BATS Theatre (Out-Of-Site) Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington

12/11/2013 - 16/11/2013

Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

05/11/2013 - 09/11/2013

Production Details

It’s the 1980s. 

The wind of change blows straight into the face of time. 

Klaus from German hard rock band the Scorpions has a musical epiphany that could topple the Berlin Wall.

Prime Minister David Lange can smell the uranium on your breath. 

And as President Gorbachev nuts out his vision of perestroika, kidnapped New Zealand teenager Pania prepares to deliver the world a terrible message.

Whistle Solo stars
Kate Elliott (Bliss, Toy Love, Insiders Guide to Love, The Cult, Shortland Street, Xena: Warrior Princess) in her first theatre role,
and actor/musician/comedian Barnie Duncan (The Magic Chicken, Constantinople, Good For Nothing, Outrageous Fortune, Nothing Trivial). 

Director: Geoff Pinfield (On The Conditions and Possibilities of Helen Clark Taking Me as Her Young Lover, The Magic Chicken, Happy Hour for Miserable Children, aoTERRORoa, The Thing from the Place). 

Writer: Julie Hill (I Won’t Be Happy Until I Lose One Of My Limbs, The Arsehole, Stories Told To Me By Girls, Emu, Zip & Mac, Facelift, My Story).


The Basement Studio
Tues 5 – Sat 9 November
$25, $20 unwaged
Bookings iTicket.co.nz

BATS Out-of-Site 
Tues 12 – Sat 16 November
Full $18.00 
Concession $14.00 
Group 6+ $13.00

Theatre , Political satire , Physical ,

Whistling up a fine piece of theatre

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 15th Nov 2013

If you want a refresher course about the eighties – and a funny one to boot – then Whistle Solo will jog your memory. 

‘Greed is good’ and nuclear annihilation, Hayley’s Comet, the nuclear war TV movie, The Day After, and the end of the Cold War all feature in this hour-long show which has a convoluted plot that feels like a revue inspired by the fantastical logic of The Goon Show. 

We travel from Buckingham Palace to a nuclear bunker in west Auckland, to Gorbachev’s Russia, the Berlin Wall and scenes from the private life of David Lange as he and his “Yoko Ono” prepare for the famous Oxford debate.

There’s Pania, a teenage girl with a gorgeous Kiwi accent who is rescued from the bunker and Klaus from Scorpions, the German rock band notorious for their album cover of Virgin Killer and famous for their hit song that became an anthem, ‘Wind of Change’.

Stephen Bain’s setting contains expensive trappings of the period: a VCR and an object I never knew existed and which I am told is a woofer couch with synthesizer keyboard mattress. There are also seven TV sets on which we glimpse the end of the Berlin Wall, the Oxford debate and Reagan and Gorbachev.

Julie Hill’s script is a welcome and carefully structured piece of work in this age of improvisation, even though a lot of improvisation probably went into its creation. Her lines need rapid fire delivery which she gets from the two performers who provide, under Geoff Pinfield’s expert comic direction, excellent timing, a pleasing rapport on stage with each other and with their audience, and an ability with casual throwaway lines such as “Geoffrey Palmer running around the country drumming up apathy.”

Barnie Duncan and Kate Elliott in her, amazingly, first stage performance, win over the audience from the start and by the time we get to the rock concert finale, we know they can not only sing, dance and perform physical comedy (David Lange trying to get up off the floor is hilarious) but also whistle.


Make a comment

So who did end the Cold War?

Review by John Smythe 13th Nov 2013

Being a Baby Boomer I am well used to my generation mythologising their formative 50s, subversive 60s and sexy 70s in performance. What a delight, now, to revisit the 80s through playwright Julie Hill’s childhood and fertile imagination, ingeniously made flesh by Kate Elliott and Barnie Duncan with director Geoff Pinfield.

Hill’s abiding concern, revealed in a letter to her audiences, was the threat of nuclear holocaust, exacerbated by viewing – “by myself at the pictures, age six” – the made-for-television film The Day After (which postulates a nuclear exchange between the USA and Soviet Union). “I became terrified of imminent Armageddon,” she writes. “I started a neighbourhood peace club, which was challenging because I lived on a military base.” 

A clever conflation of fictionalised fact and actual fiction brings us Queen Elizabeth II of the UK and Commonwealth and her speech adviser Rex, the Prime Minister of NZ David Lange and his speechwriter /paramour Margaret Pope, Klaus and Rudi of the German hard rock /heavy metal band The Scorpions, and a teenage Kiwi pop singer called Pania. They coalesce around the question of “Who ended the Cold War?”

The first of many scripting felicities finds the Queen recording a message to her people to be used in the event of The Day After becoming a reality. Kate Elliott nails the voice beautifully and, with Barnie Duncan in servile mode, a drinks tray and royal delight in the film’s star (Steve Guttenberg) are astutely employed to convey status, privilege and the madness of monarchy.

Duncan captures David Lange’s intonations and preoccupations nicely as Elliott’s Margaret Pope vacillates sublimely between attraction and frustration while attempting to prepare him for the Oxford Union Debate, destined – we now know – to make him world famous. Haley’s Comet as a metaphor for New Zealand is another scripting delight.

Duncan and Elliott morph seamlessly into the German rockers Klaus and Rudi, comedically characterised with poker-faced style and humourless aceents. Much humour arises from Klaus’s woeful ignorance of world politics in contrast to Rudi’s astute awareness. The provenance of their hit song ‘Wind of Change’ will prove to be the key element here – and it is this that turns out to give the play its title.

Who knew that a 16 year-old Kiwi songstress called Pania – brilliantly embodied by Elliott, whose singing voice is sublime – would capture the eye of Rex, who has fled to the farthest land … Exactly why he kidnaps her and holds her in a West Auckland bunker is unclear to me but she, in all her naivety and innocence, through her involvement with Klaus, will play a key role in ending the Cold War.

Both Elliott and Duncan play Mikhail Gorbachev, to Klaus and Pania respectively. The set, designed by Stephen Bain, is littered with old TV sets and band paraphernalia, including the mic stands that hold the minimalist costumes. Actual video footage – including the mushroom cloud from The Day After, the “uranium on your breath” moment at the Oxford Union, a Ronald Regan press conference, another with him and Gorbachev, and the first blow struck to demolish the Berlin Wall – link the deceptively disparate scenes as they work toward the final outcome, celebrated with a splendid rendition of ‘Wind of Change’, whistle solos and duets included.

Performer Barnie Duncan and director Geoff Pinfield have long since established their credentials as reliable purveyors of commedia-based entertainments but Kate Elliott is a revelation. Well known as an actress on TV and in film, mostly in very dramatic roles (e.g. Katherine Mansfield in Fiona Samuel’s Bliss), this is her first venture into live theatre let alone this highly sophisticated style of comedy, and she takes to it like the proverbial duck.  

So who did end the Cold War? See it and believe it.


Make a comment

Material excess in a desperate world

Review by Nik Smythe 06th Nov 2013

The modest Basement Studio space is garishly decked out by production designer Stephen Bain.  Various props and costume pieces hang on six mic stands, each with an identifying symbol: a crown, a hammer and sickle, a Hundertwasser NZ flag emblem, a Labour Party ‘L’ logo and a scorpion. 

The black and white tile floor is set about with umpteen televisions, a VCR, a ghetto blaster, an amazing Marshall-woofer couch with synthesizer keyboard mattress.  Over the speaker system we are graced with the sonic stylings of Nena’s 99 Red Balloons, Sharon O’Neill’s Maxine, Bronski Beat’s Smalltown Boy … have you guessed which decade we’re in yet?

It has been humorously remarked before that the 90s were the 60s upside down.  I don’t necessarily agree, but I do note that by the same logic the 80s upside down are still the 80s. 

Whistle Solo is very much a ‘you-had-to-be-there’ experience, so if you were you’ll get your money’s worth.  If you weren’t and/or are not versed in the history and mores of the time, a fair amount of the plethora of amusing references to the period we love to hate may be lost on you. 

Still, perhaps you’ll learn a thing or two; either way you’ll nevertheless surely be entertained by the spirited performances and impressively dynamic teamwork of comedy veteran Barnie Duncan and accomplished screen actress Kate Elliot, acquitting herself with absurdist aplomb in her first professional theatre gig. 

Geoff Pinfield’s smart direction makes optimum use of the duo’s natural comic talent, and their somewhat revealing black leotards over which they don the defining apparel and accessories of each of their respective multiple characters, as they spring about the stage like it’s some kind of nostalgia playground, which I suppose it is.

I was going to attempt a brief description of the plot, but the production notes explain it well enough without giving too much away.  Suffice to say the story is a convoluted blend of historical fact and fiction so random it could’ve been devised in a theatresports game – not to dismiss the efforts or considerably appealing wit of playwright Julie Hill. 

On the contrary, the preposterous fantasy is an original and if she hadn’t come up with this story I doubt anyone else would have.  In any case, for entertainment value the narrative is essentially secondary to glib characterisations, astute references to products and issues of the time and the timeless mirth of cultural clash comedy.

Possibly the most significant observation in this hour of madcap absurdity is the cognitive dissonance of the eighties, simultaneously a time of increasing global awareness of the desperate state of world politics, and an out-of-control orgy of material excess. 

As Gorbachev points out, someone called Nabokov once said, “The more you love a memory, the stranger it becomes.”  These guys clearly love remembering those 80s! 


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council