have to choose between the Cookie Time or the Cassava chips, but was able to fit in Wonderful at BATS and Modern Girls in Bed at Circa Theatre.

The plays – in content and writing – present generational contrasts in New Zealand theatre. …

Modern Girls in Bed, directed by Rachael Lenart, is presented not only as part of New Zealand Theatre month, but also WTF! (Women’s Theatre Festival), Suffrage 125 Whakatū Wāhine, and even the Katherine Mansfield 130 celebrations. It is written by Cherie Jacobson and Alex Lodge who together with Ed Watson founded the company in 2007. In Modern Girls in Bed we see generational tensions between Gen Z and Gen X, but the writers reach further across time when a number of prominent women from Aotearoa’s past pop up in the titular bed. [More


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Often funny, often moving; always thoughtful and interesting

Review by Tim Stevenson 02nd Sep 2018

Modern Girls in Bed sets out to explore some large themes to do with women in contemporary New Zealand society, and smashes them with humour, compassion and generous doses of satire.

Life sucks, and 18-year-old Ally (Maria Williams) has decided she is going to bed, forever. Her friend/sister Petra (Isadora Lao) has a shift at Countdown to work, but joins her reluctantly. It’s a shaky start but the ‘bed-in’ turns out to be unusually successful, or rather, it’s successful in an unusual way: Ally and Petra come face-to-face with five leading women from Aotearoa’s history – Katherine Mansfield (Alex Lodge), Kate Sheppard (Amy Tarleton), Heni Pore (Bronwyn Turei), Helen Hitchings (Renée Sheridan) and Akenehi Hei (Maia Diamond).

The visitants tell their stories and compare experiences. Not too gentle suggestions about how young women should behave are offered – Ally and Petra mostly reject these. The idea of retiring to bed – a.k.a. self-care – as a radical act is developed. All of this is done with spirit and wit, and a keen eye for telling differences and parallels. The dialogue between Ally and Petra on the one hand and Kate Sheppard on the other stands out for its no holds barred vigour.

[Spoiler alert] In the second half, the play focusses down on the question of what drove Ally to bed in the first place. The answer is a family crisis involving her mother and aunts but the play keeps us aware of the wider dimensions of this private, personal affair; of what the behaviour of the individuals on stage tells us about how women relate and how they get things done. [ends]

Written by Cherie Jacobson and Alex Lodge, Modern Girls in Bed carries a certain amount of historical weight on its shoulders: five of its characters are heroes from our past; women of courage and high achievement. It is part of The Women’s Theatre Festival (WTF!), Circa’s celebration of the 125th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in New Zealand, and KM130: the 130th anniversary of the birth of Katherine Mansfield. The play bears this responsibility with cheerful self-assurance.

There’s plenty of respect and everyone gets to say their piece but there’s no undue reverence. Katherine Mansfield is mocked for pretentiousness, something I thought was against Wellington bylaws but there it is, on the stage for all to see. Someone drops the f-bomb on Kate Sheppard. And so on.  

The production is buoyed up by an outstanding cast. Maria Williams gives us a beautiful balance of teenage bravado and teenage sensitivity, presented with her usual full-on commitment. Isadora Lao has a lovely comic touch which she can modulate into pathos when needed – she and Williams work together particularly well. Amy Tarleton displays skill and versatility in her portrayal of two very different politicians; I particularly appreciate the way she brings out the human side of these formidable public figures.

Alex Lodge is plainly enjoying herself as Katherine Mansfield, snapping at her nurse in between high toned flights of fancy; she also convinces as nervy, sensitive Aunty Lena. Bronwyn Turei is steady and assured in both her roles; she’s particularly effective as the voice speaking common sense to her warring relatives. Renée Sheridan and Maia Diamond both give strong, competent performances, although their characters perhaps lack a final edge of definition (possibly something to do with the script).

The stage design (Tony De Goldi) is economical, functional and easy on the eye. Ally’s room and the kitchen are both very tidy, although the kitchen is supposed to be “a tip.”

Director Rachel Lenart has worked with her cast to create a smooth-functioning production. Some of the exits and entrances (and actors parked waiting on stage) seem a bit contrived.

Modern Girls in Bed is often funny, often moving; always thoughtful and interesting: a play which achieves its ambitious aims. It deserves to be supported and successful.

[Here is the link to John Smythe’s chat on RNZ with Jesse Mulligan about Modern Girls in Bed and Wonderful]


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