Basement Theatre Studio, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

04/12/2012 - 08/12/2012

4th Wall Theatre, New Plymouth

19/08/2014 - 19/08/2014

Rangi Ruru Girls School, Merivale Lane, Christchurch

20/06/2012 - 23/06/2012

BATS Theatre, Wellington

24/01/2012 - 28/01/2012

Playhouse, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, Hamilton

14/08/2014 - 14/08/2014

Arts On Tour NZ 2014

Production Details

Bare Hunt Collective

The Premiere of MUNTED @ BATS Theatre:  a testament to the human spirit.


In their next offering after back/words, Bare Hunt Collective brings you MUNTED, a documentary theatre project exploring the experience of the February 22nd Christchurch Earthquake. This piece of theatre is edited together from interviews with reporters and the community, it’s a local tale told with humour and Kiwi honesty.

Share stories of loss, home and the shifting perspectives of what really matters. Connecting Christchurch with Wellington, the community who experienced it through the media and/or loved ones, MUNTED finds laughter amongst grief and a strengthened community in the heart of the shaken city.

Documentary/Verbatim theatre gives audience a more immediate, authentic performance than the common fictional piece. Because this piece is specifically made from and for a recent event in New Zealand history, the objective of the work is to create a discussion with the community.

While Bare Hunt Collective are a new company, they have proven success. Their first show as a collective back/words premiered at BATS Theatre as part of the Wellington Fringe Festival in 2010.

They went on to be chosen out of 88 shows as ‘’Pick of the Fringe Festival’’, which meant a professional season at Downstage Theatre. Reviews from back/words:

A series of vignettes that are intriguing, humorous, and really quite moving…unusual and interesting…I cannot wait to see what the Bare Hunt Collective will do next.’’ –Hannah Smith, Theatreview.

’The honesty and depth of feeling they bring to the piece and their ability to portray the personae of each of the interviews makes this compelling theatre.’’ – Ewan Coleman, The Dominion Post.

Performers and co founders of Bare Hunt Collective are Victoria Abbott and Jackie Shaw, both graduates of the Otago University Theatre department where they studied Documentary Theatre together. Victoria, a Christchurch native, has graduated last year from Toi Whakaari, NZ Drama School and recently trained with master-teacher Philippe Gaulier in Paris. Jackie recently studied at the Neighbourhood Playhouse School of Theatre in New York City.

Director Kate McGill, Designer Liz Carpenter and Production Manager Alana Kelly are graduates from Toi Whakaari in 2009 and 2011 respectively.

A percentage (5%) of ticket sales will be given back to the Christchurch Community.

from Tuesday 24th –Saturday 28th January 2012
Waged $18/Unwaged $13/Groups 6+ $14

To Book: or call 04 802 4175   


“Powerful and Humane, yet often Humorous” John Smythe, Theatreview

After successfully premiering MUNTED at BATS Theatre in Wellington in January 2012, Bare Hunt Collective is touring to the city they wrote MUNTED for… Christchurch.After successfully premiering MUNTED at BATS Theatre in January of this year Bare Hunt Collective is set to tour to the city we wrote MUNTED for… Christchurch.After successfully premiering MUNTED at BATS Theatre in January of this year Bare Hunt Collective is set to tour to the city we wrote MUNTED for… Christchurch.

I truly believe MUNTED is a show as many New Zealanders as possible should see. This earthquake didn’t just affect the people of Christchurch…it affected us all. We all felt their grief, their stories. This play is phenomenal and Bare Hunt’s almost sold-out Wellington season proves this is something we want to see” Matt Mclean, TVNZ Journalist.

This piece is specifically made from and for a recent event in New Zealand history, the objective of the work is to value and encourage story-telling in the community.

Bare Hunt Collective is a new company with proven success. Their first show back/words premiered at BATS Theatre Wellington as part of the Wellington Fringe Festival 2010. Back/words was chosen from 88 shows as a Pick of the Fringe Festival and awarded a professional season at Downstage Theatre Wellington.

Downstage showcased Bare Hunt Collective’s last piece of verbatim theatre in 2010 as part of our Pick of the Fringe programme.  We have noticed the company develop in style and execution over that time. Theatre has great capacity to heal, educate and challenge communities and is particularly relevant in the face of national tragedy” – Hilary Beaton, CEO of Downstage

Bare Hunt Collective is Victoria Abbott and Jackie Shaw, both graduates of the Otago University Theatre department. Writer and actor Victoria, a Christchurch native and Toi Whakaari graduate 2011 was getting up to train with Philippe Gaulier in Paris when she heard about the quake. Producer and actor Jackie, who studied at the Neighbourhood Playhouse School of Theatre in New York City was on the internet in an office in Wellington February 22nd. Actor Frith Horan, currently in her 2nd year of training at Toi Whakaari was at Te Whaea building in Wellington hosting new students on the 22nd. Director Kate McGill, a graduate of Toi Whakaari 2009, was at the airport in Auckland when the quake hit Christchurch.

The Theatre, Rangi Ruru Girls School, Merivale Lane, Christchurch
Wednesday 20th – Saturday 23rd June, 7pm.
Bookings: email

AUCKLAND December 2012

With acclaimed seasons already in Wellington (selling out BATS Theatre), Dunedin, Queenstown, Wanaka and, of course, Christchurch, Bare Hunt Collective finally arrives in Auckland with their acclaimed verbatim documentary, Munted, at The Basement Theatre studio from December 4th.

The three skilled actors are able to showcase their characters without costumes or special effects, each comfortably slipping from one persona to another with great dexterity” –– Robert Gilbert. 

MUNTED plays
December 4th – 8th, 7:00pm
The Basement Theatre Studio, Lower Greys Avenue, Auckland CBD
Tickets: $16 – $20*booking fees may apply
Bookings through iTicket – or 09 361 1000

ARTS ON TOUR NEW ZEALAND Itinerary – August 2014: 

Freshly back from a four week Season in Hollywood, Bare Hunt Collective is carrying out a three week NZ tour of MUNTED, beginning 10th August.

KAITAIA: Sunday 10 August @ 2pm
Little Theatre
Te Ahu, Kaitaia
$20 Adult; $5 Secondary; $2 Primary
Book tickets at: Finders Kaitaia; i-Site; Te Ahu;
Doubtless Bay Information Centre Mangonui

THAMES: Tuesday 12 August @ 7.30pm
Kauaeranga Hall
$20 general and Koha for students
Book tickets: Txt or phone Lisa 021 078 8675 or at Lotus Realm, the northern end of Polland Street.

WHITIANGA: Wednesday 13 August @ 7pm
The Monkey House Theatre
Coghill st, Whitianga
Book tickets at: Paper Plus Whitianga

HAMILTON: Thursday 14 August @ 7.30pm
Playhouse Theatre
Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts
University of Waikato
$28; $22 Seniors and Unwaged; $10 Students;
$60 subscription for 3 shows
Book tickets at:

TAURANGA: Friday 15 August @ 7.30pm
Baycourt X Space
$22-$25 plus Booking fees
Book tickets at: Baycourt Box office or

WHAKATANE: Saturday 16 August @ 7.30pm
Whakatane Little Theatre
$18 (early bird until 31 July) $20 Adult;
$10 Student primary or secondary
Book tickets at: The Good Life on the Strand Whakatane

HAVELOCK NORTH: Sunday 17 August @ 7.30pm
Nelson Theatre
Keirunga Gardens, Havelock North
$26 Adults; $24 Seniors; $20 Students
Book tickets at: HBS Bank or

NEW PLYMOUTH: Tuesday 19 August @ 7.30pm
4th Wall Theatre
New Plymouth
$35 Adults;$30 Concessions
Book tickets at:

UPPER HUTT: Wednesday 20 August @ 8pm
Expressions Arts and Entertainment Centre
Upper Hutt
Book tickets at:

MAPUA: Friday 22 August 8pm Dinner from 6pm
The Playhouse Café
Book tickets at: The Playhouse Café and Everyman records

CHRISTCHURCH: Saturday 23 August @ 7pm
Design and Arts College of NZ
35 Acheron Drive, Riccarton, Christchurch
$24 Adults; $20 Students and Seniors
Book tickets at: Door sales or book:

AKAROA: Sunday 24 August @ 8pm
Boat Sheds
Book tickets at: Akaroa Museum or Dale Thomas on ph 304 8900

ASHBURTON: Wednesday 27 August @ 7.30pm
Ashburton Trust Event Centre
Book tickets at: Box Office or

TWIZEL: Thursday 28 August @ 7.30pm
Events Centre
$20 Adults; $10 Students
Book tickets at: Twizel Information Centre and Mackenzie Lotto Plus

QUEENSTOWN: Friday 29 August 7pm
Arrowtown Hall
Book tickets from Lakes District Museum and door sales on the night. For those only able to book in Queenstown, please contact Jan Maxwell at the council.

INVERCARGILL: Saturday 30 August @ 7.30pm
SIT Centrestage Theatre
Don St, Invercargill
Book tickets at: Ticketdirect or Cue TV

GORE: Sunday 31 August @ 7.30pm
The Little theatre
$25 adults; $20 Seniors and Students (booking fees apply)
Book tickets at :SBS St James Theatre or via

Performers: Victoria Abbott, Jackie Shaw and Frith Horan

Producer: Jackie Shaw
Production Manager: Alana Kelly
Set/Costume Designer: Liz Carpenter
Lighting Design: Janis Cheng
Sound Design: Alana Kelly

Credits 2014: 
With Jackie Shaw, Victoria Abbott and Frith Horan
Producer: Jackie Shaw
Technical Manager: Ashlyn Smyth
Sound Design: Thomas Press
Photography: Julia Johnstone

Theatre , Community-based theatre , Verbatim ,

Charming openness and commitment

Review by Holly Shanahan 21st Aug 2014

What a pleasure it is to have good NZ companies touring their work more frequently to Taranaki – in this case with Arts On Tour NZ. I hope to only see more in the future, and 4th Wall Theatre is a great asset to the growing New Plymouth arts scene.

MUNTED is described as a ‘theatrical response to the Chanterbury February 22nd Earthquake’ and is derived entirely from verbatim interviews with those who were there, or affected by the event.

The appeal of this piece is in its simplicity.  Bare Hunt Collective present these stories / interviews as they were told, switching between characters and stories to create snapshot impressions of the different experiences of those involved or affected by one of NZ’s worst natural disasters.  

The performers bring a charming openness and commitment to their roles, and the awareness that these are verbatim stories brings some impact to the piece. 

Unfortunately, I feel the show misses slightly. While words can be powerful – and here, real life interviews are used to good effect – the connection is missing for me. I can’t find a buy-in here. There are exciting glimpses of connection in the small things: children in a swimming pool, a policeman showing vulnerability, the experience of the press. Yet I don’t feel what I want a piece on Christchurch to make me feel: what it was like to be there; something I haven’t heard or felt yet. I believe as Kiwis, we crave a piece of art that will make us connect to this.   

The set feels somewhat unnecessary, taking into account the basis of the material. More concentrated focus on the stories and dexterity of the performers telling them I feel would benefit this work.

I do enjoy the concept of the coffee and tea cups, invoking a sense of aftermath of these interviews; we have all had all-nighters after a tragic event where the room is strewn with abandoned cups in the morning. However, the ideas in the set just don’t feel cohesive, and hence this idea falls down. The lamps certainly feel tacked on. The ‘rubble’ implied as the audience enters, which is reassembled by the cast at the outset, is a nice idea, although all of these things could be exectued more strongly, or left out altogether, to focus our attention on the performers. Ranters Theatre do this well, their production ‘Intimacy’ comes to mind, as something the company could look to in style.

The subtle underscore of music works well; again, something that could be orchestrated even more strongly into the piece.

Victoria Abbott, Frith Horan and Jackie Shaw are all stellar in their commitment and the ease in which they transition between different characters. While I feel a few of the characterisations are taken a little far, there are delightful moments in the performances here. In particular I enjoy Jackie’s storeowner wife and Frith’s policeman. The simplicity of Frith’s policeman is a highlight of the show for me.

I can’t help but feel I’ve heard these stories though, and I can’t find a way in just listening to words. I would like to see some of this material taken further, put on its feet, examined, explored and presented in different theatrical forms. But then, that is me, and the audience, who almost all stay for the Q&A after the show, seem engaged by the piece. 

In all of this, the company are looking to make vibrant simple work, which I really admire. Telling truth and stories simply can be incredibly powerful, and they are on the way to finding how to make this really fly. I look forward to seeing their future work and how this young company will develop and flourish.


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Honest and heart-warming

Review by Mark Houlahan 17th Aug 2014

The scenario of Munted is easy to grasp. Three actors on a stage strewn with chairs, some lamps and many mugs for survivors to sip tea out of. Between them they voice fifteen survivors of the February 22, 2011 quake in Christchurch. 

The programme lists Victoria Abbott-one of the actors-as the ‘writer’, but a better term would be ‘editor’ or ‘arranger’. For this piece keeps faith with core principles of verbatim or documentary theatre. No words are used not actually spoken to interviewers, by people who all were in or near Christchurch that awful afternoon. Their ums and ahas are elided, but the method is a great way of presenting the ways New Zealanders actually speak, the downplaying of certain kinds of emotional confrontation, and storytelling in a flat narrative form sparked by the occasional striking phrase.

As a performance drawing directly on the quake, Bare Hunt’s approach works better I think than the tactics adopted by Gaylene Preston in the TV series Hope and Wire, which invented characters, though these were also based on considerable research. Bare Hunt shows that when the real is so sensational, no fictions are required. 

At the beginning of the performance we are told about the method of recording and organising interviews, though not how many other interviews were conducted. The fifteen chosen are nicely contrasted. A four year old, a primary teacher, a policeman, a cameraman, a shopkeeper from Sumner, his wife and their daughter, a dentist who rode his bike into a sink hole (thinking it was a puddle), who was then shaken free by an aftershock. They take us through their lives on the day of the quake and the weeks following. 

The three actors – Jackie Shaw, Victoria Abbott and Frith Horan – make a terrific team. Relaxed, apparently casual, they switch seamlessly from one character to another, so we can easily tell who is now speaking through them. They are effortlessly in synch with each other. Mugs of tea are provided in the foyer, but offered to us by the performers without the archness that often attends ‘pre-show’ foyer stunts. 

This take on the disaster is honest and heart-warming. The message is how, collectively, we can cope with such events. As the interviews were done in the weeks after the quake, it would be interesting to rerun them now. Perhaps harder lessons would emerge, of impatience with insurers, or bone weary anger at local and central government. The aim here, though, is to show us some of the people of February 22.

Everyone knows where they were when the quake struck, a friend said in the foyer afterwards. Exactly: but only those there can know what the quake was really like. All credit then to Bare Hunt and Arts on Tour for bringing these stories to places safe from liquefaction and other quake horrors only seen on TV.


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Review by Matt Baker 06th Dec 2012

From Liz Carpenter and Alana Kelly’s poster design to the un-credited set design in performance, the teacup motif in Munted is both an accurate and elegant metaphor for the fragility and communal aspects of life surrounding the February earthquake. It is also brilliantly used in breaking the fourth wall the moment the audience enters the performance space, which consequently enriches the experience of this documentary theatre piece.*

Head writer, performer, Toi Whakaari graduate, and one half of Bare Hunt Collective; Victoria Abbott, has overseen a level-headed script, which avoids over sentimentalising the stories at heart and confines the verbatim dialogue into appropriately timed segments with respect to their content. Abbott is also a flawless performer, who emanates characters with simple yet full idiosyncrasies and never misses a beat. [More


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Given fresh, engaging life and vigour

Review by Stephen Austin 05th Dec 2012

With the Christchurch quakes still fresh in our minds and the cleanup still very much in progress, it should be a difficult job of theatre to add something valid without over-dramatising or sentimentalising situations.  There is so much deep feeling, even for those on the outer of this greatest of natural disasters in this country, that we all need some form of catharsis to help us process it.  

Bare Hunt Collective absolutely hits the nail on the head with this verbatim work that delves into momentary fragments of a ruined city and the people within trying to pick up the broken pieces over cups of tea and good old Kiwi stoicism. 

Head-Writer Victoria Abbott’s script is sharp, tight, witty and powerful.  There is so much tenderness and joy for these characters and it shines through the excellently crafted plotting, editing and weaving of the episodic nature of the work.  The moments of factual exposition are minimal and we are allowed into the world and minds of each character fully. 

Abbott’s performance, too, is spot-on in the observation of many familiar yet particular characters, and she finds an earthy truth in them all.  Whether playing for the purely factual or slightly caricaturing, she is absolutely riveting, especially when she takes on the persona of her own brother at one point and focuses neatly on the colloquial inward blokey drive of the character.  Her framing device characterisation of four-year-old Alex is touching and fun.  

Jackie Shaw and Frith Horan sustain the energy created by Abbott with colourful, vivid performances, drawn from a deep understanding and involvement with the community they are bringing alive before us.  Each give us characters of warmth, humour and liveliness, full of hope and passion for the future. 

Rachel Marlow’s effective, minimal lighting design shifts as quickly as the actors’ between locales and moods.  Alana Kelly’s sparse striking sound design is well chosen and perfectly modulated to fit the space. 

There is never an attempt at straight-forward agitprop anywhere in the piece; just people given full licence – through the script and interpretation of the actors with director Kate McGill – to vent their frustrations, opinions and beliefs as best they know in an extreme situation. What could so easily have become talking-heads, or an illustrated radio play, is given fresh, engaging life and vigour, without over-weighting it all in morbid facts and figures. 

As a response to the recovery of Canterbury and its people, it is an immensely powerful work of theatre in its own quietly particular way and still manages to create laughter out of the immense pain of such a catastrophe.  


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A uniquely pure theatre experience

Review by Robert Gilbert 21st Jun 2012

I was confronted with quite a bit of anxiety in the days, hours, and minutes leading up to the opening of this production, stemming from the realisation that I just might have to re-visit feelings and emotions that I had neatly tucked away in an attempt to function in post-quake Christchurch. Am I ready for this? Is Christchurch ready?

Others, too, had reservations. A recent Stuff news website article is littered with anxieties about the show:

“If I want to heard [sic] first hand accounts of the quakes I’ll ask my friends and family.”

“Is this a joke? It’s still all very raw for us here and we feel it every time there’s another aftershock… we don’t need some actor’s interpretation of it… this is vanity in the name of an event that we’re all still going for and it’s just unnecessary”

“I won’t be coming, however, as I think it is too soon. We are still living through this nightmare.”

Is it too soon? Artists have always attempted, and will always attempt, to make sense of the senseless, interpret, and reflect – viz. Hamlet’s “mirror up to nature”. And Bare Hunt Collective are not the first to respond to the physical, societal, and psychological rupture that occurred on that dreadful day: the city-that-was now hosts many visual art displays in the vacant lots that once gave way to high-rises and urban life; the paintings of Wayne Seyb scream to the viewer about the horror of the earth heaving its random destruction; Gerard Smyth’s feature film documents real people, really coping; and The Clinic craftedtheir back-of-the trailer touring show, Hold Onto Your Horses, as a light hearted look at the way Christchurch deals with displacement, destruction and port-a-loos.

Munted isverbatim theatre’. American, Anna Deavere Smith pioneered the process in response to the 1992 Los Angeles riots. She was the first to combine the journalistic techniques of recording interviews of her subjects with the art of reproducing their words ‘verbatim’ in performance – usually with actors having the edited interviews played to them through headphones. Munted has beendevised from video recorded interviews of, mostly, Christchurch citizens soon after the 22 February earthquake, and this production arrives in our munted city following a very successful outing at Bats Theatre in Wellington earlier this year.

In rehearsal, and often in performance, verbatim actors must listen to the audio and reproduce every inflection, mannerism, hesitation, every ‘um, ‘ah’ and pause to avoid slipping into their own speech patterns or adding their own embellishments.  Thankfully, recent verbatim productions have done away with the headphones, on stage at least, thus freeing the actors to interpret the characters and connect with the audience rather than merely being vessels for each recorded subject. Famously, Britain’s National Theatre production of London Road masters this technique to sublime levels.  Like London Road by Alecky Blythe, Bare Hunt Collective takes a community response to terrible tragedy and transforms it into something rather extraordinary.

On the face of it, turning a real life tragedy into a stage show seems a repugnant and tasteless notion.  Nonetheless, despite the hand wringing (mine particularly), or maybe because of it, one has the sense that the material presented before this community has been handled with integrity, skill and compassion.

Audiences outside of Christchurch probably experience Munted as fairly sophisticated and novel piece of verbatim documentary theatre.  Here in Brokentown, however, Munted approaches something akin to playback theatre or community theatre.  Our stories played back to us from our voices.  This is a theatre experience like no other. Some of it hurt.  Hurt like hell.  And those neatly tucked away emotions had an outing once more as the anxieties of the audience met those of the performers resulting in a uniquely pure theatre experience.

Director Kate McGill has deftly guided Frith Horan, Jackie Shaw and Victoria Abbot through a minefield of real people’s responses to the events in and around 22 February.  Held together by the ever-present and reassuring cup of tea, McGill allows her actors to live, breathe and connect with each other and the audience with a surefootedness that belies any unspoken angsts. 

The three skilled actors are able to showcase their characters without costumes or special effects, each comfortably slipping from one persona to another with great dexterity.  Frith Horan’s is every bit the horse-loving mother or the laconic grocer.  Her cameraman comes unnervingly close as he tells how he shot the footage of my son, Jaime Gilbert being dragged from the rubble that took his life. 

Too close?  Too soon?  This was unexpected and tough theatre for me.  Yet somehow I was still able to acknowledge the honesty and pure theatre of it.  Maybe its because my Jaime, also a thespian, was in yet another show.  I think I’ll still be trying to get my head around that for some time.

Jackie Shaw’s grocer’s wife from Sumner, with her infectious laughter and love of life – and crystal – and love of her husband is a lesson in character analysis.  What a joy.

Victoria Abbott is able to inhabit the skin of every character she plays.  Her transformations are remarkable, admirable and delightful. Before our eyes, with nothing but her innate actor’s skill, she is the mischievous five-year-old boy, the glamorous TV reporter, and the blokey welder. She faithfully inhabits each person.  Victoria Abott is a rare talent, and I was thrilled to be able to witness her work.

Whether or not it’s too soon to see a play such as Munted is very much a personal question.  For some in Christchurch, it will be.  For the opening night audience of this season, the anxieties soon settled as we allowed ourselves to be shown ourselves.  It is a brave space – where audience and actor merge, not dissimilar Boal’s notion of ‘spec-actors’.  Bare Hunt Collective are to be congratulated for Munted.  Itdeserves its place in our theatre history.  


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The familiar refreshed

Review by Lindsay Clark 20th Jun 2012

It is a curious feeling, experiencing a documentary piece of theatre from the inside. Bare Hunt’s audience in Christchurch will be a heartbeat closer than most to their verbatim representation, based on interviews held only a few weeks after the city’s tragic earthquake in February 2011. This is not to say that there will be little universal engagement with the very human voices and embodiments they give us, but that there is an immediate, familiar frisson as places and details embedded in our local consciousness are revisited on the stage.

It is cuppa theatre. Cuppas in the foyer, and homely stacks of cups and saucers and teapots dressing the stage as an unmistakeable indicator of the person to person accounts we’ll hear. Even the media and cameraman material will be on a personal, low key level, spared sensation or spin, because the biggest horror of all, as revealed by the edited material of the piece, was and is the new normality emerging from that day.

Sometimes we are witnessing an interview, often it is direct address as if we are just sharing one of those ‘Where were you?’ times. Most entertainingly, there are snippets of interaction where different members of a family share the account and their varying perspectives bring the humour of down to earth domesticity.

The constant change of focus and face is a clever strategy to manage what could easily have become, for all its local relevance, a repetitive exercise. At one hour’s stretch we have enough time to revisit several ‘characters’ and to become familiar with the personal experiences of others. They are both fresh and familiar.

Thirteen such characters are convincingly established by the three actors: Victoria Abbott, Frith Horan and Jackie Shaw. With intelligent economy, they do not mimic in full, but select key features such as voice or posture or gesture to support the language. It is in the truthful delivery of verbatim language, pauses and all, that the play gains most strength. Under Kate McGill’s direction its orchestration is imperceptible but effective and transitions between accounts unfailingly fluid and purposeful.

After the performance, responses and reports are invited. It is a tribute to the warmth and community spirit generated by the group that most of the audience wanted to go on with the experience. 


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Stories of Christchurch

Review by Lynn Freeman 02nd Feb 2012

Here’s a night out at the theatre for anyone who’s ever questioned the relevance of live performance. Bare Hunt Collective has interviewed a range ofChristchurchpeople about their experience of the earthquakes. With the anniversary of the February quake looming, it’s great timing and with its sensitive handling of the interviews entrusted to them, it’s also revealing, moving and funny.

The three interviewers and actors, Jackie Shaw, Victoria Abbott and Frith Horan, each present about half a dozen – it doesn’t feel right to call them ‘characters’ given these are faithful portrayals of real people – so, half a dozen people who lived through, reported on or responded to the earthquakes. From the man who brushes off almost drowning after cycling into a waterlogged crack, to four year old George who learns about death and danger far too young, to the journalists who can’t help but be shaken by what they witness, there are so many perspectives and every one adds to our understanding of what happened in Christchurch, and the emotional ripples emanating from the shakes and quakes.

The narratives are fractured and scattered, likeChristchurch’s buildings, and you have to keep your wits about you at times, but that’s no bad thing. We are reminded that while the rest of the country was transfixed by the images that were repeated on screen in the aftermath of the February earthquake, those living through it were without power and unaware of the full extent of the destruction for a long time. And some, when they did get TV coverage, couldn’t bear to watch the coverage. Living through it was hard enough.

Katharine McGill keeps the actors’ movements stripped down, saying they don’t need costume changes, just a stance and a voice. Last time the collective presented documentary theatre they used mp3 players listening to their interviews as they spoke. They’ve dumped the technology and it’s infinitely better. Elizabeth Carpenter uses scaffolding – a symbol of Christchurch at the moment – windows, chairs and mugs of tea, to great effect. We don’t need bells and whistles, it’s all in the stories.


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A time for reflection

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 26th Jan 2012

The image used to promote Munted, a new piece of documentary theatre about the Christchurch earthquakes, is a cracked cup and saucer. On it is a picture of the Cathedral and the Chalice.

Before you enter the theatre you will be offered a cup of tea and a biscuit, and once in the auditorium you will see a tray loaded with cups and more dotted about the stage, and one cup sits centre stage in its own spotlight.

It’s a good image. It suggests the restorative power of tea, the calming of nerves, a time to relax, reflect and recollect. It suggests a quiet social gathering in the most English of allNew Zealandcities. Chocolate and biscuits are also handed out to the audience during the hour-long show.

Munted is not a dramatic or sensational account of the terrible events. It is dotted with humour and spirit. It is a collage of verbatim interviews of ordinary people – from a cheery primary school teacher tending to her young charges like a mother hen to a phlegmatic bloke who found himself on his bike and under water in a fissure in the road – and how they reacted to what was happening to their lives, their city and other people.

We come across a journalist who is sensitive to the reactions of the people whom she is interviewing, particularly a couple grieving over the death of their son. There are others who can’t get over how interested they are now in the science behind earthquakes and how they believe that they can tell accurately the magnitude and geographical position of a quake.

Under the astute eye of director Katharine McGill, who prevents the documentary from becoming static interview scenes, and assisted by the accurate spotlighting of the scenes by Janis C. Y. Cheng’s flexible lighting plot, the three actors – Jackie Shaw, Victoria Abbott and Frith Horan – play the ordinary Cantabrians with instantly established and instantly recognizable portraits. My favourite was the taciturn young man for whom the first earthquake seemed to be no more than a minor inconvenience and an everyday event.

5% of ticket sales will be donated back to the Christchurch Community.     


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Powerful and humane yet often humorous

Review by John Smythe 25th Jan 2012

Nothing beats ‘truth’ when it comes to good theatre. There are many ways of seeking it out and sharing it, and the Bare Hunt Collective’s ‘documentary/verbatim’ genre is an extremely compelling and effective one.

When they claimed our attention and accolades nearly two years ago with back/words – an amusingly insightful piece about various people’s first and last times – no-one could have predicted their next show would arise from the earthquake that devastated Christchurch, eleven months ago (22 February 2011).

Too soon? Not at all. Talking about it and sharing the experience is part of the healing process. What’s more, the wide range of 14 ‘characters’ with their very different responses to what happened, and ways of expressing themselves in the aftermath, makes for very entertaining theatre in the best possible sense.

Bare Hunt founders Jackie Shaw (producer) and Victoria Abbott (head writer) – both graduates of the Otago University Theatre department where they studied Documentary Theatre together – researched the piece by video-recording interviews with at least 14 people over a cup of tea, and the cuppa motif is used in the poster, in the foyer to welcome us, and on stage throughout the show. Broken biscuits and Swiss chocolate also feature.

In the devising process, where the verbatim text was edited, collated and structured, Abbott (whose home town is Christchurch) and Shaw were joined by their co-performer Frith Horan, director Katharine McGill, set and costume designer Elizabeth Carpenter, production manager and sound designer Alana Kelly, Taylor Hall and Emma Draper. Lighting designer Janis Cheng brings focus to the unfolding story with deft operation of light and sound.

Amid a ramshackle strew of random chairs extraordinary personalities and stories emerge. Although the actors don’t use i-pods as the did in back/words, the pitch, tone, rhythm, pace and physicality of the interviewees they replicate manifest as a vividly varied assortment. It is an extraordinarily effective way of bringing them and their stories to life.

Victoria Abbot shines as a four year-old girl, Alex, who makes the best sense of it all that she can, and as a relieving teacher of six year-olds who recounts their experiences with flair and counterpoints her horror with deep fascination at the science that explains it. Abbott’s welder and fabricator brother, whose circumspect replies are tellingly punctuated with non-verbal behaviours, is a total contrast, and the reporter who better appreciates the value of her work in retrospect adds a relatively detached professional viewpoint.

Jackie Shaw brings us a young man who was having a smoke on a fire escape and heard the rivets snap, and a male reporter fromWellington, sent by helicopter to cover the story. Most extraordinary is her dentist with his bizarre account of trying to cycle to get to his girls but sinking into liquefaction and having to save himself while contemplating the possibility of never being found. Her restless and laughter-prone grocer’s wife from Sumner puts a delightful twist on a Maori proverb.

Frith Horan gives us the taciturn grocer – “It was as dark as the inside of a black cow” – and a cameraman in the thick of it who finds himself advising and counselling locals while feeding news back to Auckland, along with Alex’s Mum, Tanya, and would-be pragmatic young woman coming to terms with the loss of friends well known in theatre circles.

The interweaving of the stories adds interesting texture. Locating each character in separate pools of light helps us understand who is who. I can’t say I was easily able to link the characters indicated in the programme with those who appeared on stage but the abiding strength of Munted is its powerful and humane yet often humorous evocation of a life-changing event experienced by readily recognised people who could well have been you or me.

As a piece of theatre, it offers a ‘less-is-more’ object lesson that leaves me amazed at how many very real people and places were made ‘present’ through this simple form of presentation. 


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