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April - May 2014

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Kiss The Ground Presents 

Birds of Paradise

Birds of Paradise by Morag Brownlie



Turn up the love... in this Cabaret Bird-lesque Comedy.

Opulent and flamboyant…gorgeously romantic…full of surprises and performed by a most charming menagerie, including songbird Caitlin Smith, and sizzling dancers - Georgie Goater, Mike Holland, Vivio Ramos, Julie Van Renen and Belinda Moore.

"Birds of Paradise is amazing. I think I’m in heaven" - David Farrier

"Erotic…sensuous, beautiful, touching, captivating and hilarious fun.” -

“Dance, comedy, burlesque, romance and satire, all rolled into one. An enormously engaging show” - Russell Brown

“Birdwatching is boring. Yeah right..." -

“Terrifically clever, wonderfully funny, and quite seriously, better than its own blurb. It really is brilliant... erotic without being rude, sensuous, beautiful, touching, captivating, and hilarious fun"

“A superlative available to reviewers that I have never used is ‘Original’ this is it, and for me the full package” -

“Birds of Paradise ..A world-class production, was whimsical, funny, erotic and beautifully set by the lakeside at Hamilton Gardens” -

“Birds of Paradise is a sumptuous sensory feast. Ms Brownlie is to be applauded for her originality – which borders on eccentricity – as this work mixes cabaret, burlesque, dance, comedy and ornithology into something that quite defies any genre of its own” -

“Of global appeal” -

Oh, and wear a fascinator, it will be worth your while.


Showing In:



Fri 2 & Sat 3 May, 8.45pm


Comedy Chamber, Auckland


Adults $42.00
Conc. $36.00
Groups 6+ $36.00* service fees may apply


09 970 9700

Show Duration:

1 hour 30 mins plus interval

Critics Review

Brenda Rae Kidd -'Faaabulous Birdlesque Comedy...'open/close

The opening night of Birds of Paradise was whimsical, funny, erotic and beautifully set by the lakeside at Hamilton Gardens.

One could add more superlatives but there is something that should be said above all else …'Get ye along tonight (and anyone you can grab) to witness this treat! Do not miss this opportunity to see a world-class production - here in the Tron - while you can.

Birds of Paradise is described as a romantic, birdlesque comedy. It sure is that and so much more. A creation of Morag Magnolia Brownlie, Birds of Paradise is a sumptuous sensory feast. Ms Brownlie is to be applauded for her originality – which borders on eccentricity – as this work mixes cabaret, burlesque, dance, comedy and ornithology into something that quite defies any genre of its own.

Staged outdoors for the very first time, the surrounding vista of lake, willowy trees, reeds and starlight night are so much part of the appeal. It is hard to imagine that Birds of Paradise were not designed for such. A dizzying array of costumes, so breathtakingly beautiful and strikingly reminiscent of our feathered friends, are molded to the dancers lithe bodies as they glide strut and peck across the stage. The musical accompaniment is evocative and thoughtfully arranged by New Zealand musician and composer Sean James Donnelly (SJD) and peppered with gems from Gold Frapp, Bonobo and Sola Rosa. Well-known New Zealand songstress Caitlin Smith's voice is in fine fettle as she opens the evening with birdsong. The dancers are all accomplished artists in their own right and this shows in their athleticism and poise on what is actually a very small stage.

The enchanted expressions on the faces of the audience said it all. Many of the women had adorned their best fascinator for the spectacle and were aptly rewarded for their efforts. Audience participation is an aspect of this performance that is enjoyed by cast and onlookers alike.

Birds of Paradise deserves accolades beyond this writer's effort.

Brian The Tiger -'Those in the know turned up dressed to the nines in full feathered fanciness making it look as though we were there for a fashion show rather than a cabaret. These feathered beauties were only outdone by the opulence and decadence of the costumes that we were about to see on stage...'open/close
Boobs! There I said it, now I can concentrate. If you go see Birds of Paradise, there is no doubt that you will see boobs and chiselled bodies, but you’ll also see a whole lot more. With a two night season in the comedy festival (2nd & 3rd May)

Birds of Paradise is a cabaret bird-lesque comedy that gives an ornithological and humorous account of love, loss, passion and betrayal within the mating rituals of our own New Zealand native birds. The show features dance routines, musical numbers and tongue in ‘cheep’ humour sewn together by two ‘unlucky in love’ bird watchers (one being an aptly impersonated ‘David Attenborough’ played by ‘James Crompton’) who are thrust together by their combined interest and taught how to love by their fascinating companions.

Those in the know turned up dressed to the nines in full feathered fanciness making it look as though we were there for a fashion show rather than a cabaret. These feathered beauties were only outdone by the opulence and decadence of the costumes that we were about to see on stage.

For anyone that appreciates fine things this has to be one of the highlights. The ‘Trellise Cooper’ designed and inspired garments on display are truly amazing. There were also other standout performances, included in this are all of the dancers, each portrayed their feathered character with poise, grace and uncannily accurate bird like movements. The final dance from ‘Georgie Goater’ and ‘Mike Holland’ was superb but the show stealing performance of ‘Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)’ from ‘Nicole Steven’ is one not to be missed!

Birds of Paradise has moments of brilliance, scattered will individual bursts of talent throughout but overall I can’t help but think the storyline is a little confused. The ordering of scenes needs reviewing and personally I feel that there could be less explaining of what the audience are experiencing by the female bird watcher who seemed to fall in and out of character. The show runs a little long at around two hours with intermission and could be tightened up. In saying that though, I believe that you will and should get an opportunity to see Birds of Paradise again. It has great promise to be a spectacular show and is definitely entertaining.

Read more:
Celine Sumic -'An Inspiring, Mindful Work Of International Class...'open/close
Fashioned from top local talent and delivered with choreographer Morag Magnolia Brownlie's characteristic humour and sensitivity, the disarmingly beautiful Birds of Paradise is a unique blend of feathery fantasy and environmental fairy tale.

Woven together with a thread of vocal gold, this unusual show features an outstanding mix of live and recorded sound integrating a contemporary, experimental use of voice with the recorded riches of Sean James Donnelly and others. Mixed in the moment by sound operator Marc Paton, the score of Birds of Paradise has an unusual sonic dimensionality, with its layered, collaborative quality reflective of the personality and choreographic intellect behind the work.

"Thank you for leaving your technology at home," applauds Brownlie to the audience at the beginning of the show, although arguably we never quite do, with the impact of technology carried within the constructs of our identities, our senses and subjectivities, as well as our expectations and perspectives on life and art ...

Joining the journey of sound, an unfolding narrative of ecological warning is played out amongst a series of danced unveilings. Layers of opulent costuming, designed by Brownlie and featuring significant creative contributions by Trelise Cooper and others, create a strangely oscillating aesthetic experience given the context of the low key venue, leaving me with the feeling I have stepped inside the zoom function of Google Earth.

Towering above us from a pair of black stilts, replete in black crinoline frock (a fabric expanse Brownlie refers to as a 'story book'), there is an otherworldly quality to this work that reminds me of Wim Wender's Wings of Desire. The angelic inference, found in the choreographer's surreal stance as she sprinkles the audience with handfuls of glitter and snatches of bird song, is underscored by her initially monochromatically-clad cast who subsequently dramatically unveil over the evening in sequential bursts of colour.

An intellectual work gracefully wrapped in the playful cellophane of fantasy, Birds of Paradise observes the absence of the female figure in contemporary children's mythology, bridging questions of gender identity and ecological concerns with embodied expressions of both human and ornithological courtship. "Have you noticed," Brownlie observes in lilting, story-telling tone as she prepares to rewrite The Hungry Caterpillar as a she-male, "even pink Piglet is a boy."

Falling from an ethereal, black-stilted height, her words land together with a handful of glitter, somewhere on my skin, contributing to the dissolve of the paradigmatic 'fourth wall' between audience and performer.

Full of surprises, moments of pathos and sexually competitive humour, Brownlie's lightly played work of feminist regard is further developed by her inclusion of male dancers in this contemporary and ethically provocative take on the burlesque form. As the sequential removal of layers of costuming from the female dancers eventually reveal a triplicate splash of bright-pink satin frills, shaken in impressive tail-feather style to Beyonce's hot Single Ladies by sparkly-shoed Naressa Gamble, Georgie Goater and Seonaid Lyons, male dancers Mike Holland and Vivio Ramos create a striking contrast with their chiselled bodies and expressive faces.

Alternating with Brownlie's frequent interpolations, a wide-eyed Jonathan Brugh plays the studiously attentive David Attenborough, lacing together various sections of the show with his finely crafted comic ease. The expressivity of the face, together with elements of courtship rituals interpreted within contemporary, hip-hop and Latin-American dance vocabulary make this work a multi-dimensional choreographic challenge tackled by the artists involved with a collective coy conviction.

Integrating performance theme, dancers' costuming and audience members' hair-dos (encouraged via the advertising and ticketing information), all contribute to the sense of intimacy of the work, along with a frequent use of the aisles as part of the performance space. Brownlie, Mika, Henry Ah-Foo Taripo, Cuban Groove (Greydis Montero and Vivio Ramos) and Pacific Sway (Aruna Po-Ching and Feeonaa Wall) all make notable appearances in this area.

Of global appeal, with an outstanding use of sound and costume and the integration of themes of identity, femininity and environmental concern, Birds of Paradise is an inspiring, mindful work. A genius of casting, Henry Ah-Foo Taripo's transcendental voice and Georgie Goater's luminous delivery of danced abandon and delicate bird-like nuance mark them out as artistic lights in this undeniably fantastic collaboration of local talent.

While arguably a little too long in its current form, with some editing and attention to transitions Birds of Paradise suggests a performance product of international class.

One of the best shows I've seen this year.
Liv Barnett -'If I were to give stars, this one would get the full set!'open/close
Well this one really was a feast for the eyes, New Zealand’s very own burlesque cabaret comedy company; a show full of fun, feathers and frivolity. I was so impressed by the collection of bizarre and fantastical creatures that filled the stage that I could barely keep my mouth closed. The men were jaw-droppingly gorgeous and the women were all incredibly talented and beautiful dancers/singers. I am totally not one for musicals, but this camp ballet rendition of David Attenborough and his episode on the Papua New Guinean Bird of Paradise was really special. Having watched the doco where Attenborough demonstrates how a Papua New Guinean tribe perform their coupling ritual dances and songs, inspired by the mating dance of the Bird of Paradise, this performance was a step further; people actually pretending to be the birds and performing the dances as birds.

The show took place in the Town Hall Concert chamber, a faux baroque room which made a perfect setting for the flamboyant costumes, especially the butterfly on stilts who moved through the crowds at various moments. Split in two by an interval, the first part introduced us to David Attenborough (the actor looked like Noel Fielding) and his watching of the Birds and witnessing the impregnation of a lady bird, followed by her male counterpart running off and snogging another bird in the corner. This dramatic event was followed by the pregnant birdy in her awesome pink onesy dancing to Beyonce’s “All the Single Ladies” with her two sisters. This scene was closely followed by a lady birdwatcher dressed as a tui meeting David Attenborough in the forest and commenting on his equipment, “Oh what enormous binoculars!” and Attenborough replying “Would you like to hold them?” – we then saw the ‘real’ Tui who was a devilishly sexy woman in shimmery gear. Never thought I would see a Tui in nipple tassles! The second half began with the funeral of a buzzard who was then resurrected and able to continue his pursuit of a woman in the audience with Another Level’s “I wanna get freaky with you” in the background.

The show was a string of innuendos and ballet interpretations of bird fornication. It made for hilarious watching and despite the surreal nature of the performance, there was enough of a story to carry the audience through to the end, feeling the ups and downs of love and relationships in bird world. Plus the accompanying music was great with a mix of Bonobo, Nils Frahm and Lorde setting the atmosphere. If I were to give stars, this one would get the full set!

Read more:
Natalie Dowd -'Terrifically Clever, Wonderfully Funny...'open/close
Planning on a well deserved night out, just to sit, relax and enjoy, and to hopefully forget the trials and tribulations of 2011, (and the guilt that I am meant to be somewhere else, but had tickets bought for me before I knew the date clashed), I have simply come to the show, ignoring the call for reviewers.

But once the show begins, I find I simply have to write about it, despite the absence of pen and notebook. Much has already been said (see reviews linked at the foot of this page) so I am not going to break it down piece by piece. I'd prefer you go and chew it yourself, along with yummy pizza and a nice drink in the rustic setting that is The Sawmill Café.

So, this is “not a review”, or let's say, given my lack of notes and time it's going to be the quickest review I've ever written, minus research. What I do know is that Birds was first presented in 2009 and has had several outings, with some cast changes, and some editing and choreographic changes as the show has matured. Unfortunately, as this is my first viewing, I am unable to make comparisons.

Amongst all the superlatives available to a reviewer, one word I have never used is "original", but this show is all that. At last: Something truly different, and for me; the complete package. It's a unique mix of entertainment, art, costumes to die for, laughs, fun, audience participation, delightful surprises, and not least of all, great fusion of dance genres within the clever choreography performed by fully focused, and completely committed dancers.

‘Oldies' Mike Holland, Georgie Goater and Seonaid Lyons, are joined by new recruits Vivio Ramos Julie Van Renen, Claire Barrett, and Sophie Brooke Taylor. All have become Birds, embodying their bird characters in finely honed bodies with clarity, precision and flair. Morag Magnolia Brown clearly has a knack for getting the best out of her menagerie and as a ‘mostly human' does a fine job herself alongside James Crompton aka David Attenborough. Julie Van Renen fits in nicely, and her final, at times breathtaking duet with Mike Holland is most memorable.

There are too many highlights to mention, but if I have to pick just one thing that takes this show above and beyond, it would be the fantastic comedic timing and inclusion of current ‘funnies'. In this regard Mike Holland in particular has to be mentioned for his performances. Again, I am not going to give anything away. Suffice to say that Birds of Paradise is erotic without being rude, sensuous, beautiful, touching, captivating, hilarious fun and then, ‘Nek Minnit': A death and an ecology lesson!!

The lighting is simple, and the music, which is varied and flits from recorded to live song delivered beautifully surprises me at times, in the best possible way. Yet one more occasion to make me think; how clever. There is a brief distortion of sound at one point, but is quickly fixed to make it barely noticeable.

Doris Humphrey said all dances are too long, and on the whole, I'd agree, but if she was watching Birds, she'd have to recant, and despite slight discomfiture at the not quite nudity in the birdbath there is not a Tui or any other ornithological moment to be missed.

Birdwatching is boring... Yeah right.

The Birds of Paradise Highlights show is terrifically clever, wonderfully funny, and quite seriously, better than its own blurb. It really is brilliant, so this is my tweet: don't even THINK about not going if you want a great evening out. If not tonight, then go to the next (oh please!) season. Oh, and wear a fascinator, it will be worth your while.

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