The Retreat

Te Auaha - Tapere Iti, 65 Dixon St, Wellington

07/03/2023 - 11/03/2023

NZ Fringe Festival 2023

Production Details

Writer/Co director - Jake Elston
Choreographer/Co Director - Kaitlin West
Musical Director - Mia Alonso-Green

JK Productions

JK Productions presents..
The Retreat

Wellington Fringe Festival 2023

March 7th – 11th
Tickets – $25

The Retreat is a Musical Theatre piece set to the back drop of a ‘New Age’ style Retreat, we follow a group of societal misfits, each one signing up to this retreat for specific reason. Led by spiritual guide Beedle Buckworth, we will bear witness as they traverse their inner demons and come to conclusions on whether to fight them or succumb to them. With elements of singing, dancing and acting, performed by some of Wellingtons top up and coming talent, this performance will keep you hooked from start to finish, and in the end may leave you wanting to sign up yourselves.
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Jake Elston as Beedle Buckworth
Caitlin Penrose as Samantha Flowers
Kaitlin West as Scarlett
Brooke Dwyer As Robyn
Julliane Bush As Prue
Renata Mahuika As Heath
Sarah Lawrence As Mandy
Krash Jackson - Guitar
Paul Gadd -Drums
Blaine Thompson - Bass
Sarah Lawrence - Violin
Shaun Martin - Lights/Sound
John Va’a - Stage Manager

Music , Theatre , Multi-discipline ,

1 hour

Patriarchal dominance, the power of a cult and the weaknesses of humankind all wrapped up together in musical form.

Review by Helen Balfour 09th Mar 2023

As per Ashram style, we are greeted by wafting incense, white-clad guru leaders smiling benignly distributing fake flowers as the four piece band soothe us with easy soul played with finesse via two electric guitars, a drummer and a violinist, all nestled in the performance space. We learn later the musicians are ‘students’ collected by the Leader at other retreats. 

The scene is set, tattered carpets are scattered precariously on the floor, a low bench entwined with fake greenery upstage, dappled light, the Leaders, smooch and gently paw each other. 

The guests to The Retreat introduce themselves as a bunch of young, troubled misfits, done so with a tight dance routine to Another day of Sun, responded to by the leaders, Beedle Buckworth, Jake Elston and his partner Samantha, Caitlin Penrose through lines such as ….’another way of thought….’. 

The show is a formulaic musical structure with narration, songs and movement sequences. 

The Duet “Pure Imagination” sung by the Leaders as they drape their way up the aisle stairs, explaining to us and the guests the journey they will be taking, feeding the mind and souls before stomachs. 

Prue, Juliane Estella, the first of four guests explains her reasons for attending; her addictive personality. They are a strong vocalist and committed dancer which is evident through her rendition of In the Midnight Hour. 

The guests are led by Buckworth, Samantha and Mandy, Sarah Lawerence ( the violinist) through a series of activities including journaling, a nature walk and meditation that will help to uncover the problems they have and the answers they need. These activities help to structure the performance and divulge the guru’s outcomes for them. 

Heath, Renata Mahuika and Scarlet, Kaitlin West, a feuding couple; Heath is a non believer and wants to leave at regular intervals, but they are always coaxed back to the others and with violence at the end. These three perform a rousing trio with Buckworth, The Devil You Know. This ensemble piece is performed convincingly with some solid harmonies and tonal nuances. 

Robyn, performed by Brooke Dwyer’s meditation segment, was passionate and they deliver with certainty and purpose. 

Elston’s role as Buckworth was creepily, sappy. They have strong vocals and the role as dominator is evident, yet predictable. 

West’s choreography that accompanies most numbers is to be commended. It adds form, shape and interest to the musical numbers, lifts are particularly strong and well executed in such a tight performance space. 

Shaun Martin’s lighting is effective and creates mood and place, however, some states were too dark to be able to really appreciate the movement and facial expressions of the performers. 

Aspects of the show would benefit from being sharpened up. Frequently tripped over carpets should be fixed for safety and to improve the confidence of performers movements as they traverse through, in and around the space. Connections between characters were at times, weak and somewhat staged and perhaps the band could have been placed to provide more space for the busy flow of performers. 
Overall, The Retreat has merit and could be characterized as a loose combination of Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar and Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty. Patriarchal dominance, the power of a cult and the weaknesses of humankind all wrapped up together in musical form.


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