Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

30/07/2022 - 20/08/2022

Production Details

By Renée
Directed by Erina Daniels

Four women. Four generations. One whānau.  

“Hard times back there – hard times here. Nothing’s changed… nothing’s changed…”  

As the 1930s Depression threatens to tear New Zealand’s working class apart, four generations of a single family must confront a personal crisis when the husband and father dies in a relief camp.

Erina Daniels directs a poignant new version of a national theatre classic. Wednesday to Come was described as ‘a major triumph’ by The Dominion when it premiered in 1984 and has been studied and performed across the country ever since. Jane Waddell, who originated the role of Iris and played Mary in 2005, will visit the play again – this time, as Granna. For the first time in its history, Wednesday to Come will be told through the lens of a Māori Pākehā whānau.

Underlined with a rich vein of earthy humour, Wednesday to Come is a powerful statement and passionate celebration of the contribution women have made to the evolution of Aotearoa.

Wednesday to Come joins the front rank of New Zealand plays and establishes Renée as one of our finest playwrights’ — NZ Times

Circa One
30 July – 20 Aug 2022
$30 Specials (Fri 29 July & Sun 31 July)
Post-show Q&A on Tues 9 Aug
Tues – Thurs 6.30pm, Fri – Sat 8pm, Sun 4pm
$15 – $55
Relaxed Performance – Tues 2nd August
‘Choose Your Price’ Night – Weds 3rd August
Audio Described Performance – Sun 7th August
NZSL Interpreted Performance – Sat 13th August
$25 ACCESS TICKETS: Please call the Box Office on (04) 801 7992 or email to book your $25 Access ticket (with free companion/whānau ticket if required)
Book Now!

Warning: This play contains content about suicide.

Pay it Forward’ tickets

Now you can ‘play’ it forward! Purchase one ticket to Wednesday to Come for someone who usually cannot afford to go to the theatre and Circa will find it a good home. Book here

If you are interested in claiming a Pay it Forward ticket or nominating a friend, please contact the Circa Theatre Box Office Team on This initiative is year-round, currently running in active collaboration with Wednesday to Come.

‘Choose Your Price’ Night – Weds 3rd August

Our ‘Choose Your Price’ initiative lets you buy up to four tickets to a specific performance and opt what to pay for them. We encourage you to select a price based on what you can afford. This is a community driven initiative where people with higher incomes can select a relative ticket price that subsidises those who afford less to pay lower. It means more people are able to experience live theatre, and ensures that the production can still make enough money to cover its costs.

Granna – Jane Waddell
Mary – Grace Hoete
Iris – Neenah Dekkers-Reihana
Cliff – Reon Bell
Jeannie – Mia van Oyen
Ted – Jonny Potts
Molly – Hannah Kelly
Dot – Amanda Noblett

Creative Team
Written by Renée
Directed by Erina Daniels
Set & Lighting Designer – Natala Gwiazdzinski
Costume Designer – Cara Louise Waretini
Sound Designer – Maaka Phat 

Stage Manager – Sam Tippett
Operator – Marshall Rankin
Publicist – Tyler Clarke
Production Assistant – Sara Pattison
Produced by Nathan Mudge

Theatre ,

1 hr 15 min, no interval

Stellar performances in Kiwi classic

Review by Emilie Hope 06th Aug 2022

Renée is one of Aotearoa’s most reputable playwrights and producer Nathan Mudge brings her play Wednesday to Come to the Circa One stage and, for the first time in its history, through the lens of a Māori Pākehā whanau. Masterfully directed by Erina Daniels with a fantastic cast, this is one Kiwi classic you ought not to miss.

Wednesday to Come, the first in a trilogy series by Renée, is set in Aotearoa during the depths of the Great Depression in the 1930s. Food is scarce, and men are sent to relief camps – only the husband and father character in this play, Ben, comes home in a pine box. [More]


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A revelation to those who have never seen it and a next-level experience for those who have

Review by John Smythe 31st Jul 2022

Born into The Great Depression, Renée – of Ngāti Kahungunu and Scots ancestry – set her landmark ‘herstory’ play Wednesday to Come at its height in 1934 (when she was 5), the year before the First Labour Government was elected. It premiered at Downstage Theatre in 1984, two months after Prime Minister Robert Muldoon called a snap election and one month after the Fourth Labour Government, led by David Lange, swept into power promising change for the better.

Since then the political landscape in Aotearoa New Zealand and the world at large has undulated through inevitable or avoidable peaks and troughs, unable to settle on the dreamed-of plateau of equity and equilibrium for all. Even so, for many it is a much better world – for the moment. For others, the more things have changed the more they have stayed the same. As Granna puts it in the play, “Hard times back there – hard times here. Nothing’s changed… nothing’s changed…”

This is the context in which director Erina Daniels revives and revitalises Wednesday to Come with tangata whenua in the cast – arguably reflecting the autobiographical elements Renée has drawn on, more authentically than the many all-Pākehā casts that have memorably honoured the work over the decades. In this iteration, Pākehā Granna Jeannie (Jane Waddell) has married into a Māori whānau, producing the next three generations of wāhine toa who now share the modest family whare in Ōtaki: her daughter Mary (Grace Hoete), granddaughter Iris (Neenah Dekkers-Reihana) and great-granddaughter Jeannie (Mia van Oyen) – plus her great grandson Cliff (Reon Bell).

The dimming of houselights focuses our attention on the solitary glow of a wood-burning stove. A 1930s recording of The Tawhis’ ‘He Puru Taitama’ (a young man’s lusty courtship song) builds to a blasting crescendo (sound design by Maaka Phat) then subsides into Cliff’s plaintive live harmonica rendition as the household is revealed. A cold wind blows …

Mary is ironing and folding sheets, helped by young Jeannie. The whānau takes in laundry to help pay their way, as reflected in the backdrop washing line behind the wall-less representation of their home (set and lighting design by Natala Gwiazdzinski). In two of the play’s truth-capturing paradoxes, active Mary proves to be the still centre of a world that’s been put into a spin, while the stillness of Iris, unable to move while she waits on tenterhooks, belies the coiled spring of anger within her. Meanwhile Granna nestles in her chair by the stove with the notebook she uses to record a whimsical blend of mundane facts and pertinent observations.

The arrival of Ted (Jonny Potts) increases the tension. It will emerge that his brother Ben – Iris’s husband, father of Jeanie and Cliff – has been away working at a government-mandated ‘Relief Camp’.

Here I must flag a spoiler alert because Renee’s superbly crafted script builds its dramatic tension through a slow reveal of what has brought the whānau to this moment of crisis. While one might argue, with classics like this, that everyone already knows the plot, there are new generations – of which there are many in the opening night audience – who may never have seen, read or studied it. If that is you, and you plan to go, I suggest you read the rest of this after you’ve been. And do take this opportunity – they don’t come round very often.

Also arriving in the neighbourhood is the Hunger March, en route from Gisborne to Wellington to protest the wage cuts, job cuts and conditions in the ‘Relief Camps’ that are causing working-class families to suffer nationwide. Iris exemplifies the pride of such families by refusing to accept charity – all they want is the chance to make an honest living. But she is too jaded to believe the march will achieve anything.

Only when Ted and the whānau bring in a rough wooden coffin do we realise Ben is dead, then that he has taken his own life. The need to know why is another source of dramatic tension-building, for the whānau and us.

The coffin is taken into a separate room and adorned with foliage then a korowai. A bowl of water is placed at the door, which Mary, Iris, Jeannie and Cliff use on leaving the room in a tapu-removing ritual (whakanoa). These elements of tikanga are all the more powerful for being silently observed. Ted’s casual use of the water to wipe his sweaty neck indicates, I assume, a lack of awareness that many of us could be guilty of.

A brazenly grieving Pākehā woman, Molly Nairn (Hannah Kelly), intrudes on the whānau, adding further stress to Iris who knows Molly was Ben’s ‘fancy woman’ and vacillates between incredulity, fury and claiming not to care. A well-meaning Ngāti Porou emissary from the Hunger March, Dot Harkness (Amanda Noblett), gently tries to negotiate with Iris to use Ben’s name on their banner as an example of the harm government policies are causing, adding to her stress.

All this makes Iris the most complex and compelling character study, given her atypical responses to the provocations thrown at her. Neenah Dekkers-Reihana totally owns Iris’s progression through the stages of grief, from denial to anger, whether she’s brooding, seething, feeling guilt over the last thing she said to Ben, lampooning her heyday as a singer accompanied by Ben’s harmonica, confronting people, wrestling with their requests, tormenting her grandmother or feeling defeated. Especially riveting is the long moment when she gazes into the just-opened coffin, allowing us to imagine what she is seeing.

Grace Hoet’s Mary is the heart and soul of the whānau, getting on with what needs to be done while being highly sensitive to the needs of others, be it compassion, practical help or a thorough telling off – a moment that makes us all sit up and suddenly know her so much more.

Amid the tragic turmoil, Granna is like a Shakespearean fool, appearing to spout nonsense then surprising us with wise insights. While others have played her as more ‘away with the fairies’, Jane Waddell’s Granna opts for being more alert throughout, more consciously naughty with her commentary, despite being oblivious to what has befallen her grandson-in-law. Her greatest concern is that she may lose her indispensable notebook! But she still plays a mean game of cards with her namesake.

As young Jeannie, quietly coping with her own grief by helping her elders, Mia van Oyen draws us into the gradual raising of her political consciousness. Her contrition at snapping at Granna is a memorable moment. And despite the irritation his harmonica-playing causes some of his family, Reon Bell compels our empathy for Cliff, at a loss without his father.

Ted’s male way of grieving for his brother, and his well-intentioned awkwardness, amplified here by being a fish-out-of-water in cultural terms, are well realised by Jonny Potts.

In telling contrast, Hannah Kelly personifies Molly’s thoughtless claiming of Pākehā privilege and entitlement, while Amanda Noblett’s gently but determined Dot fully embodies the manaakitanga of tikanga Māori.

I do have a couple of gripes. On this night, a tendency towards declaiming lines rather than drawing us into the subtext and inner feelings of the characters, makes me wonder if the open set has compromised the acoustics. And some props brought in from the work camp – sacks, cardboard boxes, the harness that broke Ben’s spirit – are too clean to be credible. But these issues can soon be resolved.

In her programme note, Renée reminds us that one of her objectives in writing Wednesday to Come was to answer the question, “Who will remember us?” meaning the women whose contributions to our history have been largely absent from the written record. To our eternal gratitude, her mission produced a sequel – Pass it On, which takes young Jeannie’s story into the infamous 1951 Waterfront Lockout – and a prequel: Jeannie Once, which finds the older Jeannie in Dunedin in 1879.*

Meanwhile this production of Wednesday to Come will be a revelation to those who have never seen it and a next-level experience for those who have.

*The Wednesday to Come Trilogy can be purchased from Playmarket for a mere $30.

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Editor August 8th, 2022

A message from Circa and the Wednesday to Come whānau 

Tēnā koutou whānau,

We are sorry that, due to illness, Wednesday to Come performances will be postponed until Tuesday 16 August. The season will still end as planned on Saturday 20 August. Aroha mai for this change, it was a necessary decision to make to ensure we are bringing you the best performance possible.

This means that there are only five performances left. We know many were looking forward to the after show Q&A on Tuesday, this will be moved to the following Tuesday on the 16th. Performance times are 6:30pm Tuesday to Thursday, 8pm Friday and Saturday. We would love to see you there to show some support to this incredible show! Check out the trailer and review below to hear more wonderful things about this production, you won’t want to miss this one!

If you had purchased tickets to the now postponed shows, don’t worry! Our Box Office team will be in touch with you.

Ngā mihi nui,

The Circa team x

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