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