BATS Theatre, Wellington

20/02/2012 - 23/02/2012

Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

11/02/2012 - 11/02/2012

NZ Fringe Festival 2012

Production Details

Transit of Venus is a mutable project band hatched by Auckland based composer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kristie Addison. Nosferatu is a German expressionist silent horror film created in 1922 by F.W. Murnau.

Transit of Venus vs. Nosferatu is an 84 minute long rockopera style concept album performed live in accompaniment to a screening of the movie. The music gifts new emotion and narrative to the classic horror film, beautiful progressive soundscapes are dotted with starry eyed songs about love and death. It’s a modern musical interpretation of the olden-time romance and tragedy, and not without a touch of ironic humour. The music is written from the perspective of a 2000s twenty-something year-old who sees Murnaus’ “Nina” as a far more inspiring heroine that Meyers’ “Bella”.

Performed for the first time in 2009 as a ‘once off’ show at TAPAC, the music was recorded and released online and has been loved by secret sprinklings of underground music fans from many corners of the world.

2012’s show has been reworked and partly rewritten, and is presented by a mostly new line-up of performers; Adam Willis, Diamond Fist Willie, James Kupa and Kristie Addison.

5 shows are currently booked; the first is at
Basement Theatre (Greys Ave, Auckland) in Auckland
on Saturday the 11th of February,

followed by 4 shows for Wellington Fringe Festival at
BATS Theatre (1 Kent Terrace, Wellington)
Monday the 20th through to Thursday the 23rd of February.

Aucklandtickets are available through iTicket, Wellingtontickets by emailing = or phone (04) 8024175

Transit of Venus vs. Nosferatu 

Transit of Venus Project PH: 021 075 6201

Performers: Adam Willis, Diamond Fist Willie, James Kupa and Kristie Addison.

Little to offer as theatre

Review by John Smythe 21st Feb 2012

Note the “vs” in the title. This is not Transit of Venus does Nosferatu or Nosferatu with Transit of Venus. This Auckland-based indie pop-rock / mutable project band band is apparently in competition with F W Murnau’s 1922 German expressionist silent horror film. 

However, “The music gifts new emotion and narrative to the classic horror film,” according to the media release. “Beautiful progressive soundscapes are dotted with starry eyed songs about love and death. It’s a modern musical interpretation of the olden-time romance and tragedy, and not without a touch of ironic humour. The music is written from the perspective of a 2000s twenty-something year-old who sees Murnaus’ ‘Nina’ as a far more inspiring heroine than Meyers’ ‘Bella’.” – a reference to Stephanie Meyers’ Twilight Zone.

Personally I find Nosferatu a ludicrous degradation (I hesitate to call it an adaptation) of Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula (1897), eschewing its psycho-sexual essence for grossly over-wrought melodrama, although film buffs acknowledge its technical achievements in B&W silent movies as significant, and it gave Murnau his ticket to Hollywood. (Because the so-called adaptation was unauthorised, the studio changed the characters’ names when it first came out but since then the original names have been reinstated, which just adds insult to Stoker’s injury.)

Song-writer and founder of Transit of Venus, Kirsty Addison, is the only original member in this otherwise new line-up. She plays her keyboard in a period frock and the programme credits her as Nina Harker. Adam Willis, clad in black, is credited as Nosferatu, and ‘Diamond Fist Willie’ as Johnathan Harker – and both switch between playing guitars and drums. Willis has moments of being ‘in role’ and certainly has a theatrical presence.

Tom Wardle, also dressed in late 19th century garb, sits in an armchair and – as the diarist from Bremen, Johan Cavallius – reads the dialogue and narration that is already displayed as part of the film, data-projected onto a stained sheet pinned to Bats’ upstage wall. His heavily melodramatic voicing and use of spectacles, and fake eyebrows and moustaches on sticks, suggests it’s a piss-take – or is he just unnecessarily indicating which character is speaking?

There is nothing comical in the musical performances, however; they take it all very seriously, as does the opening night audience. And here I must declare I am only reviewing this because the plan to have it covered by those who knows their musical genres better than I fell through at the last minute.

My problem with many live music concerts is that the lyrics someone has slaved lovingly over are all-too-often obliterated by the instrumental sound mix, but when I say so I am told fans already have the CDs or downloads and know the lyrics well – which is proved by seeing them sing along.  The CD of this project was on sale but it has never been stated that buying and listening to it, and memorising the lyrics, is a prerequisite for coming to the live event – nor should it be.

As a ‘soundtrack’ to the silent movie I find the music over-eggs an already curdled pudding, laying on the doom-laden premonitory tones right from the start so there is nowhere, dramatically, to go. Whereas we get the ‘dialogue’ and narration clearly both from Wardle’s live performance and the written words on screen, the words to the original songs played live largely remain a mystery. I am therefore unable to comment on what they may or may not add to our understanding or perception of the film and its characters.

A long way into the show I did get a snatch of Willis singing “Come friend, welcome to the land of the phantom” and “The kiss of death is the kiss of life”, and Addison singing about Nina being prepared to die to save the world – followed by her repeating “I don’t wanna die” over and over.

This occurs because “Only a woman can break his frightful spell – a woman pure in heart – who will offer her blood freely to Nosferatu and will keep the vampire by her side until after the cock has crowed.” And here I feel compelled to say that although Nina’s sacrifice is selfless and noble, the whole notion that her entire life is devoted to being a dutiful wife and pining after her venturing husband in his absence is hard to swallow at any level.  

Apart from the relatively recent resurgence of interest in vampire mythology evident in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Twilight series and True Blood, there have been some 200 screen adaptations of the Bram Stoker novel and umpteen stage spoofs. The 1927 stage adaptation produced by Downstage in 2006, which differs considerably from the novel, was the basis of the 1931 film starring Bella Lugosi, and may well have been influenced by the rise of psychology as a new science in those intervening years.

Given so many versions that explore the ‘forbidden sex’ overtones in female attraction to charismatic vampires, the Nosferatu of this film is impossible to relate to. Alongside Stoker’s Dracula, the traditional 18th century folktale Beauty and the Beast and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) offer much greater insights into human desires and fears. Whichever I look at it, I cannot see Nina as an “inspiring heroine”. Nor am I able to engage with the “new emotion and narrative” Transit of Venus claims to bring to the film.

Had the “vs” been true and they had done battle with a deconstructed version of Nosferatu, challenging its fatuous dramatics and sex-role stereotyping, something of value may have been added to our ongoing fascination with the concept. Had we heard all the words of the “starry eyed songs about love and death” my perception of the show may well have been very different.

But as it stands, I cannot say Transit of Venus vs Nosferatu, as it played out last night anyway, has much to offer the dedicated theatre-goer. Dedicated followers of pop-rock with a taste for simplistic Gothic horror, however, may find it worth the 90-odd minutes and ticket price.  

For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


Steve February 25th, 2012

We saw this on the closing night and we loved it!  Very talented musicians - I don't know how you didn't enjoy it John.  

John Smythe February 24th, 2012

When it comes to vampire mythology, James, 10 years is a mere moment.

James Nokise February 24th, 2012

Sometimes I really love John Smythe - Who else can talk about the recent resurgence in Vampire culture and site Buffy? It's been off air for almost a decade, but it could have been yesterday. Hates Nosferatu, not a big fan of live concerts - goes to see a show involving Nosferatu and a live band. But that's not here or there. I appreciate he had to fill in and, as with any beef I ever have with John, nothing a beer at the Pit Bar won't solve.

Actually I can't speak to this show because I never got a chance to see it. I was, however, priveleged enough to share a green room with the young performers of the show this past week, and I'd just like to say they're an awesome bunch of enthusiastic performers - and if they or this show pops up again, then I reccomend people go down and see it. 

Why? Because it's bloody Fringe - and what's more Fringe than young, enthusiastic, entertainers going to a different city to do their show. What wasn't in the review (although I may have missed it) is that these guys are really good musicians. If you are a fan of seeing old films with new soundtracks, or just like the idea of this, then pop down.

Let's be honest, this site is mainly read by arts folk, and most of you are at least intrigued by what this could be - so go support some young artists doing there thing. You either remember doing this or are about to, and Fringe Karma has a habbit of coming back.

Vixen February 23rd, 2012

I think Steve Dean "got it" 

the Smythe review was always going to be damning because he hated the movie, and he didn't want to be there, having to fill in for someone more likely to understand it. I went opening night and although they had problems with the sound mix, there was enough good stuff getting to these ears to warrant a thumbs up from me. From my perspective I would have liked to hear vocals a little forward in the mix so as I could attempt to follow the lyrics. That aside, I fail to see how anyone could truely take the movie seriously. Perhaps that is why we heard humour and irony in both the music and the lyrics. 

I saw the potential for this to be taken a lot further orchestrally. The one thing visually that would make it better would be to blank out the written narration to allow the narrator more presence 

All in all I really enjoyed it, kudos to all involved and particularly to the musicians who played without a music score to work from.

Jax February 23rd, 2012

A witty and cleverly composed musical coverage of a bizarre 1922 vampire film. From sweet melodies to dramatic dynamics, we were thoroughly entertained. Read Steve Deans review!

steve dean February 23rd, 2012

 Goth is in the eyes of the beholder. I agree that there is more in this for the music fan than the usual theatre goer (whatever that is) because of the volume if for no other reason.

What I was thinking when watching was it was a neat presentation of the new Goth vs old Goth at a hundred tears remove. A comment on a widely regarded genre that was really a puff of smoke in the first place. Part horror, part melodrama, part romance and the ways popular culture re-presented it.

The cd is taken from an earlier production and is very different from what I saw at Bats. More a 90's guitar pop sound. It is interesting that the band play angular dramatic passages during the periods between setpiece songs. Earlier interpretations of the orchestral I have attended with orchestral accompaniment or German avant garde-ners Faust have been crushing doom laden backdrops. There was a lightness and apartness about this coupling that was more than just a mood accompaniment.

Make a comment

All up, pretty cool

Review by Steve Dean 21st Feb 2012

As it says on the tin, it’s a projection of Nosferatu, of the screen size we used to have up in the science lab at the University for a short while about 20 years ago. There is a narrator and 3 musicians. Each is identified and dressed as a character from the film.

The 3 musos; Kristie Addison plays piano and sings like a warmer voiced latter day Kate Bush, Diamond Fist Willie and Adam Willis both play guitar and drums at different times, Adam mostly plays heavily effects laden guitar, DFW plays mostly the acoustic and drums. They both sing, in fact Adam is a wicked, colourful, characterful vocalist with great stage presence.

The music is a mixture of different styles, mostly guitar prog rock, in the styles of Rush, Jethro Tull and Wishbone Ash; rapid angular math rock with some elements of speed and doom metal in the pot. The music is very energetic and the few times they break into full song are truly quite exhilarating.

The music perhaps lacked a bit of subtlety in the first 20 minutes of the film, when characters themes were being established, but that might have been a bit of nerves and a little sound imbalance, they had a very short set-up time. I was at the previous show and they had finished 15 minutes late, leaving Transit Of Venus only a few minutes preparation.

I enjoyed the show very much. One minor but very irritating detail was the narrator, Tom Wardle,, in pastiche horror voices, delivering different words to those on the Inter-titles. It bugged the bejezus out of me that he would unnecessarily insert or omit words or use a different word, sometimes quite changing the meaning of the script. He even read out the wrong year and date, it was very distracting. In his favour, Tom did sing beautifully at the very end though.

However, that small quibble about the dysphasic narration aside I thought it was, all up, pretty cool.  


For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council