THAT BLOODY WOMAN

TVNZ Festival Club, Arts Centre, Christchurch

28/08/2015 - 30/08/2015

SKY CITY Theatre, Auckland

11/06/2016 - 26/06/2016

The Court Theatre, Bernard Street, Addington, Christchurch

02/07/2016 - 30/07/2016

Crystal Palace, New Plymouth, Taranaki

29/08/2017 - 31/08/2017

Opera House, Wellington

13/09/2017 - 16/09/2017

Fortune Theatre, Dunedin

26/09/2017 - 08/10/2017

Christchurch Arts Festival 2015

Taranaki Arts Festival 2017

Production Details



This bold new musical experience brings suffragist, activist and cyclist Kate Sheppard back to life, in an imagined conversation with political adversary Richard ‘King Dick’ Seddon, transforming Kate from a 2D head on the $10 note to an in-your-face feminist firebrand raising hell.

And when you’re raising hell you need hell-raising music, so expect a live band and some of NZ’s best singers belting out some punk, rock, funk, hip-hop, synth-pop, torch song and everything in between.

Mature audiences only – some language may offend.

TVNZ Festival Club, The Arts Centre
Friday 28 & Saturday 29 August 2015
7.00pm  
Sunday 30 August 8.30pm 
TICKETS: $41 / Conc $36 
BOOKINGS: ticketek.co.nz; 0800 TICKETEK (842 538) 

2016

Auckland Theatre Company (ATC) – in collaboration with The Court Theatre – will present the bold new musical experience and runaway hit of the 2015 Christchurch Festival, That Bloody Woman at SYCITY Theatre from 9 – 26 June.

Kate Sheppard’s successful campaign to win the vote for women changed the world. But it wasn’t easy. Singer, songwriter and television star Esther Stephens (Westside, When We Go To War, Go Girls) tells the story of Sheppard’s battle for equality in this kick-ass punk rock opera full of insight, intelligence and infectious tunes.

Stephens has been hot in demand over the past few years, releasing an independent album with her quartet, Esther Stephens & The Means in April 2015. She has sung with the likes of Sola Rosa and Tama Waipara, and performed at festivals.

A familiar face to New Zealand television screens, Stephens played Ngaire Munroe in the Outrageous Fortune prequel, Westside, and Nurse Bea Smith in the TVNZ World War I miniseries, When We Go To War. Audiences might also recognise her as Olivia Duff from the much-loved series, Go Girls.  

That Bloody Woman will bring Stephen’s acting talents back to the stage while making full use of her soulful, sultry voice. Sparks will fly as our most famous suffragist is transformed from a face on the NZ $10 note to an in-your-face feminist firebrand raising hell.

Stephens will be working alongside a new generation of theatre-makers who have brought a fresh voice to the hot topic of gender equality. From the generation of #HeforShe and men who can cry, audiences will be delighted to see one of our nation’s greatest heroes portrayed in a red-hot hit that pulsates with passion.

Writing duo Luke Di Somma (Mrs McGinty and the Bizarre Plant) and Gregory Cooper (The Complete History Of New Zealand: Abridged) created the show which was commissioned by the Christchurch Arts Festival last year.

Cooper has been working professionally in the theatre for over 20 years as an actor, writer and director. Di Somma has a huge array of credits under his belt as a conductor, musician, composer and musical director, not to mention a Fulbright Scholar and a Master of Fine Arts degree from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Di Somma says, “Sheppard was someone who sang to me. The desire, the drive, the sense of injustice, the oppression. All the best musicals are about underdogs.”

Kip Chapman (Hudson and Halls, APOLLO 13: Mission Control) will direct the radical, riotous night at the theatre. As well as having an extensive acting career of (Black Confetti, The Pride and Top of the Lake) Champan received the Arts Foundation New Generation Award in 2013.

It’s time to party like it’s 1893! 

AUCKLAND SEASON 
Venue: Sky City Theatre
Previews: 9 & 10 June 2016
Dates: 11 – 26 June, 2016
Tickets: www.atc.co.nz or (09) 309 0390

CHRISTCHURCH SEASON
The Court Theatre Tonkin & Taylor Main Stage
2 – 30 July
Monday & Thursday: 6.30pm
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday: 7.30pm
Opening Night: Saturday 2nd July, 7.30pm
Post Show Forum: Monday 4th July, 6.30pm
Matinée: Saturday 23rd July, 2.00pm
https://courttheatre.org.nz/show/that-bloody-woman/ 

TARANAKI ARTS FESTIVAL 2017
Crystal Palace, New Plymouth 
Tues 29 & Wed 30 Aug 30, 8pm
Thurs 31, 6pm
Hawera Memorial Hall
Sat 2 Sep, 7pm
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THE OPERA HOUSE, 111 – 113 Manners St, Te Aro, Wellington
Wed 13 – Sat 16 September 2017, 7.30pm
Ticket Information:  From: $27.50 to $59.90
Buy Tickets
Additional fees may apply

FORTUNE THEATRE, Dunedin  
26 September – 8 October 2017
Tuesday – 6pm
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday – 7:30pm
Sunday – 4pm
To view ticket prices, just click the Book Online Now button
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CAST 
Kate Shepphard: Esther Stephens
King Dick Seddon: Geoffrey Dolan
Amy Straker
Phoebe Hurst
Cameron Douglas
Kyle Chuen


CREATIVE TEAM
Director: Kip Chapman
Playwright and Musical Director: Luke Di Somma
Playwright: Gregory Cooper
Associate Musical Director: Andy Manning
Set Designer: Rachael Walker
Costume Designer: Lisa Holmes
AV Designer: Brendan Albrey  


Theatre , Musical ,


1hr 20mins (no interval)

Slick, polished show is a great night out

Review by Barbara Frame 01st Oct 2017

Kate Sheppard a rock star – who knew? Thousands of people, because this show has been playing around New Zealand for the last couple of years, and now it’s Dunedin’s turn.  

Co-written by Luke Di Somma and Gregory Cooper, it’s directed by Kip Chapman. Sheppard’s life forms the framework – a conventional but unfulfilling marriage, campaigns in the temperance movement and against domestic violence and eventually the big one – the huge movement that, in 1893, culminated in the Electoral Act that gave New Zealand women the right to vote. The unfurling of petitions near the end of the show is breathtaking and a visual demonstration that, as one of the songs says, “the world was made for women too.” [More]

Esther Stevens, as Kate, is a powerful presence – charming yet defiant and persistent, commanding the stage effortlessly and always sympathetic. Her polar opposite is Richard “King Dick” Seddon – partonising, fur-bedecked, ponytail-pulling and a thoroughly nasty misogynist. Geoffrey Dolan plays him with serious loathsomeness. 

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Must-see musical

Review by Ruby Macandrew 15th Sep 2017

The story of Kate Sheppard’s struggle to get women the vote in 1890s Christchurch is one taught at schools throughout New Zealand but one that has never been so fun to learn as it is in Kiwi rock musical That Bloody Woman.

Necks craned to keep up with the ethereal Esther Stephens, dressed in white, as she brought suffragette Kate Sheppard to life on stage.

The fast paced, loud musical covered a lot in a short amount of time without over-complicating it – aided by Stephens frequent interjections informing the audience of time and location jumps – of which there are many – in lieu of a fussy set. [More]

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Make sure you see it – and make sure you vote!

Review by John Smythe 14th Sep 2017

Talk about kick-arse! If any laggards need reminding that our right to vote comes with a responsibility to actually do it, a session with That Bloody Woman should convince you. Yes, it’s the story of how Kate Sheppard led the charge to win the vote for women, thereby allowing New Zealand to claim they led the world in this. But the story of the women’s struggle exemplifies the importance of not taking anyone’s right to vote for granted.

Robust satire opens the show as the punk gang women – Amy Straker and Phoebe Hurst – remind us how outrageous it used to be for women to be seen in public without a chaperone, let alone revealing their ankles and armpits. They warn us that Kate is not happy, having spent the last 124 years watching her legacy “get fucked”. Thus we bridge from Victorian times to now, the title song is resoundingly rendered and we’re primed for Kate Sheppard’s spectacular entrance.

Not for her the ripped punk garb of her sisters (not yet, anyway). Esther Stephens’ charming Kate could have stepped out of the Ascot scene in My Fair Lady. A potted history – heavily trimmed of the complexities of reality – locates her in Liverpool with a Scottish father, soon to die, and a Christian Socialist uncle who reveals the chance of a new life in ‘God’s Own Country’.

In Christchurch, where “men build and women breed”, Kate acquires the obligatory husband – Walter Sheppard (Cameron Douglas) who is relegated to a stock ‘boring accountant’ gag whereas he was, in reality, a shopkeeper – only to realise she has a soul-mate in printer William (Kyle Chuen) who is married to her best friend, Jennie (Straker). The astonishing vocal range Hurst displays when officiating their theatrical double wedding earns well deserved applause from a pumped-up audience. Indeed the singing of the whole cast is world class.

On stage Kate is more wedded to her ‘house band’ (her joke) – Andy Manning (Musical Director), Tim Heeringa, Emma Hattaway and Cameron Burnett – who deliver seamless backing for song styles ranging from the pounding ‘Punch Drunk’ and raucous ‘Fucketty Fuck’ singalong, through exhortations like ‘It’s Time to Call Time’, to the poignant ‘The Man with Two Wives’ and ‘Such a Beautiful Boy’.

Domestic violence exacerbated by liquor is what leads Kate to co-found the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and that’s the foundation on which the suffragette movement is built (yes lads, women can build things too).  

Male opposition to women being allowed to tick a box on a ballot is powerfully personified in the form of Geoffrey Dolan’s rich bass-baritoned Richard ‘King Dick’ Seddon: cue ‘dick’ and ‘box’ jokes.

Speaking of which, the Wellington Opera House’s side boxes and auditorium are extremely well utilised to emphasise that we in the audience are very much part of the continuing story. The commitment and persistence required to get the legislation finally passed through both houses (yes, we had an upper chamber then) is ingeniously dramatised and the literal roll-out down the aisles of the petition, signed by 31,872 women, demonstrates how every single vote counts.

The whole cast connects so genuinely with their audience, it is impossible not to engage whole-heartedly. There is plenty of wit amid the political grit. Co-writers Luke Di Somma and Gregory Cooper, along with director Kip Chapman and tour director Jennifer Ward-Lealand, have crafted an infectiously lively show that has, in just two years, become an icon in our homegrown musical theatre landscape; arguably a breakthrough to echo that wrought by Sheppard and her sisters 124 years ago.

Kudos too to designers Lisa Holmes (costumes), Rachael Walker (set), Brendan Albrey and Abby Clearwater (lighting), and to Olivia Tennet (choreography).  

I’m not the first to say That Bloody Woman totally rocks and I won’t be the last. The simplicity of its staging puts the focus on the story, the music, the characters and their energetic presentation. Make sure you see it – and make sure you vote! 

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Challenges, provokes and exhorts us all to take action

Review by Victoria Kerr 30th Aug 2017

A spectacular show! That Bloody Woman is the story of New Zealand’s own suffragette and feminist icon, Kate Sheppard, who changed the world and history and put New Zealand on the historical landscape by leading the campaign for women’s suffrage; New Zealand being the first country to give women the vote in 1893.  Written by Luke Di Somma & Gregory Cooper and directed by Jennifer Ward-Lealand, this stunning rock musical brings Kate’s story to life.

From the opening through to the triumphant end the audience is challenged to think about what it means to be a feminist, what it means to be disenfranchised and powerless, what it means to fight with passion for a fairer society.  All of this is done with humour, irony, passion, wit, intelligence and fantastic musical numbers that span 20th century rock – from the punk opening and the irony of the lyrics of ‘God’s Own Country’ to a soulful ‘Consider This’; from Ada’s poignant story of the quarter acre dream to the wonderfully ridiculous rap of ‘King Dick’ Seddon (Prime Minister Richard Seddon). And Kate is transformed into a rock icon, with a nod to Madonna and Meatloaf, along the way.

Westside’s Esther Stephens is stunning as Kate Sheppard; she captures the passion, the frustration, the heartache, the humour, the triumph, the resilience of her character and brings Kate Sheppard off the $10 note and fully to life.  She plays with the audience with skill, charm and wit.  The interaction between her and the other characters and performers is eminently believable.  I would like to also commend all the performers; unfortunately, I am unable to acknowledge them individually as I cannot find a cast list.

[The production page has the original cast; we have no idea if any have changed for the tour. The Taranaki Arts Festival, in its wisdom, is not providing programmes nor listing credits on line for their shows. – ED]  

This is an ‘in-your-face’ unapologetic feminist production but it is also subtle, playing with shades of light and dark.  Mixing the domestic with the political; the personal with the national; domestic violence, alcohol abuse; poverty; unrequited love; motherhood, guilt and loss; women and children as property. The mother/whore dichotomy is confronted full on and we see women represented in a range of ways to underline the ridiculousness of this oversimplification. These are all big themes handled with dexterity and honesty. The past, present and future are blended superbly. It is fantastic to see a production that is so embedded in New Zealand culture and history and yet global and relevant to all today. 

The staging is very effective and the unique character of the Crystal Palace speigeltent is utilised fully to make this an interactive experience that allows the audience to feel part of the ‘revolution’ and the action.  Similarly, the costuming is simple but very effective. 

In particular, Kate Sheppard’s costume is cleverly and ingenuously utilised to show her developing radicalisation.  Her epiphany is signalled by her stepping out and discarding her cumbersome late 19th Century skirt; her costume transforms throughout the production and yet all the essentials are there from the beginning to the end and merely adapt their form dependent on circumstance and mood.

The laughter rings out, the one liners and asides are fantastic, and yet this is not a simple one-dimensional show. This production challenges, provokes and exhorts us all to take action. A modern rock opera with a compelling challenge. ‘Rock the Vote’ indeed! 

A must see.  The standing ovation was well deserved. 

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Sheppard musical revival is a righteous, rocking instant classic

Review by Charlie Gates 04th Jul 2016

I first reviewed rock musical That Bloody Woman in August last year when it debuted in a speigeltent in front of a couple of hundred people during the Christchurch Arts Festival. 

It was immediately obvious that this show was something very special that deserved a bigger life beyond its three-night run in Christchurch. 

Since then, That Bloody Woman has been restaged and amped up for a nearly three-week run at the Auckland Theatre Company that attracted rave reviews and sold out houses. Now, it returns to Christchurch for a month-long run at The Court Theatre. [More

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High-impact and finely-honed with a strong point of view

Review by Erin Harrington 03rd Jul 2016

Kiwi rock opera That Bloody Woman follows Kate Sheppard’s tireless role in the temperance and suffrage movements, through the organisation of various enormous national petitions and political manoeuvring to the passing of the Electoral Act in 1893, which granted women the right to vote. Here her enormously influential role in New Zealand history is coupled with an exploration of her rich and sometimes fraught and tragic personal life, tying the personal with the political. 

The show – a co-production that just finished its Auckland Theatre Company run – is given extra power by the fact that the content is literally close to home, with the key sites of action and conflict less than a few kilometres away.

Luke Di Somma’s score and Greg Cooper’s book dance playfully between genres, veering from Twisted Sister and The Clash to late 60s protest anthems and torch songs, all stitched together with an insistent punk rock sensibility and a dark sense of humour.

Kip Chapman’s dynamic directionstarts the show in tight, before exploding it out into the broad space of the stage and then into the audience as the suffragette movement gains momentum. It takes a while to ease in, however, in part as an unfortunate side-effect of the delightful opening conceit: the show begins prettily and tidily with Vaughn Williams’ ‘The Lark Ascending’, perennially voted as the Loveliest Piece of Music Ever on classical radio stations around the world, which is then ripped to shreds by the show’s raucous opening.  

It’s a wonderfully wry juxtaposition but it does mean it takes some serious effort on the part of the performers to get the cold fish Christchurch audience loosened up. After that, though, it’s all on, and by the time we move past the introductions and a touch of Feminism 101 into the narrative proper, with the gospel-infused number ‘Ah Men’, I’m fully on board. (The highly-strung guy next to me is still startled at the hairy armpits and takes a bit longer to thaw – wise up, buddy.)

Esther Stephens’ delicious portrayal of Our Kate is a delight – by turns funny, sardonic, heartfelt, defiant, and triumphant. In the other corner is Geoffrey Dolan, marvellously bombastic as Richard ‘King Dick’ Seddon. He starts off as a moustache twiddling villain but develops into a complex, flawed character, which shifts the story from one populated by goodies and baddies into a more nuanced account of the flows of politics and power. 

The two are joined by Amy Straker, Phoebe Hurst, Cameron Douglas and Kyle Chuen, who flick between their stage personae and a broad cast of characters, from the ridiculous to the finely drawn. The structure of the show, and the distribution of songs and characters, gives each the opportunity to demonstrate the extent of their vocal chops.  

The terrific band – the Hallelujah Bonnets (Andy Manning, Tim Heeringa, Emma Hattaway and Cameron Burnett) – are never secondary to the cast, and their intermittent commentary underscores the action as much as the music does. 

The vivacious performances, the frenetic choreography (Olivia Tennet), the tongue-in-cheek punk aesthetic that carries through the production design (Rachael Walker, Lisa Holmes and Amy Snape) and the rock concert lighting (Brendan Albrey) cohere into high-impact, finely-honed production with a strong voice and point of view.

There’s a witty sense of spontaneity that belies the amount of work that goes into such a presentation but which retains something of the stripped-back nature of the show’s original, cabaret-style short run at last year’s Christchurch Arts Festival. (To those people who turn their nose up at arts funding and development seasons: see what your taxes do?) 

By the end the audience is on their feet in a standing ovation. I can’t help but hope, though, that the in-theatre fervour and the appreciation of a local story well-told, alongside a bit of ‘we’re first’ back-patting, is converted into a heightened sense of awareness and mindfulness beyond a better understanding of our local history and a pledge to do better today. 

When we are confronted by enormous facsimiles of the final petitions – a real punch to the gut moment – we must also contend with the reality that each individual signature was the outcome of fervent domestic battles playing out behind the doors of homes throughout the country. And then there’s today: in the women’s restrooms there’s contact information for women’s helplines and refuges. I get home to see on the news that Australia has just elected its first indigenous woman to the lower house. There’s an email in my inbox asking me to sign petitions for better paid parental leave provisions, and better working conditions for the sorts of taxing domestic and caring jobs disproportionally performed by poorly-paid women.

So many of us as women live and work in environments – including the arts – that are shaped by discrimination, both overt and insidiously structural, that needs constant pushback and negotiation. Here’s hoping that the overarching message of That Bloody Woman is that these issues are just as present today, and that it does some good for bloody women everywhere. 

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Editor July 12th, 2016

The Court Celebrates Suffrage with Free Community Event 

On Saturday 23rd July, The Court Theatre is hosting “The Great Kate Chase” a special community event celebrating Kate Sheppard and the suffragist movement’s connection to Addington.

Tying in to The Court’s season of That Bloody Woman, the rock opera tribute to Christchurch’s famous suffragist and social reformer Kate Sheppard, The Great Kate Chase is modelled on traditional treasure hunts, geocaching, TV game shows such as “The Amazing Race” and popular new app “Pokémon Go”.

Starting at The Court Theatre at 9am, The Great Kate Chase will take teams on an exploration of Addington, following clues to various locations with fun tasks to complete along the way. Prizes will be awarded for the fastest/slowest team, the oldest/youngest team member and most creative team, alongside other categories.

The Court is working with a Christchurch history researcher and an experienced geocacher to develop the game. "We didn't have to dig very deep into Addington's history to find direct links to New Zealand's women's franchise movement," says Education Manager Rachel Sears. "Within 1.5kms of The Court we've located at least six locations that we will be using for The Great Kate Chase."

Teams of up to six family and friends – or solo players – are encouraged to register early to secure their place in what will be a fun free day out before the 2pm matinee of That Bloody Woman at The Court. Team numbers will be limited for maximum enjoyment.

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Punked-out suffrage story a rockin' riot

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 13th Jun 2016

If Alexander Hamilton and America’s Founding Fathers can conquer Broadway as gangsta rappers, there is no reason why Kate Sheppard shouldn’t kick out the jams in a homegrown punk rock extravaganza.

ATC’s reboot of a show that premiered at last year’s Christchurch Arts Festival brings a blast of anarchic energy to the remarkable story of how New Zealand beat the world in granting women the right to vote. [More

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Boisterous, slick and inspiring

Review by Elle Wootton 12th Jun 2016

I enter the SkyCity Theatre just before 8pm with a touch of trepidation. Like many of my friends I would have said at one time that I’m not ‘into’ musicals. I would have said that I find them cheesy, melodramatic and hard to relate to. I may have even said I either despise when they start singing or despise when they start acting…

But even though I’ve kind of just said it, I swear it was purely to make this point: I won’t ever say it again. Because musicals, especially good, strong, original musicals like That Bloody Woman hold an important place in our theatrical diet.

In the theme of politics it seems only diplomatic to give those of you with ministerial tendencies a brief summary in case your workload precludes you from reading the whole review. So here it is: even if you don’t generally enjoy musicals, I think you will enjoy this one. Its content is significant and important social commentary on the world we live in today; it showcases impressive talent from all involved and it is undeniably entertaining.

Now for those of you who have a bit more time on your hands we will delve a little deeper into some emotional and intellectual analysis of the production as a whole.   

If you didn’t enjoy history at high school, this is definitely the way to consume it. With Esther Stephens as the poised and powerful Kate Sheppard, Geoffrey Dolan as comically dour Richard (King Dick) Seddon, and the other four exceptional performers – Amy Straker, Phoebe Hurst, Kyle Cheun and Cameron Douglas – history has never been so entertaining. Not to mention the incredible talents of the live band: Tim Heeringa on guitar, Hannah Elise on bass, Cameron Burnett on drums and Andy Manning on guitar and keys as well as being the associate musical director/repetiteur. Cast and crew alike showcase and contribute their talents to bringing the ghost of Kate Sheppard back to life in this punk rock musical extravaganza.  

Originally commissioned by, and performed in, the 2015 Christchurch Arts Festival, That Bloody Woman has been picked up by Auckland Theatre Company and The Court Theatre, and some bells and whistles have been added. The performance, however still retains an element of that rough and ready punk feel: with performers and musicians often wheeled on and off stage on road cases, a splash of improvisation and audience interaction, and some fantastic hair and costuming by Lisa Holmes.

Though the strong political and feminist messages in That Bloody Woman are unwavering, the creative team is predominantly made up of white males. This is not at all to degrade or lessen the undeniable talent and effort of co-writers Luke Di Somma and Gregory Cooper, or director Kip Chapman, but instead to remind each other to continue discussing these issues of equality. At times Di Somma and Cooper’s writing is witty, light and sidesplittingly silly. At others it is sober, sarcastic and cutting, yet constantly challenging.

The production is musically varied. Whilst mainly catering to the punk/ rock genre, there is some ballad, gospel, soul, funk and folk sprinkled in. Yet That Bloody Woman is at its best when it is rambunctious, wild, and unapologetic. Technically there were some issues with levels on opening night and it was difficult to hear the performers initially but before long this appeared to have evened out.

I think it’s fantastic that creative teams from the ATC and The Court Theatre recognised the potential of That Bloody Woman in last year’s Christchurch Arts Festival and have thrown their weight and creative energy into developing it further. It is a boisterous, slick and inspiring production with a lot of talented people involved. I can only hope that yet more time and energy will be invested into its future development and that this won’t be the last we see of it.

[The show is heading down to the Court Theatre, and will play from the 2nd – 30th July. See: https://courttheatre.org.nz/show/that-bloody-woman/

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Bloody Marvellous

Review by Sharu Delilkan and Tim Booth 12th Jun 2016

We departed That Bloody Woman‘s opening night feeling proud, informed and uplifted by the musical portrayal of this ‘her-storical’ story.

The face of Kate Sheppard that gazes somewhat benevolently from our $10 note belies a passion, a person and a struggle that we think we know, but don’t.

By communicating directly with the audience, the show makes us conspirators in the (then outrageous, but now so obvious) ‘plot’ to give 52% of the human race their vote. [More]
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Vibrant, feisty, compelling

Review by Lindsay Clark 29th Aug 2015

The drive and vision of the eponymous Kate Sheppard is celebrated in diverse ways apart from the ballot box. There is, for example a planting of camellias on the banks of the Avon, as well as the variety named for her and planted in the central city, near the bas relief work recognising the beginnings of women’s suffrage in 1893. There’s the ten dollar note too and, at one stage, a retirement village. This most recent tribute, the premier production of a stirring rock opera, eclipses them all for sheer spirit and dash, worthy of that remarkable woman. 

Even she might have been disconcerted in this century by its pounding rhythms and punk outfits, not to mention the dazzling effects of coloured light and haze, but the splendid pavilion venue has a distinct notion of Victorian entertainment and surely the appreciative crowd would have been the stuff of her aspirations. 

The structure is a straightforward chronological arrangement built around significant markers in her life and its challenges in winning the vote for women. There are plenty of feisty struggles, both personal and societal, to power the dynamo and charge the music, but there are, too, glimpses of more personal pain which are nicely placed to complete the picture. Kip Chapman’s direction keeps all tight and entertaining.

What is striking and remarkable is the vibrancy of music and choreography (Jillian Gambino). The factual background of early suffragettes is mostly well understood, but nothing will prepare you for the high-powered supercharge of voice and amp, light and movement, delivered with the mad intensity of modern rock. Andy Manning (Keys/Guitar2), Tim Heeringa (Guitar1), Symon Palmer (Bass) and Cameron Burnett (Drums) provide the all-important sound. 

Kate herself, compellingly realised by Esther Stephens, is the narrator, presenting in strongly contemporary terms the insights of the nineteenth century activist. It is a huge role, demanding vocal and physical stamina as well as charm, all delivered with assurance. 

She is pitched against the patronising heartiness of master politician Richard (‘King Dick’) Seddon, robustly played by Geoffrey Dolan, looking and sounding every inch the part. 

Completing the cast and singing/playing all the extra roles, as well as providing witty exchange and sound backup, is The Gang: Amy Straker, Phoebe Hurst, Kyle Chuen and Cameron Douglas are well up to the job. Their impact just goes on coming as they drive the show along.

Visually, the costume design from Emily Thomas blends the pleasurable shock of punk rock and more traditional period outfits for ‘historical’ roles, while Brendan Albrey’s lighting design enhances it all, even as the eye has to blink hard to cope with strobe and glare.

For me, the only reservation, a minor one, comes not with the work, which is outstandingly successful, but with the nod at audience participation, where an audience member is singled out early on and consulted periodically, in a gesture which seems too tentative for the dynamics of the show. 

“This is more than history,” go the lyrics. “This is more than herstory. What happened it changed the world. What happened it changed the girl.” The vitality and conviction of the Di Somma/Cooper re-telling reminds us forcefully that the story and the shows are never done.

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