Getting down and dirty with the kennel queens

Bitches' Box creators Amelia Dunbar, left, and Emma Newborn, right, with singer-songwriter Mel Parsons.
Bitches' Box creators Amelia Dunbar, left, and Emma Newborn, right, with singer-songwriter Mel Parsons.

What is a bitch's box?

Think sloe-eyed Jess from Footrot Flats. There's a glossary in the programme, Dunbar says.

"It's an elevated kennel used to separate a bitch in heat from the male dogs to prevent knotting. And then you've got to explain knotting. People come out slightly more educated."

A pair of Bitches and a two- time Tui-award finalist - what more can you ask of a night out in Invercargill?

Part of the Southland Festival of the Arts, Bitches' Box and Mel Parsons, last night and tonight at Repertory house, is a win for the month-long event, festival director Angela Newell said.

"These performers are just so popular, it's a real coup to get them here."

The Bitches' Box is a fast-paced, multi-character comedy, says co-creator Emma Newborn.

"We play six different dog characters and it takes place over one day on a farm."

She and co-creator Amelia Dunbar flick in and out of characters by using simple costume changes.

"It came from an improvisation about two girls locked in the boot of a car and we became quite interested in the idea of confinement," Newborn said.

"I'm a city girl and Amelia is from the country, so she quickly explained to me what a bitch's box was and it started from there."

Since its inception two years ago the show has toured extensively, not just in New Zealand but taking in festivals in Melbourne and Edinburgh.

"It's quite unique because it's so specifically New Zealand as well, but unbelievably that's managed to translate to a Scottish audience and an Australian audience somehow."

"It is really specific to the farm but ... we found that it resonates with anyone with an understanding of dogs. The farmers just get it a wee bit more," Dunbar said.

Being about bitches, the show does have sexual themes ("Dogs don't feel ashamed," Dunbar said) but they say it is suitable for ages 13 and up.

"It depends if you're a country kid or not."

Bitches' Box and Mel Parsons tonight at Repertory House 8pm. Book at i-Site or online at Eventfinder.


The Southland Times