SOLITUDE the secret life of Annie Chaffey

Preservatorium, 39 Webb St, Mount Cook, Wellington

21/03/2018 - 24/03/2018

Expressions Arts & Entertainment Centre - Upper Hutt, Wellington

01/08/2019 - 01/08/2019

Ghost Light Theatre, 146 Bridge Street, Nelson

29/11/2017 - 30/11/2017

4th Wall Theatre, New Plymouth

02/08/2019 - 02/08/2019

Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, University of Waikato, Hamilton

03/08/2019 - 03/08/2019

BATS Theatre, The Random Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

22/10/2020 - 22/10/2020

Arts on Tour NZ 2019

TAHI Festival 2020

NZ Fringe Festival 2018 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Production Details

A Golden Bay actor and director has been nominated for three Fringe Awards, while her music partner won best sound.

Martine Baanvinger was nominated for Best Actress, Best Script and Best Solo Show for her work on the new play ‘Solitude – the secret life of Annie Chaffey.’  Mark Manson won Best Music/Sound award.

The play “Solitude” about local pioneering woman Annie Chaffey returns due to popular demand.

Golden Bay actor and director Martine Baanvinger has always been fascinated by the late Annie Chaffey, who lived for forty years in the remote mountains of the Kahurangi National Park. 

Annie entered the mountains in 1913 where she lived with her husband Henry Chaffey for the next forty years. The play is about Annie’s “love, loneliness, loss and laughter,” in raw exile, said Martine.

The Dutch born director and actor who trained at the Theatre Academy in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, lives now in Golden Bay. She says she researched the Chaffey’s lives “extensively.”

“I have visited Asbestos Cottage and soaked myself in Annie’s living surroundings as much as possible to get in touch with her potential experiences of living in such a remote place,” she said.

Alongside Golden Bay artist Mark Manson, who created the soundtrack for the play, she talked with two Golden Bay residents who knew Annie. From that point the performance became a collaboration between Mark and Martine. She wrote entire scenes after being inspired by his musical interpretation of her impressions of Annie.

For Mark it was a chance to present the sound of native birds, Annie’s daily reality, as an extension of electronic music. “I have been working with birdsong as a start-point of sound for over twenty years and really enjoy the rhythms of nature, even if they seem chaotic,” he said.

“Mark had the emotion in it, the anxiety in it, the spaces of loneliness, which I described as being in a vacuum, and he created it so beautifully – the uneasiness, the beauty, the nature,” said Martine.

“The story I will be performing for you is based on facts about her life, but the emotional and intimate experiences are a reflection of my own imagination. I can only surmise how she met Henry, why she made certain decisions in her life and how she experienced living in solitude.” 

Martine aims to offer a peek inside Asbestos Cottage, “Where Queen Vicky and Aunt Daisy come to the rescue. Where jam and scones are served in Victorian dresses and the gun is always within reach. Bang! Woodhen for dinner,” said Martine, quoting lines from her play.

Martine is the founder of the theatre collective Drama Lab – which works with people of all ages and different levels of experience. “Thinking outside the box for me is a really important one. I really like to challenge people’s preconceived ideas about theatre and say ‘does it really have to be like that?’”

She said she’s grateful to Tasman District Council Creative Communities for part sponsoring the performance.

SOLITUDE – the secret life of Annie Chaffey

Pakawau Hall, Golden Bay
Thursday 23rd November at 8 pm

The Playhouse in Takaka
Friday 24th November and Saturday 25th November at 8 pm

Mussel Inn in Golden Bay
Sunday 26th November at 8.30 pm

Tickets at Unlimited Copies Takaka

Ghost Light Theatre, 146 Bridge Street in Nelson
Wednesday 29th November and Thursday 30th November 2017
at 8 pm.

Imagine Theatre in Motueka
Friday 1st December 2017
at 8.30 pm

Stoke Memorial Hall in Stoke
Saturday 2nd December 2017
at 8 pm.

Tickets for Motueka and Stoke: reservations 03-5256037 or door sales if any left.

At NZ Fringe Festival 2018 in Wellington
Wednesday 20th March – Saturday 23rd March 2018 

NZ Fringe 2018 

At the Nelson Fringe Festival 2017, Martine Baanvinger received nominations for Best Actress, Best Script and Best Solo Show for her play ‘Solitude’, whilst Mark Manson won Best Music/Sound award.

“I highly recommend getting along to see it. Solitude is storytelling at its finest. Writer, director and performer, Martine Baanvinger, is utterly compelling, humorous and breathtakingly honest as Annie. Not only is this an interesting New Zealand story but it is told by an expert in an incredibly imaginative and touching way.” – Lisa Allen, Nelson Fringe Festival review.

Wednesday 21 – Saturday 24 March 2018
Preservatorium, 39 Webb Street, Te Aro, Wellington
Fringe Addict $15 | Full $23 | Student $20 

Arts On Tour NZ 2019

“Baanvinger pays fitting tribute to such a life. Costume switches, subtle use of music (by Mark Manson) and thoughtful staging enhance an intelligent, sympathetic portrayal” Theatreview

Martine Baanvinger is an actor/director/teacher/writer who trained at the Theatre Academy in Amsterdam in the1990’s, where she took part in many professional theatre productions. Now living in New Zealand, she has trained with Lynne Bradley from Zen Zen Zo Theatre (physical theatre) in Brisbane over the last seven years. Devising theatre is Martine’s specialty and this, combined with her passion for bringing the stories of extraordinary women in local history to public awareness, has led to her latest solo performance.


Thursday 1 August 8:00pm Upper Hutt
Expressions Whirinaki Arts and Entertainment Centre
$20 Book:

Friday 2 August 7:30pm New Plymouth 
4th Wall Theatre
Adults $25, Seniors $20, Students $10

Saturday 3 August 7:30pm Hamilton 
Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts
Adults $25, Seniors & unwaged $20, Students with ID $10
Book:  or phone 0800 383 5200

Sunday 4 August 7:30pm Onewhero 
OSPA Theatre, Hall Road
GA $25.00 Book:

Tuesday 6 August 7:30pm Matamata 
Matamata Little Theatre 
GA $25 Book: 

Wednesday 7 August 7:30pm Coromandel 
Hauraki House Theatre
GA $20 Book: Coromandel Information Centre

Thursday 8 August 7:30pm Thames 
Kauaeranga Hall 
Door $22, pre-book $20 Book: Txt: 021912993; Email: 
Book: Lotus Realm, 714 Pollen St, Thames

Friday 9 August 7:00pm Whitianga 
Coghill Theatre 
$25 Adult, $10 Youth (under 18) Book: Paper Plus Whitianga 

Saturday 10 August 7:30pm Opotiki 
Opotiki Senior Citizens Hall 
GA $20 
Book: Library or online at

Tuesday 13 August 7:30pm Waipawa 
CHB Municipal Theatre 
GA $25

Thursday 15 August 7:30pm Picton 
Picton Little Theatre 
GA $25.00
Book: Take Note, Picton and Alyssums, Blenheim 

Friday 16 August 8:00pm Mapua 
The Playhouse Theatre 
GA $20
Book: Call 5402985 for bookings

Sunday 18 August 7:30pm Hokitika 
Old Lodge Theatre, 11 Revell Street 
GA $20
Book: Hokitika’s Regent Theatre

Tuesday 20 August 7:30pm Cromwell 
Coronation Hall, 37 Hall Road, Bannockburn 
Adults $25, SuperGold $20, Student/Child $5
Book: All Central Otago District iSites or on line at

Wednesday 21 August 7:30pm Queenstown 
Arrowtown Athenaeum Hall 
GA $25

Friday 23 August 7:30pm Geraldine 
The Lodge Theatre, Talbot Street 
GA $20
Book: Louk Clothing, Talbot Street, Geraldine (NO EFTPOS)

Saturday 24 August 7:00pm Ashburton 
Ashburton Trust Event Centre 
Open Hat – No pre-booking required 

Arts On Tour NZ (AOTNZ) organises tours of outstanding New Zealand performers to rural and smaller centres in New Zealand. The trust receives funding from Creative New Zealand as well as support from Central Lakes Trust, Community Trust of Southland, Interislander, Otago Community Trust, Rata Foundation and the Southern Trust. AOTNZ liaises with local arts councils, repertory theatres and community groups to bring the best of musical and theatrical talent to country districts. The AOTNZ programme is environmentally sustainable – artists travel to their audiences rather than the reverse. 

TAHI Festival 2020

BATS Theatre, The Random Stage
22 October 2020
Full Price $22
Group 6+ $20
Concession Price $18 

The Random Stage is fully wheelchair accessible; please contact the BATS Box Office by 4.30pm on the show day if you have accessibility requirements so that the appropriate arrangements can be made. Read more about accessibility at BATS.

TAHI Festival
This performance is presented as part of and in collaboration with TAHI: New Zealand Festival of Solo Performance.  This five-day festival is dedicated to showcasing Aotearoa’s finest, most engaging solo performance. TAHI gathers soloists from around the nation, and beyond – from established to emerging practitioners – to present work, collaborate and make connections across the industry. Alongside premiering and showcasing solo performances, the Festival provides opportunities for practitioners to extend the life of their performance work, to upskill, and to network through an integrated programme of performance, workshops, and forums. TAHI also seeks to foster relationships among tertiary institutions, actor training courses, secondary schools, BATS Theatre, and industry professionals.

Light & Sound: Rowena Dixon
Photography & Design: Carrie Dobbs 

Theatre , Solo ,

1 hr 10 mins

Woman alone: a subtle, much-needed counterpoint

Review by Andrew Smith 23rd Oct 2020

What divides loneliness from solitude? How does the pain of being alone transform into the glory of being alone and back again? These questions underpin Solitude, staged for a single performance at BATS as part of Tahi: The New Zealand Festival of Solo Performance.

Based on a true story, Solitude centres on Annie, a woman married to an abusive husband, who escapes with her lover Henry Chaffey in 1913 to the mountains of Kahurangi National Park southwest of Golden Bay.

She and Henry spend the next forty years in Asbestos Cottage – named for Henry’s mining of asbestos-bearing rocks – largely cut off from the outside world apart from Henry’s occasional trips into local towns for supplies. The play begins with Annie standing on the wharf at Timaru, anxiously waiting for Henry to join her in escaping her husband, and closes with her at the end of her life – Henry dead at the age of eighty-three – contemplating her final solitude.

Performed, written and directed by Golden Bay actor Martine Baanvinger, this is a lovely work. Like Henry, who roams the mountains around Asbestos Cottage, prospecting for precious rocks and flecks of gold, Baanvinger has collected together small fragments of Annie’s life from her own research, interviews with the Chaffeys’ descendants, and contributions from previous audiences to craft a work that is as much a musing on what it means to be alone, as it is a retelling of Annie’s life. 

While the play focuses primarily on the loneliness of the Chaffeys’ life (Annie eventually marries Henry after her first husband dies), inevitably it also reflects on the companionship that can be found not only between men and women but between humans and the natural world, and between ordinary people and what we would now term celebrities (Queen Victoria and New Zealand’s First Lady of Radio, Aunt Daisy).

In fact, Annie adopts Queen Victoria as something of a model for how to live and love, to the extent that she eventually terms herself the Queen of Solitude. And while the audio clip of Aunt Daisy’s convoluted opening to her radio show is included as much for a bit of light relief as anything else, it also hints at the importance of the companionship Aunt Daisy offered her listeners.

While the play doesn’t labour the point, it becomes clear that Annie’s isolation in the mountains differs only in form but not in substance from that experienced by a queen in mourning or of 1930s and 1940s Kiwi housewives confined to their homes while their husbands go out to work.

For me, Baanvinger’s writing is what makes Solitude special. The tone ranges from the earthy and practical to the lyrical and metaphorical, and the play offers up small gems of dialogue that catch your attention as you watch Annie go about her work. And Baanvinger’s acting does justice to her writing, with rapid, skilful shifts between the fear, humour, drudgery, anxiety and exaltation of being alone. Admittedly, there are moments where the mask slips in search of an easy laugh – Annie’s musings on stags during “the roar” seemed off-key – but otherwise, Baanvinger gives an excellent performance.

That’s just as well, considering the spotlight is very much on her. The set is very basic, consisting of little more than a wooden frame on which to hang clothes, a couple of signs and a portrait of Queen Victoria, and the lighting is equally minimalist. Special mention must be given though to the sound design by Mark Manson, which blends electronica with the calls of native birds to create a subtle, haunting backdrop to Annie’s life. 

New Zealand literature has long been fascinated with our landscape and man’s place within it. From Samuel Butler’s Erewhon and John Mulgan’s Man Alone to Barry Crump’s A Good Keen Man, solitude is something to be sought or endured by men struggling against the bush. Solitude offers a subtle, much-needed counterpoint. 


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Simple yet fascinating and admirable

Review by Ross MacLeod 05th Aug 2019

There is a certain irony that during a play about isolation and solitude, several audience members around me felt the need to check and comment on their phones. The distracting flashes of light are unasked and unwanted, like the visitors the titular character would shoo off with her rifle.

Based on a true story, SOLITUDE: The Secret Life of Annie Chaffey has almost all the elements of an ideal one-woman play: a performer with excellent physicality in a simple, versatile set, traversing the decades, and an evocative soundscape. The only element that feels underwhelming is the themes explored.

From 1913, Annie Chaffey spent 39 years in an isolated cabin, mostly with her beloved partner Henry, but often alone. There is some exploration of the difference between solitude and loneliness but it feels distant. We are privy to the inner thoughts of Annie, yet seldom see into what makes her tick; the challenges and the doubts she faces. There is occasional repetition in dialogue in some scenes, enough to be noticeable, but not enough of through line to make it a motif.

The result is a biographic play that tells us plenty about the events of her life, but less of the how and whys. And perhaps this is the intention, for the play to work on this level, which it absolutely does. I just feel there are some missed opportunities to dig into those universalities of the balance of privacy and isolation.

Martine Baanvinger brings Annie to life, cleverly using the set and costumes around her to shape the world, following her character through into old age with wonderful vocal and physical changes. Her Annie is eccentric, not always likeable, often a bit selfish, but a woman determined to live the life she wants. The show covers snapshots of her life; an earthquake, a wedding, wild stags, the arrival of radio. Baanvinger has done her homework on these events, imbuing them with an inventive enthusiasm.

Credit is due to the simple framework set which gets more uses than it first seems, adorned with hangings, signs and costumes that make the wooden struts into a home. And the soundscape, crafted by Mark Manson, moves fluidly from relaxing birdsong to eerie musical tones. All these elements come together to craft a world that is simple but effective.

The play is a love letter to the remarkable life of the Chaffeys, matching it in many ways. It’s simple, not always perfect, yet fascinating and admirable all the same. It doesn’t delve too deeply into motives or the human condition, but perhaps this is the very simplicity it is trying to explore. Real lives do not always serve as moral but they can still be remarkable. Baanvinger has a care for her subjects that makes the audience care too, and I doubt I was alone in searching for more information of the Chaffeys when I got home. Just not on your phone in the audience please. 


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Leaves us with a sense of tremendous passion

Review by Lisa Simpson 03rd Aug 2019

The rain belts down in gusty waves in New Plymouth in 2019. 106 years ago, Mrs Annie Fox shelters from the same sort of rain under the eaves of the tavern where her abusive husband, Peter, works. There, she falls in love with kindness in the form of lanky Henry Chaffey, a man she says “smells of mountains, trees, freshness and freedom.”

Their love is immediate, intense, and unstoppable. It is what makes her choose to flee her husband and abandon her two sons in a time when the social stigma of such an act would see her ever shunned. Annie leaves Timaru for Motueka, where she and Henry head for the hills and live in isolated Asbestos Cottage, 10 hours walk from Takaka, for the next 40 years.

Creating a solo show is a challenge, and to focus on themes of isolation, loneliness and loss, even more so. Martine Baanvinger has done well. Events from Chaffey’s life are selected with care. We are taken inside the passion that Henry and Annie share in their mountain hideaway. Annie sheds the clothing of Edwardian New Zealand and lives more freely than she ever could have in a Timaru that is a world of “streets that all look the same”. We understand the hard, physical work involved in daily life in tiny with no electricity or running water. We see the loneliness Annie endures when Henry is away – sometimes for worrying weeks at a time – prospecting at the Roaring Lion mine.

The form of the show suits the subject perfectly: Baanvinger is alone on stage to make her way with us, as Annie was in her life with Henry and the bush.  For company she has Joe the dog, Aunt Daisy on the radio and her beloved ‘Vicky’: a Queen Victoria who shares Annie’s experience of an all-consuming love of another.

Baanvinger draws on her training in physical theatre at times to create striking images of this life. These are the most fresh and exciting moments in the performance for me.

The text is superbly crafted; words are well honed, poetic, evocative and practical in equal measures. The action on stage is complemented by an evocative and haunting soundtrack created by Mark Manson.

The set consists of a simple wooden frame that represents the rudimentary Asbestos Hut. It reminds us that such dwellings were rough cut from surrounding trees to give shelter to those in the back country. Trampers know these places well. It is wonderful to hear after the show that the original hut has been restored and preserved and served as the inspiration for the making of this work.

We are left with a real sense of the personality of Annie, who must have been quite a woman, and the hardships of this life. Most of all we are left with a sense of tremendous passion, a solitude a deux, where being alone with the one you love is preferable to all else and is form of beauty that cannot be matched.  

Thank you, Arts on Tour NZ for bringing stories to our doorstep. The full house shows that we will come out in the rain and wind to bear witness to our past. 


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An intelligent, sympathetic portrayal

Review by Margaret Austin 22nd Mar 2018

Solitude is the title, the theme and the sorrowful conclusion of this work, presented by by DramaLAB at the Preservatorium.

Devised and performed by Martine Baanvinger, it is based on the life of the indomitable Annie Chaffey. Baanvinger was moved and inspired to create her piece by a visit to Asbestos Cottage in the remote mountains of Kahurangi National Park, in the north of the South Island, where Annie lived in virtual seclusion for 40 years with her lover Henry. 

The year is 1913. The circumstances are those with which we can readily sympathise: violent treatment at the hands of a brutal husband. Annie is a woman of spirit. At a tavern, where she is not supposed to be, she meets a man who “smells of mountains, trees and freedom”. The attraction is mutual, and sufficiently strong for Annie to abandon not just her husband but three young sons. A high price to pay for any life subsequently lived.

Thus our first sight of her is on a railway station, burdened with two suitcases, plus fear and guilt.  

Because she is fleeing a husband, her first few years with Henry are spent in hiding. They are always packing and moving, packing and moving. The deceptively simple set enhances this theme. She calls her eventual home, made of wood and corrugated iron, her “mountain palace”.

Henry is at the centre of Annie’s life, and our view of him is only through her eyes. These eyes may have been blinded by love at first sight, and they appear to remain happily blinded for her whole life, despite Henry’s ever-increasing absences. For he must be absent. He must head for the valley; he must seek gold and glory; he must carry back sugar, flour, candles and whisky.

An earthquake in 1929 introduces Annie to the loneliness induced by isolation: she becomes in her own words the Queen of Solitude. When Henry’s away, she talks to his shirt. “With Henry, I’m the best I can be,” she declares, surely a statement of devotion any man should treasure.

[Spoiler alert…]
At age 83, on one of those absences, Henry is found frozen to death. Annie must leave her mountain home. Taken in by a family, in hated Timaru where she once lived, she now endures solitude in a different form. She takes to drink, becomes cantankerous. We can see the end coming.

Only the strong minded can face a self-induced death. But then, strong mindedness is the hallmark of Annie Chaffey’s character, just as strong as the love she bears for Henry. […ends]

Baanvinger pays fitting tribute to such a life. Costume switches, subtle use of music (by Mark Manson) and thoughtful staging enhance an intelligent, sympathetic portrayal. 


Kate JasonSmith March 22nd, 2018

Totally agree, Austin. From the first moment, i was enthralled by this performance.  A triumph. try not to miss it, folks.

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Unusual woman brilliantly recreated

Review by Gail Tresidder 30th Nov 2017

With the wind at her back and the impetus of a new love ahead, Annie Fox flees Peter, her bully-boy of a husband, and plunges head-long in to a life that would confound the cynics and last forty years.  For many of us in the capacity audience (an intimate space seating 80) her story resonates, though leaving her two teenage boys to the ministrations of their father, a man she fears, seems shocking, seems selfish, almost unforgiveable. 

But there we are and that was how it was then for Annie. All for passion! 

Golden Bay actress Martine Baanvinger is brilliant in this demanding role. She wrote it herself and lives and breathes every nuance.  Her changes of clothes, changes of mood, her ageing, her so much loving this man Henry Chaffey is convincing and believable.  

“Gladly I’ll live in a poor mountain hut,
 Spin, sew and till the soil in any weather,  
 And wash in the cold mountain stream, if but  
 We dwell together.”
Anon’s haiku, written long ago, could have been by Annie Chaffey.

The sound and background music – bird song, rustling trees, all the noise of the outdoors are important, integral to the story.  Mark Manson is little bit miracle. His composition is the body, the words the soul.

When she was with Henry, Annie embraced their Asbestos Cottage solitude in Kahurangi National Park.  However, he was often away for long periods and with only her garden and dog and birds for company Annie learnt a new kind of loneliness.  It was not all scones, raspberry jam and happiness in bed. 

Despite this, she never faltered in her resolve and, until Henry died, there she stayed, up in the hills far away from the towns she despised.  A most unusual woman for her time.  And a very thought-provoking piece of theatre.


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