BATS Theatre, Wellington

19/02/2009 - 21/02/2009

NZ Fringe Festival 2009

Production Details


A Chinese immigrant is detained at the airport…
A Pakeha woman is given a suitcase by an unknown Mâori woman…
Three women journey to New Zealand without really knowing why.
A scientist, an accountant, a teacher, an artist, six mothers, two actors and a tohunga come together and ask what are we doing in New Zealand?

With movement, music, and true stories, these eleven women and one man discover how they all came to be in the same place. Premiering in October 2008 in Palmerston North, The Guardian called it "an astonishing conception," and The Manawatu Standard, performed with "precision and passion."

Director Amanda McRaven says, "The Voice Project is about finding your creative voice and turning it into performance that is both intensely personal and highly theatrical." A director and Fulbright Scholar, Amanda’s work has been critically acclaimed in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles:
"She directs with imagination and insight." – LA Weekly.
"Fiercely committed physical performances…four stars," – Time Out New York.
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From Auckland, Palmerston North, Oamaru, Dunedin, Wellington, Guangzhou, China, New Delhi, India, Heilongjiang, China, Wuppertal, Germany, and Grenoble, France, SUITCASE is not your typical Fringe ensemble.

All the performers are from Palmerston North by way of…

Ema Alter, Grenoble, France
Vicky Cheetham, Wellington, NZ
Tracey-Lynne Cody, Dunedin, NZ
Virginia Jamieson, Wellington, NZ
Dione Joseph, Auckland, NZ (New Delhi, India)
Amy Petre, Oamaru, NZ
Ulrike Uslar-Furkert, Wuppertal, Germany
Maarie’ Toye, Ngati Toa Rangatira
Yeying Wang, Haerbin, Heilongjiang, China
Warren Warbrick, Manawatu, Rangitaane and Te Arawa, NZ
Lynda Williamson, Wellington, NZ
Jade Zhou — Guangzhou, China

McRaven says: "These actors perform with raw honesty. They tell their stories simply. It is intimate and at the same time intensely theatrical. It happens in an airport – humans in transit, on the way to somewhere else. But we get to stop for 50 minutes and see what happens on the way…"

February 19, 20, 21, 6:30 pm (45 min long)

BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Tce

Tickets: adult $16 / concession $12

TO BOOK ph. 04 802 4175

Ema Alter, Vicky Cheetham, Tracey-Lynne Cody, Virginia Jamieson, Dione Joseph, Amy Petre, Maarié Toye, Ulrike Uslar-Furkert, Yeying Wang, Warren Warbrick, Lynda Williamson, Jade Zhou.

Set art by Virginia Jamieson
Lighting by Laurie Dean

Feel good theatre

Review by Lynn Freeman 04th Mar 2009

Six months of devising went into Suitcase and it shows in the work.

The actors bring their stories of migrating to and living in New Zealand. It starts very effectively with a museum exhibition representing Māori and settler New Zealanders, from Chinese gold miners to Irish, Scottish and German migrants.

We find out the frustrations of a young Asian woman battling with New Zealand Customs after her mother put some herbal remedies in her suitcase, and the endurance demanded in long-distance sea voyages to this part of the world. Feel good theatre.


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Has its moments but yet to achieve cohesion

Review by John Smythe 21st Feb 2009

What is culture in New Zealand? What does culture mean? What does it mean to live here? Why do we live here? Where do I actually belong? Am I 100% pure?

These are the questions posed on the programme of Suitcase, a group-devised work brought to the Fringe from Palmerston North by The Voice Project Aotearoa (so called because they give people their voice, not because they are vocal artists).

The starting point is museum statues – the performers in frozen poses – which represent the standard/archetypical/stereotypical notions of early immigrant/inhabitants of Aotearoa New Zealand (click on the ‘Suitcase’ title above for details). In the 50-odd minutes that follow we get some insight into the more contemporary stories of the eleven performers.

Direct-address storytelling is interspersed with movement segments of varying interest and quality. And creeping about in the background is a Māori woman, while a Māori man adds to the atmosphere with traditional instruments.

A Kiwi woman of Irish extraction is at the airport ready to cross the world to "see if anything resonates" with her. After a Chinese woman is detained at Customs – by outrageously rude, racist and unprofessional Customs Officers (which adds nothing to the value of the work) – for letting her mother pack her case and include herbal medicines, the Irish woman is silently given an old suitcase by the ever-present Māori woman who then fades away.

This almost gives the work some sort of spine but it’s more confusing than binding or resolving. The case turns out to be full of bones (which intuitively feels culturally insensitive to me, although in reality they are probably animal bones) and I think it represents the heke or wheke (rafters) in a Whare Tipuna (ancestral house): the ribs of the ancestor. I guess it is the way of saying "home is where the heart is".

When one of the two Chinese women sings ‘I Have a Dream’ her value systems seem to be trite but later she sings ‘Aotearoa’ (the Māori version of ‘God Defend New Zealand’) impressively and reveals she is a high-level medical researcher.

Snippets of Split Enz’ ‘Aoteroa’ and Dave Dobbyn’s ‘Slice of Heaven’ are also in the musical mix …

The most powerful moment is when a South African woman delivers her mihi and declares her commitment to making te reo and tikanga Māori part of her life. The group-harmonised waiata that ends this sequence is also beautifully committed.

Other ingredients are relatively randomly scattered throughout the show but while they are true ("I belong where my children belong") and interesting ("I’m a nobody’s child with three of her own"), they are yet to be integrated into the coherent whole that Suitcases may yet become.


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