The Dark Room, Cnr Pitt and Church Street, Palmerston North

02/09/2015 - 06/09/2015

Radio NZ Drama Online, Global

17/04/2020 - 31/05/2020

COVID-19 Lockdown Festival 2020

Production Details

Horowhenua actress leads all-female cast in acclaimed Kiwi play 

Sometimes, when you’re driving through hell, it’s better to keep going. WINGS journeys with three sisters as they brave a decade of baggage on a road trip back to the place where all of their nightmares were born… home.

The play tackles themes of abandonment, personal identity and the hold of the past over our futures. Quinn, Bambi and Mo are all lost; all searching. Their mother is dead, but not mourned.

Their father is in absentia, but not missed. These sisters know what it’s like to be forgotten. And after years of wandering, they have all reached a fork in the road.

As the journey unfolds, the play asks its audience: How would you fair – when walking the knife edge of sanity? What would you be capable of? In return, WINGS will challenge, engage and entertain.

Penned in 2013, WINGS has since gained popularity – premiering in Auckland, Wellington and Otago. Much like Sayer’s play ELEVATOR, WINGS offers strong leading roles for woman, something Sayer is passionate about creating. In both theatre and film, there is a lack of strong roles for women. “Their arcs tend to revolve around men in some way. I’m determined to change that.”

ELEVATOR met with rave reviews and sell-out audience and has since been staged in North Carolina in early 2015. Sayer is a three time winner of Playmarket’s ‘B4 25’ Award and has twice been shortlisted for The Adam NZ Award. Anarchic, dark and, at times, outspoken, Sayer is fast becoming one of New Zealand’s most watched young playwrights.

Sayer stars in the play alongside director and original cast member Darlene Mohekey. A Horowhenua local, Mohekey appeared in Centrepoint Theatre’s Shop ’til You Drop and Well Hung, and TV’s Face Lift. Newcomer Naomi Cohen, a graduate of The Actors’ Program in Auckland who most recently featured in Auckland Theatre Company’s Lysistrata alongside Amanda Billing and Jennifer Ward-Lealand, completes the all-female cast.

WINGS boldly discusses the deterioration of a New Zealand family and the road that led them there. Told with a youthful vigour, WINGS is current, relevant and incisive.

Jess Sayer has written the essential Kiwi sisters road play.’ – Theatreview

New Zealand needs more plays like Wings.’ – Theatrescenes

Venue The Dark Room, cnr. Church & Pitt St, Palmerston North, New Zealand 
Dates 2 September – 6 September 2015
Opening night Wednesday 2 September, 7.30pm
Times Wednesday to Saturday 7.30pm / Sunday 5pm
Tickets Full $15 / Concession $10
Bookings 06 354 5740 or 

Recorded live at The Dark Room, Centrepoint Theatre Palmerston North, September 2015
Featuring Jess Sayer as Bambi, Darlene Mohekey as Quinn and Naomi Cohen as Mo
Stage direction by Darlene Mohekey
Recording direction for RNZ by Adam Macaulay
Recording Assistant Francesca Emms
Recording engineer Phil Benge

Wings by Jess Sayer
Broadcast 30 Sep 2015
WARNING – Contains medium level offensive language
 Listen duration48′ :10″  

Darlene Mohekey
Naomi Cohen 
Jess Sayer 

Photograph by Andi Crown Photography

Theatre ,

Hooked by sharp script and performances

Review by Erin Harrington 17th Apr 2020

Jess Sayer’s play Wings probes the relationships between three long-separated sisters as they try to reconcile their care for one another with the damaging effects of their toxic upbringing. The story is presented as a road trip, in which the destination is a place – literal and metaphorical – that no one wants to go.  

This production was recorded by RNZ at the The Dark Room at Palmerston North’s Centrepoint Theatre in 2015 as part of their Live on Stage. Now! initiative. It beautifully captures the play’s tone and the actors’ performances, offering a compelling, often witty and ultimately difficult portrait of a dysfunctional family and the limits of sibling loyalty.

We start the play in media res, with two sisters in the car, driving to their mother’s funeral. Quinn, played by director Darlene Mohekey, is a somewhat reticent 30-something who is torn between her obligation to her two sisters, and her distaste for their mother – a nasty religious zealot. She left home ten years ago and has drifted around, and hasn’t seen her sisters since her sudden departure. Barbara (played by Sayer), who now goes by Bambi, is much younger. She’s upbeat and playful, but like Quinn she bailed from home, and has been living in a vegan commune with a bunch of hippies who don’t call themselves hippies since her teens.

They carefully prod at the circumstances of their separation while waiting to pick up the youngest, Mo (Nomi Cohen), somewhere near Mo and Bambi’s father’s house in Matamata. Mo loads the car up with some awkward luggage, and a cage that houses Mum’s morepork, Wings, never mind that the birds are a symbol of death.

The play skilfully explores complex family dynamics. It also asks difficult questions about the extent to which siblings might have obligations to one another, then illustrates in devastating detail the outcomes of some terribly fractured communication. Despite their long period of separation, Quinn and Bambi quickly fall into old patterns. They snipe and sing, tell jokes, talk over one another and rark each other up, all while sizing each other up as unfamiliar adults.

It’s very funny and extremely relatable – not just the sisterly bond, but the short cuts to intimacy and the joys of shared recollection as they try to make up for lost time.

By the time the pair are joined by Mo, who is decidedly out of sorts, it’s obvious that attempts to recreate frivolous childhood games can in no way paste over some serious wounds and some even more damaging misunderstandings. Where the others left, Mo stayed on with their mother. She has suffered for it; the atmosphere in the car becomes rancid and thick with guilt and recrimination. Some of this relates to their relationships with their controlling, manipulative mother. Other secrets have festered away in silence, until now.

The three actors offer nuanced and impassioned performances that move deftly between emotional registers. The sense of latent dis-ease that’s present from the outset amplifies with Mo’s arrival, as the three are forced to come to terms with their savage upbringing, their separation, and the circumstances surrounding their mother’s demise. The play’s breezy opening soon gives way to disturbing revelations, and the emotional and narrative arc is rendered clearly.

For the most part, Wings works beautifully as an audio drama. The limited settings, in conjunction with the intense and sharply drawn characters and relationships, make this a tight little chamber piece. The recording is crisp and responsive. The silences (both comfortable and awkward), the naturalistic dialogue and the sounds of the cars and the roadside, offer a grounded sense of environment. The sharpness of the script and the performances hook me from the opening minutes; I am thoroughly invested in the characters and the unfolding story. Had I not heard the audience’s laughter in places, I might have believed that it was meant to be presented this way.

There is one sticking point though. The play accelerates swiftly to a shocking conclusion – but it takes me a couple of listens to realise what that final, devastating piece of action was. 



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Superb as sisters

Review by Alexandra Bellad-Ellis 03rd Sep 2015

The Dark Room is making its name hosting smaller productions which are light on set but never on acting. WINGS continues this tradition with the only set being the car belonging to the eldest sister, Quinn (Darlene Mohekey). The story sees two of the sisters, Quinn and Bambi (Jess Sayer) on a road trip to pick up the third, Mo (Naomi Cohen) and the pet Morepork, Wings, on route to their Mother’s funeral. Along the way they try to make up for lost time, but their past leads to the discovery of dark secrets that cannot be kept.

All three actresses are superb in their roles, giving the audience fully rounded, believable characters. Mohekey as the ‘normal’ sister running from her past, Sayer as a lovable vegan (hippie) who looks light on the outside but feels things deeply, and Cohen as a darker young adult dealing with the issues left behind at a home she couldn’t leave.

Mohekey and Sayer do a great job of settling the audience in, being on stage while the audience is coming in – never an easy thing to do – while Cohen takes on the huge emotional burden of her character with quiet grace. All three do a great job of conveying the humor of the script, and have a relationship that could easily be that of sisters, rather than cast members. 

The lighting matches the set, with a simplicity that adds to the play rather than detracting from it.  The Dark Room can have sight line issues, but I don’t notice any of these during this show. Having a set that is raised slightly helps. Also very little action happens on the floor, which can be a blind spot for the audience further back.

The play itself was written in 2013 by Jess Sayer: a three time winner of Playmarket’s ‘B4 25’ Award and twice shortlisted for The Adam NZ Award. WINGS has already been produced in Auckland, Wellington and Otago. The play is running from September 2nd through to the 6th. It lasts about an hour and it is well worth making the effort to see this production for the few nights that it’s here. 


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