BATS Theatre, Wellington

17/02/2015 - 22/02/2015

Maidment Theatre - Musgrove Studio, Auckland

24/02/2015 - 03/03/2015

NZ Fringe Festival 2015 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Chinese Lantern Festival & Auckland Fringe 2015

Production Details


THE TWO FARTING SISTERS is a delightfully cheeky and beautifully crafted show playing 24 February – 7 March as part of the Auckland Fringe

Petit Workshop have worked with playwright Renee Liang to reinvigorate a traditional Chinese fable originally titled The Tale of The Fragrant Farting Man, throwing it bottom first into present day New Zealand – from the quiet streets of Levin to the hustle and bustle of Auckland City. Using 3D puppetry, shadow puppetry and live action, it is guaranteed to delight and entrance both the young and old.  

Told by an all-female cast, The Two Farting Sisters celebrates the rich multicultural landscape of New Zealand through the eyes of a feisty young heroine, ultimately delivering a powerful message of generosity and ingenuity in the face of adversity. Along the way we meet a tractor driving cat, a sister with weapon-like acrylics, and a father desperate to reconnect with his past in China – all while smelling some incredibly fragrant farts!

Petit Theatre have a beautiful handmade aesthetic, creating original devised work through incredible worlds made out of paper, light and shadow. They use 3D puppetry, shadow puppetry, and live action to play with scale and theatrical magic and utilise the power of the imagination. The Two Farting Sisters will be strongly influenced by Chinese art and design aesthetic in its imagery and puppet design.

The show speaks directly to New Zealand’s multicultural society, referencing the clash of past and present cultures that many people constantly navigate.

“I think people will appreciate the opportunity to see another Chinese story on the New Zealand stage. This show has the fantastic potential to reach out to a diverse audience from both within and outside the Chinese community. It also finally airs out the taboo topic of female flatulence!” says director Ella Becroft.  

The Two Farting Sisters’ premiere at the Wellington Fringe Festival coincides with Chinese New Year. It will run alongside Renee Liang’s show Under The Same Moon. The two shows will then travel to Auckland for a season at the Musgrove Studio in the Maidment Theatre as part of the Lantern Festival and the Auckland Fringe. Classic in its morals but quirky in its story, The Two Farting Sisters will inspire the inner child in everyone and can be enjoyed by all ages 7+.


Wellington Season – The Wellington Fringe Festival 2015
Bats Theatre
7pm. February 17th – February 22nd 2015
+ 4pm Matinee, Saturday 21st
BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace, Wellington
Book online or call (04) 802 4175 

Auckland Season – Chinese Lantern Festival & Auckland Fringe Festival 2015
Musgrove Studio, Maidment Theatre
6pm. February 24th – March 3rd 2015
+ Matinees TBC
8 Alfred St, Auckland City,
Book online or call (09) 308 2383 


Auckland Fringe 2015 is an open access arts festival where anything can happen. It provides a platform for practitioners and audiences to unite in the creation of form forward experiences which are championed in an ecology of artistic freedom. The 2015 programme will see work happening all over the show, pushing the boundaries of performance Auckland wide from February 11 to March 1.

Translation & Story Adaptation:  Renee Liang
Performing Company:  Petit Workshop (Ella Becroft and Katrina Wesseling)
Director:  Ella Becroft 
Producer:  Ilai Amir 
Dramaturg & Cultural Advisor:  Renee Liang
Devising Cast:  Katrina Wesseling, Xana Tang, Alisha Lawrie Paul, Emma Newborn
Musician:  Adam Ogle
Lighting Designers:  Deborah McGuire (Wellington); Phillip Dexter (Auckland)
Lighting Operators:  Deborah McGuire (Wellington); Michael Craven (Auckland)
Set Design:  Ella Becroft 
Shadow Puppetry Design:  Jewel Yan
Puppetry Design:  Ella Becroft, Katrina Wesseling, Xana Tang, Alisha Lawrie Paul, Emma Newborn, Jewel Yan
Publicity:  Yamin Tun
Marketing Materials:  Alice Berry (Poster Illustration); Votre Arme (Trailer Video, Production Stills, Live Show Recording) 

Theatre , Puppetry ,

Sweet and sour flatulence

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 01st Mar 2015

While flatulence would not normally be associated with entertaining theatre, in Petit Workshop’s production of The Two Farting Sisters, currently playing at Bats Theatre, it is the centre of an amusing and quirky story. 

Devised by Liang, director Ella Becroft and four actors, the production uses an amazing array of hand puppets, shadow puppets and numerous 3D type devices to tell the story with minimal dialogue, making it a fascinating and intriguing piece of theatre to watch.

Based on an old Chinese folk tale it has been updated into a NZ setting about two sisters Daisy and Stella who are left to look after the family market garden in Levin while their father goes back to China to reconnect with his family.

But then Stella sells the farm to fund her lavish lifestyle leaving Daisy destitute and living in an old shed.

Then a mysterious vine appears which, when Daisy eats the leaves, causes her to fart.

It then transpires that her flatulence has special properties causing blossoms to bloom and old people to get well so she turns it into a thriving enterprise, much to the annoyance of her sister Stella whose greed turns the venture sour.

All the creativity in the set and puppets does however become a little much at times and the story loses its way and becomes sublimated by all the visuals, not helped by the innumerable changes that cause the pace to slow down.

But it is very entertaining, great to watch and aided considerably by Adam Ogle’s onstage musicianship and Deborah McGuire’s lighting design.


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Worthy of deeper exploration

Review by Dione Joseph 25th Feb 2015

A play about farts. The appeal is irresistible no matter how old you are. Add the magic of puppetry and a classic Chinese fable and suddenly the story is transported to Levin, the heart of rural New Zealand. Except the largest town in the Horowhenua district located between Palmerston North and Wellington has no distinct markings in this story and this play could literally start anywhere. 

It’s a familiar fable: the younger hard-working sister must fight the gold-digging attempts of her elder-highly-manicured-‘Cruella-deVil’ sibling to save her father’s farm and her beloved pumpkins from sale while he returns to visit China. But alas, her evil sister succeeds in selling the farm and it is up to our young innocent heroine to save the day.

Aided and abetted by her trusty cat (whose help far exceeds merely driving a tractor) she goes up to the big smoke (Auckland) with her newly discovered talent and gives travelling salesfolk a run for their money – because her hot air can do wonders! Not just make the flowers bloom and cure the elderly but systematically whisk away all the evils from society, earning her a tidy profit along the way. So she can buy back the family farm just in time to welcome her father back. 

It’s a children’s show with the appropriate level of bodily sound effects, squawks of horror, creepy long nails, musical references and of course visual gags. Ella Becroft (director and set designer) creates an interesting and versatile multi-layered set that has plenty of opportunities for quick transformations, change of landscape and perspective.

Yet despite its creative potential the story seems to remain remarkably flat with an aesthetic that ranges from mildly amusing (the rambunctious traffic lights seem to have a mind of their own) to cheap and easy (some of the lanterns, while their use was clever, seemed completely inadequate compared to what could be found a few 100m away in Albert park). But perhaps it is the nostalgia that accompanies the father’s trips back home that seem to be out of place, both in its staging and predictable narrative. Perhaps it could benefit from more than an iteration of a few familiar stereotypical images of paddy fields being replaced with skyscrapers.

The shadow puppetry design by Jewel Yan is beautiful though still in its embryonic state and while the majority of the other puppets seem somewhat cartoonish it is hoped that these apparent staple stylistic choices of Petit Workshop will continue to evolve. 

Luckily for the show the unbounded enthusiasm of its cast, especially Xana Tang as our protagonist, and the team of devisors and puppeteers give the work an energy that for the most part keeps the hour alive. Switching between puppeteering to performing, Katrina Wesseling, Alisha Lawrie Paul and Emma Newborn are quick, sensitive and fully committed to the multiple roles they play, from manoeuvring paper puppets to being resplendent as the local veggie patch.

Adam Ogle’s musical accompaniment is spot on and weaves expertly through the show adding to the narrative’s almost mandatory multi-form story telling structure and Phillip Dexter’s lighting design, operated by Michael Craven, is subtle and evocative. 

The three week period to get the work up is reflected in this first incarnation (which opened last week in Wellington) but the story itself, a feminised and updated version by Renee Liang based on a translation by her father (Dr. Allen Liang) is worthy of deeper exploration. It’s current palatable if somewhat flimsy state has its appeal but with so much talent involved it will exciting to see the future development of this work – for the young and the young at heart.


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Sweet vs toxic adds pleasing aroma

Review by John Smythe 18th Feb 2015

Based on a classic Chinese folk tale her father used to tell her, about two brothers – the older one a spendthrift user; the younger one kind, industrious, abused and also ingenious out of necessity – The Two Farting Sisters is devised from Renee Liang’s updated, feminised, Kiwi adaptation. Only the programme tells me it starts in Levin but scenes in China and Auckland are clearly located.

In just three weeks, director Ella Becroft (a Red Leap Theatre protégé) and her cast (Katrina Wesseling, Xana Tang, Alisha Lawrie Paul, Emma Newborn) have devised the puppet-based mode of telling – or rather showing – the story, utilising a Chinese shadow puppetry aesthetic which includes colour, and many other ingenious devices (Chinese lanterns are employed in a number of ways).

While the younger sister, Daisy, is a fully-formed human (Xana Tang, I presume) the wonderfully ghastly Stella is a strident-voiced shadow puppet head in malevolent profile (made by jewel Yan) plus an ever-increasing number of white-gloved hands with talon-like fingernails. Daisy’s story is foregrounded, Stella looms large behind her and their itinerant father, journeying back to a China he can hardly recognise, is a diminutive figure whose story threads gently as a counterpoint to the main action. 

The flat-panelled set evokes rolling hills fore and aft, with each panel featuring a trapdoor that reveals … all sorts of surprises. Presumably it’s a market garden the girls are left to manage but little is made of the business side of things, initially. Basically Stella decides to sell the house to fund her jet-setting lifestyle, leaving Daisy an old shed nobody wants, amid a tangle of blackberries. But with the aid of a talented cat called Phil, and a bulldozer, Daisy turns their fortunes around – only to have Stella claim the spoils because the land, she says, is hers.

Without giving too much away, Phil’s true power arises post-mortem in the shape of a mysterious vine with leaves which, when eaten, make one flatulent. And it turns out Daisy’s farts (I can say this because it’s in the publicity) cause blossoms to bloom – and that’s just the start of it. Much fun is had by all in manifesting the fragrant farts … And again thanks to Daisy’s entrepreneurial ingenuity, they improve not only her life and well-being but that of all of Auckland. Imagine!

When Stella wants a slice of the action, however, her greed turns the whole deal toxic, literally. The allegorical resonance is as potent and her farts are pungent. By the time Father gets back … will they tell him?  

Musician Adam Olgle adds subtly to the tone of proceedings throughout and Deborah McGuire’s lighting and operation is as ingenious as the puppetry, given the hidden (and hiding) demands the genre makes.

Full attention is given to revealing the sisters’ story in action, with only the father’s resorting to narration (in both Chinese and English). As it plays in, the ever-inventive and delightful action may flow more, with more dynamic pacing, producing laughs where this opening audience smiles.

With a clear message to impart about sweet versus toxic natures, The Two Farting Sisters adds a pleasing aroma to the Fringe and Bats Theatre. Children and the child in all of us will love it.


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