Songs of Hollow Hill

Happy (Cnr Tory & Vivian), Wellington

27/05/2008 - 31/05/2008

Production Details

Tread carefully wanderer! 

This is a land of revelry,
Of passion and of tricks,
Of Brownies, Bwkas, Boogles, Bogies,
Pixies, Piskies, and Pooks.

Welcome to Hollow Hill!

For five nights only HAPPY becomes the venue for a magical, musical extravaganza unlike any that has come before it. 

Join us as an exiled Faerie King and his faithful jabbering servant contemplate their fate.

With design by sculptor and artist John Fraser-Allen of WETA WORKSHOP and musical direction by Erika Grant, Songs of Hollow Hill will ignite your imagination with stories and songs of unworldly beauty.

"Hollow Hill has it all" says writer/devisor Natalie Medlock "think Pan’s Labyrinth, but with the joy and mischief of a gypsy carnival." 

"This show ignites people’s imagination" adds director Sophie Roberts, "it’s ballsy, daring, and incredibly funny."

Featuring live ‘Faerie’ musicians, Songs of Hollow Hill is a lively meeting of Wellington’s brightest new artists. It stars up-and-coming talent Natalie Medlock (Blinkers) and Asalemo Tofete (Angels in America) under the sharp direction of Sophie Roberts (Blinkers, Almost

a Bird Theatre Collective).

"Encore – the Wellington theatre scene needs you!" Lynn Freeman, Capital Times (Blinkers).

The season is strictly limited so book fast to avoid disappointment.

Prices: $16/$12

For bookings text 02102956068 or email 

Actor/Devisor: Natalie Medlock
Actor/ Devisor            :  Asalemo Tofete

Designer/ Effects technician:  Johnny Fraser-Allen

Calligrapher:  Ellie Catton
Costume Design and construction:  Bekky Campbell
Musician/Composer:  Isaac Smith
Musician:  Warwick Donald
Musican:  Hermione Johnson
Technician:  Paul Tozer
Publicist:  Kate Baker 

50 min, no interval

A curious show with plenty of magic

Review by Lynn Freeman 04th Jun 2008

Whimsy has come to Wellington with this production – and magic, music, mischief and mayhem. 

It’s a strange little creature this production, tricksy to try to describe because it’s so very different. Different in a good way, an intriguing and head shaking way.

We’re welcomed into the Hollow Hill by the last remaining Piskie (part hedge faerie, part pixie) who’s the faithful servant of the exiled Faerie King.

After 100 years separated from his love, the Queen, he’s about to surrender to the dark side.  Can he be saved from himself?

The story really doesn’t have much to do with the show’s success, though it really does need a bit more work.  It’s the music that makes this remarkable, and the performance of the writer and piskie Natalie Medlock, who is so waiflike and enchanting that she makes you believe you are in Hollow Hill rather than a dark little basement bar. Medlock is like a young Kate Bush, with an unearthly voice and theatrical charisma. 

In contrast Asalemo Tofete as the King, while looking the part, struggles at times, especially with the singing.
Special mention to Bekky Campbell for the costumes – Medlock’s dress and wings are very lovely.  The musicians are an integral part of the show, playing everything from classical instruments to the kazoo and even coins.  Erika Grant’s musical direction is lively, with the songs ranging from Russian folk to Klezmer.

Director Sophie Roberts has her cast make the most of the space, with the agile piskie clambering all over the show, including the bar and the King’s lap and shoulders.   It’s a curious show from start to finish, with just enough audience interaction, and plenty of magic. 


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A fine bit of fun but how about some plot

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 02nd Jun 2008

After seeing one night at Bats the brilliant but disturbing Guardians with its insights into Iraq and torture it is quite a shock to come across the following night a chamber musical that takes us into a world of the dark enchantments of the betwixt and between world of Hollow Hill where a Puckish faerie called Pickle Shoe Key serves a love-sick Faerie King.

Songs of Hollow Hill is essentially a two-hander even though the four delightful and talented raggle-taggle musicians and at times (actually the best of times in this show) some of the audience take part too. In the cramped Happy bar, intimacy between performer and audience in Sophie Roberts’ production was no problem.

The King and his servant (PSK) to whom he is literally tied have been living in exile from his kingdom of Avalon for a hundred years. He is suddenly informed by PSK, who finds a letter in a musician’s instrument, that his one true love, Unga, is about to marry a mere mortal.

This sends him into paroxysms of rage. After a violent argument between the King and PSK, the King is finally subdued and off they go to Avalon. And that’s it. No happy ever afters and everything is left hanging in the air. Maybe Songs of Hollow Hill 2 is in the offing.

It is a tale of strange and unworldly charm, a tale of tricks, desire and nonsense, so it says on the flyer, and its songs were inspired by Russian folk songs and eastern European gypsy folk songs, though Kurt Weill should also be listed as a heavy influence in at least a couple of the songs. They were composed by Erika Grant and Ravens keep the Gates to Hell was composed by Isaac Smith.

They are played with just the right off-beat style and they are sung with vivacity and style by Asalemo Tofete as the King and Natalie Medlock as PSK who, at times, climbs all over the King while doing so.

It has moments of fun, it’s tuneful, it has exciting rhythms, and it has talented performers and musicians but it does need a bit more plot or point to it. At least it didn’t get Tolkeinish.


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Mystifying romp – to what purpose?

Review by John Smythe 27th May 2008

For something completely different hie thee to Happy’s semi-submerged bar where a motley band of faerie folk (Brownies, Bwkas, Boogles, Bogies, Pixies and Pooks) will pluck, strum, bow, blow and tickle up idiosyncratic tunes – composed by Erika Grant, plus one by Isaac Smith – before and during this operetta-like "faerie romp".

A gnarled old stump (excellent design by sculptor and artist John Fraser-Allen of Weta Workshop) is peeled back to reveal Asalemo Tofete’s grumpy lovelorn Fairy King (Binbaro I think his name is). He is attended by Natalie Medlock’s pesky"’piskie" Pickle Shoe Key, who is fascinated by us odd-looking visitors known, she recalls, as "a people".

Anything becomes a cue for a song, which both actors sing with strong-voiced alacrity, well backed at times by the musicians. Medlock is especially thrilling with her imaginative vocalisations, even if the band does drown her voice at times.

Thus we discover we’re in a cave in Hollow Hill, there’s people people everywhere, Pickle Shoe Key is the last of her kind, Binbaro is tired, having been in voluntary exile for 100-odd years from Avalon, whence comes a lively drunken dancing song …

Medlock – who conceived, wrote and co-devised Songs of Hollow Hill (reaching back, I suspect, to her English roots) – also exhibits great physical prowess, curling into Tofete’s substantial frame, climbing onto his shoulders, flitting and strutting about like a, well, pixie … Director Sophie Roberts has facilitated excellent use of the three-sided space, with its huge gold throne as the centrepiece and the bar behind offering another level to leap, prance and dance upon …

But what’s the story?

Not before time it emerges that Binbaro has spent a century trying to forget the beauteous Unga, "Queen of darkness, Queen of endings", whom he left after finding her in bed with someone else. When PSK lets slip, for no apparent reason after all this time (i.e. it’s dramatically weak), that the Queen weeps and grieves and cries his name, there’s a stand-off between master and servant, requiring audience members to become intermediaries. That’s fun.

But then an invitation appears, to Queen Unga’s wedding at Avalon, to a mortal called True Tom. Dark tones and tunes follow, evoking the black throne of jealousy … Binbaro is gripped with murderous intent … At which point PSK takes a moment to tell us how she was abandoned at a crossroad and found by him, "Or maybe I found you."

There’s a clump of hair that may or may not have magical properties … Anyway, bound fast to each other, they set off … And that’s it. End of story. Which leaves me mystifies as to its purpose. Simply a showcase? Surely not. That would be egotistical and self-defeating.

The tradition this genre comes from is rich in tales – some epic, others small but perfectly formed – of  profound feelings, moral dilemmas, testing trials, heroic deeds and lessons well learned, involving strongly drawn characters who invariably reflect vivid facets of human frailty and strength.

There’s an awful lot of all that missing from Songs of Hollow Hill which is a shame, given the skills, talent and delightful generosity of spirit its makers otherwise bring to the show.


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