Theatre review: That Bloody Woman
Review: The story of Kate Sheppard's struggle to get women the vote in 1890s Christchurch is one taught at schools throughout New Zealand but one that has never been so fun to learn as it is in Kiwi rock musical That Bloody Woman.
Necks craned to keep up with the ethereal Esther Stephens, dressed in white, as she brought suffragette Kate Sheppard to life on stage.
The fast paced, loud musical covered a lot in a short amount of time without over-complicating it – aided by Stephens frequent interjections informing the audience of time and location jumps – of which there are many – in lieu of a fussy set.
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Beginning in the UK, where Sheppard was born, the linear story charts the death of her father, a move to New Zealand, a loveless marriage and her eventual introduction to the suffrage movement.
While it's clear it was all building up to the big moment where women are granted the vote, the hour of plot before that added much-needed context to why Sheppard was so insistent and passionate about her cause.
A couple of nods to modern politics including a quick pull of a ponytail added an extra layer to the show, well-timed with the upcoming elections on many people's minds.
While a couple of overzealously-deployed strobe lights blinded the audience temporarily, the minimal set wasn't to the show's detriment with a strong stage presence by the five-strong cast and their backing band keeping the eye and ear engaged.
Geoffrey Dolan's take on Prime Minister Richard "King Dick" Seddon as a power-hungry pimp type was easily a crowd favourite, with his booming voice "mansplaining" to Stephen's Sheppard.
His introduction song Tricky Dicky was a highlight of the 13-strong set list, many of which were still swirling in my head long after the show ended.
A badass feminist rock show not to miss.
That Bloody Woman, by Luke Di Somma and Gregory Cooper, directed by Kip Chapman, The Opera House, Wellington, until September 16.