Lola’s Grave Mistake
Director: Ian Harman
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Mr Lola Illusion (Ian Harman) perform in ‘The Lola Show’ at the Wellington Fringe Festival in 2017 and as MC at the ten-year celebration performance of his popular burlesque show at Centrepoint Theatre ‘Tease-o-rama’, and I did wonder if ‘Lola’s Grave Mistake’ could offer more. It does.
Grab your sombrero and enter the sombre darkness, and burning pain, of a broken heart. You may find yourself in something resembling hell in The Darkroom, but with Mr Lola Illusion taking centre stage, even the hellishness of a broken heart looks hot in heels.
If you want to practise some facial exercises, then simply being in the audience will give you a great session of facial rejuvenation. I smiled, laughed and sighed deeply as Lola took me on a journey from intoxicating joy to heartache, and back again, during his short but sweet one-hour extravaganza. The art and magic of story-telling is alive in every cell of Lola’s vibrant body and soul. Somehow, he smiles with his whole body and wears sadness like a bodysuit of rocks.
Shaking his tail feathers, Mr Lola illusion takes us on a whirlwind ride to hell and back. There’s a real beauty in the honesty, naivety, and vulnerability that Lola expresses in the—at times—heart-breaking narrative that runs through the show, of which perfect performance by Ian Harman kept the audience engaged and vocally supportive. Though matters of the heart are a serious subject, Lola creates a redemption-song, Mexican-cabaret, drama/comedy genre which is as lively as the fast-beating heart of a drunk person running in heels (while singing). Cleverly placed subtle and some not-so-subtle innuendo was delivered with a wink and a cheeky smile and received with noisy, happy laughter.
There was an ever-so enticing cameo by the always delightful Sam Lyons aka ‘Costa DeMillion’ of The Boom, Boom Room Burlesque fame, and the unmistakable voice of local singing legend Amy McKenna was detected in a remixed version of ‘Jolene’.
Great musical numbers belted out without restraint (and sometimes while running) were well chosen and performed to wonderful effect. Sometimes when I’m watching shows with a few musical numbers I groan and think ‘oh no, not another one’, but this was not one of those times—Ian Harman has cleverly re-worked and created songs to tell his story in a most enchanting way.
Being a master of set, direction, and costuming (among many other things) Harman has everything well planned out and running seamlessly (although any show I ever created would never feature me running, let alone in heels). As usual for a show with his artistic hands all over it, the set and props seem to just magically appear and disappear out of nowhere. Telephone scenes that weave their way through the show were perfectly executed and an absolute crowd pleaser. Mr Lola Illusion is so generous to the audience that he even handed out popcorn to be devoured during the most dramatic parts of his act.
Lola’s Grave Mistake is a performance about love and loss that we can all relate to, and I am always grateful to those who are brave enough to share their stories with such honesty. Mr Lola Illusion showed us his heart—it’s beautiful.
Director: Dan Pengelly
I’m always excited to go to Centrepoint Theatre to enjoy one of their consistently good shows, and who doesn’t love a bit of Peter Pan? It was only as I approached the doors at the earlier than usual show time of 6:30pm that I realised that something was wrong. An early start time, school holidays and a children’s fairy tale all added up to one thing—there was going to be children there… I inwardly groaned at the inconvenience this would put upon me. It was an unusual experience to share this usually adult occupied space with kids, but I showed diplomacy and grinned and bared it. At half time I started texting friends with strong recommendations that they bring their kids to see Peter Pan, and felt a slight though quickly stifled pang of sadness that my children were grown-up.
The set didn’t give much away, looking sort of like an after-school kids club with a climbing frame of sorts and a tumbling mat. Cushions scattered at the foot of the front row seats gave kids the opportunity to be up close and personal. The cast really poured some magic out on that set. I had wondered how they were going to manage things like flying, I couldn't see any sky-hooks, but I needn’t have worried. I felt incredible joy watching an excellent cast of multi-taskers show just what you can do with some imaginative play and a few basic props. Audience interaction and a really quick-witted, enjoyable script kept both young and old laughing like children. Excellent timing and well-planned costume changes meant that among a whirlwind of activity the ‘Lost Boys’ were magically transformed into pirates and back again. Some actors manifested as at least four different characters in a cleverly seamless way.
Wendy played by Katie Atkins navigated the space between child and mother-figure with grace and charm. Tinkerbelle played by Ryan Ngarimu was delightful proving that star-quality acting is more than just having lots of lines. Captain Hook brought to life by David Fane (Bro Town and Sione’s Wedding) chartered a course between bad guy and lovable rogue that was pitched perfectly for children’s enjoyment. Mr & Mrs Darling were performed by the perfect package of Lizzie Tollemache and David Ladderman. The dynamic duo shone in their variety of roles showing their depth of talent and craft. I’d like to congratulate the whole cast and crew for this outstanding performance because they were all fantastic (it’s a long list). Director Dan Pengelly and the Centrepoint Theatre basement company have hit the perfect note on this family themed, pantomime-like, fairy-tale performance. Acting and imagination combine to remind us of the joy and simplicity of child’s play.
School holidays offer the perfect time to kick start your kid’s imagination on a show like this. In a world of special effects, iPads and blockbuster movies this pared back thrill of the imagination will lull children back to the charms of imaginative play. Why bother with props like a bed being wheeled on-stage when you could simply drape a white sheet over the backs of a few of the cast? This show was charming and refreshing in in its approach. I would happily attend a second time. Children eight and over will enjoy this Centrepoint production immensely, and adults will be wooed by Peter Pans invitation to never grow up.
Howard Ashman and Alan Menken's
Little Shop of Horrors
Abbey Musical Theatre
Wallace Development Auditorium
Director: Teesh Szabo
Review Date: 27/05/2015
I remember watching the movie version of Little Shop of Horrors and being blown away with what a crazy, spoof, sci-fi horror it was. The dentist and the plant ‘Audrey II’ were the main elements that stuck in my mind for terrifying reasons. It won’t matter if you haven’t seen the movie, you’ll still enjoy this excellent musical and it’s quite likely that you will never forget the dentist or ‘Audrey II’.
With an up-beat soundtrack and a lively cast you will not find yourself shifting uncomfortably in your seat or checking your watch. I found the characters in this show to be incredibly endearing with some really strong performances standing out from the crowd. Jessie Feyen’s role as ‘girl from the wrong side of town’, Audrey, was exceptional. Her accent was breath-taking and her characterisation impressive. It wasn’t just Seymour that fell in love with Audrey, we all did. Tyrell Beck as nerdy Seymour continued his run of strong roles with Abbey Theatre. Hopelessly in love with co-worker Audrey, Seymour had us all rooting for him to get his girl. Flower shop owner and Seymour and Audrey's boss 'Mushnik' was played with flair by Don MacBeth.
Larger than life Damian Thorne played many roles—I don’t know how he got changed so quickly but he could teach my daughters a thing or two about getting ready to go out faster! His main role as psychopathic dentist Orin is outrageously good, wow! At times eclipsing the plant (which had its own ‘growing’ role) Damian brought all our nightmares of dentistry to life in hysterical over-the-top style. He brought agility and energy in bucket loads—I challenge you to watch his role without laughing. I honestly can’t imagine how the dentist could have been better depicted.
A trio of chorus characters brought some excellent harmonies together, and kept the upbeat, lively tempo rolling. Erica Ward had a brief cameo and delivered beautiful and powerful song.
The set was well used, flowing seamlessly and lighting was used to its best advantage to create a really enjoyable scene.
Audrey II was more than a one person job (played by duo Nate Davis and Jacob McDonald) and every stage of its life was incredibly well delivered. I’m surprised at how quickly I forgot that it was a puppet and bought into it as a character – a sinister character.
The final scenes drew me back to haunting memories of watching ‘The Night of the Triffids’ while I was too young, with an excellent combo of costume, and lights creating an eerie yet comical scene.
I’ve not had the privilege of seeing a show directed by Teesh Szabo before, and I was impressed at how tightly she'd pulled everything together. The combination of great set work, lighting, choreography, costume, props, and acting created a thoroughly enjoyable show that was a pleasure to see.
That Bloody Woman
By Luke Di Somma and Gregory Cooper
Directed by Lyndee-Jane Rutherford
A chance to honour Kate Sheppard for giving us the vote as well as getting entertained and educated made me feel ‘bloody’ excited to attend That Bloody Woman. With lead character (obviously Kate) being brought to life by award-winning actress Lisa Chappell (Gloss, McLeod’s Daughters and lots and lots more stuff, a whole career’s worth...) who I used to sport a poster of on my wall from her high-fashion Gloss days, this show had great pulling power.
I rocked up with my hubby (what a good and brave guy) to what was likely to be a high-oestrogen storm of hyped-up women. To be fair, the audience seemed well balanced gender-wise which was pleasing.
If you’re turned off by musicals keep in mind that this is a feminist, punk musical, and plays out a bit like being in a mosh pit at a Jacinda Ardern/Amy Winehouse/Madonna gig. The setting is punk with concrete walls, spray paint and a nod to the past with a heritage-style arch centre stage. The opening scene is a strong start and I’m not giving away any spoilers but depending on your inclinations you’ll either be shocked or jubilant with joy (me) at the first word out of Lisa Chappell’s mouth. Lisa, is an absolute legend as Kate Sheppard. Spending almost the entire performance on stage and belting out a heavy load of songs, Lisa carried the show with both strength and tenderness. Gathering the audience in to her flock and guiding us through Kate’s trials and tribulations as she fought to get the vote—Lisa had us all eating out of her hand.
A strong ensemble team of punk-styled women had Lisa’s back as they powered through what was a riveting history lesson and revival of a New Zealand hero. Ensemble member Indiya Henman’s snappy dance moves and strong, engaging acting were delightful. Leona Revell’s supporting act as Kate Sheppard’s best friend featured some excellent vocal performances and Trudy Pearson’s role as the vicar presiding over Kate Sheppard’s wedding was a delightful crowd-pleaser.
It wasn’t an all woman cast though with Jeff Kingsford-Brown playing a massively pleasing role as King ‘Dick’—Richard Seddon. As Kate’s nemesis Kingsford-Brown produced an excellent performance with great chemistry. Gary Clark and Steve Jenkins both got to be up close and personal with Lisa Chappell and fulfilled their small male-speaking parts well (Lol, I jest but really it is a small satisfaction to see men play second-fiddle to the women for a bit).
The on-stage band lead by Kane Parsons was part of the show and seamlessly fitted into the action. They did an excellent job of keeping the musical score flowing faultlessly (or covering up any errors well because I didn’t notice any).
Costuming by Hayley Douglas was superb, especially Lisa Chappell’s almost steam-punk styled outfit which masterfully combined pants and a long dress and evoked a glam/punk Queen look.
I was surprised to find that two guys created this show – Luke Di Somma and Gregory Cooper, and I bloody salute them. It goes a long way towards paying homage to a hero who perhaps never received the hero-worshipping she deserved in her own life-time. With Lisa Chappell breathing new life into a modern Kate, and a strong cast backing her I felt that as a crowd we gave her the screaming, cheering, wild-clapping thanks she deserved. A standing ovation from the audience was a beautiful thing to see. Thank you Centrepoint Theatre and the cast and crew of That Bloody Woman—you were ‘bloody’ terrific.
Director: Scott Andrew
Manawatu Theatre Society
Before you read this review there is something important to know: my daughter plays a main role and I am going to say she’s amazing because she really is. This affects my credibility, I have none, I shouldn’t really be doing this—but I am.
For a change I didn’t attend opening night for this show—here’s why. There are two girls sharing the role of ‘Iris’, one of them is my daughter Faith Offord and the other is Jenna Shapleski on alternating nights. Opening night was Jenna’s night and the Mum in me took precedence over the reviewer in me—I wanted to see Faith’s portrayal first. I look forward to attending a showing soon where Jenna is playing the role of Iris. With a team of family and friends it was a wonderful party of supporters to turn up at The Globe with to see our wee star shine.
A simple set awash with blue light greeted us and evoked the blue glare that shines out from our computer screens. The Nether’s opening scene is set in an interrogation room where Mr Sims (Glen Eustace) is being interrogated by Morris (Hannah Pratt). The rest of the show jumps between the interrogation room, in real life, and ‘The Hideaway’ in The Nether. Hold onto your seats, this show blurs the lines between fantasy and real-life. Hannah Pratt’s portrayal of Morris was strong and took us on a journey of emotion—is she the good-guy or the bad-guy? Similarly Mr Sims traversed a line between good and bad—but is he on the bad side of good or on the good side of bad? Glen Eustace kept us guessing as he toyed with not just our emotions but with those of Doyle (Danny Goodman), Iris (Faith Offord/Jenna Shapleski) and Mr Woodnut (Michael Salmon).
It’s an eerie moment when a young Iris enters ‘the hideaway’ looking like a porcelain doll but acting in ways that are alarming for a young girl. The relationships depicted between Iris and Papa, and Iris and Mr Woodnut are unusual and unsettling. Director Scott Andrews has been careful with the management of these relationships and navigates the space well. Faith Offord (MY DAUGHTER!!!!) played a touching role as Iris. She was tender, articulate and a master of technique—just saying. The trust and connection on stage between Michael Salmon (who managed his difficult role with delicacy) and Faith Offord was evident as was the relationship between Glen Eustace and Faith. This extended the audience a comfortable space to connect with the content. Danny Goodman’s performance was exceptional and it’s hard to say much more without bringing spoilers into play.
There’s a lot of dialogue in this production but the subject material —how much we know about who and what we’re dealing with on the internet and who’s policing it—is riveting. It plays out like a bit of a ‘who dunnit’ but also challenges our perceptions of reality, and right and wrong.
The set was well used throughout the show despite its minimal presentation it somehow was very easily transformed from scene to scene. Live music added to the eerie scenario at the hands of Elijah Graham. In fact a light touch of everything: set, music and lighting really threw emphasis onto the story and the actors who carried the weight of delivering an intricate narrative well.
This is the first time that award-winning The Nether has been shown in New Zealand and it certainly has a lot to say. This production was tight—nothing was over or under done—it struck exactly the right note.
Still Life with Chickens
Director: Fasitua Amosa
Review Date: 7/4/2018
The Billboard for this production showed a woman holding a chicken and the title--Still Life with Chickens. The woman was exuding a Polynesian vibe and further investigation uncovered that this show promised to be a comedy about a woman talking to a chicken. Why was I excited to go?
The Centrepoint Theatre has been consistently delivering high-quality performances so I attend expecting satisfaction—plus comedy is my favourite genre. The programme revealed that Still Life with Chickens won ‘Best Play 2017’ in the Adam NZ Awards so all signs were encouraging.
Set in a functional backyard furnished with a vegetable garden and a washing line ‘Mama’ played by Goretti Chadwick moves slowly about—like a tired old woman— delivering a simple yet revealing narrative about the ins and outs of her life. At the surface level this is comedic and entertaining, but beneath the tough facade that slips occasionally we get a look at what simmers beneath.
Goretti expertly delivers the role of Mama, so that we are both fearful and fond of her in equal measure. Goretti’s real life age is a mystery to me— at a guess anywhere from twenty-five to sixty years old— but a combination of costume and great acting made her believably a very old Mama. Her confidence in delivering comedy was effortless and the emotional range that she visited had me along for the ride, at times having a lump in my throat and at times laughing.
Quite surprising, was finding that the chicken was a puppet (this was no lame duck but a high-class chicken puppet). How I expected a real-life chicken to participate I don’t know, but I hadn’t been prepared for it to appear in the form of a puppet. I inwardly cringed when I realised that a puppet was coming out but it turns out I didn’t need to get into a flap about it. Puppeteer Haanz Fa’avae-Jackson played a strong role as the chicken but simultaneously seemed to not exist on stage. Somehow he magically seemed to become part of the background which is hard to believe considering he was miked up and making chicken noises. While the chicken was an active part of the play, Haanz’s ability to channel all his energy into the chicken meant that his own presence on stage was minimally noticed. The chicken pecked its way through the layers of Mama’s tough exterior revealing her inner vulnerabilities.
Lighting was used to great effect along with excellent sound technique to support what was essentially a one-woman, one-chicken show. A nice bright set was well used and a well chosen place to show how mundane housework can germinate philosophical musings.
Still Life with Chickens (I love the naming of this play) is a short but sweet show, lasting for just one hour. But, as with most high-quality things you don’t need to consume huge amounts to be totally satisfied. This show is still brooding away in my mind as I think about all that it revealed; it won’t be forgotten soon.
Director: Chris Burton
PNBHS/PNGHS Production 2018
Review Date 15th March 2018
It seemed appropriate that my theatre companion for PNBHS and PNGHS’s production of Anything Goes should be my own little drama queen teenager. As we sat down in the Speirs centre at 7:30pm she leaned in with some inside information to impart—Half-time is at 9pm—she savagely whispered. Part of me died at the thought of how long I’d be seated in there.
The lights dimmed and off we went to a New York speakeasy bar in the 1930s. Glamour and rich acting talent hit the stage when Reno Sweeney appeared and had me searching my programme in the dark to figure out who was playing the part. It was Katie Atkins who proved to be a real star for the entire voyage through Anything Goes. Combining strong vocals, good dance skills and a confident, natural, acting-style Katie’s light beamed brightly from beginning to end.
Soon the whole set was breathtakingly revealed and in full swing. We were all aboard the S.S American! What a set! Bustling with a crowd of passengers all decked out in 1930s art-deco glamour and accompanied by the band that were already settled in on the deck of the ship, we found ourselves totally on board with the show. As the Ocean Liner prepared to depart, the scene is set for some hilarious on-board antics and many of us were dancing in our seats.
With gangsters, dodgy business men, priests, high society, and low society men and women on board there is a lot to work with in this production, and director Chris Burton has done the lot!
Excellent talent was show-cased on board the S.S American. Digby Werthmuller’s role as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh was absolutely spiffing. An audience favourite, Digby’s depiction of Evelyn showed an expert grasp on comedy and brought many a belly laugh forth from a joyful audience. Callum Crawley's depiction of love sick Billy Crocker came to life when he revealed his excellent singing skills. Tender scenes between Billy and high society debutante Hope Harcourt played by Anna Drombroski were delicate and believable. Anna’s ability to act out Hope’s shy emotions was commendable. Anna Orwin-Higgs depiction of wayward gangster’s moll Erma was sublime and packed with sass, her accent impeccable.
There’s too much to say about this production. The band led by musical director Paul Dredge set an excellent atmosphere, the costumes were divine and on point, the set was lively and enjoyable, sound and lighting was smoothly managed and never did I find myself shifting uncomfortably in my seat and wondering when it would be all over. There was tap-dancing, singing, comedy, and dance sailing along at a rate of knots. At half time I felt excited for the second half.
There was an awkward moment... With Anything Goes being created in the 1930’s there are some relics of a bygone era which most of us are pleased to farewell—racial caricatures. I was pleased to see these issues addressed by Director Chris Burton in the beginning of the programme.
All in all I would think that PNGHS and PNBHS have a lot to be proud of with their production of Anything Goes. The S.S. American was absolutely packed with talented young men and women and they took us on a wonderful journey.
The Love List
Director: Dan Pengelly
Review Date: 22nd February 2018
Thursday night was a chillier night than usual for what I’ve come to think of as a hellish summer, and I was in a low mood as I pulled up to Centrepoint Theatre to see The Love List. My theatre attending companion furnished me with a glass of rosé to help warm my chilly mood but as we found our way to our seats I commented on how cold it was in there. I leaned forward and nastily whispered ‘this better be funny enough to warm me up’ and then I sat back and looked around the audience for someone new to get angry at.
You know that you’re watching some extremely high quality skills when you forget about everything going on around you and become so intently entrenched in a story that you feel like you’re actually part of what’s happening. Laughter erupted from my insides, and such was the vigour with which I writhed around in my seat and craned my neck so as to make sure I wouldn’t miss anything, that I gained a body temperature that was no longer angering.
I had no idea what The Love List was about before I saw the show, and I’m glad about that. It was such a delight to watch it all unfold before me. However for your benefit I’ll briefly describe the content. The Love List is a realistic, yet fantasy based comedy exploring the qualities of a perfect woman and more broadly the imperfect qualities of all relationships. This description does no justice to the show that I saw – sorry, but seeing is believing.
I confess that though Millen Baird (Leon) is of NZ Television fame -having appeared in many an award winning show including 800 words and Shortland Street to name a few recognisable ones
(I only know that because of the programme), seeing him in real life was an absolute treat. With such a lot riding on delivering snappy and comedic dialogue this play could easily have fallen flat in unskilled hands but Baird really brought the goods with his excellent, incredibly funny depiction of a worldly, lovable, lothario, writer. Siobhan Marshall (Justine) – also a frequent flyer on our local screens in shows such as Outrageous Fortune, Shortland Street, and The Almighty Johnsons – carried off what must have been a challenging role with an ease that was extremely comforting. Her ability to multi-task is a skill which should not be overlooked simply because she made it look so easy. One of the things I really enjoyed about seeing this cast working together was the sense that they were all really enjoying themselves too. The chemistry between long-time mates Leon and Bill (played by Aaron Ward who most recently portrayed the extremely hateable Adam Ross in Shortland Street) was exactly as you would expect in real life and another reason why everything felt so believable. The dialogue was slick, with excellent one-liners and a plethora of local references which ensured that you shared every single in-joke on the list!
The Love List has magical qualities to enchant its audience. How can I begin to separate the parts when they were so seamlessly melded together? The set by Ian Harman was perfect because I forgot I was looking at a set and fully believed I was hanging out in a middle-aged bachelor pad, the lighting by Tayla Pilcher was excellent because I believed that the actors had gone to sleep and woken up in the morning and it wasn’t just a trick of the light. The direction by Dan Pengelly must have been truly wonderful because that bachelor pad was alive with natural movement and genuine sounding conversations. It was like I was living inside a 3D TV show in which they would need to tone down the audience laughter for fear it would drown out what was happening on stage. That’s a good point actually, I wasn’t insanely laughing on my own. We were ALL laughing.
I could make a long list of reasons why you should see this show and ultimately I think The Love List should be at the top of your list of things to go see.
Abbey Musical Theatre
Director: Andrea Maxwell
Review Date: 9th February 2018
Ordinary Days is a musical which explores the ordinary lives of four ordinary people living in New York. Written in 2008 by Adam Gwon it is intended to be an intimate production focusing on four people coming to the realisation that meaning and beauty can be found in any ordinary day.
The set was a pleasure to gaze upon. While it did scream NEW YORK loudly, it also had a comforting and serene feel to it that made me feel relaxed and intrigued. I was lucky enough to get my own private art lesson from a theatre companion who had donated one of his pieces of art by artists Craig and Karl to the set, and so I am also slightly smarter now than when I arrived. I’ll take this moment to also say that the arm rest between seat E28 and E29 needs attention please.
Pianist Bronwyn Boddy brought the show to life when she entered the stage and took up her position at the keyboard for the duration of the play. The responsibility for keeping the musical score moving along in time was well rested on her shoulders as she did a superb job.
If you’re not a fan of musicals and don’t know the storyline of Ordinary Days this may not be the show for you. The entire narrative of this production is told through song, so also if you’re of the type that doesn’t listen to the words of songs then you’ll have no clue what is happening. If you get your hands on a programme though, a thorough synopsis of the story will fill in the gaps.
Tayla Clark’s role as ‘Deb’ the typical, female, New York, grad student was well played. Tayla brought more than a well practised singing voice to the role, embodying her characters traits in a subtle and believable way as well as having good comedic timing.
Ordinary days is an intellectual show, there are no dancing numbers or sexual innuendo, that you might find in other more upbeat productions, but a focus on relationships and aspirations of two sets of people living in New York. Art, relationships, and self discovery are the order of the day in Ordinary Days.
Navutu Stars Resort on Yaqeta Island, the Yasawa group, Fiji
I’ve always wanted to take my kids to a tropical island because I was taken to a few as a kid, and the magic of snorkelling in crystal clear waters and seeing fish I could only ever dream of has stayed with me my whole life. When my Mum spent a few days in Fiji last year at Navutu Stars resort in the Yasawa Islands and came back raving about it I pushed go on plans to spend Xmas there with my three grown children, my hubby, and my mum. We spent almost the entire year planning and paying for what would be a momentous trip, probably the last as a family since our oldest son turned twenty and moved out of home a few weeks before we left. It was nice to know that he’d be stuck with us, on an island for ten days.
Our first stop in Fiji just two days before Xmas was at the Fiji Gateway Hotel where the hot Fiji atmosphere and a large pool were already giving us that Fiji vibe, it was a nice convenient place to stay as a pit stop before we caught the transfer bus to the port in the morning. I’d been concerned about the potential for sea sickness (which my kids and hubby seem to be prone to) when I’d booked the four hour boat trip to Navutu Stars on the Yasawa Flyer. Mum had convinced me it was ‘an idyllic island hopping cruise all the way and it wouldn’t be a problem, and besides the seaplane, which only takes an hour, was more expensive’. The fly in the ointment of this trip was the uncharacteristically rough day on the ocean we encountered. Four hours worth of watching my family vomit into seasick bags was not something I’d planned for, and it was excruciating. When we finally arrived in our destination I wondered whether I’d be able to get them off the boat and onto the boat the resort had sent out to retrieve us. I don’t know how we managed but we did.
Sam the boat skipper from Navutu Stars resort was calm in the face of our obvious distress, welcoming us with a firm handshake and bringing us to shore where we were greeted like royalty with song and welcome signs from the staff. Somehow we staggered from the boat to shore and emerged into an oasis of calm, an absolute paradise which was almost tear- inducing.
In an open-sided lounge bure we were given fruit cocktails, and flannels for our sweaty brows. Dan a darling of a Fijian man talked soothingly to us as our racing hearts began to beat a more healthy rhythm. We were not rushed off to our rooms quickly; Dan wanted us to feel relaxed and happy first. Once we were restored to a better version of ourselves Dan took us along the beach front which was dotted with coconut trees, frangipane and hibiscus plants, and surrounded by warm clear water, to our bures. Mum’s bure was tucked down a path fringed with plant life, and over some rocks, round the corner, up some stone steps and across a beautiful garden was our larger bure.
We were awestruck by the fusion of modern and traditional simplicity that combined to create a luxurious place to stay. Crystal clear waters lapped at the shore at the end of our front lawn, and a hammock, two day beds and two sun loungers were ours to use in total privacy. Relaxation was breathed into our souls. We spent very little time chucking our togs on and heading into the sea. Swimming together in the warm waters of a remote island paradise was pure magic.
Navutu Stars Resort, the only resort on Yaqeta Island, accommodates around twenty guests aged twelve and over (it was no coincidence that I chose this place) . During our ten day stay we met people from the UK, Australia, Monaco, Japan, and Canada. One couple had a private wedding ceremony on the beach. The small number of people allowed the opportunity to get to know others so a nice little community formed during our stay.
The dining area was a large covered deck with views over the ocean, and the place where you get to meet and mingle with staff and other guests away from your own little sanctuary. Other than great food and an unlimited offering of drinks and cocktails at the bar there is also a blackboard of information and activities which is updated daily. It became part of our evening to check the board for new arrival and departure updates and to think about whether we wanted to take part in any activities on offer the next day.
Activities included walks to the local village, turtle spotting trips, snorkeling trips, coconut demonstrations, kava ceremony, Fijian language lessons, limestone caves adventures, weaving lessons and coral restoration lessons. Some activities were free of charge and others had a cost associated. We made the most of our time and among us managed to give every activity our attention enjoying some great snorkeling opportunities together.
Having snorkeled as a child over coral reefs holding my Mum’s hand it was a wonderful experience doing the same with my kids, it was a bonus that mum was there to witness it all too. Ruvi (our guide and a bit of a joker) tried to convince us that there are no sharks in Fiji, and failing to convince us of that he moved on to trying to convince us that the sharks in Fiji were all vegetarians. Regardless, I never saw a shark on the five snorkeling trips I was lucky enough to take but I did see beautiful fish in that magical underwater world.
Yoga sessions are offered for free every morning at 7 am on the outdoor deck nestled among the treetops where you can breathe in the beauty all around as the sun comes up. I managed three mornings but was too lazy in the other seven mornings to make it. It doesn’t matter; you’re there to relax, and to choose how that happens for you.
If you want to indulge in some luxury there is a beauty spa at the resort. Tucked away at a discreet distance along the beach you will receive your free thirty minute massage either inside the bure or outside on the beach. There are a variety of beauty spa treatments on offer from facials to body wraps. I enjoyed a side by side massage with my hubby (his first ever massage), and a few days later one with my Mum. While I was away swimming through the limestone caves my daughters enjoyed a relaxing massage together. It’s unlikely that any of us will forget the luxury of Fijian massage in such beautiful surroundings. Honestly, I could have had a massage everyday...
The activities hut is where you can find everything you need for a good time. “Can I grab a kayak please”, “can I get a towel”, “book me on that snorkelling trip tomorrow” etc. Our requests were always greeted with enthusiasm from the friendly and very funny activity guys Ruvi, Kikau and Sam to name a few, who were always ready with a good joke or strumming away on a guitar. All five of us were given our own snorkelling gear at the activities hut to keep for the duration of our stay. Many times we chucked our snorkelling gear on outside our bures and swam around the rocks and mangroves watching fish swimming about before returning to shore and falling into our hammocks.
The salt water pool with its expansive deck and relaxing cabana furnished with daybeds was a great place to hang out and chat. Better still the staff were more than happy to bring us drinks, snacks and coffee as we lazed about whiling away relaxing holiday days and staring off to the beautiful ocean blue. We’d often meet by the pool after an excursion and catch up over a drink.
Walking back to our bures along the beach at night was magical. The sea lapped up on the shore, and at high tide we’d often be walking with warm water around our ankles as we ventured back to our island home (don’t worry there’s an alternative inland route). We witnessed some incredible sunsets, saw a stingray hovering in the shallows and watched crabs skittering out of our way. We were in no way mature enough to ignore the allure of the frogs and geckos. At night frogs hopped around the lawn outside our bure, we were often out there counting them up and seeking them out with our torches. They were quiet frogs, minding their own business but it was strangely fascinating to watch them, and I guess we had oodles of time to do so.
We consumed many cocktails and virgin cocktails during our stay and made friends with the lovely staff. It was hard to wrench ourselves away and head home (thankfully the magic of facebook has helped us keep in touch) but it lives on as a paradisaical dream in our memories.
Our trip back on the Yasawa Flyer was like an answered prayer. I’d administered sea legs pills for the return journey but they were unnecessary. It was a hot, sunny day on clear and calm waters.
Navutu Stars offers eco-luxe accommodation in the Yasawa Islands group. It is mid-range expenses wise but provides luxury and exclusivity that one would expect for a much higher price. It was absolute paradise on that tiny little spot in the Pacific Ocean, seasoned with love by exceptional caring and helpful staff. If you want to spoil yourself with some peace and tranquillity you will find it here.
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