THE SOUTH AFREAKINS

Spotlites @ The Merchants' Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland

04/08/2016 - 28/08/2016

CHB Municipal Theatre, Waipawa, Napier

16/10/2018 - 16/10/2018

Repertory House, 167 Esk Street, Invercargill

08/05/2019 - 09/05/2019

Suter Theatre, Nelson

20/10/2019 - 21/10/2019

Plaza Theatre, Putararu, South Waikato

01/11/2019 - 01/11/2019

Hawkes Bay Arts Festival 2018

Southland Festival of the Arts 2019

Nelson Arts Festival 2019

Edinburgh Fringe 2016

Arts on Tour NZ 2019

Production Details



Helene and Gordon are stuck in South Africa and in their same rut. One longs to get out and experience everything retirement has to offer, while one won’t leave his milk tart. When they finally emigrate to New Zealand, the result is heartbreaking and hilarious as they discover it’s hard work to find ‘home’.

A dark comedic solo show about leaving everything you’ve ever known and starting over again.

‘A flawless performance’ (ShortAndSweet.org.nz).
‘The script cuts deep to the bone’ (TheatReview.org.nz).

The 10-minute version was a finalist in SHORT+SWEET Theatre, Auckland 2012 

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016
Spotlites (Venue 278)
Aug 4-28 
2pm
Book here 

Hawkes Bay Arts Festival 2018

CHB Municipal Theatre
Tue 16th October 2018
07.30pm
Adult  $40
Concession  $35
Buy Tickets

All tickets are GENERAL ADMISSION 
12+ some offensive language & touches on loss 

Southland Arts Festival 2019
Repertory House, 167 Esk St, Invercargill
Wed 8 – Thu 9 May 2019
8.15pm
$20-$30
TicketDirect
https://www.ticketdirect.co.nz/event/details/193851/the-south-afreakins
Double bill shows: See The South Afreakins and Shot Bro on the same night for $48 

Nelson Arts Festival 2019
Limited Tickets
SUTER THEATRE  
Sun 20 & Mon 21 Oct, 7pm
Full $39
Under 19 $25
Senior $35
Group Of 6+ $35pp
PLUS TICKETDIRECT SERVICE FEE
BOOK TICKETS 

ARTS ON TOUR NZ 2019

Friday 1 November 7:30pm Putaruru
The Plaza Theatre
$20 Book: The Plaza Theatre; Eventfinda

Saturday 2 November 7:30pm Opotiki
Senior Citizens Hall
$20 Book: Purchase tickets at the Library or on line at www.trybooking.com

Tuesday 5 November 7:30pm Picton
Picton Little Theatre
$20.00 Book: Take Note, Picton and Alyssums, Blenheim

Thursday 7 November 7.30pm Golden Bay
The Playhouse
$20 Book:  Pohutukawa Gallery

Saturday 9 November 7:30pm Hokitika
Old Lodge Theatre, 11 Revell Street
$20 Book: Hokitika’s Regent Theatre

Monday 11 November 8:00pm Stewart Island
RSA Pavilion
$25 Book: Door sales

Wednesday 13 November 7:30pm Alexandra
The Stadium Tavern
$25 Adults; $20 Gold Card; $10 Children
Book: Alexandra i-Site, plus cash door sales

Thursday 14 November 7:30pm Bannockburn
Coronation Hall, 37 Hall Road
Adults $25; SuperGold $20; Student/Child $5
Book: Online at artscentral.co.nz  or
In person at all Central Otago District i-Sites

Friday 15 November 7:30pm Twizel
Twizel Events Centre
Adults $20; Student $10
Book:  Twizel Info Centre
(Includes complimentary nibbles, cash bar available)

Saturday 16 November 7:30pm Geraldine
Lodge Theatre, Talbot Street
$25 Book: Louk Clothing, Talbot Street (NO EFTPOS)

Sunday 17 November 6:30pm Ashburton
Ashburton Trust Event Centre
Open Hat – watch first and pay afterwards what the show was worth to you
No pre-bookings necessary

Monday 18 November 7:00pm Lincoln
The Laboratory
$20 Book: Over the bar or phone 03 3253006
Wednesday 20 November 8:00pm Upper Hutt
Expressions Whirinaki Arts and Entertainment Centre
$20 Book: www.expressions.org.nz

Thursday 21 November 7:30pm New Plymouth
4th Wall Theatre
Adults $25; Seniors $20; Students $10
Book: www.4thwalltheatre.co.nz

Saturday 23 November 7:30pm Coromandel
Hauraki House Theatre
$20 Book: Coromandel Information Centre

Monday 25 November 7:00pm Whitianga
The Coghill Theatre
Adult $25; Youth <19 Years $10
Book: Paper Plus, Whitianga

Arts On Tour NZ (AOTNZ) organises tours of outstanding New Zealand performers to rural and smaller centres in New Zealand. The trust receives funding from Creative New Zealand as well as support from Central Lakes Trust, Community Trust of Southland, Interislander, Otago Community Trust, Rata Foundation and the Southern Trust. AOTNZ liaises with local arts councils, repertory theatres and community groups to bring the best of musical and theatrical talent to country districts. The AOTNZ programme is environmentally sustainable – artists travel to their audiences rather than the reverse.



Theatre , Solo ,


1 hr

Brilliant observational storytelling

Review by Lisa Allan 21st Oct 2019

There is a palpable hubbub of excitement in the room as a packed Suter Theatre audience awaits Robyn Paterson’s entrance. It’s the 25th Nelson Arts Festival and we are all waiting to see what the organisers, Charlie Unwin and Amanda Raine, have in store for us this evening.

I’ve not read much of anything in preparation for this show, I simply trust that our fearless Arts Fest team have chosen well on our behalf. Despite my lack of research, I have picked up that this is a solo show. A courageous endeavour! No one on stage to bounce off of, no one to catch you or cover for you, no one but you and a room full of humans hoping their investment pays off.

Imagine my surprise when an offstage conversation picks up in the opening black out of the night. Two voices. Two actors? Robyn enters the space, the lights come up and my folly becomes clear. Two voices. One actor. And so it is that we are shunted into a whirlwind of marriage, belonging and so much more.

Helene and Gordon live in South Africa, but things have changed. The bars on the windows keep the couple penned in as much as they protect them from danger. A move to New Zealand offers them hope for the future. But along with this hope comes a question. What is home? 

Robyn is an intelligent storyteller. She uses sharp transitions to flick us from Helene to Gordon and back again. Her physicality and voice are clear indicators, filling the stage with the hopes and fears of this South African couple and opening a window to their world. A simple, elegant device in a painted tree that passes through the seasons; keeps us company as the story unfolds in time and space. The story itself is broken into clear sections that balance out moving the action forwards with detailing the characters, their relationship and their shared sadness – all in the most comedic of ways.

Robyn offers us humour, sincerity and beautiful moments of reflection. Observations taken from human experience and served up to us with comic timing, allow us to laugh at ourselves and to connect to her characters. The hunt for a card in a bottomless bag, the awkward plane-seat-shuffle, offering someone lip balm who is never going to accept it, the plumping of a cushion that just won’t take on the right shape … Moments of recognition, cleverly presented to us without a hint of cliché.

The most impactful part for me is seeing Helene blossom in her new life while Gordon shrinks: Helene relishing her newfound safety while Gordon languishes in his inability to connect to the rhythm of this strange new place; a couple who care so deeply for one another, but have very different needs and tempos.

The South Afreakins is imaginative, honest and clever. If I am left wanting anything from it, it is to hear from the actor herself, how she fits into this story and why it matters to her. That would be the cherry on the top for me, grounding the piece in reality and giving it another layer. But that is just one small selfish wish. As it is, it is a brilliant piece of observational storytelling brought to life by a talented performer.

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Humour, truth, darkness and familiarity

Review by Sarah McCarthy 10th May 2019

It’s exciting to see the lives of older people celebrated onstage past the usual ‘Middle Aged Spread’ mid-life crisis fare, and Robyn Paterson’s The South Afreakins does just that. Helene and Gordon are South African, living in the country they love but living in fear. Helene wants to move to New Zealand, Gordon does not. But as we learn, Helene is a force to be reckoned with and emigrating presents itself as the only way the couple can enjoy their retirement.

What makes this all the more remarkable is that Helene and Gordon are both played by the same person. With a twist of her shoulders and using two spectacularly different voices, performer and writer Robyn Paterson has us truly believing there are two people on stage.

Helene and Gordon represent Paterson’s parents, and there is affection in every word and gesture. Watching her become two very distinct people is a joy. We are witnessing the work of a master observationalist – the way Gordon jerks his head up from the newspaper to talk to his wife, the way Helene puts on her hand cream – I’d bet you anything that’s exactly what Paterson’s parents do in real life.

There is humour, truth and darkness in The South Afreakins, reflecting the challenges and fears that face those who are tempted or often forced to leave their homeland for something better.

As the daughter of an immigrant, I know the feelings of detachment and wistful longing for home played out so well here. My grandmother never felt at home in New Zealand; while her children barely remember the England they left, she never fully felt that she’d found her place and that became more and more unbearable a she got older.

The South Afreakins tells a story familiar to many of us and the hard truths behind the decision to leave your homeland are sweetly masked in humour. For all of the differences Helene and Gordon find between themselves and their new countrymen, for the audience their relationship, their bickering, their behaviour is beautifully familiar.

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A simple yet moving tale of family, love, loss and hope

Review by Gemma Carroll 17th Oct 2018

It is with driving panic that I make my way to Central Hawkes Bay’s Municipal Theatre. My own recent migration to Hawkes Bay has left me unprepared for the forty-five minute drive to tonight’s one woman play and I don’t want to miss my first Harcourts Hawkes Bay Arts Festival 2018 show.

I make it just in time to be seated in Waipawa’ gorgeous 107 year old jewel in the farmers cap. The open space of what used to be the stalls is filled with candle lit tables, refreshments abound and the audience chatter excitedly, most certainly with gladness that a show has come to the village.

We are briefly welcomed by HB Arts Festival raconteur Jamie McPhail, dressed with his usual ringmaster aplomb: top hat, tails and cane, grand moustache smartly waxed. The show kicks off to a rollicking start.

New Zealander Robyn Paterson’s tale of loss, immigration, family and identity is inspired by her own parents’ move here from South Africa.  The set is simple: table, chair, lamp, artists easel and a few simple props all in sight. The actor is dressed neutrally in black, to allow the seamless character changes to rely on performance skill alone. This in itself is a thrill to behold. I have seen it mastered by only a couple of actors over the years.

Paterson quickly establishes her rhythm and pace, and the audience settle in to follow the journey of the retired couple depicted in the naturalistic dualogue. Domestic scenes reveal familiar power plays in the marriage, a history is unveiled as we move with the couple to a new land and we see and hear of grief, loss, love, friendship and the longing for home.

A wonderful question is presented to us half way through. What is home? What does home mean? Is it a place where things belong to you and where you belong? And what does belonging really mean? 

There is much levity and humour throughout which carries us along, not allowing the darkness to smother us, simply allowing us moments to ponder.

There are delightful moments, where the performer uses clowning techniques to transform an umbrella into a flapping duck and then later a single bulb in a lamp backlights the actor in a poignant scene, meaning we are left in the dark with only a manly silhouette and voice to bring us to an emotional revelation.

None of these theatrical tricks are new but they hold true as a means for simple connection between player and audience due to Paterson’s sureness. We are captivated, we laugh, we are quietly moved.

It is clear, by the end, why this show was a sell-out in Auckland, London and Edinburgh. It is a simple yet moving tale of family, love, loss and hope.

We’ve all known something of this and live theatre is one of those shared experiences, where we can feel at ease knowing no matter where we come from, we share commonalities.  

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Thought-provoking and genuine

Review by Acushla-Tara Kupe 11th Aug 2016

The lights come up, soft music starts to permeate the air, and just as we settle into this state the lights and music cut out. In the dark we hear a sweet argument between a husband and wife about broken fuses, charming and recognisable, which sets the tone for the next hour. As the lights come up once again we are invited into a living room to meet Helene and Gordon, a South African couple in their 60s.

Exposition comes thick and fast as we learn rapidly who we are observing. Gordon, recently retired, and Helene, his stay-at-home wife. The banter shared between husband and wife makes it easy for us to recognise and therefore empathise with them. When Helene starts to suspect the maid of theft the tonal similarities to the previous argument allow us to see that this conversation is as normal as discussing broken fuses, if a little scandalous. It is here that the underlying themes of racism and ignorance begin to peek through and Helene’s intolerance drives us into the main action of the play.

Feeling unsafe in her current home, Helene suggests emigrating to New Zealand and with Gordon’s response it is clear this is not a new topic. Here we are treated to a beautiful speech about what home means to Gordon: “Nothing will belong to us; this is where we belong.” What I truly appreciate about the storytelling here is that we were not just being told about these issues – theft, racism, murder, political corruption – but through a particularly tense sequence we are made to understand how it feels to live in this environment. 

This is a truly spectacular performance from Robyn Paterson who expertly plays both Helene and Gordon. After the first few moments we forget we are watching only one actor on stage as Paterson easily snaps between fast-talking, prim and proper Helene and the weathered and considered Gordon. Paterson’s physicality and vocal stamina are admirable and she is a real treat to watch. 

Many Fringe shows tend towards a simple set and this is no exception. On stage is a small table, upon which stands a jug, some coffee cups and other detritus. There is also a floor lamp, chair, blanket, handbag and an easel in the corner holding a painting of an Acacia tree. Time passing is indicated through the changing of this tree image – a turn of the page sees leaves changing colour and disappearing.

Considering its use as a device, I expect the type of tree to change as well to indicate location. However I am satisfied this doesn’t happen when it’s wider storytelling function is made clear, signifying the loss of a son grieved for very differently by each parent.

It’s this difference in grieving that seems to guide the undercurrents of the show and this is where the strength in writing really shines through. That being said, this production could benefit from pulling back on the exposition and allowing the audience to find their own way into these people’s lives. There are some conversations that seem to exist purely for exposition’s sake and these tend to stick out.

The costume design is standard for a solo show: good old blacks. And there is a delightful ambiguity in their fit, allowing Robyn to slip believably between each character. Lighting supports the show well enough although it could be used more effectively to support the scene structures and characters as well and not just the setting. Sound is not a particular player in this piece and I don’t think it’s necessary. The lack of music allows us to really settle with the characters and pay attention to what they are saying.

The South Afreakins is a show about love, loss and companionship, with a dash of political commentary sprinkled in for good measure. Billed as a dark-comedy, the strength of this piece lies in its drama with the few comedic moments perfectly placed to support this.

As a production it would benefit greatly from some additional work (specifically regarding exposition and the delineation of scene structure) but Paterson’s strength as a dramatic performer holds this show together. A thought-provoking and genuine 60 minutes of theatre.

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