Kate Sheppard's story makes for an exciting show

That Bloody Woman att the Crystal Palace for the Taranaki Arts Festival.
SIMON O'CONNOR/STUFF

That Bloody Woman att the Crystal Palace for the Taranaki Arts Festival.

That Bloody Woman
Crystal Palace
Tuesday August 29
Reviewed by Jo Hills

It throbbed with the cut and thrust of politics, but there was certainly no sign of Bill, Jacinda, Winston and co.

Instead, we met a cast from years ago who dramatically changed our world. That Bloody Woman introduced us to suffragette Kate Sheppard and characters including Prime Minister Richard Seddon.

As the successful fight for women's rights played out I felt proud to be a New Zealander, proud to be a woman and proud of Kate Sheppard.

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This is a phenomenally powerful show that blasts onto the stage as a loud, punk rock musical. It hits you with pounding rhythms, punk costumes, hazy smoke and in-your-face lighting.

In stark contrast, when Kate appears she is dressed all in white, with lace, feathers and fluff aplenty. While she chats to you about her life story you feel you've met a real friend. Layers are shed and more is revealed about this famous woman who graces our $10 note.

Kate's wardrobe changes dramatically too. Before long she is in skin tight, thigh hugging, ripped jeans. We know she is a woman for all times.

The excellent script has lots of up-to-date quips with mention of Mike Hosking, pony tails, flip flopping, and bitching and blaming.

There's many a message relevant to our current forthcoming elections. It also revs along with clever songs that are witty, fun and often brash with lewd suggestions.

A mix of  musical types bounce off one another as if part of a glorious riot. I never thought I could love a song so much that was solely about the 'F' word. Then there were heart-wrenching, softer melodies, like when Kate sang about her son's death and a fellow suffragette about abuse. Emotional stuff.

Both cast and band perform with infectious energy. They dash about being musicians and actors or both. Every characterisation is brilliantly performed and is teamed up with amusing, creative costumes and props.

The wedding ceremony is an hilarious highlight. Kate meets her match in the bombastic form of Richard Seddon or 'Tricky Dicky'. His name opens up a plethora of jokes. Rather than being offensive, they are intertwined into the harshness of Kate's struggle against such a formidable personality.

This New Zealand show is gutsy entertainment. It's tough enough to take on the world - just like Kate did!

 - Taranaki Daily News

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