Kate Shep­pard rocks the house

The Tribune (NZ) - - WHAT'S ON - RICHARD MAYS

A cracker com­bi­na­tion of lo­cal and im­ported tal­ent makes for a rip-roar­ing ride at Cen­tre­point The­atre.

Un­der a hall­mark bouf­fant Shep­pardesque wig, Lisa Chap­pell leads a mag­nif­i­cent en­sem­ble of neo-punk women backed by a stonk­ing band of blokes, led by Kane Par­sons for a loud, spiked, ripped and shred­ded ver­sion of the Kiwi suf­fragette’s story.

That Bloody Woman is a show that gives New Zealand’s 19th cen­tury fight for uni­ver­sal suf­frage the ‘‘par­al­lel uni­verse’’ treat­ment.

Par­al­lel be­cause while there weren’t punk rock bands in the

late 1800s, there was fam­ily vi­o­lence, al­co­hol abuse, so­cial in­equity, poverty and pa­tro­n­is­ing male at­ti­tudes.

While this high oc­tane mu­si­cal re­vue may also play fast and loose with some of the his­tor­i­cal time­line, its ‘‘con­tem­po­rary colo­nial’’ take, catchy tunes and witty lyrics clev­erly weave those strands of past and present to­gether into a the­mat­i­cally sat­is­fy­ing and hugely en­ter­tain­ing whole.

Fronting the story, Chap­pell is a knock-out as Shep­pard, archly man­ag­ing to main­tain deco­rum as a mem­ber of the Woman’s Chris­tian Tem­per­ance Union, while leav­ing the less ‘‘lady-like’’ ut­ter­ances to her back­ing bunch of black-clad ban­shees.

Ev­ery good story needs a bad guy, and he comes in the per­son of du­plic­i­tous ‘‘King’’ Dick Sed­don, bully-boy Pre­mier of our fledgling na­tion, ef­fec­tively ren­dered as a mu­sic-hall vil­lain by Jeff Kings­ford-Brown.

There are also ter­rific vi­gnettes by cho­rus mem­bers Katte John­ston, Ellen Hod­der as Ada, Leona Revell as Jen­nie, Trudy Pear­son as the min­is­ter, with band mem­bers Gary Clark as Wil­liam, and Steve Jenk­ins as the woe­be­gone Wal­ter.

All have been dressed down in a mar­vel­lous con­coc­tion of punk cos­tumes, ac­ces­sories and hair­styles by Hay­ley Dou­glas.

Sound was an is­sue on open­ing night with not ev­ery mic fir­ing, but it must have been a tech­ni­cal night­mare to set this up in a the­atre not de­signed to han­dle a large en­sem­ble mu­si­cal.

The en­ergy and in­tent couldn’t be faulted though, and this ‘‘earplugs in­cluded’’ show storms home in style.

His­tory has never been more fun.

So, here’s to Kate Shep­pard, the woman whose face adorns our $10 note, as you have never ex­pected her to look or sound, and all the more vi­tal and rel­e­vant for that.

‘‘The en­ergy and in­tent couldn't be faulted, and this "earplugs in­cluded" show storms home in style. His­tory has never been more fun. ’’ Richard Mays

PHOTO: BREN­DAN LODGE/SUPPLIED

Lisa Chap­pell as Kate Shep­pard rocks out with the en­sem­ble in the Cen­tre­point pro­duc­tion of ‘‘That Bloody Woman’’.

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