Saturday, November 29, 2014


Empire is a travelling circus-type entertainment show, which has travelled the world with their own spiegeltent, which is set up in various open-air places in the cities of the world. This arrangement means that they don't have to try to fit their equipment onto various different-sized and differently set up stages in theatres, which could have disastrous effects if something went wrong.

The show is billed as an adult entertainment, and whilst there's no nudity, it does contain some semi-naked men and women, and "adult themes" and language. There was also the promise of comedy, vaudeville, and burlesque. Who could resist? Certainly not us!

We met up in the Crab Shack for some dinner beforehand - another of Simon Gault's restaurants, where they provide you with mainly seafood-based dishes. Nicola and I both went for the Cajun-spiced fish of the day, which was gurnard. It's an informal dining arrangement, - there's no bookings - so we turned up with plenty of time in case we couldn't get a table straight away. In the event we were seated straight away, but waited a bit whilst our party assembled.

A short walk down the waterfront to the spiegeltent, set up outside St John's Bar on what I had hitherto not known was called Odlin's Plaza, where we met the rest of our party and settled into our booth. A waitress took our order for wine, and we waited for the show to begin.

The show starts with a contortionist in a perspex ball, To call the rest of the show an acrobatic spectacular is to seriously undersell it. That they could do various acrobatic feats is a given - it was the entertainment value that was added in that makes it spectacular. And very funny too - where Cirque De Soleil is too far up it's own arse with seriousness, this was very funny. You'll never look at a banana in the same way again, that's for sure!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The ABBA Show

Once upon a time there was Abba. When they came to an end, the Abba tribute band was born. First off, and king amongst tribute bands, was Bjorn Again. They looked like Abba, dressed like Abba, played like Abba, sang like Abba. But times move on, and with the multiplicity of bands around, there is bound to be some variation. The ABBA Show featuring ABBAsolutely FABBAulous (oh, to capitalise or not to capitalise? The first-world dilemmas of the modern blogger!) came to Wellington to play their unique Aussie-style Abba impersonations.

What's the difference? Well, firstly the clothes were more "inspired by Abba" than actual facsimiles of the costumes worn by the band. Similarly, apart from Bjorn (in a wig - I sincerely hope) they didn't look much like them. OK, one girl was blonde, the other not, one guy played a piano, another guitar. (They also had a bassist and a drummer, but they sat at the back). So the music was completely live, not just performed to a backing track, which was good. Also, the girls could sing (not a given in all tribute bands) - possibly better than the originals.

Occasionally, they chatted amongst themselves, in what were supposed to be Swedish accents, but actually sounded German. They also interacted with the audience to encourage singing along and dancing. At one point Benny threw a tantrum on stage - "it's called Dancing Queen, not Sitting Queen!"

However, none of this mattered. To an audience mostly in their 40s or 50s (some had dragged their kids along, who must have been mystified by the whole spectacle) it was a spectacular wallow in nostalgia. Inevitably, some had dressed up for the occasion. Equally inevitably, some of those that did shouldn't have gone out in public in that.

As anyone who's been to a tribute band show before will know, you know all the songs. They did play one song I'd not heard before (I've Been Waiting For You), but it turns out that this was released as a single in Australia and New Zealand, where it was a hit. Otherwise they stuck to the standard repertoire of hits we all know and love.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


It's that time of year again, when people who normally act "normal" (well, "normal for Norfolk", anyway) start growing a patch of fuzz on their upper lip, all in aid of charity. Yes, I have once again been persuaded to take part in this moustachaganza. It's being organised through work, who have come up with the achingly dull team name of NZ Risky Mo Bros.

I'm currently ranked at 3,015th in New Zealand, which isn't very high, and is largely due to my having received a share of team donation of $2. So now's your chance to rocket me up the charts with a donation! Send it

Sunday, November 2, 2014


Bill Bailey has returned to New Zealand to tour his latest show, "Limboland".  Unfortunately, Nicola is currently representing her country at an international event in Baltimore, so was unable to attend. Would I let this deter me? No, I would not, and I was accompanied by Siobhan, a friend from dancing.

First, dinner. I consulted my Entertainment Book and decided that Shed 5 would be the optimal dining experience before the show. Shed 5 is part of Simon Gault’s Wellington empire, and has recently (-ish) halved in size to accommodate his new venture, Crab Shack, which now occupies half the building and is also a very nice place to dine…but it’s more casual, and also they don’t take bookings, so as we were on a schedule, Shed 5 got the vote. The menu is 90% fish-based, so we had fish – snapper and tuna, respectively, with salads for starters. It was, as expected, high quality nosh.

We toddled down to the Michael Fowler Centre in time to be seated, and then Bill Bailey came on. If you’ve ever seen Bill Bailey, you’ll know that his show is a mixture of comedy, ramblings, and musical interludes. Belgians featured heavily, as did British self-deprecation, when he compared how an American would describe their weekends (“Awesome!”) compared to how a Brit would (“not too bad, all things considered”). With brief interludes for music (Abba’s “Waterloo” in the style of Rammstein, “Wrecking Ball” by Kraftwerk…really, he’s got a thing about Kraftwerk, as you’ll know if you’ve ever seen this), and why certain accents don’t work in death metal. There was also a long involved story about a goose, which tied in with his concern for animal conservation. That it also included armed undercover policemen should come as no surprise, really.

I left the theatre with tears rolling down my face. Not too bad, all things considered.