Silent Night

Q Theatre Loft, 305 Queen St, Auckland

22/11/2016 - 26/11/2016

Maidment Theatre - Musgrove Studio, Auckland

13/12/2010 - 18/12/2010

TAPAC Theatre, Western Springs, Auckland

14/12/2011 - 18/12/2011

16th Avenue Theatre, 174 16th Ave, Tauranga

24/10/2011 - 25/10/2011

Suter Theatre, Nelson

14/10/2011 - 15/10/2011

Hawkes Bay Opera House, Assembly Room, Hastings

11/11/2011 - 12/11/2011

The Riverbank Centre, 71 Reyburn House Lane, Whangarei

19/07/2012 - 19/07/2012

Old Folks Association Hall, 8 Gundry St, Newton, Auckland

07/03/2011 - 13/03/2011

BATS Theatre, Wellington

06/12/2011 - 10/12/2011

Turner Centre, 43 Cobham Road, Kerikeri

15/07/2012 - 15/07/2012

Tauranga Arts Festival 2011

Nelson Arts Festival

Arts On Tour NZ 2012

Auckland Fringe 2011

Production Details

Written by Yvette Parsons
Directed by Stephen Papps


With her tea trolley polished, Cameo Cremes on the cake stand and sherry glasses at the ready, Yvette Parson’s intimate solo show Silent Night shuffles into the Musgrove Studio for seven shows only from December 13th 2010.

It’s Christmas Day and an elderly Irene McMunn demonstrates her unusual and innovative cooking, shopping and festive decorating techniques while awaiting the arrival of her guests. In this time, Irene remembers stories of her past – the Tangiwai disaster, the effects it had on her and her family, the courtship and marriage of her late husband Len and her relationship with daughter Elaine.

She also regales about her special ability – she can receive messages from God. Confiding to her local priest about her ability, day by day the messages become regular and found in everyday items, such as the vision of the Virgin Mary in her Tip Top toast. If that wasn’t enough to contend with, her cat “Monty” has gone missing!

Always quick to spot a souvenir sherry set, hand-made lace treasure or a right royal trinket, Parsons has collected an eclectic array of memorabilia for Silent Night –  a story of loss, loneliness and stoic survival, laced with plenty of humour and a set full of nostalgic paraphernalia.

Developed as part of Auckland Theatre Company’s First Draft workshop for playwrights in 2008. Creator of the piece is one of theatre’s stalwarts, Yvette Parsons well recognized on stage with her performances in 2010’s The House of Bernarda Alba at TAPAC and 2009’s Entertaining Mr Sloane at Wellington’ Circa Theatre, Parsons has also helped pen Gas alongside the likes of Thomas Sainsbury, Rina Patel and many more. Parson’s is also set to play a key role in the upcoming Madeleine Sami comedy SuperCity.

Silent Night plays
13th – 18th December 2010, 8pm (additional 2pm performance on the 18th)
Musgrove Studio, 8 Alfred Street, Auckland
Tickets: $30 – $20
Bookings through The Maidment Theatre – 09 308 2383 or
Running time: 60 minutes

Bats Season (Wellington)
6-10 December 2011, 7pm

2012 Tour Itinerary – AOTNZ

Sunday 15 July Kerikeri
Downstairs at the Turner Centre 7.30pm
$32 Adults; $27 Seniors; $5 Students (18 and under)
Book: 0800 200 411

Tuesday 17 July Rawene
Town Hall, $15

Thursday 19 July Whangarei
The Riverbank Centre 7.30pm
$20 adult; $10 Student
Book: and Whangarei Suit Hire

Friday 20 July Onewhero
The OSPA Theatre 8pm
$20 Book: River Traders Tuakau

Saturday 21 July Opunake
Opunake High School Hall 7.30pm
$20 Book: Pastimes or Egmont Community Arts Council 06 761 8789

Sunday 22 July Upper Hutt
Expressions Arts and Entertainment Centre 2pm
$30 Adult; $25 Friends/concession; $100 for a 5 show season pass
Book: 04 527 2168

Tuesday 24 July Takaka
The Playhouse in Park Avenue 7.30pm
$18 pre-booked; $20 on the door
Book: Paradise Video and Laundrette

Thursday 26 July Ashburton
Ashburton Trust Event Centre 7.30pm
$25 each; $22.50 for 2 or 3; $20 each for 4 or more; door sales all $25
Book: Event Centre Box office or

Friday 27 July 7.30pm Oamaru
Oamaru Opera House
$30 Adult; Conc $25; Groups 10+ $20 or 08004ticket

Saturday 28 July Cromwell
Lowburn Hall 7.30pm
$25 Adults; SuperGold $20; Student/Child $5
Book: Cromwell and Alexandra I-Sites

Sunday 29 July Arrowtown
Athenaeum Hall 7pm
$20 Book: Lakes District Museum

Tuesday 31 July Fairlie
Mackenzie Community Theatre 7.30pm
$20 Book: Heartlands Fairlie

Arts On Tour New Zealand

Arts On Tour New Zealand (AOTNZ) organises tours of outstanding New Zealand performers to rural and smaller centres in New Zealand. The trust receives funding from Creative New Zealand and liaises with local arts councils, repertory theatres and community groups to bring the best of musical and theatrical talent to country districts.     


“Yvette Parsons’ one-woman, one act play is as resonant as a long life lived in middle New Zealand: brimming with laughs, hurt, joy, hope, disappointment, satisfaction and sadness. It’s literally laugh ’til you cry stuff.” Lindy Laird – Theatreview

For those who missed out last time, Silent Night is back for its final outing
at The Loft, Q Theatre
from November 22 – 26, 2016.
For bookings, please visit:

Yvette Parsons

Theatre , Solo ,

1 hr 15 mins

Bitter-sweet clarity carries laugh 'til you cry survivor story

Review by Lindy Laird 20th Jul 2012

Yvette Parsons’ one-woman, one act play Silent Night is as resonant as a long life lived in middle New Zealand: brimming with laughs, hurt, joy, hope, disappointment, satisfaction and sadness. 

The audience is with elderly widow Irene McMunn in her `unit’ as she prepares a Christmas celebration, to which none of the `invitees’ has yet turned up. 

The preparations trigger her excursions down memory lane, the track through those reminiscences not always straight or smooth, and sometimes ending on a cliff-edge. Time and time again Irene valiantly saves herself from plummeting over the brink into inconsolable heartache, inexpressible anger, anguish or the shocking realisation of abiding loneliness. Made of tougher stuff, a survivor, Irene saves herself, soldiers on, chin firmly up, self belief slightly shaken but not stirred.

Irene’s brave (sometimes bigoted) little vignettes of a life interrupted by war, the Tangiwai disaster, a marriage dogged by impotency, are at times hilarious, at others excruciatingly sad, even cringingly discomforting, and always told in the vernacular of a receding Kiwi generation. 

It’s literally laugh ’til you cry stuff. 

As well as Parsons’ singularly and soulfully inhabiting the emotional, cultural and intellectual landscape of her character, she masterfully mimics the movement and physicality of an elderly woman. Irene teeters on the abyss, too, in some hilarious visual gags, although at one point _ the couch, the Xmas cards,
the trousers slipping down _ a trifle too extended.

Speaking of trifles, the set is straight out of Nanaland _ the Catholic icons, Charles and Di photos, net curtains and rubber ring cushions adding texture to the already rich telling of Irene’s story. 

It’s about being old, old fashioned, functioning, facing the odds, the fine lines between loss and being lost and between condescension and dignity. Irene isn’t always entirely likeable but she does evoke, although not wallow in, sympathy.

With sensitive, sharp direction from Stephen Papps, Parsons tells Irene’s lonely Christmas story and portrays the character brilliantly, not with subtlety but with bitter-sweet clarity.  


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A beautiful piece of theatre

Review by Mike Nettmann 17th Jul 2012

Silent Night was performed in the theatre bar of the Turner Centre – the perfect location for this intimate play with an impressive set depicting the lounge of Irene McMunn’s unit in Sunnynook, resplendent with an eclectic array of memorabilia from ornamental doilies to Royal trinkets.

From Yvette Parsons’ entrance on stage, singing a passionate Silent Night and calling her cat Monty, to her ebullient exit singing “Irene and Monty wish you a merry Christmas”, she manages to hold her audience captivated throughout waves of hilarity and poignant moments sadness.

Silent Night is a delightful tour-de-force through Irene McMunn’s reminiscings, as a senior living life solo, of her childhood and ‘present day’ characters and family.  

The play is captivating and cleverly held together with plenty of humour, from demonstrating how to make a toast Christmas tree centrepiece through discovering the image of the Virgin Mary on one of the pieces of toast and how to be bold with bananas or create a ‘candle salad’ to an hilarious display of Irene’s rear while perched on a couch hanging ‘old’ Christmas cards.

Of Irene’s moments of sadness, none are as poignant as her recollection of being with husband Lenny at his death, squeezing her hand to acknowledge he loved her – Parsons’ heartfelt ‘Danny Boy’ is positively riveting.

Throughout the play Irene is awaiting the arrival of Christmas guests: the priest, her family and beloved cat Monty, who is constantly called for.

When the doorbell rings at the end, the intrigued audience is left to decide who it is – and was there ever a cat at all.

Silent Night is a beautiful piece of theatre. Bravo! 


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Fresh and satisfying

Review by Craig Beardsworth 15th Dec 2011

This one woman one act one hour play is a prime example of what theatre is meant to do. That is, take the audience on a journey.

This might seem like a pretty basic prerequisite, but often enough a writer can lose pace or an actor may not be able to keep you on side thus disrupting the illusion. Yvette Parsons as writer and actor is in no danger of losing her audience. We laughed, cried, cringed and applauded throughout.

Silent Night premiered a year ago in Auckland and has played several venues since. This time has clearly helped Parsons hone a tightly constructed character piece. We get to meet Irene McMunn on Christmas Day – elderly, widowed, neglected by her daughter and clinging to her faith (and the parish priest).

Irene wears orthotic sandals, watermelon pink, specs on a neck chain and a rosary with a cross hanging disturbingly at crotch level. While she waits for her guests to arrive we get to sample the life of a lonely but perennially happy pensioner. The beauty of the writing is that each laugh is double edged. Christmas cards hung on a string above the couch during an hilarious geriatric balancing act turn out to be several years old. We laugh but know that it’s a possible scenario in some lonely households.

Irene’s war traumatised husband, loveless marriage and loss of a brother to the Tangiwai disaster give ample opportunity for very moving acting.

Silent Night is fresh, satisfying and yet another reason why Bats is so important to Wellington.


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Spend the Night with Irene

Review by James Wenley 15th Dec 2011

Irene McMunn’s Christmas cheer has been charming audiences in small venues across the country.

So much so, that director Stephen Papps has lost track of how many seasons the one woman show has had. This return season at TAPAC is the first time he’s seen the show since March. Impressively, it’s the third Auckland season after its debut at the Musgrove Theatre this time last year, a testament to its audience appeal, and the performance of actor/playwright Yvette Parsons. [More


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Reminder about elderly, lonely

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 09th Dec 2011

The great Tom Lehrer wrote that “Christmas time is here, by golly, / disapproval would be folly”. In the comedy-drama Silent Night Irene McMunn, an elderly widow living on her own certainly doesn’t disapprove and her unit, while not decked with “hunks of holly,” does have a tree and decorations amongst her family photos and mementoes of Charles and Diana’s wedding.

Irene potters about her room singing and talking to herself and Monty the cat, and then taking the audience into her confidence as she prepares some pretty strange concoctions for her expected guests to eat on Christmas Day afternoon. She also recalls painful events in her life such as the death of a brother, and the effects of wartime experiences on her husband and their marriage.

As the play proceeds we come to see that her simple religious beliefs have sustained her through an unhappy life even as we laugh at her dottiness in seeing a portrait of the Virgin Mary on a piece of toast, her constant pestering of Father Carlyle on the phone and at the church, and her sudden “discovery” of God’s plan.

There is some amusing comedy as a Christmas table decoration is created out of unlikely material and there’s a prolonged sequence when Christmas cards are hung on a string high above a couch and later a recipe is created from an intriguingly titled cook book called Be Bold with Bananas

For the old and lonely Christmas is not a happy time but Irene somehow carries on imperturbably. She finds comfort in the Queen’s speech on the telly, which is the message of the play: care for one another especially the old and lonely. 

Yvette Parsons creates a larger-than-life portrait that makes Bats seem a very small theatre indeed and her playing of the emotional highs and lows and the broad comic scenes could more than fill The Opera House. She was greeted at the end with enthusiastic laughter and applause. 


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Entertaining and finally moving gift

Review by John Smythe 07th Dec 2011

It’s Christmas Day at Sunnynook. Irene McMunn is expecting company and there is much to do before her much-loved and admired (young) priest Father Carlisle, and her (adopted) entrepreneurial daughter Elaine and son-in-law Murray, arrive. And Monty (the cat) will, of course, turn up any moment now …

Husband Lenny – she married him just in time for him to go to war and he was a different man when he returned – died three years ago. He might have lost his faith in the trenches but now she has turned to hers even more so, as the religious pictures in her Sunnynook unit attest, although they vie for attention with images of Princess Di (and Charles). One other picture is displayed: a brother, Trevor* …

Irene was one of 14 kids, raised in Northcote. A six inch nail was their wardrobe but they were happy, and happiness is something Irene is determined to retain, against all odds – the oddest being herself: an all-but-forgotten remnant of an age that is bygone for most who will see this show at Bats.

There is humour and pathos-aplenty in Yvette Parsons’ beautifully modulated performance – directed by Stephen Papps – as she peels the onion of her story while navigating through a full range of emotional states. The way her astutely-attuned script understates her history and circumstances allows for much engaging discovery on our parts, so that in the absence of other gifts on the day, she receives empathy from us in waves.

My only small niggle is that her knee-jerk racism towards the Chinese couple in another unit is introduced early but goes nowhere and I can’t help feeling more hints as to how she has contributed to her own isolation would enhance her status as a tragic figure (rather than as just a victim of others’ selfishness).

Mind you, her reasons for clinging to faith and seeking miraculous manifestations in unusual places are very well rooted, allowing us to see things from Father Carlisle’s point of view as well as her own. Indeed the seeding of “God’s plan” for her – revealed last night in a dream – proves an excellent set-up for a pay-off at the end, raising a curly question as to who might be at the door, at last …  

Meanwhile what Irene does with toast, bananas, a cauliflower, carrot and prunes – not to mention her pills for an astonishing range of ailments – keeps her busy and us highly amused. And her attempts to (re)hang Christmas cards on a string above the sofa is an inspired piece of minimalist silent comedy.  

Parsons’ Irene sings beautifully in the high soprano beloved of hymn-singers, adding a soulful garnish to a very entertaining and finally moving hour. Its true gift to the world is to inspire us all to consider who in our lives might be forgotten on Christmas day, and what to do about it.
– – – – – – – – – – – – –
*A dedication in the programme reveals that Parsons’ uncle Trevor Clark was – like Irene’s brother Trevor – one of the 153 lost in the Tangiwai Disaster on Christmas Eve 1953. 


Corus January 21st, 2012

"Rants"?!  I rest my case.

John Smythe January 21st, 2012

Fair enough, Corus. The irony is that your rants against positive reviews could be construed as you mocking or bullying the critics. But that’s an occupational hazard so no problem there.

As for “mainstream” – there is no such viewpoint or standards that Theatreview critics are asked to subscribe to. Each contributes according their own knowledge, awareness, experience, perceptions and value systems. Likewise contributions via Comments and Forums. And all the tributaries flow into this thing called Theatreview.

So I suppose if you look at it that way, a ‘mainstream’ is inevitable. But it’s not one mass opinion; it remains many individual contributions. 

Corus January 21st, 2012

“The point” is the hope, relief and satisfaction that an alternative view can give. Even if ill-expressed, an objection that cuts through a pile of cozy flattery and offers encouragement for those whose views don’t happen to tally with the mainstream, can be very refreshing. And who knows, may lead to an interesting debate – as long the contributors are not mocked or bullied into silence.

John Smythe January 20th, 2012

Thank you, Corus, for explaining why you hide behing a nom-de-plume. I remain bewildered that you constantly damn productions without comprehensive criticism and damn critics likewise. What's the point? Whom or what does it serve? How about modelling the sort of reviews you would like to see? 

Corus January 20th, 2012

It's not the vanity reviews that bother me, it's the lack of intelligent criticism.  Anonymity allows the shy to say what they really think, with no possibility of their views being dismissed because of 'who they are', and less likelihood of feelings being hurt and friendships lost, which matters a lot to people in a small cultural community.

John Smythe January 19th, 2012

Sorry Jepha, how does anonymity "save bias"? I'd have thought it protected bias. How do we know vanity reviews are not being posted under the cloak of anonymity? 

We Theatreview critics are often in the position of knowing the people we review - some of us are even related to them! But our policy is that true professional respect can only be shown through honest feedback. And when the names of all players are known, any perceived conflict-of-interest or bias can be challenged and responded to. 

Jepha Krieg January 19th, 2012

To save bias, Wellington Reviews like to keep their team anonymous, I go to Carousel Cabaret every month and so does their reviewer yet I still have no idea who they are! Haha

John Smythe December 8th, 2011

Re the 'Wellington Reviews' site, Jepha, I'm astonished they are unattributed, while obviously the personal opinion of ... someone. Accountability cuts both ways, surely.   

Jepha Krieg December 8th, 2011

Another review is available on:

I noticed tonight that your review was printed and placed in BATS' front window =)

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Familiar, authentic and yet unique

Review by Kirsty van Rijk 12th Nov 2011

Silent Night – directed by Stephen Papps and written and performed by Yvette Parsons – takes us through the hours before Irene McMunn’s Christmas Day guests, her parish priest and her daughter, arrive. Irene is in her new unit in Sunnynook with her cat Monty and her memories.

This is a play that is difficult to review without simply paraphrasing previous reviews:  “haunting portrayal”, “as poignant as it is parodic”, and so forth. Well, what can I add? I agree.  And the audience agrees with me. All around people are laughing, holding their breath, sighing. 

Yvette Parsons is faultless in her characterisation of the simple and sad Irene McMunn. Parsons brings her to life but more than that, I’m sure I know this woman. As writer and actor, Parsons manages to create a character we recognise and empathise with, and yet Irene is still unique; original. A Dutch woman sitting near to me whispers “echte” to her friend: “real.”  And it is. Parsons achieves a balance of familiarity and authenticity in both her writing and performance without slipping into stereotype. That’s quite a feat.

Stephen Papps’ direction is subtle, but it is also gentle and supports the character fully. This is clearly a successful professional partnership. The result, performed at the Assembly Rooms in Hastings, with audience seated at tables decorated for Christmas, munching mince pies and sipping sherry, is very well received by an admittedly older and mostly female audience. So what?

This isn’t a play for someone wanting high drama, there is drama, everyday drama, and humour. It is the perfect play for the audience and this audience knows it. We laugh, we sigh, we enjoy and are moved by Silent Night. My mum loves it. Enough said, really.

Merry Christmas Parsons and Papps, what are we getting next year?


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Senior Years Tinged With Sadness And Joy

Review by Michele McPherson 31st Oct 2011

To entertain a captive audience alone is no mean feat but Yvette Parsons does it brilliantly. Playing widowed pensioner Irene McMunn in the play Silent Night, she uses humour to reflect the challenges and realities of life alone in your senior years. 

While hilariously funny, the story is tinged with moments of poignant sadness as Irene re-lives the loss of her brother Trevor and dear husband Lennie. [More]  


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Celebration is anything but quiet

Review by Leonie Hall 17th Oct 2011

If you’ve ever wanted to make a “banana candle”, look no further than Silent Night. Played by Yvette Parsons, Irene McMunn and her Be Bold With Bananas cookbook left plenty to the imagination. With her Home Brand Christmas pies (“That’s a good brand!”), Potato Roasters and Wafer Delights, Irene took us on a journey through a widow’s Christmas.

Taking a roll of sticky tape to remove cat hair from her clothes, and enlightening the audience as to her recent “defecating proctogram”, she invited plenty of laughs into her living room. However, this one-woman show also revealed the complicated emotions of a lonely celebration. With husband Len passing away five years prior, Irene’s new unit is the site of love and loss, with plenty of royal paraphernalia on show. [More


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Bravery and optimism in the face of loneliness produce Christmas cheers

Review by Gail Tresidder 15th Oct 2011

It has been a long time since I thought of Ninnie Williams.  Having lost her young husband at Gallipoli and her two sons in the 2nd World War, Ninnie came to live in our home as a housekeeper and nanny for my little brother.  For many years we were her family but eventually she moved to a rest home and to my shame, as a self-centred adolescent, I moaned about going to visit her.  She was one generation older than Yvette Parson’s Irene McMunn.  Otherwise, their histories ran parallel and with equally drastic outcomes.  

All through Parson’s consummate performance, Ninnie was with me.  

Irene has Maison Fluff white hair and Ninnie rubbed Bay Rum in to her thin white hair.  They both used songs for cheer and songs for sadness – ‘Danny Boy’ a joint favourite and wistfully sung by Irene.  They are royalists, racists in an uninformed way, though “live and let live” says Irene; both use sellotape to remove cats hair from clothes and furniture and chase flies with a plastic fly-swat.  Brave, resilient and determinedly cheerful despite everything, they are lonely, missing lost husbands and children and in Irene’s case, with an adopted daughter who cruises in, borrows money, then cruises out. 

Christmas is important for Irene, her first in the ‘Sunny Nook’ unit.  She saves up with a Christmas Club, has decorated with tree, tinsel and cards (only a few and from years ago) and a cut-out Virgin Mary and Joseph.  She has been busy creating: a stand-up Christmas tree out of two pieces of toast, a small masterpiece of kitsch, and heaven knows what from her cookbook “Be Bold With Bananas”. 

She has been to Christmas Mass (“Father Carlisle and I are very close”) and experienced yet another miracle – an image of the Virgin Mary on a piece of burnt toast – and must tell Father about it immediately.  All she needs now is for the guests to arrive, her cat to show and celebrations can begin. 

The set is near perfect, with purple flowered wallpaper, a lace antimacassar on the chair, china toboggan ornament (Irene, like most New Zealanders of the time, celebrates Christmas as “at home”), knick-knacks of the plastic kind and framed prints of Prince Charles and Lady Di on the walls.  

She wears easies and built-up sandals with lycra fixings (funny/sad moments when she takes a swing at her sandals to undo them) and brick red pants of some synthetic material.  Her teeth come loose and, despite her long list of ailments and pills to assuage them, she is staunchly cheerful. Currently waiting for the results of a “defecating proctagram”, Irene trusts the medical profession implicitly. 

It is likely that everyone in the full house audience knew or knows an Irene McMunn, whether she is a relative, neighbour, school teacher or someone at church or in the supermarket. Bravo Yvette Parsons for making us laugh a lot, cry a little, and for reminding us of the modern-day Irene’s near-at-hand who are old and lonely and living in a tired worn body with bravery and optimism despite everything.   

It was a superb portrayal and fully warranted the audience’s cheers.


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A treasured pleasure

Review by Venus Stephens 08th Mar 2011

False first impressions render Irene McMunn a pitiable old widow, with nothing better to do than twitch the curtains and harass her local pastor. 

Closer inspection reveals the elderly McMunn, a resplendent vision of viscose and flesh-coloured nylons, is more than the sad caricature of old age that noisily rambles into view from the ‘hallway’ of her pensioner flat.

She relays her tale in bursts of enthusiasm counterpointed with whispers of reflection. It is a portrayal of a senior life living solo, of lost hope and clumsy resilience. Yvette Parsons poignantly unfolds her character’s heartbreaking and caustically sad story with effortless energy and poise. Her monologue invokes a seesaw of emotion in me; one moment I’m laughing, the next I’m close to tears. 

Parsons is a performer with great sensitivity and strength, her storytelling has a humour and effervescent honesty that enriches my theatre experience. 

Silent Night is a flawless insight into a life quarter full and nearly running on empty. Parsons manages to personify her character so seamlessly that we, the audience, pander to her every move; we wait with patience as she cleverly charms us into a lull, allowing herself to stretch Irene’s mannerisms at senior citizen pace. 

Laughter comes spontaneously as she drops ‘pearler’ one-liners, some born in their ignorance from a life restricted to white, middleclass suburbs, others quirky Irene McMunn summations. They flavour her appeal, much as her cookbook repertoire must do for her dinner parties. 

Parsons’ comedic style is fine-tuned and skilful. She is a performer with sensitivity and grace; she measures out an elder identity that has depth and purity to it.

With the recent earthquake tragedy in Christchurch, one is reminded that as a society we must take better care of our elderly community, whether it is stopping by our elderly neighbours for a cup of tea, or calling your Nana to say hello.  

Yvette Parsons is a pleasure to watch; Silent Night is a treasure.

This review kindly supported by The James Wallace Arts Trust

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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Parsons right on the nose

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 15th Dec 2010

Bitter-sweet show captures the lonely world of an ever-optimistic old widow  

Yvette Parsons creates a Kiwi Eleanor Rigby in her haunting portrait of an elderly widow busying herself in preparation for a Christmas Day gathering that no one will attend.

In spite of the grim subject matter, the show is full of laughter with hilarious demonstrations of the joys of creating DIY decorations for the Christmas table and generous servings of the bitter-sweet humour that arises out of acute observation of real people.

The power of the play comes from the way the central character, Irene McMunn, ceases to be a representative of the multitude of lonely people and establishes herself as an utterly convincing individual with her own idiosyncrasies and unfulfilled aspirations. [More]


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Harrowing hilarity earns standing ovation

Review by Nik Smythe 14th Dec 2010

In the foyer preceding the show an elderly (and uncredited) fellow sets the tone, tinkling out Christmas carols on a small electric keyboard. Entering the theatre we find a classically garish living room: fading floral curtains with matching/clashing suite, and a table laden with budget Chrisco-hamper goods on a gaudy plastic Christmas-themed table cloth half set up for the impending festivities…

Irene McMunn is a dear, doddery old biddy preparing to entertain a few guests on Christmas afternoon, after her customary morning church service. With able guidance from her director Stephen Papps, Yvette Parsons delivers a tour-de-force performance as poignant as it is parodic.

Within seconds of her entrance Parsons’ superbly conceived and instantly recognisable Irene has the crowd howling with laughter as she bumbles about, examining the contents from her Chrisco package, constructing her ingenious patented toast tree, all the while chattering eccentrically as though there was an audience watching. 

The laughs become more awkward as Irene’s obsessive reminiscences sway from pleasant memories to the more tragic events of her life, the tragic death of one of her thirteen brothers and sisters, her estranged marriage with her shell-shocked husband and his own tragic demise. 

In true Christian spirit though, she’s never one to linger on unhappy thoughts and continues on enthusiastically decorating and producing some frankly outrageous festive ‘cuisine’ which has to be seen to be believed.

Ultimately Irene is a reminder that there are people for whom Christmas can be the loneliest day of the year. She’s not a bad woman, far from it; she’s just had an unlucky life, although she’d deny it, and is cheerfully accepting the will of the Lord and tottering on relentlessly.

Silent Night is a phenomenal play: on the face of it a hilarious portrait of a classic comedy character designed to entertain in a cheery, joyous Christmas fashion. But by the curtain call – standing ovation, well earned – in spite of, or else partly due to, the copious laughter enjoyed throughout, I feel slightly exhausted, as though having encountered a harrowing ordeal. 
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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