THE HOUSE IS OPEN

Online, Global

03/04/2020 - 03/04/2020

COVID-19 Lockdown Festival 2020

Production Details



Join some of New Zealand’s finest talent live in your house, sharing music, theatre and poems weekly. 

We want to pay artists who have had shows cancelled, but to do that we need your help. Buy a ticket and gather your family, you’re so welcome here. 

All zooming in from where they are, our artists are all in lockdown in New Zealand. Half an hour before the show starts you will be emailed a link to join the Zoom show. Please check your junk folder if you don’t receive it. 

If you buy a ticket in the last half an hour, you will  receive your email at 8pm. 

If you haven’t already, you can download Zoom from https://zoom.us/download

Live from Wellington
Virtual Location, New Zealand, Feilding and District, Feilding and District
Friday 3 April 2020 8:00pm – 9:00pm
Next sessions:
Fri 10 Apr 2020, 8:00pm–9:00pm 
Fri 17 Apr 2020, 8:00pm–9:00pm 
Fri 24 Apr 2020, 8:00pm–9:00pm 

Restrictions: R13
General Admission: $10.00 
Buy Tickets
Additional fees may apply

Brought to you by Motif Poetry, with support from Toitoi – Hawke’s Bay Arts & Events Centre, Verb Wellington, National Youth Drama School, New Zealand Fringe Festival and more!


Producer/ Stage Manager (via virtual Green Room): Louise Jakeway 
Director/ House tech: Sara Hirsch 
Host: Ben Fagan 
Video/ Zoom Operator: Oliver Bruce 
Box Office: Daniel Kitching 
Designer: Emily Stevens for these awesome DIY credits


Theatre , Spoken word , Performance Poetry , Music ,


1 hr

Incredibly valuable enrichment of our groundhog days

Review by Bette Cosgrove 18th Apr 2020

Friday 17 April 2020

What’s not to love when you can enjoy live performance for an hour, without leaving the comfort of your own living room, at the end of another extraordinary ‘stay at home’ week during our national rāhui to eliminate Covid-19?  

Whether you’ve curled up or stretched out in your PJ’s, assembled with your bubble mates, you’re cuddling your pet, noisily crunching on snacks while sipping a favourite beverage or knitting one, purling one on a new winter scarf, there Is definitely a sense of collective joy for all participants entering the virtual theatre of The House is Open’s 4th online show.  

An eclectic audience gatherS from around the globe, into a (ticketed) Zoom meeting, to engage with a carefully curated line-up of all-female artists. I admit there Is excited, yet nervous anticipation of what the ‘cabaret style’ snippets might bring. These same feelings are expressed by the performers who are effectively singing or speaking into the seemingly emotionless ‘void’ of their digital video recording devices.

The obvious awkwardness, of having a literal 4th wall digital screen to communicate through, is soon overcome by the warm welcome and simple housekeeping announcements of our host Ben Fagan from Motif Poetry. He ably draws us into his own living room and encourages our participation via NZ Sign Language gestures of applause. All our microphones are usefully muted, until the final curtain call.

As a member of the 50 or so audience participants, I feel like we are all willingly complicit in a new experiment that reaches across our obvious separation to say, “Let’s do this, kotahi (united).”

Although a necessary format, it never feels contrived, because all performers and the host keep it very simple and authentic. It is performance pared down to the true basics of LIVE entertainment, which always aims for strong emotional connection, and this makes it all the more heart-warming.

I honestly feel guilty that the $10 ticket price – which enables a tiny income to the performers – is an absolute steal.

This April 17th line up has a lot to recommend it: original songs by accomplished songbirds Lauren Nottingham and Taylor Dukes; gutsy musical theatre puppetry from Rebekah Head;tight comedic parody from Maria Williams; thought provoking, emotional words from poet Phoebe Wright.

It stimulates the most applause, hooting, hollering and laughing I have done since we retreated to our lockdown bubbles, three and a half weeks ago.

Rebekah Head opens the show with her puppetry skills gained from roles in Whoa! Studios children’s shows on HeiHei Television,. This teams well with her musical theatre prowess, after 6 years of acting and singing roles across New Zealand and Australia, since graduating from the National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art (NASDA).

We meet her cute fluffy puppets Pinky and Spike, operated by bubble-mate and co-founder of the newly formed Tusk Puppets, Edwin Beats. These furry friends aptly open the show with their ukulele accompanied version of ‘Don’t fence me in’. LOLs all around.

After a content warning to send the children to bed, noting the R14 age suitability recommended by our host, she rocks a couple of original songs. Her feminist anthem – which one audience member comments in the live online chat is now her “New favourite song” – has us all joining in by (silently) belting out the catch line F*^k the Patriarchy!” Her Covid-19 original number, We Are All Alone’, performed with guest puppet Joe, is equally engaging.

Her performance gives us all the ‘warm fuzzies’ to carry through to the rest of the show. Bravo to the programming team. 

Next Phoebe Wright, multi-time NZ poetry slam finalist from Christchurch, beams in from her bedroom studio giving us a raw and utterly captivating read through of three original works.

She requests that, to sooth her nerves, the audience please hold up and show her their cats on-screen. This practice she employs at live audience shows – ironically there, they have to front-up with phone pics. This instant participation adds a layer of personal connection across the digital distance.

The simplicity of her delivery and beautifully woven words has an intimate quality that reaches out to us all. These Are the Things We Say To Our Children’is a carefully crafted heart-string puller of a piece, that has me swallowing my tears to the refrain of We got this!’.

The heightened emotion of ‘Be Assured’provided a skilful climax in her repertoire. Focusing on the fear and anxiety of long-haul flights, it matches precisely detailed observations with passionate responses to homesickness.

A brand-new work, written in response to her current lockdown situation, living with 10 people in her bubble, focuses on the relevant themes of apocalypse, wasteful human destruction of our planet and loving memories. The ghostlike descriptions in the final stanza has prophetic qualities that leaves me deeply moved and thankful for the quality of her expression.

Going way beyond the expectations of any late-night jazz singer is Lauren Nottingham live-zooming in from Mexico at 3.30 am local time. After a short sleep, then waking up for a warm-up with her keyboard accompanist Marito Patron, she looks and sings better than anyone should ever be able to, at that crazy hour of the morning.

The story of her stranding in Mexico during the Covid-19 outbreak, due to the cancellation of her quartet’s planned 4-month cruise ship gig, is a stark reminder of how the global pandemic has affected so many live performers.

This accomplished jazz singer, hailing from Taranaki, does not let the early hour affect the quality of her voice’s mellow tones. I think the choice of ‘Tron Song’ by Thundercat as an opener, might possibly soothe her back to sleep, it is so smooth. The next number’s tempo switch to Marlena Shaw’s ‘California Soul’ is a welcome showcase for Lauren’s extended range. It also features some groovy, competent improv by her keyboard accompanist Marito. 

Lauren’s skill, in reinterpreting pop-songs of the sixties, is highlighted by her reimagined version of The Beatles’ ‘All My Lovin’. It is a wonderful sing-a-long finale that draws the digital audience together. For more from Lauren see her on Soundcloud. 

Hard working and versatile Wellington based comedian Maria Williams has prefaced her set with the online comment, “Could be a mess, could be magic.” A prolific performer on the stages of Wellington, she is currently hunkered down in rāhui in Auckland. She decides to discard her ‘A’ material for this Open House performance and treat us to something completely new.

We are introduced to comedy gold from her bedroom, in the embodiment of a Taylor Swift parody – a character who is the singer’s cousin Sailor Miffed. Attention to detail for her American accent, hair and make-up pays off hugely, as Maria delivers Sailor’s hilarious alternateversions of her much-loved/hated cousin Taylor’s hit songs and album titles.

Sailor expresses her desperate jealousy and envious rage at her popular cousin’s reputation by outlining her version of ripped-off Taylor’s song lyrics. Even ill-informed fans of Swift, like me, can appreciate the clever humour in Sailor’sback-biting rants as she shares her second-fiddle dreams, of an unappreciated, unknown cousin of the pop star.

There are plenty of heads back in open-mouthed laughter seen on our live screen’s gallery thumbnails. So my verdict has to be ‘magic’. This character looks like a great new opportunity for Maria to present to audiences in the future.

To round out our female showcase on Friday night, we are fortunate enough to meet another beautiful American songbird named Taylor. Accomplished soul singer-songwriter Taylor Dukes from Ohio, USA has had a promising career making music in Nashville, and has toured Europe twice. Luckily for us, she is beamed in from Christchurch, where she now lives with her Kiwi husband. USA’s loss is, most definitely, our gain.

Ben Fagan’s intriguing promise is a voice which has been compared to cinnamon ice cream or your favourite satin shirt, and has been categorized with the likes of Eva Cassidy, Lianne La Havas and Amy Winehouse. None of these comparisons have been overestimated.

I can honestly say that Taylor’s opening offering of Chris Stapleton’s ‘Tennessee Whiskey’is the soundscape equivalent of someone pouring me a night-cap of liquid ambrosia that slips down with such ease, it lulls me into a much needed peaceful revelry. Expertly smooth and soulful doesn’t even begin to describe her voice as she croons through three songs accompanying herself on electric guitar.

The audience leaves their couches and sway, some bringing out their lighters, and others humming and waving in rapture. She finishes with two equally sensual originals. The first, a love song for her New Zealand husband, who deftly and sweetly enters our screens when her headphones dislodge, to gently replace them on her head without her missing a note – Awwww!  The audience is captivated.

Her final song is titled ‘What Am I Doing Wrong?’ – a sad love song about break-ups that showcases Taylor Duke’s velvety voice and rich talent. My advice: follow, listen and keep an eye out for her music in future. You’re welcome.

As a finale, the virtual ‘curtain call’ Zoom meeting enables open microphones for everyone and the resounding audience appreciation (in my estimation an equivalent to a standing ovation) is testament to the much needed quality of LIVE show ‘magic’ that we crave as we remain physically disconnected. Bringing a community of live performers and their audience into your own home with such ease is incredibly valuable. The performers get a chance to showcase their material to actual “people not pot-plants,” as host Ben Fagan notes – and we, as audience members, have our ground-hog days enriched with extraordinary talent to match the extraordinary times we are currently living in.

My hope is that this online platform, due to its accessibility, will have a life even after lockdown. But in the meantime, Friday night, weekly cabaret style offerings will continue streaming while New Zealand is in Levels 4 or 3, given that theatres will remain closed.

So far Zoom online live events are scheduled every Friday until May 8th. See them on Motif Poetry Facebook Page. Or grab tickets here (I encourage you to add a donation to match the value of the gig- if you can )

Support for the musical talent is acknowledged from the National Library of NZ, for providing funds through ‘Sofar Sounds Wellington’. [Sofar Sounds is a global network of secret, intimate music gigs in everyday spaces. These are temporarily suspended here, during the Covid-19 Level 4 rãhui. But when restrictions are relaxed, I strongly advise all live music fans to check them out. However, don’t tell too many people that I shared this magical, musical secret. Sorry (not sorry).]

Supporters who are helping promote these online shows are:
Verb Wellington
New Zealand Fringe Festival
Toitoi – Hawke’s Bay Arts & Events Centre
National Library of New Zealand
National Youth Drama School
Harcourts Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival
BATS Theatre 

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Great fun bringing creative life into my bubble

Review by Emilie Hope 07th Apr 2020

Last Friday night, I snuggled into my lounge and HDMI connected my laptop to my TV and tuned into The House Is Open. I bought a ticket because it had at least two Wellington artists I admire but by the end of the night, so many more artists joined my admiration!  

The House Is Open is a talent show streamed via Zoom from artists’ bubbles to ours. Talent includes, but is not limited to, music, dance, theatre, poetry, and more. Each week, a new collection of artists is lined up for your Friday evening, organised by the wonderful Motif Poetry.

Charismatic Ben Fagan is our host. Fagan has a lovely warm presence that makes you forget about the potential awkwardness that is a host with no live audience. We have been muted for the sake of the internet and the performance. Instead, Fagan shows us new ways in which we can contribute, such as the group chat on Zoom, and clapping in NZ Sign Language, which is close to waving at the camera.

At the end of the show, we are unmuted to verbally appreciate the show and there’s lots of cheering, clapping, and whooping to be heard. The flurry of human activity in my living room to add to my own bubble was tremendous.

Fagan’s wholesome commentary between each act makes my couch feel extra comfy.

First up is Jon Coddington, who has an impressive resume, and his rascal-looking orange puppet, Dworge. Coddington’s puppetry skills deserve to be on screen – indeed, he has worked for on-screen puppets, manipulating and making marionettes and puppets for Fat Freddy’s Drop’s music videos ‘Clean The House’ and ‘Special Edition’, as well as having worked with leading Muppeteer Peter Linz.

Dworge is instantly lovable, fun and a bit of a limelight lover. Having pulled in Coddington to present himself, Dworge quickly shoos him away with, “Okay, that’s enough now.” Dworge presents us with a series of talents which get laughs from me. At one point he brings in some extra help – the arm of Coddington’s mother – to act as a pole as Dworge pole dances, which looks a bit like he’s humping the arm, and later he flosses. As Fagan points out, did I think I would be watching a puppet floss when I woke up this morning? No. No, I did not. Does it light up my living room and my evening? Yes. Yes, it does. And it’s not just me! I can see upcoming artist, Alayne Dick, laughing along with me.

Next is Hugo Grrrl, who almost needs no introduction by now. Wellington drag superstar and cabaret producer, Hugo has a string of awards and achievements under his belt. Hugo performs a vulva drag set first. It’s funny, it’s sexy, it’s ridiculous – quite like Hugo himself. While it seems odd to watch drag without people screaming and whooping and the music absolutely blasting, Hugo gives every performance his all and I am completely captured. I am, however, sad to miss the death drop at the end, as it is just out of the camera’s view.

Hugo does two acts in this show, the second coming a bit later. This is a The Lion King inspired cat dance, which is intercut with Scar scenes from The Lion King movie. The music in this performance is hard to hear and quite tinny so it’s hard to be fully enveloped in the performance, but the expressions on Hugo’s face and what he does with his body is enough to keep me watching.

Dan Sharp, a soulful New Zealand singer songwriter, is up third. Classic humble Kiwi bloke, I am sceptical at first, but as he starts to sing, he blows me away with his song ‘Kindle and Coal’. Sharp’s voice reminds me of American country singer Sam Hunt; it’s just as commanding but more complex. It is so sweet and poetic, and makes me fall in love with love all over again. The song makes me think of a Kiwi summer sunset by the beach. Sharp also introduces us to his new song ‘The Way That You Used To’, which is an absolute delight. I’m interested to see where Sharp goes in his career.

Aforementioned Alayne Dick gives us a slice of poetry. Poems such as ‘This Poem is Asking the Big Questions’ are ones I have heard before but are still an absolute joy. Dick’s poetry is funny, awkward, absolutely charming, and often takes you on a journey as the story unfolds.  She shares a new poem written in isolation and it’s sad, poignant and speaks to a lot of people – as revealed on the chat.

Lastly, but certainly not least, the French-Congolese singer-songwriter Mary May, performing with bassist Hal Strewe, streamed from Sydney. This duo makes me feel I am at Rogue and Vagabond, swinging my hips slowly with sangria in my hand. May’s music is a mix of all sorts of genres, like reggae, soul, Afro-Cuban rhythms as well as modern electric, but with just her and Strewe, the two seem like they are having a fun jamming session, with an African-jazz vibe. May’s smokey-sweet voice is an absolute delight.

And despite the fact that this is an online event, there are still many people working behind the screens. Director Sara Hirsch makes her artists feel energised and present to perform; stage manager Louise Jakeway makes sure the artists have everything they need; cinematographer Oliver Bruce does a great job intercutting the acts with Fagan, our host, if lingering a tad too long on the artist once they are finished (not that they mind, they smile and wave vivaciously). Designer Emily Stevens has made lovely credits, and Daniel Kitching is on the box office, managing tickets and questions.

Overall, I have great fun engaging in my creative community from the comfort of my own home. The $10 ticket price is an absolute steal. On this night more than seventy people bought tickets from all over New Zealand and abroad which means that Motif Poetry is able to pay these wonderful artists.

If you want to bring a bit of life into your bubble, then get your tickets to the next The House Is Open here to be sure not to miss out.

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