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.
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