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October 7, 2013 | by  | in Arts Theatre | [ssba]

I Betty Ya Didn’t Know This About Colonial New Zealand

This production was joyous. We follow Betty, a cockney household servant falsely accused of the murder of her masters, along the journey of her transportation, all the way to Australia. She then hijacks a boat to plough on to New Zealand, and then back again, and then back again.

Regarding historical accuracy, the play was a sham, but that took nothing away from the delightful interplay of the four actors onstage (William Duignan, Andrew Paterson, Phoebe Hurst and Jacquie Fee) as they changed character and accent (although perhaps unintentionally). They did some great physical work, and even shadow play, which made the portrayal of stabbings, society drinks and sneaky make-out sessions all the more hilarious.

Under the direction of Daniel Pengelly, this incredibly strong cast carried the play through, with delightful ad-libbing such as: “It’s alright we’ve broken the fourth wall we can all get on with it now,” and engaging the woman next to me with, “You look comfortable, good on ya.” There was delightful interaction between actors, as they deliberately tipped more than the required amount of water on each other to show sea spray, or cut each others solos short, all with hearty grins. Extensive corpsing from Hurst did little to break this magic either, but added to the joy of the actors’ interactions.

The beautiful set was versatile, clever, and smoothly transitioned from shadow screens into the courthouse, prison, palace and boat. The music, although largely borrowed from other great musicals, had original, charming lyrics, my personal favourite being the very inspiring ‘Life could always be worse’. These songs, wonderfully delivered by strong, distinct voices, wove the narrative with high points of joy and camaraderie.

Overall, this was a great example of confident, powerful actors working with great gusto and a brilliant sense of excitement and fun on a wonderful script. The clever set and endearing story were delightful, but the joy of the evening was wrapped up in the spirit of the show; bloody lovely.


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