BATS Theatre (Out-Of-Site) Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington

09/03/2013 - 16/03/2013

NZ Fringe Festival 2013

Production Details

A romping music-filled twisted comedy based on Wellington’s own 1960’s pop-sensation Rochelle Vinsen turned ‘The Hutt’s got talent’ judge.

The time of the first T.V, Beatlemania, underground coffee bars, toasted sandwich dates, shotgun weddings, IUD’s, open marriages, shocking divorce and much more.

9-16 March, 6.30pm
BATS Theatre – check for venue address
Bookings: $18/14 

Chantelle Brader
Megan Alexander
Simon K Leary
Aidan Weekes 

Insightful edification

Review by John Smythe 10th Mar 2013

What a great show to end the NZ Fringe theatre season with!

I should declare an interest here, although of course I am interested in everything I review (that’s a prerequisite of the job). But in this case … Rochelle Vinsen and I both grew up in Khandallah (before the half-acre sections were sub-divided and the yuppies moved in). Her dad and his brother ran the pictures on Friday nights and Saturdays at the Khandallah and Ngaio Town Halls.

We went to the same bible class and a group of us took a concert to Arohata Girls’ Borstal. Although my twin brother and I (who are exactly two years less one day older than her) thought we were pretty ‘shit hot’ with our Goon Show routines, Rochelle was definitely the star.

She was proficient with the guitar, then, so that would have been after her Standard Five teacher, Margaret Easther, had got her entertaining the class with the latest pop songs (e.g. ‘Lipstick On Your Collar’), accompanying herself on the tennis racquet, and before she became the vocalist for a Form Five Onslow College band that got to the semi-finals on the TV talent show Have A Shot.

It’s about a decade now since Rochelle’s daughter, Chantelle, mentioned to her school friend, Tess, that she’d like to make a show about her mum one day. Since then they have both graduated BPA (Acting) from Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School. Now Tess Jamieson-Kahara has joined forces with fellow graduate Megan Alexander to form the Cake Punchers Collective: “born from a shared passion for creating more dynamic roles for women in theatre and film.”

My Boyfriend Got A Beatle Haircut, named for Rochelle’s biggest hit, is their premiere production. Scripted from what Chantelle gleaned from Rochelle – by Tess (who also directs it), Megan and Simon K Leary, another co-graduate – it packs lots of perceptive social history into an hour, simply by dramatising Rochelle’s ‘rock star’ story.

A brief clip of Debbie Reynolds singing the theme song in Tammy establishes the influence of Hollywood musicals but it’s photos of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and their manifestation from the clothes rack as Rochelle’s mentors that give us access to “goody two-shoes” Rochelle’s aspirations – and fears.

Simple ‘poor theatre’ conventions allow the story to flow with delightful touches of whimsical humour while the veracity of Rochelle’s teenage experience, as played by Chantelle, is always to the fore. The era is captured beautifully, not least for the edification of the next generations: its progeny.

Megan and Simon play a plethora of parts with flair to keep the story ticking along, backed up by Aidan Weekes in tech-savvy roles.  Despite a range of styles the play works a treat, from the revue skit extremity of the TV ad-we-never-saw, for the wondrous Intra Uterine Device (IUD), to a realistically compassionate encounter on a beach when Rochelle is facing a crisis of identity, confidence and faith.

Its insights into ‘the industry’, parental fears of ‘the scene’, temptations ‘on the road’ (i.e. up the Kapiti Coast a bit), romance, the perils of pregnancy, a secure job v ‘stardom’, parenthood, the ‘freedom’ myth of an ‘open marriage’, and other personal v public pressures are interspersed with snippets of pop songs from the time.  

The obligatory hour (max) for Fringe shows at Bats means some elements are glossed over that may deserve more breathing space. It seems to be assumed that all of us already know that Rochelle moved on into the radio show Grampa’s Place then Rochelle’s Place – or perhaps the idea is simply to touch on those bits for those who need them acknowledged. After all it is not so much a bio-play as a way to reveal the sixties experience in a very homegrown Kiwi style.  

While part of me thinks some of the theme, plot and character dimensions already in My Boyfriend Got A Beatle Haircut could be developed more with the aid of a playwright /dramaturg, and a budget to accommodate a stronger musical component, the way it is has a charm of its own and maybe that’s all it needs to be. 

It certainly makes for a delightful finale to NZ Fringe 2013’s theatre component and a dynamic debut for the Cake Punchers Collective.  


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