Revenge of the Amazons

BATS Theatre, Wellington

30/11/2007 - 15/12/2007

Production Details

With an all star-cast of 20 on stage – one of the most exciting casts to ever be assembled on the professional stage – this is a brand new outrageous production, the perfect pre-Christmas treat and the hottest ticket in town… So get your skates on and don’t miss the first professional production since its debut at Circa Theatre in the early 80s!

"Fantastic imagination. Jean Betts’ thoroughly revised version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a stunning production"
– New Zealand Times

"Revenge of the Amazons is a pantomime romp through a feminist Shakespeare’s dream"
– Dominion

"The bard may well be turning in his grave, not because of the liberties taken with his play, but because he is laughing as helplessly as the audience did"
– Evening Post

(reviews from the original Circa Production, 1983)

Friday 30 November – Sat 15 December (no show Monday/Tuesday)
BATS Theatre
Time: 8.30pm
Tickets: $20 (full) / $12 concession

Presented with permission from Playmarket   

Full cast (in order of appearance): 
Hippolyta:  Kate Prior* 
Bevin Linkhorn:  Thesueus 
Erin Banks:*  Hermia
Heather O'Carroll:  Helena
Jamie McCaskill:  Lysander 
Craig Geenty:  Demetrius
Gavin Rutherford*:  Egeus
Julia Croft:  Missy
Ciara Mulholland:  Titania
Tanea Heke:  Puck
Alex Greig:  Oberon
Mel Dodge*:  Peaseblossom
Salesi Le'ota:  Cobweb
Leon Wadham:  Mustardseed
Jane Donald:  Georgina
Angela Green:  Shualmith
Kate McGill:  Shona
Brianne Kerr:  Jo
Lyndee-Jane Rutherford*:  Angela
Anya Tate-Manning:  Barabara
Guest actor:  Bruce

Jamie Burgess:  Music

Set design:  cast and crew
Costumes:  The Costume Cave, Rachel More & Jacqueline Coats
Props:  Jacqueline Coats  

1 hr 40 mins, no interval

An absolute gas of an evening

Review by Gemma Freeman 08th Dec 2007

… It is testament to Betts’s skill as a playwright that Amazons manages to so seamlessly weave the seemingly incongruous stories of a troupe of second wave feminist actors, the mismatched betrothals of Hermia, Lysander, Helena and Demetrius, a posse of roller-skating, afro-sporting fairies, and the marriage of an Amazon queen to the Duke of Antipodea, an extremeley-nice-but-rather-drippy Kiwi bloke. Not to mention that it provides thought-provoking messages and yet still ends with a choreographed group disco dance.  [Read more]


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They all rock

Review by Lynn Freeman 07th Dec 2007

It’s 25 years since the premiere of this furiously funny, feminist spin on the Bard’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, and it’s aged well even though we’re living in a world now where women can get, and do get, the top jobs.

Jean Betts’ play pokes the borax at everyone, and takes the battle of the sexes to whole new places.

In this world, Oberon is a faithless serial adulterer and it’s Titania who employs the love potion, while Bottom, a member of the Fallopian Thespians, is a feminist whose ears are turned into those of a bunny girl.

The FTs are a weird and wonderful pack of women in touch with their channels, while Hippolyta is bewildered moving from a matronising to a patronising society, and can’t imagine treating men as equals.

The cast of 20 is huge not only in terms of number, but also when it comes to enthusiasm, energy and talent. To list them all and their characters would exceed my word count. Just take it from me that they all rock. They also move remarkably well in perilously high platform shoes.

As mentioned earlier, this play is celebrating its quarter century; Betts and the cast have included updated references. Problems securing Creative New Zealand funding, publicity paying better than acting, and quite a few "in-house" references that may pass over the heads of audience members outside the Wellington theatre scene, are not enough to be frustrating.

Jennifer Lal’s set and the mind-blowing costumes are pure (and scary) early 70s, with ultra-funky Puck’s psychedelic jumpsuit and afro taking the cake.  
For more production details, click on the title at the top of this review. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.   


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Explodes with energy, laughs and disco

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 03rd Dec 2007

When Puck (Tanea Heke) appears dressed in a culotte dress, roller skates, an afro hairdo and oozing Motown glamour while lost in another world through her headphones, and Cobweb (Salesi Le’ota) is tightly wrapped in Lurex hot pants and sucking a lollipop, and the rude mechanicals are fanatical feminists who call themselves The Fallopian Thespians and the entire cast in the finale start disco dancing with Travolta-like assurance then you know, like Bottom, that you have had "a most rare vision."

Twenty-four years ago Revenge of the Amazons first burst onto Circa’s tiny stage and now with an even larger cast on a similar sized stage at Bats it explodes with a fizzing energy as it turns Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream which is set in a Grecian English forest to "a 70s re-working" of it set in Antipodea, where Puck pours magical rata juice of the northern kind into the lovers’ eyes and the Fallopian Thespians rehearse in the bush because the Aro Street Hall is unavailable.

Jean Betts’s comedy is not another feminist tract beating us over the head about the awfulness of men but it is at heart a plea for men and women to realize what life could be like for all if only we respected each other’s individuality and potential. The present version has been judiciously cut and brought up to date with humorous references amongst other things to rival theatrical attractions.

The comedy is played with a physical intensity that at times is so strong that the humour becomes forced, but for the most part laughter is the result as Helena (Heather O’Carroll) pines for Demetrius ((Craig Geenty) and Hermia (Erin Banks) keeps the lustful Lysander (Jamie McCaskill) at bay, and when they fight they fling each other about the stage like rag dolls.

The meek and mild Theseus (Bevin Linkhorn) is clearly going to be bossed around by his Germanic sounding Amazonian fiancée Hippolyta (Kate Prior), while no one, not even Oberon (Alex Grieg), is going to subjugate Barbara (Anya Tate-Manning) who is transformed from a feminist thespian into an ersatz Playboy Bunny in platform shoes.

The Fallopian Thespians are an intense lot and their play, Labia’s Lament, is a hilarious spoof of agitprop theatre and the actors, particularly Angela (Lyndee-Jane Rutherford outrageously funny) are hard pressed not to attack their audience when their emotions overtake them. A riot of an evening, if at times a little exhausting!


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Ebullient satire: treat yourselves

Review by John Smythe 01st Dec 2007

Professional theatre’s most generous Christmas gift to Wellington this year is an ebullient new production of Jean Betts and William Shakespeare’s Revenge of the Amazons (a 70s reworking of A Midsummer Night’s Dream).

With 20 actors (no doubling!) bursting BATS at its tiny backstage seams and filling the bright psychedelic stage with delight, the show is gloriously profligate. And the Puck and forest fairies  still have room to roller-skate!

It’s an epic undertaking that can only work if the fun pumps freely from the play’s true heart, and in this directors Rachel More and Jacqueline Coats, the cast, and the whole production team succeed with a relaxed ease that surely belies the hard work behind it. The production values are the tasty icing on a very rich fruit-and-nut cake.

The play premiered at Circa in 1983, very soon after feminist icon Betty Friedan had followed her consciousness-shifting The Feminine Mystique with The Second WaveRevenge of the Amazons also pre-dates (it seems relevant to add) Xena: Warrior Princess by more than a decade.

As I understand it, it was the bizarre notion that Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons no less, would succumb to marriage in a patriarchal society where a woman who fails to wed the man of her father’s choosing may be put to death or condemned to lifelong chastity, that provoked Jean Betts into bringing the sharp end of her satirical quill to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Along with dissecting a full range of masculine archetypes, she also satirises 1970s radical feminism, not to mention non-hierarchical devised theatre collectives, which is especially topical on this site right now.

Recently arrived in Antipodea to marry its Duke -Bevin Linkhorn’s Theseus has a classic comb-over, a sports administrator’s blazer, walk shorts, socks and sandals – Kate Prior’s leather-clad Hippolyta, one breast proudly exposed, is incredulous at the state of this nation’s sexual politics. Quite why she opts for a rather dour Slavic-cum-mid-European accent, however, escapes me: Greek or South American would have made more sense.

The plight of the Antipodean lovers – Hermia (Erin Banks) who loves Lysander (Jamie McCaskill) but is betrothed to Demtrius (Craig Geenty) who is hopelessly loved by Helena (Heather O’Carroll) – remains reasonably true to its Athenian origins, with a couple of embellishments. Demetrius, heir to a large sheep station, shagged Helena at his 21st then dumped her in the strange belief it would gain him entry to Hermia. Egeus (Gavin Rutherford), Hermia’s father – who has recently wed his daughter’s ex-school friend Missy (Julia Croft) – needs Hermia to marry into money to clear his gambling debts. And Hermia’s self-defence skills are more aligned to martial than marital arts.

At the hands of these splendidly adept performers, this plotline anchors the show yet plays out with great buoyancy in concise scenes of heart-felt acuity. And the way the women briefly drop their stroppiness to go ga-ga over diamond rings and wedding dresses is especially hilarious.

The fairy storyline is flipped in that it’s Titania (Ciara Mulholland in full singing voice) who calls on the services of Puck (Tanea Heke, unaccountably addding a downtown Harlem momma accent to her jiving, switched-on, wacky whanau aunty persona).  It’s Alex Greig’s slinky and physically adept bisexual Oberon who has the fairy entourage:  Mel Dodge’s bewildered Peaseblossom, Leon Wadham’s queenly Mustardseed and Salesi Le’ota, whose lollipop-sucking makes Cobweb a most fellatious fairy. And it’s Oberon’s eyes that are anointed with the love potion that will make him enamoured of the next creature he sees …

The most radical reworking of the original has the "rude mechanicals" reinvented as the Fellopian Thespians, still trying to get their devised act together with only three days to go till they perform. This devastatingly funny – dare I say penetrating? – satire is nevertheless affectionate in its send-up of feminist archetypes.

Jane Donald’s earnest Georgina is desperate to get the show written, let alone rehearsed, without being authoritarian. Angela Green’s energy-centring, impro-loving Shulamith wields formidable power. Brianne Kerr’s disenchanted drama school grad, Jo, seeks deeper satisfaction as an actor, while her naïve second cousin from Levin, Shona – a wonderfully wide-eyed Kate McGill – tries to understand the politics.

Lyndee-Jane Rutherford tops a splendid year of character roles as Angela, the most volatile misandrist (man-hater), who turns out to be an egotistical control-freak. And newcomer Anya Tate-Manning makes wicked sense of the assertively left-wing Barbara, who is secretly shagging the elusive grease-monkey Bruce while supporting the sisterhood. When she is transformed by drugs into the object of Oberon’s desire, she belies the connotations of her Puck-implanted bunny ears by reducing the ‘king’ to a gibbering lovelorn wreck.

Their performance of the still-being-devised Labia to Hippolyta and Theseus, Hermia and Lysander, Helena and Demetrius, as part of their collective wedding celebrations, is resplendent with the comedy-of-anguish that can arise from well-conceived character flaws and tops off a hundred compelling minutes of perceptive entertainment.

Give yourselves an early Christmas gift by treating yourselves to this show. If you’re old enough to have been part of the 70s social upheaval you’ll get heaps out of revisiting those times. If you’re young and want to know what your parents – or their contemporaries – were part of, you may well be amazed. And either way you’ll be surprised at how relevant all of it remains today.


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