Nicola Cheeseman is Back

Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland

19/06/2024 - 07/07/2024

Production Details

Written by Kathryn Burnett
Directed by Paul Gittins

Plumb Theatre

After their sell-out season of Prima Facie, Plumb Theatre and Auckland Live present the world premiere of Kathryn Burnett’s new comedy Nicola Cheeseman is Back.

Award-winning playwright and screenwriter Kathryn Burnett has created a bitingly funny and painfully relatable story of Nicola Cheeseman, a woman sick of trying to do it all.

Shortlisted for the Adam NZ Play Award 2023, Nicola Cheeseman is Back is a ride through the suburban to-do list of a 50-year-old woman as she navigates her husband moving out and her aging father moving in, all the while wondering exactly when she shelved her dreams of being a punk-rock goddess.

Nicola Cheeseman is falling apart in order to put herself together again.

Renowned for her award-winning roles on stage and screen, the iconic Jodie Rimmer takes on her first one-woman performance, directed by Paul Gittins.

Bring your mum, your nana, your daughter and your bestie because Nicola Cheeseman is Back is a story every woman will get, and every man should see.

Venue: Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre
Dates: 19 June – 7 July
Times: 7.30PM, Sundays 4PM
Prices: $25 – $42

Performed by Jodie Rimmer
Designed by John Parker
Lighting by Jane Hakaraia
Costumes by Elizabeth Whiting
Sound design by Jonathan Burgess
Original soundtrack by Stud Farm

Theatre ,

90 minutes

Rimmer's delightful, straight-talking character explores how women are perceived in society as they age

Review by Leigh Sykes 20th Jun 2024

Playwright Kathryn Burnett tells us in the programme for this world premiere that ‘Nicola came into being after many conversations with female friends and family’ touching on the idea that ‘ageing is normal but somehow we never think it’ll happen to us’.

This one-woman show, written by Burnett and performed with great panache by Jodie Rimmer, jumps into a conversation that is startlingly recognisable, painfully funny and also very touching.

On a set (designed by John Parker) that allows for great fluidity in the performance and supported by lighting (designed by Jane Hakaraia) that clearly defines different areas as the story progresses, Rimmer is able to create a performance that flows through many different locations and times with ease.

Nicola starts the show musing on issues that are clearly recognised by many in the audience such as ‘why is my face falling off?’ and ‘how does the hair redistribution system work?’ The belly laughs from the audience indicate that many of the issues Nicola is facing are shared, and so we are happy to follow where Nicola leads us as she attempts to make sense of a life she hardly recognises any more.

Wittily and engagingly, Nicola brings us up to speed on the major events in her life at the moment: helping her mother-in-law move into a care home; dealing with her son’s plans to move out; her husband moving in with 32 year old Mindy and her younger work colleagues failing to recognise her abilities.

Rimmer is able to slip into the other characters in the blink of an eye, cleverly embodying Amanda, Nicola’s self-centred and supercilious boss, her son Ryan (19) and her mother-in-law Ingrid with clarity and skill. The direction by Paul Gittins brings pace and energy to the performance, while also allowing for moments to really touch us.

It soon becomes apparent that Nicola is struggling with her current situation, and so is keen to reinvigorate herself by getting the Cherry Slits, the nouveau punk band she used to be a member of before getting married, back together.

Having created a vision board of the life she wants to recapture, and a to-do list including items that range from health to anatomy, Nicola sets out to recapture the joys of a time before hot flushes and care home visits.

As Nicola tracks down her other band members, she sees changes in their lives mirroring those in her own. Each encounter is wonderfully drawn, and interspersed with the events in Nicola’s home life, where she now has to deal with an injured father, an insecure daughter and a husband who is looking to her for reassurance.

Throwing herself into upgrading her looks and her outfits (costume design by Elizabeth Whiting, including a spectacular jumpsuit that plays a very important role in the show), Nicola takes us on a thought-provoking journey of trying to avoid the scree covered slippery slope that leads to old age. At times vulnerable and at others audacious and hilarious, Nicola continues to fight against that slippery slope, convincing her bandmates to reconvene and dealing with the other people in her life in a straightforward fashion.

By the time Nicola puts her spectacular jumpsuit through its paces in a rousing return to the stage, we are supporting her noisily and enthusiastically. Her triumphant performance is not quite the end of the story, and the resolution is satisfying and well earned.

The show has many important things to say about the way women are seen in society as they age, and there are many more things that could be said. By presenting these ideas through a warm, funny and straight-talking character, we are able to receive them clearly and entertainingly. This is a show that connects with its audience in the relatability of its situations and characters, and which has much to offer all ages and genders.

On getting home after the show, I received news of the passing of an amazing older lady. This touching show is a wonderful nouveau punk love song to the idea of growing bold rather than old, which is an idea that I think this wonderful lady would have heartily endorsed.


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