Festival Mainstage, Founders Heritage Park, Nelson

19/10/2017 - 19/10/2017

Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

27/09/2016 - 08/10/2016

NZ FESTIVAL CLUB, Odlins Plaza, 17 Cable St, Wellington

07/03/2018 - 08/03/2018

Pacific Crystal Palace Spiegeltent, Havelock North Village Green, Havelock North

18/10/2018 - 18/10/2018

Auckland Live International Cabaret Season 2016

Hawkes Bay Arts Festival 2018

New Zealand Festival of the Arts 2018


Production Details

There’s a buzzing in my head and it won’t go away.

I’m thinking about genetics, what’s passed on, what isn’t. I’m thinking of my grandmother, Valerie. Last Tapes Theatre Company presents an inter-generational, interrupting cabaret that reaches into the guts of family mythologies.

This newly minted classic features an original music score by Robin Kelly.

Basement Theatre
Tuesday 27 September – Saturday 8 October
$20.00 – $25.00
For all ticketing and timing information, visit 

Nelson Arts Festival 2017
Thu 19 Oct, 7.30pm
FULL $41
UNDER 19 $25
GROUP OF 6+ $37pp
(Group bookings only available at Theatre Royal Nelson) 
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Named the stand-out cabaret of the year by the New Zealand Herald, Valerie is gig-theatre at its finest.

 “Pulverising, heart-stopping, often too close to the bone for comfort, Valerie is extremely challenging and brave cabaret/theatre.” THEATREVIEW 

New Zealand Festival 2018 

Wednesday 07 Mar 2018, 7:00pm
Thursday 08 Mar 2018, 8:00pm
GA (seated): $39.00
Pricing excludes service fee More about ticket categories
Under 18s must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian

New Zealand Festival Club
See a show, stay for the party. This electric pop-up on Wellington’s waterfront is the place to be and be seen for three fun-filled Festival weeks. And when the curtain falls each night, Wellington’s newest hot spot throws open its doors with free entry for everyone. Because the show ain’t over until the Festival Club closes.

Hawkes Bay Arts Festival 2018

Pacific Crystal Palace Spiegeltent
Thursday 18th October 2019
Adult  $45
Concession  $40

Theatre , Cabaret ,

1 hr 10 mins

Theatre for the wild, bleeding soul

Review by Gemma Carroll 19th Oct 2018

I LOVE THIS SHOW! This is exactly the kind of theatre I want to see, but it’s a rare kind.

It’s rare because it takes such courage and stamina to make yourself so vulnerable on stage. It is raw, gritty, real, gut-wrenching and full of real love.

It slides across genres, across musical styles, between narrative science and poetry. It challenges and engages on so many levels.

The original music is sublime. The opening song, pushes us deep into our seats; Cherie Moore’s voice belting out a blues banger and then slipping into a quiet lullaby end.  

From that opening slash across our chests, Moore shines like a comet, quietly held by the gaze of her husband and co-crafter Robin Kelly on keyboard and with the deft support of  gifted musician, Tom Broome, percussionist.

Moore holds a Shirley Bassey universe in her belly song: “Call to your mother, but don’t make a sound …” The lyrics etch a band of tension across the smokey cabaret atmosphere. A score of beautiful musical works, woven together with spoken word and narrative.

Kelly is perhaps the real mastermind, behind this masterpiece, and it is his family’s story that is told.

“Nature loads the gun, nurture pulls the trigger” Kelly states, as more and more piles of technology are literally piled around his neck and his microphone is pulled in all directions, interrupting his delivery. Poetic moments, in his urgent scientific prose.

The story is intergenerational, biographical and autobiographical. The themes running through it are of mental illness, family, pain, fear and love.

“Spinning, moving from one thing to the next” – this line is reflected in looped electronic sounds, live drums, keyboards and vocals shared by all three performers.

There is a discourse between science and poetry, mind and heart, the discomfort of which is literally felt when a performer purposefully creates mic feedback so loud it hurts my chest. This show is not entirely comfortable and yet I am captivated, as are the audience around me.

We see the naked vulnerable seed in Robin and it brings tears to my eyes and others’. We make sense of our fear, our pain, through story. This is what this show does.

In the final scene we see video images of the real Valerie, projected onto the naked back of her grandson (Kelly). He carries her with him.

Credit not only goes to Valerie, who allows her grandson to capture her stories, to the trio who so brilliantly present all that to us, but also to the invisible director Benjamin Henson. 

This is theatre for the wild, bleeding soul; for those not afraid to sit with discomfort and to inevitably feel hope and the strength of the indomitable human spirit.  

Highly, highly, recommended. Our standing ovation is from the depths of our hearts. 


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Admirable intelligence, craft and inventiveness

Review by Tim Stevenson 08th Mar 2018

At first, watching Valerie is a bit like doing a jigsaw without having the box lid to show you what picture you are making. The jigsaw comes with enough stamps of excellence for you to persist – good enough to be included in the New Zealand Festival; the New Zealand Herald’s standout cabaret of 2016 – but it’s still a puzzle. 

The Festival Club stage is set up for a band, with dry ice billowing in the background and instruments and microphones ready and waiting. The performers – Cherie Moore (lead vocals, guitar), Robin Kelly (keyboards, vocals), and Tom Broome (drums, vocals) – come on stage without ceremony and straight away launch into a song. We are invited to sing, or hum, backup. Moore is wearing an older style dress: green and white with what look like little images of sailing boats printed on it.

Now Kelly comes up to the front and starts talking about the genetics of complex diseases, particularly mental illnesses. As he talks, one of the others puts what looks like black electric cord or leads around his neck, and keeps shifting his mike, interrupting him and making him adjust so that he can keep on talking. 

Next, Moore lifts up the shirt of one of the guys to show that he’s got a family tree drawn on his back. She talks her way through the people on the tree, tracing the incidence of mental illness.

Now, Moore is telling us about a visit she paid to a house in Melbourne with her boyfriend Ronald, but she is captivated by a man she meets there, and also by his eccentric family.

Piece by piece, the puzzle picture comes together; it’s a story about a family, particularly about one person in the family – Valerie – and what happened in her life, and something of what this means to later generations. The picture is mostly made out of songs, personal narratives, and reflections on the role of genetics in determining what we are and what happens to us. It’s funny, scary and sad, sometimes all three at the same time.

Valerie is more than the sum of its parts, although the parts have plenty of substance in themselves. The songs fit the narrative, and Moore performs them with passion and flair. The narrative, again mostly delivered by Moore, has the drive and credibility of a well told story. Kelly’s reflections on the impact of genetics on our lives are more than just scientific text cribbed from a book or off the Internet, because we know soon enough that they are directly related to the story being played out in front of us.

Valerie feels to me – to change metaphors for a moment – like high wire acrobatics performed without a safety net. The material is intensely personal, it’s risky, and it’s looking into the machinery of human life for answers because they matter here and now. I really have to admire the courage of Valerie’s devisers – presumably it’s mostly Kelly’s work, because the story comes from his own family – for choosing to make this show, with direction from Benjamin Henson.

Equally, I admire the show’s intelligence, craft and inventiveness; the patient, deliberate way it builds up the picture of Valerie until we can all see it plain and understand its messages. This is excellent, moving theatre, devised and performed with skill and a lot of heart.

There is no program for the show, but whoever does the lighting and sound is spot on.

I still don’t understand what the black leads placed around Kelly’s neck signify. Go along and see if you can work it out (please let me know what you think). 


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Emotional and brave

Review by Gail Tresidder 20th Oct 2017

Pulverising, heart-stopping, often too close to the bone for comfort, Valerie is extremely challenging and brave cabaret/theatre.  With love and compassion, three brilliant performers tell a true story of endurance, of a seemingly endless struggle against the odds inherited at birth.

Cherie Moore has a great voice, opening with a raunchy version of Dusty Springfield and Aretha Franklin’s world-wide hit, ‘Son of a Preacher Man’.  She wears a 50s-style dress. The stage is purple lit, smoke drifts around her.  The mood is set.

As the story is told, guitar, drums and keys and recorded sounds – including a chant from the audience used most effectively – add depth and colour, although the colour is often black.  Madness spills from agitated music and discordant jangling in a cry of pain, of passion and agony.  We feel it, we are overwhelmed.

Written by Robin Kelly as a tribute to his brave grandmother who suffered much, survived and was loved, this is an emotional and brave telling of a traumatic family history. Of how mental illness, passed on, can play havoc with subsequent generations and of how very much of who we are depends on fate.

The capacity audience stand and applaud.


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Emotional Resonance

Review by Rachael Longshaw-Park 02nd Oct 2016

The Auckland Live International Cabaret Season kicked off this past week with Valerie, an unconventional cabaret written and performed by Last Tapes Theatre Company. The piece first appeared at Hotspot Cabaret and has developed into an entirely different creature since then.

The Basement Theatre space has been transformed into a loungey cabaret den, lit by candles and kept on the darker side of moody. The onstage band consists of two of Last Tapes founding members Robin Kelly and Cherie Moore, respectively on keys and vocals, then Tom Broome on drums.

Valerie is a biographical cabaret that deconstructs itself into a deeply personal unravelling of Kelly’s inner thoughts. We watch as Kelly battles his own rationalisation of hereditary mental illness through the story of his grandmother, Valerie. [More


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Heartfelt tribute with impassioned soundtrack

Review by Nik Smythe 29th Sep 2016

While the auditorium is set out with classy cabaret-style table seating, the three-piece band on stage is more of a lo-fi rock/soul combo delivering a wholly convincing performance of the Dusty Springfield classic ‘Son of a Preacherman’ as the audience convenes.  A largish quantity of rolled-up sound cables are curiously hung on the black peg-board wall behind them; their abstract purpose to be revealed in due course. 

Valerie is an avant-garde, intensely cerebral and at times emotionally visceral account of bandleader Robin Kelly’s family history of complex mental disorders, shown primarily through the words of his grandmother Valerie, spoken by lead singer Cherie Moore.  The basic history is explained up front by a family tree drawn with felt marker on drummer Tom Broome’s back. 

Told through direct anecdotes, diary entries and letters to her parents, Valerie recounts the adventures and ordeals she enjoyed and endured with the love of her life, Graeme.  When they met, Graeme was a beacon of sanity in his “absolutely mad” family, seemingly the only stable force holding them together.  Later on, their joyful union is compromised when Graeme too begins to exhibit similar symptoms. 

Directed by Benjamin Henson, with dramaturgical input from Kate Prior (story) and Paul McLaney (music), the narrative carries through – albeit not entirely chronologically – to the day Robin asked Valerie for her blessing to create this very performance based on her life. 

Their story is frequently underpinned with clinical information about DNA, genetics and the needle-in-a-haystack nature of aberrant mental conditions such as schizophrenia.  At times the cast interrupt, shut down or otherwise subvert each other’s performances, which I read as an effective theatrical evocation of the inner workings of an imperfectly wired brain.

Obviously the crowning feature of the piece is the impassioned bluesy soul-centric live soundtrack, composed by Kelly who plays the keyboard, supported by Broome’s exemplary rock/blues/jazz rhythms and of course Moore’s aforementioned hauntingly rich voice.  The grungy, lo-fi aesthetic presumably speaks more from Robin’s world than Valerie’s but gleaning what we can about her character from his heartfelt tribute, I daresay she wholeheartedly approves.


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