The Dark Room, Cnr Pitt and Church Street, Palmerston North

05/05/2021 - 16/05/2021

SHOPFRONT THEATRE, Collingwood Centre, 105 Collingwood St, Nelson

10/09/2020 - 04/10/2020

Circa Two, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

25/10/2023 - 11/11/2023

Production Details

By Helen Moulder and Sue Rider
Directed by Sue Rider

Presented by Willow Productions

Nelson’s newest (temporary) performance space, Shopfront Theatre, invites you to watch one of NZ’s best-loved actors, Helen Moulder, in a brand new play directed by Sue Rider.

Olivia Paterson runs a big meat exporting company. Her daughter is a vegan. Olivia wants to feed the world. Her father wants things to stay as they are.  A family, food, and five surprising characters!

As a high-powered executive at the peak of her career, all Olivia wants is to make the world a better place. But when her business plans cause conflict with her family, what is more important – the company’s survival or her relationship with her daughter and aging father?

The Bicycle & the Butcher’s Daughter is written by Helen Moulder and Sue Rider, the collaboration who brought you Playing Miss Havisham, Gloria’s Handbag and Meeting Karpovsky.

A funny and moving account of lives at a crisis point, all embodied by one actress, assisted by a few props and the magic of the theatre.

Featuring music by Beethoven, recorded by Richard Mapp on piano and Juliet Ayre on violin.

(An initial season from July 17 – August 22 booked out.)
EXTENDED SEASON: 10 September – 4 October 2020
VENUE: SHOPFRONT THEATRE, Collingwood Centre, 105 Collingwood St, Nelson.
Opposite the entrance to the Buxton Carpark, next to the Baker’s Coffee Shop.
Limited Seating. Bookings essential. Social distancing while on Level Two
Thur: 6pm, Fri: 2pm, Sat 6pm, Sun: 4pm
TICKETS: $30, $25 (Seniors, concession & groups of 4); $15 (Under 25’s)

And a shout-out to The Baker’s Coffee Shop, who will be open before and after the Rehearsals, and before the 2pm shows on Wednesdays & Thursdays. Fantastic coffee and irresistible baked goods! Open Mon-Fri 7.30am-3pm.

Special thanks to Adam Foundation and Nelson City Council Creative Communities Scheme. 

2021 tour 

The Dark Room, Palmerston North
5 – 16 May 2021
Further info and bookings


Circa Two, 1 Taranaki St Wellington
25 October – 11 November 2023
Tues to Sat 7.30pm | Sun 4.30pm
Preview: 24 October
Specials: Preview $35 (24 Oct), Sunday $35 (29 Oct)
Bookings: 04 801 7992 |


Starring Helen Moulder

Writer/performer Helen Moulder and writer/director Sue Rider are a duo recognised since 2002 for their witty and thought-provoking theatre works.

Helen Moulder is an award-winning actor/singer, who has been working in theatre, television and film for over 40 years in the UK, New Zealand and Australia. In Brisbane she played in Sue Rider’s Dancing on the Walls of Paris and at La Boite Theatre as Virginia Woolf in Vita! – a Fantasy, Frances in Painted Woman and Gertrude in Hamlet, which toured Queensland with Queensland Arts Council. Major roles in NZ have been Virginia Woolf in Vita and Virginia, Vivian Bearing in Wit, Miss Shepherd in Lady in the Van, Madame Giry in Ken Hill’s Phantom of the Opera (four tours to Japan), Sister Aloysius in Doubt, Lady Churchill in Meet the Churchills and roles in her own devised works – The Legend Returns, Meeting Karpovsky, Playing Miss Havisham, Gloria’s Handbag and Cynthia and Gertie Go Baroque. She is a founding member of the NZ women's comedy troupe Hens' Teeth with her fading opera singing character, Cynthia Fortitude. Helen’s film and television credits include Close to Home, Pictures, CountryGP, Erebus – the Aftermath, Abberation, The Dark Knight, Rest for the Wicked and Food for Thought. Helen has toured her solo and two person shows throughout New Zealand and Australia, including four tours with Arts on Tour NZ and one (Playing Miss Havisham) with Queensland Arts Council. She has twice won Actress of the Year in the Wellington Theatre Awards. Helen is a patron of the Nelson Historic Theatre Trust and an honorary vice-president of the Nelson Musical Theatre.

Sue Rider is an award-winning Brisbane-based director, writer, dramaturg and producer with over 180 stage productions and writing commissions in theatre, music theatre, opera and theatre for young people. She is the recipient of nineteen industry awards across Australia and New Zealand, including six Matilda Awards, three NZ Listener Awards, a Helpmann nomination, the Playlab Award and the Alan Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award. Her work as Artistic Director of Brisbane’s La Boite Theatre (1993 – 2000) was recognised in a Special Matilda Commendation for sustained contribution to Queensland theatre.
In NZ, Sue has directed with Circa, Wellington, and The Court Theatre, Christchurch, and has collaborated with Helen Moulder on Meeting Karpovsky, Playing Miss Havisham and Gloria’s Handbag. Sue has a distinguished track record for the development of new work and is a published playwright. For Brisbane Festival Theatre Republic she collaborated with Andrew Cory on Two Guys in a Box (2017) and A Coupla Dogs (2018). In 2020 she directed Dido and Aeneas for Queensland Conservatorium and directed on Zoom the live premiere season of The Bicycle and the Butcher’s Daughter with Helen Moulder in Nelson, NZ. Sue has had regular involvement in First Nations theatre since 1984 and in 2021 she collaborated on a reimagined version of Devi Telfer’s SONG the story of a girl, a bird and a teapot for Tandanya, Adelaide and QPAC, Brisbane. Sue was Chair of Backbone Youth Arts for eight years and regularly teaches and mentors emerging professionals through her work with Griffith University Conservatorium of Music. Sue is a proud member of MEAA and AW.

Theatre , Solo ,

1 Hour 15 Mins (no interval)

The totality is inspiring – not least as a superb example of the ephemeral alchemy of live theatre

Review by John Smythe 26th Oct 2023

“Like the butcher’s daughter’sbike, each play is more than the sum of its parts: profound, personal, universal, metaphorical, funny, poignant, eccentric and inspiring.”

That is the back cover quote over my name, promoting FOUR PLAYS by Helen Moulder & Sue Rider, published last year by Willow Productions and given a Wellington launch following the opening night of The Bicycle & The Butcher’s Daughter at Circa Two. Sue Rider directs and Helen Moulder performs in all four plays.

I have seen and reviewed the Court Theatre premiere of Meeting Karpovsky (see my NBR review below, December 2002), and the Circa Two premieres of Playing Miss Havisham (2006) and Gloria’s Handbag (2014) but only now am catching up with The Bicycle & The Butcher’s Daughter in performance. We’d published two reviews, from Nelson (2020) and Palmerston North (2021), see links below, and I’d read the script. Even so, as I ponder the stage setting – a clothes rack, a flash executive chair and table with a carafe and glass, and a buckled bicycle – a fear creeps in: what if that description doesn’t fit this production?

It does, of course. The metaphor is the buckled bike which stands for a number of bikes as the story unfolds; as the bike itself unfolds to become whole again. The eponymous daughter, Olivia, CEO of Patersons Meat, a large New Zealand Export company, hasn’t ridden a bike for 20 years. Harry, her father, started out on a bike as a butcher’s boy before founding his own company. Her daughter, Lexi, loved cycling too and joined her father, Nick Angelopoulos, on a cycle tour of Africa … It takes a while for the profound import of that event to surface. (I should have added subtle to those adjectival accolades.)

Helen Moulder is remarkably relaxed as her high-performing Olivia fields multiple calls from Jacob, her indispensable PA; Annie, her dress designer for important meetings; Manu, an outstanding food scientist and her head of R&D; Mr Zhang in Shanghai for whom they’re developing a secret product; Lexi, her unsettled / unsettling vegan daughter; Sir Harold, her “salt of the earth” Dad; Dame Lindsay, chair of the Board …

All this is deftly done with taps on her smart watch or an invisible touch screen connected to equally invisible ear pods. Her professional acumen and integrity is heightened by her respectful and fluent use of te reo Māori and Mandarin as and when appropriate.  

The skilful playwrighting ensures that none of the one-sided conversations seem contrived. Likewise the performance and direction ensure that our focus is firmly on each emerging aspect of Olivia’s complex world – an environment in which she clearly thrives. Except … There are questions about her late husband Nick and estranged Jennifer that lurk in the background, adding to the intrigue.

Soothing recordings of Beethoven’s Kreutzer and Spring Sonatas give use time to process what we have just witnessed as Moulder changes into another of the five characters she plays. We imagine the musicians are career violinist Nick and Lexi, who could have made it as a pianist, but the credit goes to Juliet Ayre (violin) & Richard Mapp (piano).

In his Palmerston North garden, it’s Harry, who alerts us to an astonishing rumour exposing the secret product that’s in development for the Chinese market. He’s had a call from a journalist who has pounced on it. Inevitably social media trolls fan the flames of moral outrage, leaving us to wonder, despite Olivia’s “Total poppycock” claim, if it’s true, a mistake or deliberate misinformation.

Enriching the drama even more with their alternative points of view are Moulder’s Jennifer, Lexi and Grace. Featherston Street art gallery owner Jennifer medicates the crises that threaten an imminent opening with wine – and drops a little bombshell in the process. Lexi steps up to an open-mic night with an astutely wrought stand-up routine that compellingly castigates the “fuckin’ carnists” in the audience for destroying the planet while enhancing our understanding of her life to date. She raises a good number of laughs to boot.

As for Grace … Harry has told us that on her 14th birthday, Grace Olivia Paterson declared she was to be called Olivia. In a stroke of dramatic brilliance, Moulder gives us 11 year-old Grace, perfectly capturing the prepubescent innocence, intelligence, resilience and confidence of a keen bike rider and star-gazer.

Olivia brings it all together with a double-whammy ending that is sure to serve all tastes. The Climate Crisis and Covid 19 attest to the play’s timeless topicality. As promised, the themes traversed run deep, the personal stories are universal, tragedy and stress generate humour balanced with pathos, and the totality is inspiring – not least as a superb example of the ephemeral alchemy of live theatre.

See the play; buy the book.  

I publish this on the day we hear that Sir John Trimmer has died. He memorably partnered Helen in Meeting Karpovsky, the only play of the four that wasn’t a solo.


[NBR/Arts – 13 December, 2002]

Meeting Karpovsky created by Helen Moulder, Sue Ryder and Sir Jon Trimmer from an idea by Helen Moulder, directed by Sue Ryder

Court 1, Christchurch until 7 December (then at Circa Studio, March 2003)

Reviewed by John Smythe

For those who have seen her contributions to Hens Teeth revues, Meeting Karpovsky begins as vintage Helen Moulder and may even be seen as a precursor to her forthcoming Miss Havisham in The Court’s Great Expectations (May 2003). But it soon reveals itself as a very different and surprisingly substantial work in its on right.

Sylvia, a delightfully genteel and dotty lady of indeterminate age, given to making up dubious limericks, is going quietly mad in one room of a large rambling house where the view of the lawn is obscured by rampant wisteria. Escaping from her real office-worker world, she spends her evenings conversing with blown-up photos of famous characters from classical ballets.

The world famous ballet dancer Alexander Karpovsky, whom she has seen perform 127 times, is featured in the four pictures we see: as the deceptive and guilt-wracked Albrecht with the now ghostly Giselle; as the magician Herr Drosselmeyer (from The Nutcracker); as the would-be controlling Widow Simone (La Fille Mal Gardee / The Badly Guarded Daughter); as Petrouchka, the harlequin puppet with a human heart, unable to escape the control of his creator.

Silvia’s fantasy world is confirmed when Karpovsky (Sir Jon Trimmer, on loan from the Royal New Zealand Ballet) materialises. Although shocked and fearful, she does allow him to teach her, among other things, the pas de deux from Giselle.

But why is all this happening to her? Why is the room strewn with unopened tea chests labelled with Chinese calligraphy? Why are there four brown paper carry bags with hand-written names on them including the Salvation Army? Why is she unable to bring herself to open a large envelope of photos? And why do we keep hearing the thundering sound of a train?

Because Meeting Karpovsky is coming to Circa Studio next May (and, funding permitting, is likely to tour further afield in 2004), I will not answer those questions directly. Suffice to say the play uses fantasy to take us into a profoundly moving reality of great emotional depth, the Petrouchkan theme of raging against a controlling God we no longer trust is central, and overall it informs, educates, entertains and finally inspires.

In this limbo between fantasy and reality, questions of dependence and independence, sanity and insanity, and an individual’s power over life and death, are thoroughly explored. An epilogue in which Sylvia recounts how she saved her niece from drowning is uplifting in every sense, not least because it brings together all the elements in a powerful resolution.

As Sylvia, Helen Moulder extends herself in every dimension with great emotional integrity and a sure performance sensibility. In challenging herself, she challenges us to share her journey and delivers the kind of rewards only live theatre can offer.

In the silent (but for one word) role of the fictional Karpovsky, Jon Trimmer is amiable in repose, stern and dismissive when he needs to be, and a delight to observe when he comes alive as a dancer.

It is thanks to Sylvia’s limitations in physically realising the dancer she feels herself to be inside that we fully appreciate Karpovsky’s nimble skill, even in these more senior years. Together, Moulder and Trimmer enhance each other’s excellence in a strong performing partnership.


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An entertaining ride across bike-break mountain

Review by Richard Mays 06th May 2021

Blooming appropriately during Agrifood Week in Aotearoa/New Zealand’s food innovation capital, this excursion into the future of kai is another little gem from the established firm of Helen Moulder and Sue Rider.  

At the helm of Patterson’s Meats, founded by her recently knighted father Sir Harry, Olivia Patterson is about to take the company global. This is on the back of a new secret food product Olivia reckons will take international markets by storm.

The play’s pre-Covid exposition is deftly handled with Olivia responding to a series of one-sided phone and video calls as she juggles the arrangements for a Shanghai business trip with some pressing personal matters. Moulder’s Olivia is crisp, confident, organised, direct, driven and running on adrenaline as she chases down a mega-million-dollar deal with her Chinese investor. 

Secrecy though could prove her undoing. Neither her father – who still retains a controlling interest in the company, its board, or other members of the family know what she is up to. Keeping the cards so close to her chest makes the company more vulnerable than Olivia supposes. All it takes is a throwaway comment to a reporter from her sister Jennifer – who used to run Patterson’s Meats with Harry – to make those cards a losing hand.

A big hint that all is not what it seems is in the sculptural form of a twisted wrecked foldaway bicycle occupying the other half of the stage during these scenes. Olivia is in denial about something and, by not addressing the bike skeleton in the room, there are consequences for the high-stakes business, emotional and relationships game she is playing.

The Bicycle & the Butcher’s Daughter is a solo show in several senses of the word. Co-writer and accomplished performer, Moulder explores Olivia through four additional characters, and I like that a couple of the protagonists are not always reliable narrators. 

Joining meat mogul Sir Harry in his garden, there’s sister Jennifer – wine-loving proprietor of an avant-garde art gallery; daughter Lexi – a talented classical pianist who moonlights as a ‘four-lettered’ stand-up vegan comic; and Grace – an 11-year-old child who could be Olivia’s younger self.

The effective character switches, using coat, jacket, scarf or hat, take place during classical musical interludes – recorded especially by Juliet Ayre and Richard Mapp – along with pre-set lighting changes operated on-stage by Moulder as part of the transition. 

While the nature of the play’s revelation – given the clues throughout – is somewhat predictable, the script then manages to neatly undercut the expectations it creates. A qualification here is that a reference to Manu, Olivia’s off-stage head of development, does come across as patronising. There’s no need to point the exception or make an excuse to the audience that a high-achieving Māori character is part of the mix.

Not unless it is to expose another flaw in Olivia’s almost too-good-to-be-true inclusive try-hard façade, and if that’s the case, maybe more should deliberately be made of her underlying attitudes.

That aside, this is a delightfully engaging and entertaining piece. On the utilitarian touring set, and despite a slight lag in momentum as the denouement approaches, there’s no denying Moulder’s story-telling prowess or her skills at characterisation.

With allusions to mental health, the environment and social media cancel culture, all underscored by gentle irony, this layered contemporary Kiwi cautionary tale – an entertaining ride across bike-break mountain – earns enthusiastic, well-deserved extended applause from a near-full opening night house.


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Pathos and humour abound

Review by Ruth Allison 20th Sep 2020

Helen Moulder never fails to please. Her audience expect a quality production and they get it every time. This production is no exception and given the restrictions of Alert levels and Lockdowns, the fact that it continued to be rehearsed and performed is credit to all involved. Planning and rehearsals were done online through Zoom meetings, Helen rehearsing in Nelson and Sue directing from Brisbane, the collaboration a sign of the times. Brava.

Five characters inhabit the stage: Olivia, the CEO of Patterson’s Meats; Harry, her father; Jennifer, her sister; Lexi, her daughter and Grace, Olivia’s 11-year-old self. They are all played with deft and accurate rendering of gesture and voice by Helen Moulder.  She holds all characters in the palm of her hand, flawlessly adapting to each presence. In Grace she excels: a finely drawn, sensitive and utterly disarming child. Seamless clothing changes in front of the audience, adept lighting and music adjustments complement each personality, and the narrative sustains a steady pace.  

Olivia is a strong female presence: intelligent, confident, in control, knowledgeable but holding back from those closest to her. I’m not going to say what she is holding back. All will be revealed and the audience delight in speculating. In fact, the audience delight in taking part, such is the intimacy of the theatre space and the social distancing required.

The script is clever and most definitely a New Zealand one. References to meat, farming, methane gases, Pukekos, chickpeas, vegans and trade with China make the fabric of the play.  Pathos and humour abound as Olivia struggles to communicate with her father, sister and daughter. In the character of Lexi performing stand-up comedy, she combines both with unforeseen and startling results. Olivia begins to unravel. 

A mangled bicycle, stage left, remains the most compelling of props and although little mention of it is made until halfway through the performance, it intrigues and conspires to keep the audience guessing. So does the ‘fake news’ food item that put Patterson’s Meat in jeopardy. I’m not going to give that away if I can help it either. But I will say it was Olivia’s sister, Jennifer, the petulant and rather selfish art gallery owner, who endangered both the business and her sister.

Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer’ and ‘Spring’ Sonatas – in a recording by local musicians Juliet Ayre (violin) and Richard Mapp (piano) – provides an emotional kaleidoscope. ‘Kreutzer’ is full of anguish and melancholy and notable for its technical difficulty; in the hands of these two accomplished musicians, a rich and elegant performance. The ‘Spring’, lyrical and uplifting, is a harbinger of good times because, in the end, for the characters, there is harmony and acceptance, love and the promise of a contented future. 


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