A nunnery is the setting for this chilling Albert Belz play. He wrote it after he heard about a mass children’s grave being discovered in Tuam, Ireland. This play won ‘The Adam NZ Play Award for Best Play by a Māori Playwright in 2018.
Two young women, Hahana and Angie find themselves desperately seeking accommodation at an isolated convent, that was once a home for unmarried mothers, in the middle of nowhere as they travel through Ireland on their big OE. Creepy gets even creepier as a mysterious figure known as Briar Faith begins to haunt them, and they must uncover the traumas that lie buried in the place’s history. Two nuns live alone in the convent, sometimes helped by Bartley.
What do these three know and what are they not telling. This story is disturbing, ominous and foreboding.
Some Content/Language May Offend
Rolland McKellar, 04/04/2022
Cue Theatre’s latest production Cradle Song is an intriguing, if spooky, play which is superbly produced and acted. This unusual play, is brilliantly directed by Sharren Read, aided by Stage Manager Nicola Knight, Assistant Stage Manager Vicki-Ann Ritchie and Production Assistant Michelle Chainey. The play is written by Albert Belz an award-winning playwright of Ngati Porou, Nga Puhi and Ngati Pokai descent.
Albert Belz wrote the play after visiting Ireland and hearing about a mass grave of children in Tuam, Ireland. His play won the Adam NZ Play Award for the Best Play by a Maori playwright in 2018.
A feature of the production is the amazing Special Effects, Lighting and Sound including lightning, a very realistic fire in a fireplace and a window showing changing scenes and weather. This was provided by 4th Wall Technical Department.
The set was excellent depicting a characterful gardener’s cottage, with the beds and wardrobe having their own pivotal roles in the plot.
I don’t want to give too much away and spoil it for theatre goers yet to see the play, but it is set in the year 1999 in a gardener’s cottage on a convent in Southern Ireland, which was once a home for unmarried mothers. Two young women Angela (Shae Trownson) and Hahana (Elicia-May Hitchcock) end up there desperate for somewhere to spend a couple of nights. The travellers, one from New Zealand and one from Australia, are on their OE and can be described as hard up backpackers.
The engaging dialogue and humorous interplay between these two talented actresses is a memorable delight.
Car mechanic Bartley (Laurie Neville)’s non-stop Irish accent and humour was impressive as he proves he is a man of many colours, and a few surprises. Sister Theresa (Kate Hansen)’s imperious manner, punctuated by episodes of kindness, was a treat to experience. Sister Eustace (Christine King) is another first class effort; she could be underestimated – but has much angst hidden from view, understandably so! The other character in the play is Briar-Faith (Michelle Brougham) whose appearance, later on, is both shocking and sad. Michelle plays her part with finesse, ranging from pathos to scariness.
The well-designed programme has a warning: This show contains themes and some language may offend. Yes, there are a number of themes, often considered too risky to air, but well done to the playwright for presenting them in a thoughtful manner. Swearing there is aplenty, but somehow it seems to be acceptable within the confines of the play, with all its risky themes and brisk humour.
I was thoroughly entertained by this excellent play, which had a bit of everything – humour, creepiness, thought-provoking drama and highly unexpected surprises. It would be hard to imagine better acting as all characters are well-suited to their roles, word perfect and convincing. Make sure you see this outstanding play at the Cue Theatre, 38 Matai Street, Inglewood.
The season runs from Wednesday April 6 to Saturday April 16. You can book online at https://cuetheatre.co.nz/book-online
Cradle Song Review, Stuff
Jo Hills – 07/04/2022
It’s short, sharp and grippingly good. The haunting horror story Cradle Song by Māori playwright Albert Belz opened at Inglewood Cue Theatre on Wednesday night.
It’s full of creepy moments and sudden surprises, ghosts from the past seeking revenge and the most marvellous lighting and sound effects to keep everyone on edge. Set in a cottage in Ireland the scenery is cleverly planned, especially a window which opens the world to the audience.
Congratulations to director Sharren Read for her excellent casting. What a perfectly mismatched pair Kate Hansen and Christine King make as the nuns. They both perform superbly. Hansen is tall, severe, cold and unwelcoming, while King is silent, but warm and eager to help two poor travellers looking for a place to stay. Both use body language to great effect, especially King who communicates mainly through wonderful facial expressions. When she finds her voice she emotively tells a very moving story that could well be based on real life.
The traditional black and white habits the two nuns wear take many back in time to Catholic schools of years ago and stern boarding establishments where youngsters quivered under the rule of Mother Superior.
In complete contrast, Elicia-May Hitchcock and Shae Trownson burst onto the stage with all the energy and frivolity of two young backpackers coping with the highs and lows of their big OE.
Their talented acting is very realistic, but also bursting with fun. They add a touch of light heartedness to the eerie plot. Their characters delight in using some profanities and a few penis jokes. However, we soon learn they have problems of their own to cope with. One audience member on opening night declared she wanted to laugh at their antics but stopped herself because she knew the storyline was too serious to be comic.
Hitchcock and Trownson act really well together. However, things unravel just a little with their timing in some of the scarier, supernatural scenes towards the play’s conclusion. The second half, full of ghostly apparitions and sad, haunting narrative, seems almost rushed to its end by the playwright so it is possibly the fragmented script rather than any slips in the strong portrayals by this talented duo. An absolute bonus is hearing both Hitchcock’s and Trownson’s amazing singing.
Laurie Neville has the best Irish accent and is totally believable in his role of the friendly mechanic. Watching him at work on the large screen is quite a delight. Michelle Brougham’s role is small but pivotal and she holds the key to the curse that causes so much of the chilling horror that is finally revealed.
It’s all over in just under 90 minutes. So, even on a dark, autumnal night you will soon be safely tucked up in your own home after being thoroughly entertained and maybe even a little spooked by this production which runs until April 16.
Cradle Song review – Stratford Press
Ilona Hanne, 07/04/2022
Review: Cradle Song by Albert Belz. Directed by Sharren Read, playing now at Inglewood’s Cue Theatre.
Given this play is set in the grounds of an old Irish convent and the pre-publicity talks of ghosts and hauntings, it could be a case of stating the obvious to describe it as being spine-tingling.
But while the play itself is undoubtedly creepy, the real tingling of spines in the audience comes from the sheer talent on stage in this production. Director Sharren Read chose the cast well, not only for their talent but also for their chemistry with each other.
Elicia-May Hitchcock and Shae Trownson play the two young backpackers (Hahana and Angela) who find themselves staying in a gardener’s cottage on the grounds of a convent. They bring great energy to their roles, throwing out the script’s penis jokes and swear words in a way that is engaging rather than jarring.
A well-matched pairing in this play, they do a fantastic job of taking the audience with them as the plot requires them to make some potentially unbelievable choices when it comes to staying in a cold and scary cottage over staying in a warm and presumably non-haunted house in the town.
Both also have beautiful singing voices which are put to good use in the play. They were well cast in this production and it is to be hoped their names will continue to appear in cast lists around the region as they are both talented young actors who really shine under the spotlight.
The plot and script do require the audience to make a few leaps of imagination at times, but the backstage crew make this incredibly easy with a well-designed set combined with brilliant lighting and sound technical work. Thanks to the expertise and creativity of the 4th Wall Theatre technical team who worked with Cue Theatre on the special effects, lighting and sound, the one-room set expands at times to show a garage workshop, a hillside scene, a scary drive and plenty more scene-setting moments.
Laurie Neville, playing mechanic, car enthusiast and failed priest Bartley is brilliant in the role. He doesn’t miss a beat throughout the play, and neither does his perfectly polished Irish accent. His character brings a nice bit of Irish blarney to the stage, lightening the mood and lifting the audience – creating an enjoyable roller coaster of emotion where it is possible to find oneself scared and amused within seconds.
Kate Hansen’s dour, severe and humourless nun Sister Theresa is another highlight and Kate does an excellent job of infusing the character with real depth, allowing the uptight nun to become a much more human and sympathetic character than you might first expect. Some of her later scenes with fellow nun Sister Eustace, played by Christine King, make for some of the best moments of the entire play.
Christine’s character might be mute (by choice) for much of the play, but that vow of silence doesn’t stop Christine from giving an outstanding performance, with her facial expressions and physicality on stage absolutely brilliant to watch. When her character fiercely writes a word on a piece of paper to communicate with one of the young backpackers, several members of the audience murmured the word out loud – so clearly did Christine act out the writing of the individual letters on paper so small only those on stage could possible see the word.
Another mainly silent character was the hostile antagonist of the play – Briar-Faith. This creepy role was truly brought to life by Michelle Brougham who made sure Briar-Faith was played with sympathy and understanding to balance out the anger and desire for revenge.
Sharren has put together a play that will haunt your thoughts long after the final curtain and has made excellent use of an undoubtedly talented cast. The intimacy of the Cue theatre itself is perfectly designed to stage a ghostly tale, with some members of the audience physically jumping in fright at times as the plot thickened and the suspense grew.
The plot itself isn’t perfect, but the cast and crew, under the skilled direction of Sharren made the story as believable as could be, and gave the events a sympathetic, thoughtful and reflective telling that will leave you as chilled by the story as you are warmed by seeing the talent and energy on stage.