THE BOUNDARY RIDERS Musical Tales of NZ Pioneer Women

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

03/03/2017 - 04/03/2017

NZ Fringe Festival 2017 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Production Details

‘An invaluable body of work that traverses genres and captures untold stories of Kiwi pioneer women’ (NZ Herald, September 2014).

Hear the stories of women who left their homelands’ shores in search of a better life, as Rachel Dawick (NZ Folk Album Award Finalist, 2015) brings her tales of women in 1800s New Zealand to the NZ Fringe. From prostitutes to missionary wives, goldminers to magicians, fraudsters to washer women, you will be transported into new lands where Victorian boundaries were broken by ordinary women leading extraordinary lives. Don’t miss this magical musical journey.

BATS Theatre – The Propeller Stage, 1 Kent Terrace Te Aro, Wellington
Friday 3& Saturday 4 March 2017
Concession/Student $15 | Fringe Addict $12 | Full $20
Wheelchair access available.

Note: THE BOUNDARY RIDERS Musical Tales of NZ Pioneer Women premiered in a development showing entitled THE JOURNEY OF THE BOUNDARY RIDERS at Palmerston North’s The Dark Room on 18 April 2015.

Theatre , Musical ,

1 hr

A rich vein of history mined

Review by Tim Stevenson 04th Mar 2017

In this likeable, relaxed, no-frills show, Rachel Dawick goes in search of the personal histories of women who settled in New Zealand in the 1800s and turns her discoveries into contemporary folk songs.

Boundary Riders blends Dawick’s account of researching the lives of New Zealand women settlers, brief biographies of the women she sings about, and the songs themselves, most of which are her own compositions.

She has selected 5 women as the subjects for the show: Bridget (Biddy) Goodwin, one of the few recorded women gold miners; Jane Whiteside, New Zealand’s first female magician; Barbara Weldon, prostitute; Elizabeth Colenso, missionary; and Amy Bock, fraudster and crossdresser.

The songs she’s written are based on material she’s uncovered through her research. She stays as close as she can to the voices of the women themselves, as they’ve come down through letters, newspaper reports and court records. The language is plain, with few flights of fancy.

Biddy confesses to living with two men, with pipe smoking accompaniment. Jane runs through her sadly brief love affair with the stage. Barbara advertises her mature and experienced charms (“treasure waiting for your ship”) on the streets of Hokitika. Elizabeth bids her unfaithful missionary husband farewell. Amy and her unsuspecting bride look forward to tying the knot.

Dawick’s selections lean somewhat towards the louche and scandalous. That is to say, we get more drunkenness and sexual unconventionality, and not so much about having to constantly wash and cook for large families and gangs of work-grimed, ravenous men, using equipment that would make anyone born after 1950 gag.

Boundary Riders’ formula is a simple one: just a bare-foot woman on stage with a guitar and a few basic props. Dawick has the self-assurance, the voice, the personality and the material to carry the audience with her on her travels around New Zealand and through history. Her voice – clear, mellow, warm and strong – and her love for her material are major assets.

The songs are effective, portraying and celebrating the women they’re about without judging or sentimentalising. Barbara’s and Elizabeth’s songs in particular reach up to a level of unaffected beauty, possibly because they get closer to the heart of their subject than the others.

Dawick tells us she’s performed her work in public venues such as libraries many times, and it’s no surprise that she comes across as being completely at ease on stage. You get the impression that all she needs is a room big enough to swing a guitar, and an audience, and she’ll sing and tell entertaining yarns for as long as anyone likes.

Her performance has a personal, spontaneous feel to it, and she isn’t afraid to make mistakes. This is fortunate for her, although not necessarily for the audience, because there were a number of hitches in the show last night. These included Dawick forgetting some of her own lyrics, amongst them the lyrics for the potentially outstanding Elizabeth’s song. Perhaps she’ll put in a little revision time before the final show tonight.

Dawick has mined a rich vein of history to create the show, and she tells us that she’s starting on another, about the theatre troupes that toured New Zealand in the 1800s. It’s a brilliant idea, and we can all look forward to the results. 


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