The Conchus Season

BATS Theatre, Wellington

18/08/2009 - 29/08/2009

Production Details

Bula Vinaka! Talofa Lava! Malo E Leilei! Kia Orana! Taloha Ni! Fakalofa Lahi Atu! Kia Ora!

Nina Nawalowalo, artistic director of The Conch and creator of the ground breaking production Vula, which last year enjoyed a sell out season London’s Barbican Centre, is at the helm of The Conchus Season at Bats Theatre from 18th to 29th August 2009.

Nina has launched Conchus to provide a platform not only for the mentoring and showcasing of emerging Mâori and Pacific talent but as a vehicle to get the stories of three young women onto the stage.

Nina says of the season – "These new works contain issues central to New Zealand today. Violence against children, the impact of Alzheimer’s on a family and the experience of immigration on a young Pacific Islander. Issues so often presented through the media but here told by young women from those communities."

Nina has assembled an impressive team of mentors to work with performers Kristyl Neho, Princess te Puea Whioke and Fijian New Zealander Kasaya Manulevu. Along side Conch co founder Tom McCrory, Briar Grace Smith as dramaturg, Sarah Foster and Canadian dancer Andrea Tutt as dance mentors and last year’s Chapman Tripp lighting designer of the year 2008 Lisa Maule make up the artistic team.

This broad range of skills reflects the dynamic diversity of the pieces themselves, which move from an explosive cocktail of Tap, Hip Hop and Kapa Haka, through Magic and illusion and impressive writing and multi character story telling.

‘Nawalowalo is the master of the hypnotic image.’ THE HERALD, AUCKLAND

‘Nothing short of awesome… a must see.’ THE DOMINION POST, WELLINGTON

The Conch showcases an exciting crop of emerging Mâori and Pacific performers. Directed by Nina Nawalowalo and Tom McCrory, dramaturgy by Briar Grace Smith with lighting designed by Lisa Maule and set design mentored by Dorita Hannah.

Are you Conchus?

Some Things Can’t be Healed by Bandages by Princess Te Puea Whioke
An explosive one woman solo combining Hip hop, Tap and storytelling, exploring the highly charged subject of violence against children.

Yalewa by Kasaya Manulevu
Photographs and objects may be all that we have left when someone leaves us. When these objects are of cultural significance our sense of loss and dislocation can be doubled as our living connection to them passes away.

Te Mahara – The Memory by Kristyl Neho
Following a Grandmothers journey into Altzhiemer’s and memory loss in Hastings, Kristyl plays over ten different characters to sometimes hilarious sometimes heartbreakingly poignant effect.

The Conchus Season

Season: Tuesday 18 – Saturday 29 August (no show Sun/Mon)
Time: 7pm
Tickets: $16 full / $13 concession, Ask the Box Office about School Matinees.
book now! on 04 802 4175 or 

Some Things Can't Be Healed By Bandages

Co Devised and Performed by Princess Te Puea Whioke

Combining physical theatre, dance and storytelling. Exploring the highly charged and current subject of violence against children. First draft developed as a solo at Wellington Performing Arts Centre.



Co Devised and Performed by Kasaya Manulevu

'Yalewa', Fijian for 'Woman'  explores the impact of the loss of a mother and migration on a young Fijian New Zealander. Objects may be all that we have left when someone leaves us. When these objects are of cultural significance our sense of loss and dislocation can be doubled as our living connection to them passes away. In this piece themes of identity, cultural dislocation, grief and hope combine with the rich poetic style for which The Conch has become internationally recognised.


Te Mahara - The Memory

Co Devised and Performed by Kristyl Neho

'Te Mahara' means 'The Memory'. Kristyl developed the core of piece drawing on her own experience of her Grandmothers journey into Alzheimer's and memory loss. Transporting us the heart of Hastings Kristyl plays over 15 different characters to sometimes-hilarious sometimes heartbreakingly poignant effect. First draft developed as a solo at Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School.

Directed by Nina Nawalowalo and Tom McCrory
Dramaturgy by Briair Grace-Smith
Lighting Design:
Lisa Maule
Design / Photography:
Robyn Yee
Costume Design:
Sue Prescott
Choreographic Mentors:
Sarah Foster & Andrea Tutt
Metal Bird Design:
Bridget Nawalowalo
Salesi Leota
Rehearsal Director / Production Assistant:
Donna Chapman
Sound Engineer: Mike Norman

Two hours with interval

Three in one

Review by Lynn Freeman 28th Aug 2009

I have seen the next No.2 [the solo play by Toa Fraser, performed by Madeleine Sami] and it’s written and performed by Kristyl Neho.

Like Sami, Neho brings to life around a dozen characters – they’re not quite as well defined as No.2 but pretty damn impressive. It’s also a family story, centred around a grandmother – but this one has Alzheimer’s and her children and grandchildren gather to care for her and decide her future. This is topical, credible, heartfelt and heartbreaking theatre.

Neho’s multi-character singing of a Mormon song is one of those theatrical moments you know will never be forgotten. The way she captures the banter between siblings, young and older, is right on the money. But always at the centre of the story, as she is central to this family as the grandmother.

In a flashback we get to know her as an immensely strong, outspoken woman with a huge heart. This adds our sense of loss to that of her family at who she’s become and what the disease has robbed her of.

Kasaya Manulevu, with the help of a puppeteer, also explores loss. This is the story of a girl shipped off to an aunt in New Zealand from Fiji when her mother dies. The island part of the story is told so simply and beautifully with a suitcase, some model buildings and a scrunched sheet representing the rolling surf. It works an absolute treat.

Manulevu shows great strength is her physicality and that includes her facial expressions – she doesn’t talk in this short work, there is a taped narrative and a brilliant use of music. The conflict of being a Kiwi-Fijian was illustrated by a moving rugby ball, the two different national anthems, and Manulevu in the middle totally torn on which team to support – so she backs both. The last sequence using tapa cloth is lovely to watch but is too long and somehow doesn’t quite come off. But that’s a minor quibble.

In the midst of these two works is Some Things Can’t Be Healed by Bandages, a dance work looking at violence against children. It’s so topical it starts with a recent discussion on Campbell Live regarding the current vote on the child discipline legislation.

Here Princess Te Puea Whioke creates a young girl in pyjamas. We hear her parents arguing and swearing in the background while she’s in front of the TV. Her emotions range from fear to grief to anger, powerfully expressed in a range of dance forms, from hip hop to tap dancing. There’s something missing in this work, despite the dancer’s onstage presence and total commitment to it.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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Solo stories a little bit hit and miss

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 20th Aug 2009

The three solo works that make up The Conchus Season deal with three topical issues – child abuse, migration and a family coping with Alzheimer’s disease – in three completely different theatrical styles.

Princess Te Puea Whioke uses emotionally charged dancing to evoke the pain, fear, and violence of child abuse in her Some Things Can’t be Healed by Bandages, while Kasaya Manulevu in her Yalewa evokes her childhood in Fiji and her adjustment to life in Cannon’s Creek after the death of her mother with just a suitcase full of miniature props, a voice-over and some superb singing by a recorded choir.

Kristyl Neho in her Te Mahara – The Memory plays about fifteen members of a Hastings whanau whose once dominating, lively, much-loved and revered Grandmother slowly succumbs to Alzheimer’s. The success – and the weakness – of this over-long work is its humour which this talented performer extracts from the ordinary events in the everyday life of the family.

There’s a long funny scene about shoes being bought for two of the school-aged kids and a hilarious sequence when the family are meant to be singing a song but they have difficulty in singing the same song. All the while the old lady’s disease is largely forgotten and when the younger generation get together to talk about how they are going to cope with their grandmother’s illness or when they celebrate her 70th birthday the poignancy aimed for is lost, as it is in the drawn out ending.

In the much shorter, sharper works of Princess Te Puea Whioke and Kasaya Manulevu the points are made emphatically whether it is through the former’s flailing arms, flying hair, twisted body and pounding feet reacting to the aggressive chords of the music or the latter’s heartwarming smile mixed with some apprehension as she sees for the first time the hundreds of people at Auckland Airport or when she finds comfort enveloped by tapa.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


Emma Olsen August 21st, 2009

The Conchus Season represented to me story telling at its best. Having previously seen 'Vula' i had high expectations for the Conchus season and was not dispointed. i wouldnt be suprised if this show tours internationaly, like the previous. It's nice to see theatre deal with serious issues with a combination of humour, drama and theatrical spectacle- that was hilarious, heart breaking and incredible to watch. It's great to see young Pacific performers telling their stories, we should have more.

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Diverse and impressive theatre exploring stories unique to Aotearoa

Review by Hannah Smith 19th Aug 2009

It is not often that you go to an evening show at BATS and see small children in the front row.  But on the opening night of The Conchus Season whole families, from their youngest to their oldest members, were in evidence showing support for these new New Zealand works, and nothing could have been more appropriate.

The Conchus Season is a brand new initiative masterminded by artistic director Nina Nawalowalo and aimed at exploring ‘issues central to Aotearoa New Zealand today.’  The three original works created and performed by these solo artists are as fierce and different as the artists themselves, but also linked by their common themes of family, identity, community and place.

The first piece of the evening, Yalewa, explores the story of a young Fijian girl forced to migrate to New Zealand upon the death of her mother. The familiar themes of loss, nostalgia and reforged identity are given a highly theatrical treatment.

The deceptively uncomplicated set piece of an open suitcase immediately draws and focuses our attention, aided by the moody and evocative lighting design of Lisa Maule. Our attention captured, this suitcase transforms into an island floating in the Pacific and the story begins…

The world of Yalewa is created for us with puppets, which give body to Fijian night and aeroplane travel with a disarming and beautiful simplicity.  The graceful work of puppeteer Salesi Leota is only slightly undermined by the occasions on which we see his wrists – a problem that could be solved entirely by some longer gloves.

Music is used cleverly to aid the narrative, being the keystone to one particularly funny transition, and to evoke a sense of community with choirs of voices uplifted in song.  The music cleverly supports the story, which is told to us in voiceover and transmitted through the sound system.  This, and the use of puppets, creates a sense of eerie disembodiment from what is a very personal tale, perhaps playing with ideas of distance and disconnection.

When we do get to see performer Kasaya Manulevu it is a treat, for she has an incredibly expressive face and lends much comedy to extremely simple moments with her beaming smiles and animated eyes.  This familiar story of displacement and migration is given a spirited comedy by her presence.

The second work of the evening, Some Things Can’t Be Healed With Bandages, is a dance performance exploring issues of violence against children and was first developed by Princess Te Puea Whioke as a solo at the Wellington Performing Arts Centre.

It starts with a pyjama clad little girl watching a television and overhearing angry voices raised in the other room. This violence soon spills onto the stage and as the piece progresses we see this expressed through a range of dance forms from tap to hip-hop and many things in between. 

The contrast between the tightly executed dance moves and the floppy pyjamas and hair style is visually satisfying and helps cast the minuscule dancer as a child, but I wanted to be able to see her face, especially as the few moments in which it is visible she speaks volumes with her eyes. 

The dance is a showcase of undoubtable skill and as such it is entertaining and impressive to watch.  However the ‘story’ of the performance is not clear and my sympathy would be more fully engaged if the nature or progression of the threats engulfing the child were more comprehensible, or if perhaps it is a cycle of violence that deepens and is repeated.

After a ten minute interval the audience file back into the theatre to watch the evening’s final solo piece Te Mahara – The Memory.

Created and performed by Kristyl Neho based on her own experiences with her grandmother’s journey into Alzheimer’s – this hour long one woman solo is the absolute stand out of the evening.

Neho is a virtuoso performer.  She embodies twelve or more characters, an entire extended family, each of which has a distinctive face, voice, walk and once seen is instantly recognisable to us. These characterisations are absolutely amazing – it takes a minute or two for the audience to warm up to the idea of this solo performer acting all three or four characters in a scene – but once she gets into it and we get into it, well, she is on fire.

As well as being an entertaining and impressive performance this is a story told with warmth, respect and love. Each family member is portrayed with humour, delicacy and understanding. The story has a depth built on the complexity of family relationships and real empathy toward every character therein.  While there is much that is funny the humour is rooted in truth, the tale is poignant and the ending is deeply moving. I cry.  I do not often cry.

The Conchus Season is a night of diverse and impressive theatre exploring stories unique to Aotearoa New Zealand.  Such strong original work from young theatre makers deserves our support.  Go see it!
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


Jay August 21st, 2009

He ataahua enei whakaari. These pieces of theatre were abolutely beautiful, each took you on a different journey and the talent in each actress was strongly evident. The simple motif of cloths was the only thing that linked them altogether - intentional or not it added great fluidity to the diversity in performances. Would reccomend this to everyone! mihi nui ki a koutou nga kaiwhakatau.

Chicks August 21st, 2009

Thoroughly enjoyed "The Conchus Season" especially the last piece perfomed by Kristyl Neho.  She made me forget that I was only watching one actress with her precise facial and vocals of the many family members that she played.  The shoe scene was classic.  It reminded me of the times when I would go shopping with the wrong parent and come home with the "stink" things to wear, while my sibling was coming home with the "label" clothes because of choosing the right one to go shopping with.  

Well done look forward to more things to come.

skillet August 19th, 2009

I heartily agree with the points made in the review. I felt this was an amazing opportunity to see such emerging and talented young artists.  What more could you want from an evening of entertainment - Theatre, humour, dance, puppetry and heartfelt tales, all held with great direction, lighting and soundscape.  I hope local people support these wonderful young women and they find the wherewithall to be able to share this show with audiences further afield.

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