Witches over Wanaka

Hawea Flat Hall, Hawea

28/04/2009 - 29/04/2009

Wanaka Masonic Hall, Wanaka

01/05/2009 - 03/05/2009

Southern Lakes Festival of Colour

Production Details

Witches over Wanaka is an intriguing piece of locally devised theatre. It weaves elements of Shakespeare’s Macbeth into our local scene. The show explores with humour the timeless human themes of greed, love, and even superstition. Unexpected, unstoppable, unmissable.

Flat Out Productions is a community theatre group based in Hawea Flat. These feisty women have had sell-out seasons of their first three shows.

For this production they are working with theatre writer Jo Randerson and director Geoff Pinfield. 

28 April,  7pm,  Hawea Flat Hall
29 April,  7pm,  Hawea Flat Hall – SOLD OUT
01 May,  6pm,  Wanaka Masonic Lodge – SOLD OUT
02 May,  6pm,  Wanaka Masonic Lodge – SOLD OUT
03 May,  6pm,  Wanaka Masonic Lodge – SOLD OUT

Price:  $22 (including booking fee)
Bookings:  Book Online
Tickets for most shows can be booked online.
Look out for the Book Online links.
Book by Phone:  Call +64 3 443 4178
Book in Person:
Lake Wanaka i-SITE Visitor Centre
(from 23 Feb to 3 May, 9am to 5pm daily)
Lake Wanaka Centre
(from 27 Apr to 3 May, 10am to 7pm)

Beth:  Robyn Bardas
Mac:  Sue Wards
Bianca:  Tarn Felton
Duffy:  Tanya Phillips
Rhea:  Anna Shaw
Cathy:  Rachel Brown
Cash:  Lucy O'Hagan
River:  Anni Sidey
Louise:  Jude Faircloth
Rhea's Kid:  Johnny Brebner
Duffy's Kid:  Fergus Brebner 

Set Construction:  Brendan Holloway & Holloway Construction
Lighting Simon Rayner and Dennis Schwarz 

1 hr 10 min, no interval

Every festival should have one

Review by John Smythe 04th May 2009

A robust discussion in the Aspiring Conversations slot of the Festival of Colour saw Chris Finlayson (Minister of Arts Culture and Heritage) and Hamish Keith (cultural curmudgeon) agree that the key function of arts bureaucrats is to enable people to explore their creativity and distinguish themselves artistically (rather than tell artists what to do). 

This festival (directed by Philip Tremewan) has shown how it’s done by commissioning Flat Out Productions, a proven community theatre group of women from Hawea Flat, to devise a work with professionals Jo Randerson (writer) and Geoff Pinfield (director) employed to enable their creative spirits. The result is a truly home grown blend of classical and modern: Shakespeare’s witches from Macbeth reincarnated into modern day Hawea in the midst of an environmental crisis.

Sir Brian Dingle has died and left Dunsinane Station to his London-based OE-enjoying daughter Beth (Robyn Bardas), who knows little about farming. A touch of ‘enlightenment’, however, has made her committed to saying "yes" to every opportunity that comes her way.

The community she rediscovers includes a tough nut farmer, Bianca (Tarn Felton); an environmental activist, journalist and radio host, Duffy (Tanya Phillips); an ambition-driven real estate agent, Rhea (Anna Shaw); and a compulsive mountain-ranging fitness freak lawyer, Cathy (Rachel Brown).

These five plus a new girl in town, corporate whizz-kid Maxine Donald, known as Mac (Sue Wards), meet regularly at their local health and fitness classes, book club, choir and te reo Māori classes.

Adorned with Merino horn headdresses, the aforementioned witches – Cash (Lucy O’Hagen, River (Anni Sidney) and Louise (Jude Faircloth) – inveigle themselves into this idyllic mountain, river, lake, farm lands and wet lands environment via the Treble Crone Health and Fitness Centre, which also offers a spot of assessing-cum-fortune telling. Their role is to observe, foretell, somewhat facilitate and be amused at the inevitable disaster about to befall the community through human fallibility.

Beth, who is now resource-rich as the sole heir of Dunsinane Station, is ‘Macbeth’ to Mac’s ‘Lady Macbeth’, whose company’s Wanaka Wonder Wave Water World project needs Beth’s bore for the Standing Wave they promise will bring wealth and prosperity to all. But to interrupt the flows of nature to manufacture an inland surfing facility is surely a doomed enterprise … and so it transpires.

With realtor Rhea and ‘eco wacko’ Duffy at opposite ends of the argument, both use their children (played by Johnny and Fergus Brebner) to score points in a public protest. As the women’s relationships inevitably fracture, a glorious moment of harmony is achieved in their acapella rendition of ‘Wave In The Water’ … except they know not what they celebrate.

No human foible or local issue (all recognisable and relevant to ‘outsiders’) is immune to being satirised in this tightly written and well constructed production, energetically brought to life by a fully committed cast on a set of ingeniously stacked and utilised rostra (crafted by Holloway Construction), with lighting by Simon Rayner and Dennis Schwartz. 

Witches Over Wanaka is a credit to all concerned. In principle and practice, every arts festival should have something like it.
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Footnote: I didn’t see the premiere in Hawea nor its first performance in Wanaka, which may be why this was the first event I saw which was not preceded by a thank-you speech to the sponsors (in this case Hammer & Nail Bakery & Café). It was refreshing to see a show allowed to claim the space and present itself on its own terms. I recommend that future festivals take this into account, given the many other ways sponsorship is acknowledged and acclaimed.
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