STILL LIFE WITH CHICKENS: Auckland run final days

Even though I’ve more pressing matters, I’ve been unable to stop refreshing the ticketing page for Still Life With Chickens:

Tickets as at 21 March 2018.

Between testing Fortress Mamea’s acoustics with maniacal laughs, the almost daily reports had this wee nugget:

Performance report detail — click on image for full report.

‘Nugget’! Oh, this is so much fun.



Image courtesy Auckland Theatre Company.

The lead up to the opening has been more public than I expected. The write-ups and mentions continued in the Herald, the Listener (hardcopy only), and Tagata Pasifika have been nice to read and watch.

On opening night I was accompanied by  The Lovely WifeThe Girl and The Boy, and I was very, very happy to have my family with me. The opening night audience liked the show — that’s always grafifying. The early reviews in BroadwayWorld and Concrete Playground are positive.

For some reason this doesn’t feel real. Maybe it’ll hit me at some point — soon, hopefully, maybe — that I’ve achieved something tangible, something to be inordinately proud of. Instead I’ve been looking over my shoulder, waiting to be awoken from some impossibly good dream.

I’m biased so I shan’t exhort you to see the show.  But I will point you in the direction of the Facebook page and Twitter feed so you can decide for yourself.



The play opens this Thursday. I don’t know where the time has fled. Meantime:

I’m in Wellington for the Arts Market (and some theatre, yuss) so this week’ll fly.

(Please forgive the avian puns. I hope you understand.)

In the meantime, please can someone suggest why this pic —

Clint, a feisty Barnevelder/Orpington cross.

— keeps making me flash on this:

Batman (1989). Image copyright Warner Brothers.

Your answers and suggestions welcome in the comments.


STILL LIFE WITH CHICKENS: rehearsal reports

Rehearsals are continuing apace in Auckland while life goes on in Northland. An unexpected perk on this production is the rehearsal reports I’m sent at the end of each work day: a one-pager of what happened, what’s needed, and any observations.

Yesterday’s report got me cackling and yahoo-ing in the Fortress Mamea environs:

Rehearsal report detail — click on image to see full report.

And it made me flash on this:



STILL LIFE WITH CHICKENS: rehearsals commence

L–R: The writer, the puppeteer, the director, the designer, the actor, and the manager. (Image courtesy Auckland Theatre Company.)

Rehearsals for Still Life With Chickens kicked off this week with an Auckland Theatre Company welcome followed by a reading, then a read-through.

I got to meet and thank set, puppet and costume designer John Parker. I caught up with director Fasitua Amosa and actor Goretti Chadwick, as well as met the masterfully coiffured Chicken puppeteer Haanz Fa’avae Jackson and the very quiet, very calm technical stage manager Andrew Furness. Also well-met were those whose names are unlikely to appear in the brochure but whose work is just as vital as those on and around the stage: ElizaNatashaNicola, Emma, Jan, Jade, Nicole, Siobhan and Miryam.

I realised with a shock that opening night is only four weeks away. It feels perilously close.

Going by how I had to blink back tears through a couple of mere read-throughs, as far as I’m concerned, the show is in good hands.


Front Door Boots

The inhabitants of Fortress Mamea have at least two pairs of farm boots each: one for the front door, the other for the back door. Surrounded as we are by muck and mud paddocks and woodland, it’s much more efficient — especially when it’s something urgent — to have a pair of boots at each exit, ready to take us places.

Lately, my front door pair have been feeling a bit damp. I thought it was just the morning dew and what-not — but no:

The heel has disintegrated somehow. Time for some resoling or a new pair for the front door.

Ideally, I would segue to something writing-related, like how to know when it’s time for a tool to be replaced or upgraded. The thing is… none of my writing tools need replacing or upgrading.

I’m a month into 2018 and I’ve got projects on my slate.

I’ve no excuse to not write.



Fortress Mamea has around three acres of paddocks. Three acres is a lot of ground area. Despite the best efforts of the cavalry element and a small flock of sheep*, the paddocks were getting overgrown with grass and weeds.

The current lot of four-legs needed help and it was decided that kunekune pigs, with their ability to live on little more than grass, fit the bill. The pigs would be a twofer solution: get the greenery under control; then time for the freezer.

I was good with this plan. I like bacon. I like the smell of it cooking. I like its texture, the taste of the pork fat that it cooked in, and its saltiness.

The porkers arrived and they were babies and they were so cute but I was strong and I wasn’t going to get attached to them because I like bacon and pork sausages and —

Then someone went and named the new arrivals Fig and Prunella.

Nell & Fig. (Photo courtesy Deborah K.)

We have pet kunekune pigs now.

* I haven’t mentioned the sheep because they’re boring. And some of them are destined for the freezer.


Hello World

In the first eighteen months of the new Fortress Mamea, our chicken flock increased a number of times. (We can’t remember how many times; we’re softies with fuzzy memories.)

How could we say no to the girls when they got broody? They were merely heeding the call of nature. And when the fertilised eggs hatched and there were soon cheeping puffballs of fluff underfoot — how could we say no to life itself?

When some of the puffballs grew into ambitious young roosters and started beating up on Ghost Dog, ending the aspirants’ lives was an easy choice. After a couple of culls, I called a moratorium on our chickens having babies. It’s all well and good when everyone’s getting along, I could imagine my mother lecturing me, until it’s time for someone to end up in the pot.

The flock has remained at a steady twenty or so the past eighteen months. It’s required vigilance: collecting eggs every single day, turfing wannabe broodies out of the laying boxes so they don’t get ideas.

Throughout the month of December, I noticed one of our chickens behaving suspiciously. What with the festive season and everything else, her movements were noted but not closely observed.

More fool me:

Pollo and brood. (Photo: DJ Ash.)

Fifteen chicks arrived on New Year’s eve.

Brilliant. Just… brilliant.


2017 on Stage

I’m as shocked as you are: I haven’t done a best-of of live theatre since 2012 — and even then I lumped it in with the screen stuff.

Highlights from 2017:

  • Riverside Kings by Natano Keni and Sarita So — Wellington talent to keep an eye out for;
  • Kororāreka: The Ballad of Maggie Flynn by Red Leap Theatre — dance theatre usually leaves me a little bewildered — but Kororāreka was exhilarating and captivating;
  • Amadeus by Peter Shaffer, Auckland Theatre Company — a big show, a rock ‘n’ roll story, and awesome, extravagant theatre.
Kororāreka: The Ballad of Maggie Flynn, Red Leap Theatre. (Image courtesy Red Leap Theatre,