Mum's Vege Patch - Development Season

BATS Theatre, The Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

25/04/2024 - 27/04/2024

Production Details

Written by Amalia Calder
Directed By Rachel Lenart

Minnie Moo Productions

A profound slice of life.
Mum’s Vege Patch explores the relationship between 3 sisters, their Mum, and the things we grow inside us. Have we done enough weeding to sustain what we’ve planted?
A dark comedy about a funeral and literally losing Mum’s ashes.

Quotes from previous shows by Minnie Moo Productions:
“This new Calder play is delivered with mystery, drama and a touch of poignant comedy…” – John Smythe, Theatreview
“The characters and their situations are real and believable making this a fascinating piece of theatre…” – Ewen Coleman, The Dominion Post

BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace, Wellington
Thursday 25th to Saturday 27th April 2024
6:30pm shows
Waged: $25, Unwaged: $15

Amalia Calder, Bronwyn Turei, Erina Daniels, Gareth Tiopira-Waaka

Technical Manager: Amanda Joe
Lighting Design: Rachel Lenart
Script Support: Jamie McCaskill & Julie Edwards
Graphic Design: Jessica Farley
Music: Chrysalynn Calder & Amalia Calder

Theatre ,

70 mins

A thoughtful and necessary piece that allows us all to explore our relationship with grief

Review by Jo Hodgson 27th Apr 2024

Grief is a great sadness.
Grief has a journey.
Grief is full of stories.

One such story, written by Amalia Calder, is having its development season at BATS.

To be honest, I read the words dark comedy and the losing of a loved one’s ashes, in the promotional material, and thought I was coming to something quite different. This show is certainly more weighty and personal than I expected but once I shift my lens, I am taken into a story both heartbreaking and healing.

Mum’s Vege Patch deals with the shock, and aftershocks, at the death of a mother felt by her four children – notably the three daughters. Fragments of the experiences of these three sisters are revealed throughout the piece, as well as their unique relationships with their mum.

Death is a universal human experience. There is of course grief – along with joy, rage, separation and togetherness in the midst of such loss. There is also the inevitable humour, sometimes dark and irreverent, and often hysterical. It is impossible to watch this piece and not identify with our own experiences of loss.

The script has been developed with the support of Jamie McCaskill and Julie Edwards and now this hugely experienced cast of Bronwyn Turei, Erina Daniels, Amalia Calder and Gareth Tiopira-Waaka, under the expert directorial guidance of Rachel Lenart, have developed the staging of this intimate story over the last two weeks. It’s a fine feat that they are also off book.

Each of the sisters are portrayed by Amalia, Bronwyn and Erina, while Gareth Tiopira-Waaka is the chameleon playing all the other supporting characters, interlocking the different players in the story. 

The set is deftly sparse, lending itself to the palpable emptiness of grief. Two cubes and a rolling rectangular box make up the settings for many scenes including the hospital, the funeral home, a car, with the addition of an arrangement of potted flowers to become the cemetery. The three entranceways of The Stage space are used skilfully to change location and extend the playing space, and Rachel Lenart’s lighting unobtrusively assists the action.

We see amid the upheaval what it means for each individual, with things like conflicts of work and immediate family commitments. We see the coming together of estranged members of family trying to unify in a time of stress, and the hurts and regrets which inevitably flare. We see the nutty-ness, the hysterical banter and collective defence of the mother when others – particularly the 90s health system and the funeral home – aren’t giving due care, and the disorienting interference of all who think they know best. We see the coping mechanisms and the fear.

The narrative also shows the real and disarming discoveries that follow a death. The strangeness of feelings about whether we actually know the person as well as we thought, because who they are to everyone else is different to how they are known by us. The discovery that they are a person with a past, with secrets, a person in their own right with exciting tales to tell, and not just a Mum.

This script is still in the development phase and this is its first showing to feel what it is on the stage in front of an audience. With new and also such personal works, this stage time is essential as it benefits the writer to hear their words in the heightened state of performance; to gauge how they feel in the body of the actor and how they land with the observer.

With this cast all being of a similar age, it takes me a while to understand the age relationship between the sisters. Although for this showcase and time frame of learning it has been necessary for experienced actors to take on these roles, it may be exciting to explore the casting age for this show in future developments while also bearing in mind the difficult content.

There are definitely parts of the script which have a well-rounded and deeper clarity to them, but there are moments where the pacing rushes the time changes too, so some more detailing near the end will help, especially the clarity of the story line at the cemetery (also given that it is referenced in the synopsis advertising material).

I feel there is more poignant humour throughout rather than ‘dark’ humour. The ‘body in shock’ irreverent joking in the beginning scenes is very relatable and honest, and there are some pearler references to the 90s where this play is set. Not all of them land as clearly as others – although this particular audience is obviously of a certain age range and picks up on them with delighted chuckles. While specific references or mannerisms connected to an era are needed to engage us with the vibe of a piece, not all audiences will be this knowing. I personally love the Landmark and Nutrimetics references and absolutely know the smell evoked in that moment.

There are times during this performance that all my hairs stand up on end; there is an energy and a collective knowing. The original music (by Chrysalynn Calder & Amalia Calder) and vocals add another layer of beauty and depth, especially when everyone sings in gorgeous harmony, bringing a juxtaposition of relationship to the conflicting narrative. There is the moment when a child’s simple clarity cuts through all else reminding us that things aren’t always as difficult as they appear; that if we can let all pre-judgments and reactionary hurts go, the answer will appear.

Mum’s Vege Patch is a thoughtful and necessary piece of theatre to continue exploring and refining. Grief is a personal journey but playing it out on the stage allows us all to explore our relationship with it too.  


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