Double act offers feminist perspectives of NZ life

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.

In the usual way of such plays, tensions rise, accusations surface, long-buried secrets and damaging childhood experiences are revealed, and the tone plunges from light-hearted into horror.

A splendid approximation of a car provides an unusual and intriguing set.

Women Like Us, by Helen Varley Jamieson, is a political play first aired at Dunedin's Globe Theatre in 1993.

It contrasts the progress of a real Labour politician, Elizabeth McCombs, in the 1930s, with that of a fictional National one, Janet Mann, in the 1990s.

While McCombs' idealism and brisk competence make her a trusted people's representative, Mann becomes bogged down because of obfuscation, lack of principle and a belief that somehow it's all about her.

The play is fast-moving and, while its intentions are serious, a cheerfully snappy approach helps it make its point.

Both plays require three performers. The experienced Kimberly Buchan very capably anchors both.

Enthusiastic supporting performances are provided by Thirza Violet Brizzell and Kat Poharama, but dialogue is sometimes hard to catch.

Brizzell has an admirably piercing shriek, and employs it to good effect in both plays.

Women Like Us is the stronger piece, but taken together the two plays, presented by Little Scorpion Productions, offer substantial feminist perspectives on New Zealand life over the past century.

Tuesday night's opening of the double bill attracted an audience of about 20 people.

-By Barbara Frame

Wings, and Women Like  Us
New Athenaeum Theatre
Tuesday, June 18

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