New Athenaeum Theatre, 24 The Octagon, Dunedin

15/06/2019 - 22/06/2019

Production Details

Political Play Returns to Dunedin for 125 Suffrage Celebrations  

Helen Varley Jamieson’s play Women Like Us was written for the 100th anniversary celebrations of NZ women’s suffrage and premiered at Dunedin’s Globe Theatre. Now, 25 years later, it is returning to Dunedin in June as part of an all-female women’s theatre double bill by local independent theatre company Little Scorpion Productions.

Jamieson’s abstract political comedy will be paired with dark family drama Wings, by Jess Sayer, one of New Zealand’s most-acclaimed contemporary playwrights. The plays, both running under an hour, will be performed back-to-back by the same cast of three actresses, backed by an all-female production crew.

The plays will be directed by Little Scorpion director Kerry Lane (Wings) and Otago University MA alumnus Beth Waite (Women Like Us). “The whole concept behind programming these two plays together is about looking at the different way women’s stories are told through time and genre, so it made sense to have two different directors,” said Lane. “We’re definitely making something that neither of us would have been able to alone.”

This production is the second in Little Scorpion’s 2019 season, following the award-nominated Marine Snow at Dunedin Fringe.

Wings | Women Like Us
New Athenaeum Theatre, 23 The Octagon
15–22 June 2019
7pm + matinée 2pm, Sunday 16 June
Ticket sales from  

Kimberly Buchan:  Quinn | Elizabeth/various
Kat Poharama:  Mo | Janet/various
Thirza Violet Brizzell:  Bambi | various

Set Design: Shannon van Rooijen
Lighting Design: Unconfirmed
Marketing design: Kerry Lane
Stage Manager: Asher Dawes
Production Manager: Amy Wright
Production Intern: Savanna Stent  

Written by Jess Sayer | Helen Varley Jamieson
Directed by Kerry Lane | Beth Waite
Produced by Kerry Lane
Proudly presented by Little Scorpion Productions 

Theatre ,

2 hrs approx

Belly-laughs abound

Review by Kate Timms-Dean 21st Jun 2019

[Following on from my review of Wings.]

Three days later and I’m back at the Athenaeum for Women Like Us, a different play with a different author and a different director, but the same group of amazingly talented actors. I am expecting another good night and I am not disappointed.

The style of this play is dissimilar in so many ways, making the two works a great pairing. Against the darkness of Wings, Women Like Us is both light, airy and hilarious, but also a story of time and change against the backdrop of New Zealand politics.

Elizabeth MacCombs nee Henderson (Kimberly Buchan) is New Zealand’s first female MP, following her husband into politics following his death. She stands and wins the Lyttelton electorate in 1919 as a Labour MP, paving the way for women in New Zealand national politics.

Janet Mann (Kat Poharama) is a fictional National MP also representing Lyttelton, sitting in the house nearly 100 years later. Her experience as a woman MP is similar, but also strikingly different to that of McCombs.

Despite standing at either end of the political spectrum, both women struggle to maintain their work-life balance in the face of the heavy workload of a Member of Parliament. While McCombs benefits from the support of family and friends, Mann’s husband is at his wits’ end and the marriage is on the rocks.

This creates an interesting tension. At the same time as we see the progress we have made for women in the modern world, we are also confronted with the work still to be done. While the notion of women in parliament, or even as a Prime Minister, is not surprising these days, they enter a male world, where femininity falls away. Families and children are left behind; the focus is on work, rather than life.

Supporting characters are shared amongst the cast with all three players (Kimberly Buchan, Thirza Violet Brizzell and Kat Poharama) taking on roles as children, husbands and lovers. The characterisation is crisp and agile, with actors skipping from person to person with precision and finesse.

The set from Wings is still in situ, which is a little strange at first, but over time, it matters less and less. The focus here is on the story, the people and the contrast between these two women’s lives.

Despite the heavy subject matter, this is one of the funniest plays I have seen in a long time. Belly-laughs abound, and that is really a tribute to the amazing work of the women who have made this play possible. Little Scorpion Productions and all in involved, I salute you!


Make a comment

Double act offers feminist perspectives of NZ life

Review by Barbara Frame 21st Jun 2019

The programme comes with separate content warnings, advising the audience of imminent exposure to suicide, violence, blood and nine other potentially distressing themes.  

The warnings apply especially to the first play in the double bill, Wings, by Jess Sayer.

Set in the present, it’s about three sisters on their way to attend, or not attend, their mother’s funeral. [More


Make a comment

Confronting the pain that shoots through our communities

Review by Kate Timms-Dean 16th Jun 2019

Wings takes off on a journey through three lives connected by blood and memory. Older sister Quinn (Kimberly Buchan) is dragged back into her siblings’ lives a decade after leaving the family home. Her sisters Bambi (Thirza Violet Brizzell) and Mo (Kat Poharama) are only just stumbling into adulthood, dazed by years of neglect and indoctrination. While never explained, through your window into their slice of life, you intimate the mental health issues that shadow their childhoods.

On entry, the stage is set, the design evoking at once a journey, a destination and a car crash. Based around a journey, initially to Matamata and later on to New Plymouth, the car is central to the story, even a character itself. Lighting is based primarily around the car and the use of flax to fulfil the scene creates amazing lighting effects that add to the mood and depth of the delivery. Kudos to Chelsea Guthrie (lighting design) and Shannon van Rooijen (set design).

An honorary mention must go to the set construction crew (Jackson Treece, Tyler Neumann and Kerry Lane) for their sturdy building work – the car’s stamina is on full display.

Kerry Lane’s direction and production are immaculate. The story-telling is palpable, touching; the players are given the space to do their job, while the aesthetics of the bigger picture make sense and act to draw the viewer in.

The characters are strong, believable and intense. This is not an easy story to tell, immersed as it is in abuse, lies, trauma, death and betrayal. There is passion here, it’s deep and raw: from Quinn’s stoic denial of the life from which she emerged laced with a hint of marijuana; to Bambi, alcoholic frivolous and inane, living on the edge in more ways than one; and the darkness of Mo, the last one, the pōtiki, who was left behind alone in a house of madness.

My youngest child Gen is with me; they express a feeling of wanting to spontaneously embrace each character at different stages of the play. My desire is to step in, to somehow circumvent the inevitable tragedy that unfolds before us.

This is not easy theatre. This is not light and charming. This is theatre confronting the pain that shoots through our communities.

Wings was to be paired with Women Like Us in this showing at the New Athenaeum, however, due to illness, the shows for this second production for Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 June have been cancelled. The full show will start on Tuesday night when, once again, I will be in attendance to complete the full review. 


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council