Strong Women

Women’s stories feature strongly in this year’s Arts Festival Dunedin programme, with three one-woman shows bringing to life seven famous twentieth-century women.

New Zealand actor Alex Ellis performs Miss Jean Batten in both Dunedin (Friday 21 and Saturday 22 September) and Mosgiel (Monday 24 September).

New Zealand’s most famous aviator, in October 1936 Jean Batten became the first person to make the non-stop flight from England to New Zealand.

Stopping only to refuel as she travelled across Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia, Jean arrived in Auckland physically and mentally exhausted.

Miss Jean Batten is set as Jean is preparing for the final leg of the trip from Sydney to Auckland, receiving weather reports while fending off reporters and ignoring impassioned pleas to abandon the final leg amidst concerns for her safety.

Just as Jean Batten has a reputation for glamour and beauty, so too did Emilie Flӧge, the Austrian haute couture designer who revolutionized clothing for women well before Coco Chanel.

Emilie’s story is told in Beloved Muse (The Savoy, 21-23 September), presented by renowned Austrian actress Maxi Blaha. Emilie Flӧge was the companion of one of Austria’s most famous artists, Gustav Klimt.

Together until his death, they never married and Emilie maintained her independence as a highly successful business woman.

Her clothing designs, featuring flowing silhouettes, released women from the shackles of the corset.  She was Klimt’s muse and appeared in many of his paintings, while he had a profound impact on the aesthetic of her clothing.

Five musical superstars are the subject of Songs for Nobodies. Written by Australian Joanna Murray-Smith, the show will be performed on Monday 24 and Tuesday 25 September by Christchurch actor/singer Ali Harper.

The show depicts fictional encounters between five ordinary women, and the legendary singers Judy Garland, Patsy Kline, Edith Piaf, Billie Holiday and Maria Callas.

Each of these divas experienced both huge success, and personal tragedy ranging from domestic and sexual violence to drug addiction to betrayal and heartbreak.

Songs for Nobodies presents the music of each singer, performed by Ali Harper, woven into a story of brief connection between very different women.

Harper believes the magic of the show is the contrast between the relative contentment of the ‘nobodies’ and the pain of the ‘somebodies’.

She remarks that people often comment on how thought provoking they found the show. “Sometimes we don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone,” said Harper.

Arts Festival Director Nicholas McBryde is particularly pleased to have this line up of shows featuring strong female characters presented by outstanding solo women performers to mark New Zealand’s celebration of Suffrage 125.

Add a Comment

Connect with us