We Wrote This

BATS Theatre, The Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

12/12/2023 - 13/12/2023

Production Details

Director Nicola Pauling
Produced by Voice Arts

Voice Arts

The role of actor and playwright seamlessly merge in this devised performance. Nine actors, all in their ‘third age’ have co-created a play that explores their personal experiences of, and adaptation to, the only consistent thing in life, change. Physical, emotional, familial, societal. We Wrote This is both sobering and joyful.

December 12th and 13th only
$12 tickets.

Voice Arts’s Third Act is a year long programme that supports people in their third age to explore performance and storytelling. The fundamentals of improvisational theatre (improv) are used to develop performance skills; to move participants from a group to an ensemble; and to create story. The process of scripting begins with a blank canvas and is slowly coloured by the histories and the ideas of the people in the room. Some come to this programme with previous theatre experience, although it may have been decades ago, others came with none and it’s definitely not a prerequisite. At the heart of this programme is inclusion. When we perform we develop, we learn and grow in an embodied way, where joy and laughter take centre stage.

Waka Attewell
Lynne Birch
Fiona Campbell
Sheryl Dean
Silvana Evans
Lynsey Ferrari
Gillian Marie
Anne Weinbrenner
Annette Woods

Theatre ,

45 mins

‘Thank you whoever you are there in the dark’

Review by Waka Attewell 16th Dec 2023

[By way of ‘flipping the script’ a Voice Arts participant and first-time performer in the Third Act programme’s end of year show, We Wrote This, reviews the experience from the stage.]

You only get to go on stage for the first time once, and this is it for me, at BATS Wellington.

Four minutes to go and the time is dragging and speeding up at the same time – oh please, who thought this was a good idea? OMG. I can hear the Director’s introduction, the audience are restless, the cast is gripped. We glance to each other – why are you smiling? I mean someone could die!

Back stage in the labyrinth of our own thoughts… waiting for the moment when the stage lights will illuminate our very souls… oh heck this is agony … Then woooosh! We hit the boards – in the dark – and we can feel the audience through the numb sensation … a few coughs, a bit of shuffling … and bam, lights up! The prologue ‘dumb show’ complete – we’ve got this!

And then a missed cue! Dead air. Oh shit! We’ve always nailed this bit!  Hell, what could go wrong? Nothing and everything – and they are right … Then like seasoned pros we pick it up and save it and we’re away, like wild horses galloping over the distant horizon, into the light, into the night. And there immediately with us, willing us on, are 80 extra people on stage with us… The unseen in-the-dark-people, the shufflers, the laughers, the coughing people – oh what bliss! WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER! They are willing us on and uplifting and in the moment; they are so in this with us and our feet don’t touch the stage… We float…

Then suddenly, my moment of fear: we are at the bit I’ve been dreading and still haven’t come to grips with even in the last four weeks of rehearsal… But what? Suddenly it’s alive, suddenly its comedy, suddenly I’m on top of the world and I haven’t done a thing and Kenneth (my character) is going for laughs and there’s more after that… I reckon if we’d had done another couple of nights Nicola (our director) would’ve hit Ken with a stick and told him to do less, but the same. LOL … and life changing and affirming!

We are the 9 on stage, united by the theatre god. We are the together people that will remember our first and second audience for ever. We will take yous to the grave … Kia Kaha! Thank you whoever you are there in the dark … We love you.

Personal stories, our stories, our truth… You laughed, you cried with us… You give us the silence space to be a dropping pin and the roar of hope to be the rest of our lives …

The 45 mins are gone far too soon as we complete the premiere performance of We Wrote This and my one-time-only acting debut.


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The premise, that the only consistent thing in life is change, is thoroughly and entertainingly explored

Review by John Smythe 13th Dec 2023

Deck the stage with older people
Fa la la la la la la la la
’Tis the time to hear their stories …

As Rachel McAlpine’s The Secret Lives of Extremely Old People enters its final week of an extended and sold out season at Circa Two, Voice Arts launches its two-night season of We Wrote This at BATS Stage. In the former, six actors from their 40s to 80s share largely verbatim insights into the lives of six nonagenarians. In the latter, nine late-blooming writer-performers in their third age (most in their 70s, I’m guessing) step up to offer insights into their own lived experiences.

The Director of Voice Arts’ year-long Third Act programme, Nicola Pauling, tells us, a mostly senior audience, that prior performance experience was not a prerequisite, and they were not be expected to perform in public let alone learn lines. But these nine wanted to stretch beyond that comfort zone, albeit with scripts in hand. Later, in a post-show chat, we learn that their script was developed through theme-based improv and workshops and the core theme they settled on was Change.

Waka Attewell, Lynne Birch, Fiona Campbell, Sheryl Dean, Silvana Evans, Lynsey Ferrari, Gillian Marie, Anne Weinbrenner and Annette Woods open their show with a non-verbal sequence – known is the old days as a ‘dumb show’ prologue – which commands our attention to the details of each person’s experience of change. Their first words riff on the ubiquity of ‘change’ in our language and its inevitability in our lives.

A sense of ensemble support is maintained as monologues and the odd sketch come to the fore. ‘The Great Body Migration’ leads to paeans to ‘This Body’ and the challenge of learning – relearning – how to live comfortably within it. A trip on Rainbow Airlines navigates the new names for sexual preferences. Observations on sex land on the pleasure of no longer being ruled by our hormones.

Life-changing loss is variously explored. Estranged sisters meet only at the funerals of their parents and realise they are the seniors now. The loss of a parent, then a husband through divorce, then a breast through mastectomy lead to new insights about self-worth. Relationships with parents, resolved and unresolved, thread through a number of lives culminating in the experience of dealing with a father, now languishing in a rest home, who physically bullied his kids and is racist.

Becoming a parent is also a life-changing event, as is choosing not to have children. Then there is the change whereby the cared-for becomes the care-giver. A snippet of ‘Sometimes I feel like a motherless child a long way from home’ (by Odetta) is beautifully sung by all, acapella.

The romantic myths of screen idols is contrasted with the reality of cheating spouses. Social changes over the decades are traversed. The premise of the whole enterprise, that the only consistent thing in life is change, is thoroughly and entertainingly explored.

The writing is excellent and those who trust it, who draw us into the experience they are sharing, are much more compelling than those who feel the need to demonstrate it with ‘over-acting’. Trust the material, yourselves and the empathetic humanity of your audience – that is the key note. The very positive response of this first-night audience should engender confidence for the second night.

Director Nicola Pauling, Co-Facilitator Hilary Norris and Composer/Pianist Matt Hutton, whose tinkling of the ivories enhances the action at times, have ensured this honest sharing of real experiences is well presented and paced. It is remarkable how much is covered, or rather revealed, in just 45 minutes – and it’s all highly relatable no matter what your age. If you haven’t experienced these things yet, your parents or grandparent have, and your greater understanding will benefit everyone.


Gillian Marie December 13th, 2023

Thank you for your warm review. We are having so much fun.

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