The Height of the Eiffel Tower

The Basement -return season, Auckland

19/04/2010 - 20/04/2010

4th Street Theatre, Manhattan, NYC, USA

13/08/2010 - 18/08/2010

Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

10/03/2009 - 13/03/2009

BATS Theatre, Wellington

23/11/2010 - 27/11/2010

Auckland Fringe 2009

Production Details

The height of the Eiffel Tower varies by 8cm depending on the temperature  

Meet the family of Terri Hulme:
Nathan is thirteen, awkward and fixated with fish.
Anna Louise is sixteen, pregnant and horrible.
Duncan left home – ‘about a year ago’
Katie is all she’s got.

The Height of the Eiffel Tower is a fresh and defiant one woman show performed by the irrepressibly talented Morgana O’Reilly. Morgana was cast in Silo Theatre’s original Ensemble Project; she then stepped in to Toa Fraser’s Bare, and was seen on our TV screens in A Thousand Apologies.  She was voted the ‘Best Emerging Actor’ in 2007 by Metro Magazine and NZ Listener.

This is a hilarious and at times heart breaking portrayal of a mother-of-four trying to become the person she always intended to be.  Terri Hulme has become an orange poncho wearing, craft making, Master of keeping-it-together.

Meet the family – Anna-Louise is 16, pregnant and has no respect for her mother. Nathan is 13, awkward and seems oblivious to the strange and ridiculous family life that surrounds him. Duncan is 23 and ‘moved out about a year ago,’ and Katie, Terri’s beloved first born, is in Europe, discovering the perks of hand modelling while struggling to find her place in the world.

We follow Terri through a side-splitting, torturous and hugely awakening lunch date with an old friend from university – she’s what Terri could have been… she is successful, stylish and wealthy.

Watch the spectrums change, from pastels to primary and back again. It’s a colour therapy thing – you be the judge.

An appreciation of the ultimate sacrifice. Laugh, cry, and ultimately win. There’s a Terri Hulme in all of us.

She’s given her life to her family
A life that could have been very different
She’s not resentful
She’s just bought an orange poncho… $79 marked down from $100

The Basement (Lower Greys Ave, Auckland CBD)
Tuesday 10th – Friday 13th March
9.30pm – 10:20pm
Tickets: $20/$15/$10
Tickets available through Aotea Centre Box Office (09) 357 3355 or

The Auckland Fringe runs from 27th February to 22nd March 2009.
For more Auckland Fringe information go to 

Return season (fundraiser for going to the New York Fringe 2010)
Monday, 19 April 2010 –
Tuesday, 20 April 2010
Door sales only, $15. 7:30pm start. 
New York Fringe Festival 2010
In August, ‘The Height of the Eiffel Tower… varies by 8cm depending on the temperature’, a show by Morgana O’Reilly & Abigail Greenwood is having its USA premiere at the New York International Fringe Festival!

The FringeNYC is the largest multi-arts festival in North America, with more than 200 companies from all over the world performing for 16 days in more than 20 venues. FringeNYC will celebrate its 14th Anniversary August 13th – 29th, 2010. We are lucky enough to be showcased on the opening night of the festival!!

Our performance dates are:

FRI August 13th @ 6:45pm
SAT August 14th @ 2:00pm 
SUN August 15th @ 8:30pm 
TUE August 17th @ 4:15pm 
WED August 18th @ 9:30pm
Click here to book your tickets NOW!
All performances are at:
The 4th Street Theatre, Manhattan, NYC.
83 East 4th Street (2nd Ave & Bowery)

The Height of the Eiffel Tower
Bats theatre
23rd – 27th. November 2010
Shows starting at 7pm. 

A pleasure to watch

Review by Lynn Freeman 02nd Dec 2010

‘This show comes from the bottom of our really big hearts’ is one of the director’s handwritten comments in the programme and that encapsulates a lot that is to like about this play. It’s been performed around the world before coming to Wellington, which also explains the finesse and confidence of the co-creator and sole performer, Morgana O’Reilly.

This is a charming way to spend an hour, an excellent example of how one actor can transform without need for costume changes into a variety of characters and make them each individuals you get to know and like, in a very short space of time.

This is a family story – Nathan who is cheeky and struggling to get up the nerve to talk to girls, Anna-Louise who is up the duff at 16 and clearly not ready for motherhood, Katie who has a good head on her shoulders has just started her OE and writes home to their mum, Terry.

Terry, well she’s a hard case, a devoted mother but under-appreciated and under-estimated by most of her children and her husband. She is starting to realise that she has also undervalued herself, as she talks to an old school friend who took a very different path.

O’Reilly is an absolute pleasure to watch, effortlessly slipping in and out of characters, as comfortable in Nathan’s tweeny shoes as those of his ‘trailer trash’ Mum and a mad Englishman extolling the virtues of urine as a medical remedy. She’s the whole package.

Greenwood has a sure and inventive sense of direction, including choreographing some pretty impressive fight scenes between Nathan and Anna-Louise. She and O’Reilly clearly have great chemistry and we can expect a more ambitious story from them next time.
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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Talented actress in lightweight play

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 30th Nov 2010

The 45 minute solo comic playlet, The Height of the Eiffel Tower by two Auckland actors, is theatre at it simplest. Only an actor and a chair are needed, though at Bats a rug and some lighting have been added. It has toured in many parts of the world including the New York Fringe Festival “by means of their hugely successful ‘Livingroom Tour’.”

As a piece of entertainment for a party in someone’s living room it is no doubt something unusual, but in a public theatre and at 45 minutes long it seems lightweight and it covers territory thoroughly explored in numerous plays.

The central character is Terri who has a nervous laugh that would drive anyone insane but it clearly indicates Terri’s underlying unhappiness with her life. She has four children: 13 year-old Nathan, whose speech on fish to his class is a brief comic highlight, 16 year-old Anna Louise who is pregnant, 23 year-old Duncan who fled the nest years ago and Katie, her first born, who is doing her OE and meets an Englishman with an obsession with the letter S and a Frenchman who has an obsession with hands.

Terri has a husband but he gets about as much attention in the play as he gives his family and the catalyst for Terri to act like Shirley Valentine or Nora Helmer is Rachel, an old Uni friend who is rich, successful and fulfilled.

Morgana O’Reilly plays all the above roles and one or two others with energy, both physical and vocal, and she is blessed with the skill of changing from one character to another in a fraction of a second whether the characters are in the middle of a conversation, or a fight or an argument. But despite her obvious talents she is unable to make The Height of the Eiffel Tower seem to be anything more than an amusing drama school exercise.


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Brims with heart and humour

Review by John Smythe 24th Nov 2010

It starts with a helluva hooha over the remote: your classic family squabble. Someone is telling someone else not to touch her because he’s gay and she, it seems, is pregnant … Is a third person trying to break it up? It’s hard to make sense of initially, just as it would be if you walked into a full-on fight between a family of strangers, despite their being strangely familiar.

Blessed silence for Mum at last. Someone at the door. Expected? She composes herself … Her visitor is Rachel, an old friend from twenty-something years ago. University, it will emerge, although the pregnant daughter is incredulous: was her mum really someone else before she was “Mum”?

Rachel’s visit is the device which causes Terri – like a latter-day Every(wo)man – to account for herself and her life, while daughter Anna-Louise (16) hides out in the ‘gottage’ (a converted garage) and son Nathan (13) works in his room on a speech about fish.

Terri’s compulsively bright chit-chat gradually reveals she has a husband, Robert, who spends a lot of time “in his office with Kylie”, and an older son, Duncan, whose trail of casual girlfriends is catching up with him – or trying to – around sexual health issues. Neither Robert nor Duncan are seen ‘in action’.

The other daughter, Katie, is doing her OE and throughout the show speaks her ‘letters home’ from London (well Tottenham Hale), where she is briefly seduced into neo-new-age faddism, then Paris, where she’s discovered as a hand model.  

Rachel doesn’t get a voice but it’s clear she’s a successful and wealthy professional of some kind, and her mere presence is quietly corroding Terri’s self confidence as she – along with us – starts to see her life as others see it.  

Sole actor Morgana O’Reilly and director Abigail Greenwood, also credited as co-creators, have fashioned a thoroughly engaging work that – abetted by Jennifer Lal’s lighting tones – almost imperceptibly builds a coherent picture of this family’s world amid the dysfunctional behaviours that characterise it.

For all her rebellious ‘home-girl’ persona, Anna-Louise seems headed down the same street as her mother but quite a few years earlier in her life, except ‘baby-daddy’ Salesi – a foul-mouthed bully-boy misogynist encountered on the school bus with put-upon “Gaythan” – is unlikely to opt for the family home option; not that we would wish that on her.

Nathan takes refuge in factoids – like the height of the Eiffel Tower varying by 8cm depending on the temperature – and his speech about fish and how they breed is a gem. It is topped by a beautifully insightful moment of poetic transportation into a whole new realm of being that speaks volumes about early male adolescence.

Katie’s true feelings, alone in a vast and impersonal world, are also subtly betrayed. O’Reilly has a wonderful knack of building the pressure beneath the veneers of her characters, so that when the truth erupts it is all the more dramatic and emotionally engaging.

In 45 compelling and comedic minutes we get to know Terri almost as well as she doesn’t know herself. The ending this provokes raises a whole new set of questions about the fates awaiting all the family members we’ve come to know and, in a strange way, love.

Brimming with heart and humour, The Height of the Eiffel Tower – which has played in theatres twice in Auckland, in London, Amsterdam, Nevada, New York, Melbourne, and in 103 living rooms – captures a moment in time and leaves you with plenty to ponder. Its critique and honouring of this woman who chose to be a mother four times over is especially interesting given that it is created by women who have all that ahead of them (or not).


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The height of good theatre: this show is a joy

Review by Kate McGill 16th Aug 2010

New York is busting with theatre, and aside from the glitzy bright lights of Broadway, there is a strong Off Broadway and Off Off Broadway scene.

During the Fringe Festival, you arrive downtown – East Village – to people in queues for everything from lewd puppet musicals to heavy duty war dramas from the furthermost reaches of the world.

There is a lot on offer. Not all of it good, as recent experience has revealed… I’m so pleased to say that The Height of the Eiffel Tower is good. It’s great actually and it warmed my cockles to turn up to the funny little black box that is 4th Street Theatre to see a nearly full house for a New Zealander’s opening night.

Written and performed by Morgana O’Reilly, The Height of the Eiffel Tower is a multi-character solo. Essentially it is a window into a working class family from New Zealand, each pigeon-holed into their place in society. I would liken it to Chris Lilley’s Summer Heights High, because if its clever, amusing, ‘brill’ social commentary.

Abigail Greenwood has astutely and thoughtfully directed this one woman show, and she and O’Reilly combined, clearly have great aptitude for comic timing.

With nothing but a chair onstage, the visual element is enlivened by simple lighting shifts and the choreography of the piece. It is well orchestrated, well-observed and its tight and tender moments have been given space and breath just when we need it.

We get thrust straight away into a family scene: kids fighting, mum stressing … The character changes are so quick, a lot is going on … I wonder where on earth this show is going to take me and whether the American’s are going to ‘get it.’

The pacing of the show really flies just under ten minutes in; we are given structure and rules to the characters and their settings. Placement of scenes is beautifully rendered – in Paris one moment, softly lit with a slightly more measured, leisurely Katie; in the next moment juxtaposed with her harsh sister Anna-Louise. Perhaps it’s just my taste, but a touch of re-scoring in the first section would make for a clearer opening.

Terri is the stressed mother and her, “Yes, no, yeahhh”s, in a thick Kiwi accent, are exceptionally and wonderfully grating. People in the audience are grimacing, grinning and giggling. It seems everyone knows this eager, over zealous, middle-aged woman. Throughout the play, the audience is let into Terri’s life and see beneath the humour of the outlandish Kiwi and her false exterior of smile, smile, smile – to where a fragile woman lies hurting. A well crafted character and very moving.

We also meet her kids: the pregnant, gangsta-esq Anna-Louise; awkward and adorable Nathan; and Katie, the dreamer on her OE … And then there is a Frenchman who gives Katie her first hand job, which leads on to hand modelling for the big name French cleaning products.

Morgana O’Reilly displays wonderful artistry; effortlessly morphing from character to character with vocal dexterity, physical panache and specificity. She and Abigail Greenwood have orchestrated a tight show that wonderfully intercuts full-blown belly laughs with softer, more intimate moments.

As for the Americans … One always wonders if taking a country specific piece is going to resonate overseas, especially when it comes from New Zealand and half the world thinks we’re part of Australia. But the witty writing, laughs throughout, inspiring ending, and a full standing ovation melt that worry away.

As we exit the theatre, a man says loudly, “Is she in Flight of the Conchords?”
“No,” someone replies.
“Well, she should be!” he says. I concur.

Expect great things from Miss O’Reilly. This show is a joy. If you’re in the Big Apple, go and see it – The Height of the Eiffel Tower reaches the height of good theatre and gives some of the glitzy shows a run for their money.
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. 


David Aston August 16th, 2010

Having seen this in a North shore living room a few months ago I must concur that it is one funny, moving and witty show that deserves to be seen in a professional venue in NZ. Well done Morgana and Abagail! You`re fab here and in the big apple!

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An exceptional piece of work on countless levels

Review by Lillian Richards 19th Apr 2010

I normally don’t enthuse, this is because when I am reading a review I couldn’t care less if the reviewer liked the play or movie or book that they are reviewing- what use is their ‘like’ to me? It hangs there on the page useless in its lack of context (what else do you like? Who are you??).
So I normally don’t enthuse because what use is it to you? Well I’m going to grapple here to find some utility because I need to express my enthusiasm for this one-woman play, this slightly-over-half-an-hour-wish-it-was-longer burst of enacted life: The Height of the Eiffel Tower.  
Let me begin by supplying some context: if you find David Sedaris kind of amusing, you loved Arrested Development & you believe that New Zealanders can be both funny and made fun of in equal measure then I think my ‘like’ will be yours too and I think you’ll like this play. But – and here’s why I dislike saying that I like something – what if you don’t find David Sedaris funny? What if you thought Arrested Development was overrated (even though it went under from low ratings)? Well then remember this: all art is relative and nonexclusive, you may not like the above but you may well like this show so excuse my neither-here-nor-there ‘like’ and read on to discover my ‘what and why’ instead.
Writer/performer Morgana O’Reilly – directed and dramaturged perfectly, seamlessly and obviously with great understanding by Abigail Greenwood – evokes a cast of characters that form around nothing but a Persian rug and a chair to resemble a working class family and a catalogue of cameos that are as touching and distinct as the main characters.
Dealing with issues as far-reaching as new wave hippies and their sensual seductions surrounding the letter ‘S’ to teenage pregnancy, STDs, homesickness, Freudian dream analysis and the loss of love, this play is far from staid. Moreover there is a quaintness brought about by unbecoming and naive family members who have a quality to them that makes you sympathetic to their sadness.
When criticising something we’re often asked to view each discipline as distinct, never to compare, so say you see a wonderful play but it didn’t capture your attention the way that movie you’d just seen did, well then don’t complain because you can’t eat both apples and oranges and expect to come away with the same taste in your mouth. But hold on whilst I temporarily bend , but don’t break, this rule and compare apples to oranges for a second.
When I read a great book I know it’s a great book from the first page, sometimes even from the cover. That’s not to say that there haven’t been good books that take a while to get good but rather that in my opinion a great book is great all the way through. The same applies to movies, I know from the opening scenes if I’m going to love a film.
A play isn’t a film and nor is it a book but whilst sometimes you can harm what you’re trying to explain by using a foreign context to describe it, when something is good I believe it can be compared to any other good thing and hold its own. Maybe there is some golden mean for good things?
Who knows? But if this play were a book I would have liked it from the first page and if it were a film I would have watched it to the end.
What struck me the most about this performance – and this is hard to whittle down because I could speak about the clarity and precision with which O’Reilly goes from one character to the next or the brilliance of the script, how tight and delightful it is, how completely uncompromising in its reality and humour, in its near preternatural insights – was the levity of it all.
I was talking to my partner afterwards about how real life can be so hard to mimic because and it’s a complete cliché but truth is often stranger than fiction and it’s so easy to push too hard and come off looking forged. The Height of the Eiffel Tower (varies depending on the temperature by 7.5 cm) walks this perfect tightrope between over-exaggeration and moderation, there is so much care taken with the soft spots, so much humour developed in the funny parts, that all combined you have something very much like life.
Don’t let my enthusiasm put you off. This is an exceptional piece of work on countless levels and deserves to be seen regardless of whether or not you like David Sedaris.
O’Reilly and Greenwood are fundraising at the moment to get the show to New York in order to accept the invitation to the NY Fringe Festival. To do this they are putting the show on in people’s lounges – yours if you like. Help get the show on its feet by making a booking because NY deserves to see how hilarious and rough and talented us New Zealanders can be.

Email: to make a booking. It’s $15 a head for groups under 6; if more than 6 they just ask for a koha.


Michael Hurst April 19th, 2010

Couldn't agree more! This was great - moving, funny, awful (in the best way), beautifully performed and totally worth it. Deserves to be seen by everyone. Only one more night! Go!

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Finally finds its heartbeat

Review by Candice Lewis 13th Mar 2009

I arrive and unwittingly sit directly in the path of what will be a blazing light illuminating this one-woman show. The light changes according to which character is being portrayed, and might be more effective if it didn’t hurt my eyes.

My over-sensitive state continues as we are introduced to siblings in what is less than the ideal family home. The sheer volume of the actress (Morgana O’Reilly) tackling the various roles is completely over-whelming, making me want to plug my ears. That may well be the intention, for as the argument between pregnant sister ‘Louise’ and snuffling younger brother ‘Nathan’ eventually fades, we finally meet their mother (with her hands over her ears).

‘Terri’ is an overblown uneducated stereotype, with a very loud and grating ‘Noo Zilund’ accent. There are some beautiful comic moments, but for the most part, she is a painful character and I find it hard to concentrate on what she’s saying.

It’s true that there are people in day to day life who resemble Terri, bluffing their way through life, a smile pasted on. The audience love it, and there is a lot of support from fellow performers here tonight.

Terri grins through the disappointment of her own life pumping out babies as she catches up with an old university friend Rachel, who appears to ‘have it all’.

What the ‘all’ is, apart from an over rated brand name handbag and a high paying job, we are left to imagine. The idea that the visiting friend has financial success because she went to University also comes through repeatedly. If Terri is a baby boomer this myth might be plausible. I would love to have known a bit more about Rachel and imagine she’s the madam of a fine whorehouse.

If the first half is pain and pandemonium, then the second half brings healing and order, and I am greatly relieved.  One of the highlights is seeing Nathan do a school speech. Nathan’s feelings of isolation are evident, and yet this is one of the funniest parts of the play. I also learn a few things about fish; a bonus!

Morgana O’Reilly comes into her own when she brings Terri’s daughter ‘Katie’ to a softly lit stage. Optimistic Katie writes to Terri from Paris, and her tone, in contrast to her pregnant sister Louise, is sweet, even if a little unstable.

It is with the increasing appearance of Katie that the play finds its heartbeat, and with that the shrillness and torturous lighting subsides. Terri is led to some kind of peace and an expanded sense of herself. It does leave me wanting more of the Terri revealed at the end of the play, and I can’t help thinking her follow up story would make a good movie!

O’Reilly is obviously talented and will no doubt continue to find roles that stretch her abilities, whether on stage or screen.
If you do go and see this play, choose your seat wisely. The play blurb claims "It’s a colour therapy thing", and if that means taking painkillers when you get home, then it works for me.


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