Party with the Aunties

Carisbrook Hotel, Dunedin

14/11/2019 - 14/11/2019

Jaycee Room, Founders Park, Nelson

16/10/2012 - 18/10/2012

Brew Café and Restaurant Bar, 700 Pollen Street, Brian Boru Hotel,

21/11/2012 - 22/11/2012

Paeroa RSA,

23/11/2012 - 23/11/2012

Function Room, Denbigh Hotel, Feilding

14/06/2012 - 16/06/2012

Miramar Rangers AFC Clubrooms, Wellington

23/11/2011 - 27/11/2011

Mayfair Festival Club, 67-73 Devon St West, New Plymouth

15/08/2013 - 17/08/2013

The Garage at 93 Wellington Road, Paekākāriki

09/04/2011 - 15/04/2011


12/09/2013 - 15/09/2013

Nelson Arts Festival 2012

Taranaki International Arts Festival 2013

Christchurch Arts Festival 2013

Production Details

It’s been a long week at work. Get the cuzzies together, grab some beers, bring the gat – there’s a party at Aunty’s!

Party with the Aunties is a show that will be held in a Paekakariki garage from April 9th to 15th. The show is based on parties that Director Erina Daniels has had with her family and the songs that have been sung at them.

“A party with our family is a chance for us to get together and enjoy being us. We can enjoy each other’s humour and enjoy testing our tendencies on one another – come what may.” Erina says.

Party with the Aunties is a show that is set at a party, about a party and may even look and feel like a party, but it’s not JUST a party! The audience is invited to sing along to songs such as Saturday Night at the Movies and Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree. We will meet Te Manawa as he introduces his new girlfriend to his family at his Father’s 50th birthday party. The three actors each play multiple characters bringing to life aunties, uncles, cousins and work-mates.

Party with the Aunties is a show about and for work-hard, play-hard people. “I’m making this show for the people in my life who continue to inspire me to enjoy. I want to remind myself of a way to be, a way that involves cheeky humour, consideration and a certain amount of pragmatism!” says Daniels.

This is Daniels’ final project as part of her Master’s in Theatre Arts – a course jointly taught by Victoria University and Te Kura o Toi Whakaari: The New Zealand Drama School. For the show she has harnessed a powerful and hearty cast and crew. 

The show features the talent of actors Jamie McCaskill, Matariki Whatarau and Cian White. All three of these players have toured to our national theatre festivals with the show He Reo Aroha co-written by McCaskill and Miria George. Jamie also appears as guitarist and vocalist in his band Smokey Feel. Matariki recently played in the show Crossing Lines by the Southern Corridor Project, and will appear in Taki Rua’s production of Awhi Tapu later this year. Cian White was last seen and heard by Wellington audiences in the Capital E show Hear to See as a puppeteer, singer and actor. 

The play is produced by local Kapiti Coast women Rachel Callinan who produced the music/theatre experience Porcelain Toy in this year’s Fringe Festival and Julia Truscott whose last show Quarantine played on Matiu/Somes Island. 

Why have this show in a garage? Daniels says she wants to make a piece of theatre for people who don’t usually go to the theatre. Making a show in a garage means it can easily go to communities anywhere. “Above all I want this show to remind us of our families and of feeling powerful and of enjoying. I know that my experience of Paekakariki has always had these three effects on me so it makes sense to make a show here”.

The Garage at 93 Wellington Road, Paekakariki
Saturday 9th April, Tuesday 12th – Friday 15th April, 7.30pm.
Tickets $15 on sale at Paekakariki Organic Fruit and Vege or email or ring Julia Truscott on 04 292 8667.  

Miramar Rangers AFC Clubrooms
David Farrington Park, corner Weka St and Miramar North Road
23 – 27 November
Wed-Sat at 7.30pm, Sun 4pm.  

2012 tour:

A show for adults but children friendly

The Brew, Thames
Fri 1st and Sat 2nd June at 7.30pm
Sun 3rd June at 4pm
Tickets $25 + dinner $40
8685558 or book at
Door sales available

Function Room, Denbigh Hotel, 50 Manchester Street, Feilding
Thursday 14 – Saturday 16 June, 7.30pm
Tickets: $20 
Book: or 021 854 929  

Nelson Arts Festival 2012 
Jaycee Room, Founders Park 
16 – 18 October, 7pm

COROMANDEL White Ribbon Season   

In association with Te Whariki Manawahine O Hauraki (Hauraki Women’s Refuge and Whanau Support Services)

Wednesday 21 & Thursday 22 November, 7.30pm
Brew Café and Restaurant Bar, 700 Pollen Street, Brian Boru Hotel.

Friday 23 November, 7.30pm
The Muddy River Café
459 Hauraki Road, Turua

Saturday 24 November, 7.30pm & Sunday 25 November, 2.30pm
Thames Workingmen’s Club, 407 Cochrane Street, Thames

Book at Hauraki Women’s Refuge ph 07 8688475 or 022 1653 296


Taranaki Arts Festival
15-17 August, 7pm
Mayfair Festival Club

Christchurch Arts Festival
Thurs 12 – Sat 14 Sept, 6.30pm
Sun 15 Sept, 3pm 

Dunedin Tour 2019
14 to 24 November  
Wednesday to Saturday 7.30pm 
Sundays 2pm 
Thur 14  7.30pm Carisbrook Hotel, 149 South Rd
Fri 15     7.30pm The Octagon Club, 9 The Octagon
Sat 16    7.30pm The Octagon Club, 9 The Octagon
Sun 17   2pm Macandrew Bay Hall, 1 Greenacre Street
Wed 20   7.30pm NE Valley Bowling Club, 139 North Road
Thur 21   7.30pm Taieri Bowling Club, 12 Wickliffe St Mosgiel
Fri 22      7.30pm The Golden Fleece, 198 Main Road Waikouaiti
Sat 23     7.30pm Waitati Hall 26 Harvey Street, Waitati
Sun 24    2pm Macandrew Bay Hall, 1 Greenacre Street 

Bookings & Pricing
Tickets can be booked directly at 
Or at the venue 30mins in advance of the show (unless sold-out prior)
Concession $18 Full Price $25
Children under 15 free
Visit for further information and links to book
Party with the Aunties was made for adults, but can be enjoyed by all ages.


Erina Daniels: Director 

Cian White: Actor, Devisor, SingerLady, Story Collaborator 

Jamie McCaskill: Actor, Devisor, GuitarMan, Story Collaborator

Matariki Whatarau: Actor, Devisor, MainMan, Story Collaborator

Jess Sanderson: Design

Maria Deere: Production Mentor 

Julia Truscott: Publicity, Marketing and Production Assistant 

Rachel Callinan: Production Assistant, Stage Management   

2012 tour: 
Starring Jamie McCaskill, Matariki Whatarau and Kura Forrester 
Directed by Erina Daniels

2013 Festivals
Starring Jamie McCaskill, Matariki Whatarau and Awhina Rose
Directed by Erina Daniels

2019 Dunedin Tour:
Awhina-Rose Henare Ashby
Jamie McCaskill
Matariki Whatarau 

Theatre ,

1 hr 15 mins, no interval

The classic Kiwi shindig, theatricalised

Review by Barbara Frame 19th Nov 2019

It’s a cold night, but the interior of the Carisbrook Hotel is warm and welcoming. As the audience arrives, the performers (Awhina-Rose Henare Ashby, Jamie McCaskill and Matariki Whatarau) entertain with songs we all know: Maori standards, and concert-party staples such as Rockin’ Robin and Hound Dog. It’s impossible not to join in.

As the party gets under way, we learn that it’s Angus’ 50th birthday, and Angus looks as though he stopped making sense a while ago. Other characters appear, and are picked up and dropped by the performers. They are not always clearly distinguishable, but this is a party after all, so that doesn’t matter much. A cousin arrives late after a detour to Hokitika; an expatriate uncle turns up, extravagantly condescending with fake Māoritanga and seriously culturally challenged.

As at a real party, the action is scattered, sometimes confused, and the mood swings from exuberant to sentimental to maudlin, and back again. The characters eat, practise dance moves, flirt, misunderstand, and of course drink. The audience soon feels part of the action rather than spectators and is free to interact, singing, cheering, interjecting and, like the characters, drinking.

Like a lot of New Zealand party activity, it doesn’t always add up to much and at times the action could be snappier, but it’s uncomplicated fun and the mood is positive. The best thing is the sense of community and togetherness as people gather for an old-fashioned good time.

Wow! Productions and co-creator and director Erina Daniels are to be commended for their initiative in presenting this unconventional but very comfortable production to Dunedin audiences. It will play at various local venues until Sunday 24 November. 


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A fabulous night that leaves you feeling joyful

Review by Kate Timms-Dean 16th Nov 2019

We’ve all been to one of those parties, right? Bar leaners, crates of big bots, guitars, group singing and the dingy yellow light of cigarette smoke. The music captures that amateur brilliance of many a late night session – lyrics are misremembered or improvised with a laugh or a slap of banter. The mood is easy, nostalgic and all too familiar.  

Performed in the round, our three performers (Awhina-Rose Henare Ashby, Jamie McCaskill and Matariki Whatarau) are at a bar leaner with two guitars, singing in harmony. The set is a mixture of old show tunes and waiata from Te Hokowhitū ā Tū, the Māori Battalion. Everyone is joining in, everyone is part of the party; with the audience surrounding them, the crowd becomes another aspect of the lives unfolding before us. At times the veil is pierced, deliberately or accidently, with a stumble, a serenade or a hip grind.

Only three players, but at least a dozen lives are manifested before our eyes. Characters flow and change with little effort and much clarity. Whatarau is impeccable in his delivery as he swings from the incomprehensible mumbling of Uncle Angus to a 9-year-old boy called Ballbags. Ashby is powerful and controlled in her rendering of two aunties and a sidekick, with smooth transitions and superb characterisation. McCaskill is a master of nuance; facial expression, posture and body language are orchestrated perfectly to delineate between each persona. This is a team par excellence, polished and professional, and as much a whānau as the one they are so ably portraying.

Whānau is a theme for the night, it seems; a strand that ribbons it way through the evening, always visible around the edges. The original aunties are in attendance, laughing and adding in their two cents’ worth. There is a fair bit of banter between their table and the cast! It is obvious that this is a retelling of very real events, the story of a 50th birthday some time ago. It is fabulous to see how a story inspired by these women can in turn inspire such joy in them.

At the end of the night, the story is complete, the party is over, the players are themselves again. Director Erina Daniels arrives on stage, to conclude the night with a waiata. The subject, the message, is her own mother, someone who is not with us tonight. Everyone who can joins in and the room is united in their compassion for this woman; her grief is palpable. Aroha atu, e hine.

All in all, this is a fabulous night and one that leaves you feeling joyful. I float home, wrapped up in a jacket of happiness and memories, some my own and some of friends I do not know; who I have only glimpsed as if through a window.

Party with the Aunties is performing in the community in a different location across the city for the next week.  Details here (scroll down to Dunedin Tour 2019). 


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Funny, warm, energetic with impeccable comic timing

Review by Erin Harrington 13th Sep 2013

Uncle Angus is a man of few words, and a bit baffled by the attention he’s receiving on his 50th birthday. As one of the guests, the first thing you do when you arrive is grab a drink, find a spot at one of the Christchurch Football Club clubroom’s tables, admire the strings of party lights, and make friends with the person you’re now squished up against.   

As Angus’s wife Aunty Maria sets up the party (and hassles Angus into taking a shower), various members of the whānau arrive at the clubrooms for the big night. Party with the Aunties takes you from the set-up, to the party itself – speeches and all – and then into the night, where toasts turn into drinking games, late night boozing, and sneaky spliffs. There are big laughs and numerous singalongs. 

Audience favourite Uncle Shane – a wealthy, self-confessed “big deal” with a Guy Smiley grin – is back from Perth, where he’s been using his put-on plastic tiki indigeneity as cultural capital. Although social commentary isn’t at the fore, his character acts as something of a class traitor, someone who has cast aside family and community in his pursuit of self-advancement, as opposed to Te Manawa, the much loved eldest son of Angus, who jokes that he’s going to use his nearly-finished law degree to help get his cuzzies out of jail. 

Certainly there is conflict amidst the loose narrative. Aunty Kahu’s New Age schtick falls by the wayside the moment she gets a few drinks into her. Te Manawa turns up late with a girl on his arm, and she seems to have a history with one of the cousins. Uncle Shane’s son Rikihana doesn’t want anything to do with him. The difference in values between Uncle Shane and Uncle Angus is enormous, and Uncle Shane’s showboating nearly ruins the evening.

However, such conflict is gently drawn, and while recriminations and bad blood come bubbling up in the wee small hours as both the characters – and the actors! – have been knocking back the drinks, the performers show a real affection for the family. This means that even though things blow up, they are resolved with softness and humour (and, often, a song). 

The three performers – Matariki Whatarau, Jamie McCaskill, and Awhina-Rose Henare Ashby, working with director Erina Daniels and writers / collaborators Cameron Clayton and Karlos Drinkwater – play twelve characters between them. They range in age from Ballbags (9½), who can’t keep his hand off of his crotch, to Nanny May (70-something), who keeps pinching mussels even though they’ll aggravate her gout.

The three portray the whānau with dexterity and humour, relying on voice and movement, rather than props and costume, to convey these quick changes. The characterisations, which sometimes draw from broad stereotypes, are nonetheless finely pitched.   

The clubroom is quite large, and everyone has been encouraged to keep using the bar during the show, so the sightlines and acoustics can be challenging. The performers adapt well to the challenges of noise and space, and ensure that no one is left out. There is a fair amount of loose improvisation, and this always plays to the characters’ objectives. 

I have a real soft spot for this sort of boisterous site-specific theatre. For people like my +1, who is wary of both improv and anything involving a theatre, it breaks down some of the boundaries, both real and perceived, that exist around performance in a more traditional space. The performers are in place, playing guitars and singing, when the audience starts coming into the clubrooms, and you’re encouraged to join in if you’re up for it.

Even before McCaskill introduces the piece, and some of the theatrical conceits, such as the rapid character switching, the three have the audience firmly on side and disarmed, with vocal cords loosened. Most importantly, the performance fosters an amiable feeling of community. That the Christchurch Football Club is celebrating its 150th anniversary only adds to the sense of celebration. 

Party with the Aunties is one of the funniest, warmest things I have seen this year, and it highlights some of the benefits of bringing Christchurch Arts Festival events out to the suburbs. The singing is great, the performances are highly energetic, and the comic timing is impeccable. The stated intention of the performance was to re-create the atmosphere of a party, and they absolutely succeeded. My companion put it well: “Not flash, just fun.”


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Whanau values, behaviours and expectations

Review by Ngaire Riley 16th Aug 2013

The venue is full and the guitars are humming as we slip into our seats in the performing space at the back of the Mayfair, once a strip club, as several of the characters remind us. It’s so good to have the opportunity to wallow in too much choice for the two weeks of the Taranaki Arts Festival and here I am at my first night out. It feels like a party. 

The central bar table has three characters and they already have a few Steinies polished off. 

The delightful character of Angus is introduced by Matariki Whatarau. His speech is indistinct – or incoherent – but he is sweetly charming. And everyone can understand him, except us. Priceless. 

Three actors skilfully play three or four characters each and although the changes are slick and smooth many of these people remain very two dimensional.

One of Awhina Rose’s characters is sister-in-law Kahu, who pulls the negative energies from Angus’ puku. Delightful.

Jamie McCaskill’s strongest character is Shane from Perth; trying too hard to be Maori and too estranged from his son to win him back. 

A strength of the performance is the easy layering of traditional and contemporary values, behaviours and expectations. A weakness is the lack of development of relationships between the characters. Only at the end do we explore the love triangle of Te Manawa, Sia and Tai. Shane’s relationships with his son and Angus are bluntly blocked. Perhaps here is an opportunity to explore aspects of whanau and isolation in greater depth. 

The real strength of the play is the music. What superb acoustic guitarists and singers the men are. I encourage the team to knock out some of the loose scenes in the middle and give us more songs. Use the play as a vehicle for the songs. This is where the power and beauty of this performance lies.

At the end of the play we are left with a full table of empty stubbies that we have witnessed the trio consume; an uncomfortable reminder of what fuels most New Zealand parties, a concrete reminder that for many New Zealanders a laugh with the whanau can come at huge social cost.


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A pleasure to be part of family festivities and fights

Review by Gail Tresidder 17th Oct 2012

Everybody has a party including the Director of the Nelson Arts Festival, Sophie Kelly, as she treats the guests (us the audience) to hot sausages in buttered soft white bread, followed by Jamie McCaskill administering tomato sauce out of a large plastic jug. Doors are left wide open to the somewhat windy night and although this keeps the temperature a little on the low side, the warmth of the welcome – guitar music, singing, beer, bangers with an invitation to relax, move around, talk, sing, get more beer from the bar – is beguiling. 

Beginning its life eighteen months ago in a Paekakariki garage, this piece of innovative theatre has been praised for its originality and the fluidity of the three actors who give us twelve family members ranging from a young boy (“keep your hands off your dick”) to the senior aunties who rule the roost. 

As with all families, some are materially more successful than others. One of the brothers, Shane, earns megabucks in Perth and arrives from the airport in a corporate cab; his brother Angus, the birthday boy, works at local fisheries plant, Talleys, yet has the happy marriage and home life that eludes Shane.

Misunderstandings follow, interspersed with some excellent singing and culminating in the mandatory fight outside, seen and heard most realistically through the windows.

Kura Forrester, as Angus’s wife Maria, holds the show together.  Her dialogue with an uncommunicative husband is a delight and we rejoice with her in the totally over the top decorations of which she is so proud. There are the mandatory balloons, also fairy lights and coloured lights, streamers, a ‘Happy Birthday’ message strung in tawdry splendour and of course, the crème de la crème, purchased from the $2 shop: night lights on all the tables.

There are jokes about Pokarekareana – “the Air New Zealand song”, “a kumara doesn’t fall far from the tree”, the benefits of kawakawa juice as an enhancing alternative to beer, as well as poignant references to some of the pitfalls of modern life – Maria is easily coerced into “having just one drink” after working hard at her fitness while on the wagon. 

This mix has us alternately laughing with and laughing at their story. To use the vernacular, “No one can take the piss out of being Maori like the Maori.”

It was a pleasure to be right in the action at this party.  Many thanks to Erina Daniels for her invitation and to Jamie McCaskill, Matariki Whatarau and Kura Forrester for a most enjoyable and thought-provoking night out. 


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Clever characterisations keep this party moving

Review by Richard Mays 27th Jun 2012

Thanks to TV3’s The GC, we all now know that ‘aunties’ is ‘Mozzie-speak’ for girlfriends. But not in this impressive live acoustic rock ‘n roll based romp, it isn’t. These aunties are the traditional real deal – Aunty Maria and Aunty Kahu. And the party they’re throwing is to celebrate Angus, cherished husband of Maria, finally reaching “the residential speed limit”. 

To make this 50th event hum, a whole whanau of characters whirls into Feilding’s Denbigh Hotel Function Room, all performed by three versatile performers who also sing and play their way through this ‘night in the life of a party’. Directed by Erina Daniels, the performance originated from a Master of Theatre Arts project based on her own experiences attending and enjoying such family gatherings. 

Just like one of those family get-togethers, Party With The Aunties starts informally enough with Jamie McCaskill and Matariki Whatarau playing warm-up acoustic guitar and singing a selection of timeless sing-along hits. An affable McCaskill introduces the performance in situ among the bar stools and leaners, and makes it clear the audience can join in with the singing anytime, move about, get a drink, and make use of the facilities while the show unfolds – just like an extension of someone’s living room. 

Through Kura Forrester’s plain-speaking and chatty Maria, we’re introduced to Angus, Affco freezing worker, one of several memorable incarnations this inspired team have come up with. The opposite of his pleasantly garrulous wife, the taciturn Angus is deliberately played in inarticulate fashion. The character communicates in sounds only, without forming any distinct words – yet his guttural intonations and expressions are perfectly understandable as speech to the other characters, while interpretive meaning is certainly conveyed to the delight of the audience. 

In this priceless dialogue of wordless inflections and resonances, Whatarau conveys the character’s essence and dignity by what can only be described as non-silent miming. The invention adds a further dimension to the concept of ‘non-verbal communication’. On one hand, with this presentation, Whatarau is enjoying the portrayal of a-man-of-few-words archetype; on the other, he also manages to transcend it. 

Angus only breaks this ‘inarticulation’ twice; the first to sing a touching Prince Tui Teka love song to Maria, and later briefly during his birthday speech. This broke the illusion somewhat, and perhaps it might have been better if the character had continued his wordless status. 

The antithesis of Angus is his elder brother Shane. Delivered with perfectly pitched aplomb by McCaskill, Shane is an older generation ‘Mozzie’ – a successful, dapper, strutting, big-talking, big-noting businessman from Perth. The pretentious Shane is everything that Angus isn’t, but manages to be nothing that Angus is.  

Overly articulate and boorish, Shane’s loud and blowy didgeridoo interruption of a birthday presentation to Angus from son Te Manawa, also played by Whaterau, typifies his lack of sensitivity. More telling is that Shane’s own son defiantly wants to remain living with his humble meat-works uncle rather than be with his wealthy blow-hard father across the ditch. 

There are other interesting family dynamics. Forrester convincingly conveys the quiet sensibility of Sia, Te Manawa’s attractive Auckland-based girlfriend, who is meeting the rest of the whanau for the first time. Ah, but there’s a complication; Te Manawa’s cousin, the guitar-slinging, silky-voiced Takiwai, is an old beau…

Other characters are either sketched or more hurriedly drawn. There’s Ballbags(?) a whiny nine-year-old; Nanny, a kina scoffing matriarch; Aunty Kahu who does ‘readings’; and various other nieces and nephews – encounters punctuated by bursts of self-accompanied song. 

Party With The Aunties maintains an impromptu or partially improvised air that makes the quick-fire character switching and responses to progressing the story all the more striking. These performers display an excellent sense of story while sharing a remarkable rapport with each other, and with the audience. Their clever characterisations keep this party moving. 

Yes, some scenes with minor characters do play out a little long in this hour-and-a-half long show, but that’s the nature of this kind of performance, and the actors can easily be forgiven for occasionally lingering on their creations.  

As for the ‘Aunties’, the title is perhaps a slight misnomer – Maria being the dominant with Kahu delegated to a minor role. There is a sense that this play is still a work in development looking for its final form, but nevertheless, it makes a most engaging excursion into a hitherto largely uncelebrated part of Kiwi life in performance. 

Party With The Aunties is exactly the kind of show that can relocate easily into any local environment. Last time, it was Thames; this time it was Feilding; next time, the local references will probably come from the Nelson region where Party With The Aunties appears as part of the Nelson Arts Festival that opens on October 12 and runs until October 28. 


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A marvellous party with the aunties

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 28th Nov 2011

Never was there a more accurate title than Party with the Aunties. Balloons, paper streamers and fairy lights decorate the Miramar Rangers Clubrooms; the bar is open; the seating and the tables are arranged higgledy-piggledy; a couple of the performers are casually singing as the guests (that’s the audience) wander in – just like hundreds of parties held throughout the land every weekend.

The party – to celebrate the 50th birthday of the taciturn Angus – gets underway with some songs and then the family starts to arrive – and what a family. Angus has nothing to do except drink because his wife won’t let him do anything because it’s his birthday. Their eldest son (a lawyer of sorts) swaggers in from Auckland and another son swans in from Perth and carries on about his house and double garage, while one of the aunties is into vitamins and healthy living.

The younger generation have their problems too: an estranged father-son relationship, a mother who has more love for her nephew than her son, and jealousy caused by old flames meeting up at the party. But the celebration nearly ends in disaster when the older son gives his dad a present that is taken as a humiliating insult.

All this and more gets told with lots of songs (the audience is invited to join in at any time) and more laughter amongst the guests than you’ll get at most parties.  It’s a relaxed and relaxing show, under the smart direction of Erina Daniels, and though it seems casually performed it isn’t.  

All the characters are played with broad, sympathetic character strokes by a trio of hugely attractive, charismatic and talented performers: Jamie McCaskill, Matariki Whatarau, and Cian Elyse White.

Whatarau, who amusingly plays the mumbling Angus, gets one of the biggest laughs with his timing of “That’s New Zealand, eh?” when they all sing Pokarekare Ana after a string of American pop songs; White as the auntie on the health kick has the fanaticism of the newly converted off to a T, and McCaskill is uproariously funny with his rendition of Please Release Me which he performs without the aid of an echo chamber or a microphone.

In short, I went to a marvellous party.  


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Relaxed party atmosphere belies their creative expertise

Review by John Smythe 24th Nov 2011

A sausage-sizzle outside the Miramar Rangers Football Clubrooms welcomes us. Upstairs the bar is festooned with party decorations, and as we buy our drinks and find a seat the cast is casually strumming guitars and singing songs to establish the party atmosphere …

The occasion for this particular Party with the Aunties is the 50th birthday of Angus. Three actors create 12 memorable characters, occasionally playing out interactions between different incarnations of themselves. It’s hard to keep track of who is who at times but that just adds to the sense of a party seething with people.

Consummate organiser Maria (Cian Elyse White) insists her husband, the taciturn Angus (Matariki Whatarau) must not lift a finger on his birthday, leaving him with little else to do but raise a Tui-gripping hand. Arriving later than expected, their older son Te Manawa (Whatarau) is a “flash Auckland lawyer” (well, almost graduated), then there’s quite a gap to ‘Ball Bags’ (Whatarau) – “Get your hand off your pipi!” – and the even younger, cutely awkward Janet (White).

Angus and Maria have also raised nephew Rikihana (Whatarau) since his dad Shane (Jamie McCaskill) took off to start a new family in Perth. Aunty Kahu (White), Maria’s sister, claims to be into health supplements and this fabulous aloe vera drink, and off the booze forever (yeah right). Her son is Tai (McCaskill) but she makes it clear she has more love and respect for her high-achieving nephew Manawa. 

McCaskill also plays the kin-loving Nanny Mae while White also plays Takiwai, best mate of Tai and Rikihana, and Manawa’s Auckland girlfriend, Sia. It turns out Sia and Tai knew each other well back when Tai did some schooling in Auckland and they were into kapa haka together. Their reminiscing creates a really complicated situation that literally rattles the walls (you have to be there) before the cuzzie-bros sort it out.  

Devised by the actors with director Erina Daniels, the characterisations range from relatively naturalistic (Maria, Angus, Tai, Te Manawa, Sia) to quite a lot broader – but essentially true – comedic Maori archetypes (Aunty Kahu, Uncle Shane, Rikihana, Takiwai, Nanny Mae, ‘Ball Bags’, Janet). The story progresses in a natural flow from pre-party anxiety through getting the party started, general celebrating and more formal speeches, to alcohol-fuelled flares of emotion and sentimentality.

Subtext is a strong and very effective component at times, not least in Maria’s initial wariness and slow acceptance of Sia, and in the sequence where Te Manawa’s heartfelt gift to his father is upstaged by Uncle Shane’s, followed by a gesture that some may see as generous if it wasn’t so loaded with judgement (again, you have to be there).

Thanks to the hilariously staunch Uncle Shane’s reminiscences, it emerges these clubrooms have been the site of many whanau celebrations over the years. Having premiered the show last April in Paekakariki, this weaving into the local setting shows how committed the team is to the community aspect of their work. Kia ora to that.  

The unfolding action is fluidly interspersed with songs, into which we are invited to join when we know them. The show proper starts with ‘Reminiscing’ and progresses through such old favourites as ‘Till (this world grows old)’, ‘What’s New Pussycat?’ (the lyrics of which sound really quaint nowadays), ‘Listen to the Music’, a crazy medley spun around ‘Ten Guitars’, ‘Sad Movies (always make me cry)’, ‘Saturday Night at the Movies’ and the Bob Marley classic ‘Good Lovin’’ to ‘Pōkarekare Ana’ and a wonderfully soppy  ‘Give Me Your Heart’, all beautifully harmonised with great guitar-work from the boys.  

Being experiential/immersive theatre, I’m surprised they chose to place the audience down one end of the room. Playing most of it in the space between the audience and the bar does have the advantage of making a ‘live backdrop’, of the bar staff. But if the audience were more wrapped around the action, in our groups at tables, we’d serve as ‘party extras’ and add to the atmosphere. Sure, we’d have to twist and turn a bit to see what happening through hatchways, etc, but that would get us more physically involved.   

Nevertheless on leaving I did feel more like I’d been to a party than a play yet, on reflection, I could only marvel at how three actors – abetted by their director – had created that illusion. The relaxed and easy-going nature of the whole experience belies the creative expertise and talent that has gone to make Party with the Aunties a very absorbing and entertaining 80 minutes.  


ED November 27th, 2011

Hi John,

Your comments about our spatial relationship with the audience for PARTY WITH THE AUNTIES were echoed by other industry professionals who also attended our opening night performance this Wednesday gone.

This current season is sponsored by Creative New Zealand.  We are readying this show to tour to communities around New Zealand and to play in their garages, clubs, pubs, halls – anywhere a 50th would be held. 

Throughout this season we have continued to develop and consolidate our production values and practices to ensure PARTY WITH THE AUNTIES remains a robust, dynamic, sustainable and enjoyable experience and practice.

Since opening night we have changed the space up a couple of times so as to enhance our audience//performer relationship. 

I would be interested to hear comments and experiences from people who have seen this season’s show, (or even last season’s show in the double garage in Paekakariki) in relation to how they received PARTY WITH THE AUNTIES in the place they chose to put themselves.

Thank you for your response to our work, John.  I look forward to any ensuing discussion.

Yours sincerely,

Erina Daniels

DirectorPARTY WITH THE AUNTIES27//11//11

 O, PS – if you are reading this and it’s Sunday 27 Nov, then please come to the show and if you’re interested to – we can yarn about this question of relationship, there. X e 

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Skilful, heart-warming, entertainment

Review by Sunny Amey 16th Apr 2011

What a delightful way to spend an evening. There’s fun in the present and reminiscences of times past, partying in a garage at birthday parties.

Talented performers, Jamie McCaskill, Matariki Whatarau and Cian White play a kaleidoscope of twelve characters. All three are capable musicians and engaging singers. ‘Dance, dance, dance to their twelve guitars.’

They switch seamlessly to the various family members of all ages, plus an outsider girlfriend Sia (Cian White), who all gather to celebrate the 50th birthday of the taciturn but engaging Angus (Matariki Whatarau),

Director Erina Daniels has collaborated with the three actors to create this captivating piece as the last project for her Master of Theatre Arts in Directing. This two year postgraduate programme is jointly taught by Victoria University and Te Kura Toi Whakaari: The New Zealand Drama School. Party with the Aunties is based on parties Erina has had with her family and the sing a longs that warm the hearts of all of us. This evening does her proud. 

Daniels says she wanted to make a piece of theatre for people who don’t usually go to the theatre. She certainly succeeds in a garage in Paekakariki, where lads arrive with their tinnies and exuberant girls scream with excitement and offer advice to the players. Regular theatre goers and fellow actors are equally engaged in a warm-hearted homogenous whole.

We all identify with the aunties, uncles, cousins and workmates and the feelings that run high when the music plays and the beer flows. That’s classy Tuatara beer, provided by well heeled brother-in-law Shane (Jamie McCaskill) who is over from Perth. He arrives in Paekakariki, from the airport, in his corporate cab.

The action is fluid. There are delightful local references, making us feel a special community. A process of improvisation and a stake in the content has led to a security between the three players so that they live in the moment and will handle whatever happens at each particular party. They give us an evening of laughter, with many touching moments as members of the family reunite, encounter, agree to differ and go their ways, all interlaced with song and guitar.

This devised piece has great integrity. It will continue to develop. There are still matters that need to be integrated. 

We were invited to bring instruments, but there were no signals to join in.  We so wanted to sing along but we needed one or two obvious and irrestible favourites and a clear invitation.  Perhaps this could be at the beginning before we are officially welcomed by Jamie and introduced to the various characters. 

But it’s early days for a this skilful, heart-warming, entertainment.

For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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