TOO MUCH HAIR

BATS Theatre, The Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

24/05/2022 - 03/06/2022

Production Details


Co-created by Ania Upstill and William Duignan

Presented by Butch Mermaid


Too Much Hair is a new musical cabaret about gender euphoria.

Anyone who has had a drain clogged by it, or found an errant follicle in an otherwise delicious food, will be able to attest to the frustrations hair can bring. When it comes to fashion and gender presentation, hair poses even more difficulties. Do you wear it long? Is that too feminine? What is an acceptable level of hair on various parts of one’s body? Do you shave your face, legs, or even arms? What about those pesky eyebrows?

Too Much Hair combines celebratory stories about gender identity and expression with the power of music. Don’t miss this musical paradise for Thems, Femmes, Mens, and everyone in-between!

The title is inspired by a poem by Hone Tuwhare, from an edition illustrated by Ralph Hotere, where God is described as: A faceless /hermaphrodite /in turns /displaying /much /lovingness /much stern-ness /too much hair’.

Many of us, at one moment or another, have felt that we’ve just got too much bloody hair.

Created in conversation with the gender diverse community in Ōtautahi and Pōneke.

Wellington is invited to celebrate gender euphoria with Too Much Hair at
BATS Theatre, The Dome  
Tuesday 24 May to Friday 3 June 2022
24 May, 9pm
25 May – 2 June, 7.15pm
3 June, 6pm & 9pm.
The Difference:  $40
Full:  $25
Group 6+:  $22 
Concession:  $20 
BOOK 

Too Much Hair came about when Upstill and Duignan both acted in the Court Theatre’s sold-out season of Once in July 2021 and discussed the need for more stories about Queer New Zealanders. “Once featured two Queer characters, and recent conversations around transgender representation in the Court’s production of Things I Know to be True showed us that audiences are keen to engage with stories about gender diversity,” said Duignan.

Internationally, musical theatre has a rich history of telling LGBTQAI+ stories with vitality and playfulness, and Upstill and Duignan believe that the time is ripe to create new works celebrating stories of Aotearoa New Zealand’s own gender diverse community. They have hosted huis for the gender diverse community in Ōtautahi Christchurch and Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington and the songs in the show are directly inspired by those conversations.

In keeping with the kaupapa of the show, all of the performers in Too Much Hair are gender diverse. Upstill says, “We have a unique opportunity to harness the creativity of these incredible performers and allow gender diverse New Zealanders to see and hear themselves on stage. These stories are important, not just for audiences, but also for performers, who often struggle to find work that reflects their histories, identities, experiences, and the worlds they live in.” So far, audiences have responded very positively. A digital release of some content, filmed after Too Much Hair’s development season in Summer at Q was cancelled due to the Omicron outbreak, garnered over 500 views over its 48 hour duration.

Duignan points out that “Too Much Hair” can refer both to female-bodied people who choose to embody “masculine” stereotypes, as well as to male-bodied people who choose to present in “feminine” ways – and everything in between. So while Duignan and Upstill were happy about the high level of interest in the digital season, they weren’t totally surprised. “The gender binary is limiting to everyone. And we have all, at one moment or another, felt that we’ve just got too much bloody hair,” says Upstill.


FEATURING


Ania Upstill (They/Them)
William Duignan (He/Him)
Jthan Morgan (She, He, Ia)
Felix Crossley-Pritchard (He/Him)


Producers: Jessica Ducey and Ania Upstill
Lighting Design: Tony Black
Set Design: Jade Alborn
Costume Design: Sarah Bell
Production Help and Stage Management: Morgan Delaney  


Musical , Theatre ,


1 hr

A big, silly party where transness is centred and everyone is welcome

Review by Mallory Stevenson 26th May 2022

Transgender people are underrepresented in the media, but when we are, I’m not easily impressed. I find my own trans friends much more unique and interesting than fiction, which usually has to – shock horror – make itself accessible to a wider audience. So when the cast of Too Much Hair opens the show by explaining gender euphoria, I sternly tell myself that no, this isn’t ‘cringe’, this concept isn’t common knowledge, and not all trans art has to be hermetic queer Freemasonry.

In fact, as the evening passes, I find this inclusive spirit to be central to the show’s appeal. It’s a cabaret celebration of queer happiness, particularly the aforementioned gender euphoria (which, for the record, refers to a euphoric feeling of satisfaction with your own gender expression).

In a series of songs and monologues, the four-person cast riff on simple pleasures such as wearing colourful clothes, being referred to by the correct pronouns and, of course, having too much hair. It stands firmly in the traditions of gender-diverse people as colourful entertainers, bridging together the queer and straight worlds with displays of good-spiritedness and creative talent.

Each cast member sings and plays at least two instruments, with their respective roles changing for each song. There’s a banjolele (banjo/ukulele hybrid) played charmingly by both Ania Upstill and Felix Crossley-Pritchard*. There’s some lovely cello playing from Upstill, particularly good guitar from William Duignan and captivatingly theatrical singing from all. Jthan Morgan’s almost operatic vocals are particularly showstopping, drawing heavy applause for her high notes.

There’s a consistent focus on building a rapport with the audience. Without having to be told, the audience ends up clapping in the middle of songs, whooping and laughing without restraint. There’s a little audience participation, too, including a fill-in-the-blanks song where the audience suggests things that give them gender euphoria.

It’s noteworthy that some apparently cisgender people gave suggestions here. As the opposite of gender dysphoria, gender euphoria usually implies the realisation of a trans identity. In this carnival atmosphere, though, it makes sense to let go of the distinction. The focus is on what we have in common.

It’s not that the show is apolitical or seeks to erase differences. There’s a focus on creating a better world for trans youth, including one song which compares gender to one of Wellington’s dilapidated ‘heritage’ flats. There’s a bit of queer existentialism, with some songs and monologues describing a wandering traveller who finds home in their constant voyaging.

Besides that, the whole show is as flamboyantly queer as possible, with the elaborately tasselled set, wig-covered chairs and tie-dyed costumes firmly setting the tone. It’s a big, silly party where transness is centred and everyone is welcome.

*Artistic parallels: a scene in HIR at Circa last year revolved around Crossley-Pritchard’s character failing to play the banjo.

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