The Departure Lounge

Refinery ArtSpace, 114 Hardy St, Nelson

29/03/2023 - 30/03/2023

Nelson Fringe Festival 2023

Production Details

Written and performed by Ro Cambridge
Director and Dramaturge Donna Chapman

The Departure Lounge is an autobiographical one-woman show about sex, suitcases, sailors and finding love in all the wrong places.

While waiting in The Departure Lounge for a flight to an uncertain future, a 70 year-old woman unpacks and repacks the baggage she’s accumulated over a lifetime, beginning with her dysfunctional family in 1950s small town NZ before heading, via a disastrous OE, to 1980s Auckland where she leads a passionate double life in a risky and clandestine underworld.

Can we transcend our upbringing? Is it possible to outrun the past? Can light – even love – be found in dark places? These are the big questions which lie at the heart of the show, and which are impossible to answer until we enter The Departure Lounge.

The audience at the 2022 premiere performance, described the show as “courageous”, “powerful” and “deeply affecting” and an “invitation to look at our own lives without expectation or judgement”. They also said the show was “full of humour and pathos” and presented with “an engaging physicality”.

Take your seat in the Departure Lounge now, and prepare for the flight of a lifetime!

Refinery ArtSpace
Wed 29, Thurs 30 March

Performed by Ro Cambridge
Dramaturgy by Donna Chapman

Theatre ,


Brave and creative work, delivered with searing honesty

Review by Gail Tresidder 25th Apr 2023

A little girl, seven years old, is going home on the Hastings bus. She is with her nana, their knees piled with op-shop treasures. For her, momentary happiness and the start of a lifelong passion in what is a very unhappy childhood. And, for quite a while, unhappy womanhood too.

So movingly portrayed, it is hard to forget this often-barefoot child in baggy overalls, metaphorically hiding from the world in an eye-concealing mask. We want to reach out to protect her, to hug her, to keep her safe from the turbulence at home. We join her on top of a macrocarpa hedge as she takes refuge with a library book. We would love to do more.

This life-story is sad. Some of it hard to hear, her young woman time as a ship girl honestly told, though clearly transformative and at times very happy.

The simple yet appealing set is 100% op-shop sourced by a woman who likes to “save the planet, one op-shop at a time”. It is effective, the large map of Auckland city centre-stage serving as a changing room and source of props, all totally relative to the narrative. Flying ducks on the wall, synonymous with a kiwi home of the 1950’s, vintage suitcases for travel, and books – lots of them, especially journals and diaries.

Ro Cambridge is known as a fine writer. In a new medium, her very occasional fumble with lines will be overcome with practice. The Departure Lounge is brave and creative work, delivered with searing honesty. I doubt if anyone in the audience will forget it.


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