The Mountain

Katipo Cafe & Bar, 76 Willis St, Wellington

12/02/2009 - 18/02/2009

NZ Fringe Festival 2009

Production Details

The Mountain is a theatre show that takes you up into the wilderness and snow of New Zealand’s tallest mountain. It is performed by fresh new theatre company All The Way Home.

Coming to you as a part of the ever-popular Wellington Fringe Festival, The Mountain is a comedy set on Aoraki Mount Cook, challenge and inspiration to many climbers and trampers.

The show is devised by recent Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School graduates Esther Green and Sara Allen. Together with designer Rose Kirkup, they have drawn inspiration from the poets Dante and Milton — and the writings and lives of iconic New Zealand mountaineers such as John Pascoe, Sir Edmund Hilary, Freda Du Faur and the Rev. William Green — to create a high altitude comedy that speaks straight to the hearts of all New Zealanders and those who love the outdoors.

Virgil told Dante of how the devil, when cast out of heaven, fell through to the center of the earth. His impact caused Mount Purgatory to erupt into existence on an island in the southern hemisphere.

What if that island was New Zealand? And Mount Purgatory was our own Aoraki (The Cloud Piercer) Mount Cook?

The story is told through the eyes of two women, Marjory and Beverly, who live and work in a cabin on Mt Cook hiring out gear. They introduce us to a variety of characters, all at different stages of their ascent. As the paths of the living and the dead mingle and collide on Mount Purgatory/Mount Cook, Marjory and Beverly struggle to keep the climbers on track.

In keeping with their aim to promote entertaining theatre off the beaten track, All The Way Home theatre company presents The Mountain at Katipo Café, 76 Willis Street (up two flights of stairs — crampons optional).

The Mountain
7:30 every night at
Katipo Café
12th – 18th February.
Tickets are: $16 – Full, $12 – Concession, $10 – Fringe Addicts.
They can be booked through Downstage Theatre, corner of Courtney Place and Cambridge Terrace, Ph. 04 801 6946, door sales on the night or online at

Come enjoy a great night out and stay for a drink after the show!  

Bee, Fanny, John and German Nurse - Esther Green
Maggie, Ferry Man, Marie (Frenchie), Cyril and Arthur - Sara Allen
Narration, Dad - Paul Harrop
Angel of Chastity - Julia Croft

Director - Julia Croft
Designer - Rose Kirkup
Poster and Flyer Design - Nic Lane
Lighting Design / Operation - Nathan McKendry
Sound Recording - Brad Cunningham

A pinnacle of performance

Review by Kate Blackhurst 16th Feb 2009

Esther Rose Green and Sara Marlene Allen are excellent in The Mountain. I’m not entirely sure what the play was all about, but the acting by these two was phenomenal, as they inhabited several different characters with conviction.

Their main incarnations are Bee (Green) and Maggie (Allen), two sisters who live atop a mountain in a little cabin selling climbing gear. Their father has died and a genie, or chastity fairy, turns up in a bottle and tells them they must go to Purgatory to seek a key and release him.

So with the fairy safely underarm, they set off on this quest and encounter a number of spirits (played by themselves) in the chambers of lust, gluttony and envy. Co-writer and director, Julia Croft, has envisioned a world that is a cross between Pilgrim’s Progress and the more sinister aspects of fairytales. Envy’s blind-groping, gaping-mouth embodiment and Gluttony’s belching, farting personification are truly hideous.

Green and Allen strike poses, express emotions and throw themselves into these roles literally, with hair clips flying everywhere. The Ferryman, Keeper of the Gates, and German Nurse are remarkably distinct from each other. In the hands of lesser actors, these segments could have become tedious drama student exercises, but Green and Allen are so committed to their characterization (and their protective affection for each other) that we actually feel for the travellers in this allegory.

The play has a fantastically intimate setting in the Katipo Café with its intense blood red walls. Designer Rose Kirkup brings a strong but simple ambience to the set with climbing rope hung from the walls and punctured aluminium tins performing the role of stars, binoculars, cups and walkie-talkies.

A simple white wooden chair is the only piece of set furnishing and it too is well utilised as the actors sprawl in it, perch on top of it, or crawl through it The technical aspects of lighting and sound (Nathan McKendry and Brad) are again effortless and effective in this small space.

According to the programme notes this is the first public performance of a work that will be under development for the next two years. I expect it will be fleshed out a bit, as it is very short at the moment and leaves the audience wanting more, which is actually a great starting point for progress.

Perhaps the other deadly sins – sloth, greed, anger and pride – might get a look in. Perhaps the ending might be explained a little more clearly rather than being left to tail off into a bit of an anti-climax. Whatever the future for this play, and I sincerely hope it has one, the acting has already reached a pinnacle of performance.

Originally published in The Lumière Reader.


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Skilful and assured ascent could go further

Review by Michael Wray 13th Feb 2009

From the infernally red interior of Katipo Café comes the tale of a journey up Mount Purgatory.

Dante placed his Purgatory on the far side of the world, deeming the mountain to be the only land in the Antipodes. If Dante is to be believed, that would put Mount Purgatory somewhere around here… the Southern Alps? Mount Cook perhaps?

This is the premise of the newly devised show from Toi Whakaari graduates Esther Green, Sara Allen and Julia Croft. Green and Allen play all the characters, four each, while voiceovers are supplied by Paul Harrop and director Julia Croft.

Bee (Green) and Maggie (Allen) are sisters who run a mountaineering supplies shop. I don’t recall the mountain near their shop being explicitly named, but the publicity blurb suggests Mount Cook.

The sisters are visited by the Angel of Chastity (Croft), who appears to them illuminated in a large, empty whisky bottle. I think it was a whisky bottle. It amused me that the Angel of Chastity would appear in such a vessel, so I chose to believe that’s what it was anyway!

The Angel tells them their deceased father is stuck on Mount Purgatory and needs their help. Thus begins the Dante-like ascent of Purgatory and the adventure.

The terraces of Purgatory to be explored include the envious, the gluttonous and the lustful. Green and Allen slip into other characters on these terraces alternating, often in quick succession, between these and their main characters. It’s a skilful and assured performance from both, with character separations clearly played.

The set is simple and effective, blending well with the red log background. Mountaineering rope is strung around the ceiling, from which cans are hung. The cans serve as drink containers, stars and even a microphone as the ferry man performs an air pilot cabin announcement. A single chair serves to demonstrate the precarious, narrowing peak as they near the top.

The ending lacks impact, though the outcome itself is fine. I don’t want to put in a spoiler, beyond hinting that the journey is the reward. Perhaps this payoff could somehow be dramatically linked to the need to be sent on the quest in the first place?

The show is intended to be reworked after this first season, with a targeted two year development cycle.  In its current guise, the play feels a little too short. Whether this is because we only explore half the terraces or the Mountain’s descent takes a fraction of the time of the climb, I’m not sure.

I am sure that I wanted more and I look forward to seeing the play developed further. 


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