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People to watch this month: Kip Chapman, theatre director

Jun 3, 2016 Theatre

Above: Esther Stephens and Kip Chapman. Photo: Alex Burton. 

That Bloody Woman started life last year in a Spiegeltent at the Christchurch Arts Festival. It’s a punk-rock opera telling the story of Kate Sheppard, the crusading feminist who in the late 19th century led the fight for women to vote. The show filled the tent; the audiences were enraptured. Now it’s coming to Auckland, courtesy of the Auckland Theatre Company, the original cast and crew — including director Kip Chapman and the riveting Esther Stephens in the lead role — all still in place.

Chapman’s a nervy guy, skinny, always in cap and T-shirt, bright eyes shining, hands waving, talking in a clipped, fast, forceful way. “If Kate Sheppard was around,” he says, “she’d be a punk. She knew that sometimes you’ve got to throw the table over, wake people up.”

The show was created by men (Luke Di Somma and Gregory Cooper) and it’s directed by a man; how does that work? “I’ve relied a lot on the women in the team,” says Chapman. “The show has changed in development because of their viewpoints.”

Chapman’s just back from his honeymoon in New York — with Todd Emerson, who’s one of the stars of Daffodils (read more about that here) — and he’s full of the joys of Broadway. And the not-quite-joys. That Bloody Woman, he reckons, stands up very well. “We saw lots of musicals and most of them were tonally similar throughout. This show is different. It’s got gospel, punk, ballads, it’s like Sgt Pepper, you know? A concept album with an eclectic range, the whole works.”
They’re in the SkyCity Theatre: how will that compare with the Spiegeltent?

“It’ll be great. We’re going to fill that space, too. Luke Di Somma, you know, he’s a force of nature. He’s given us this extraordinary big thing. I think what he’s done, and Esther, she’s so amazing, and so are the others, it feels like we could be anywhere in the world.”

That Bloody Woman, SkyCity Theatre, June 9-26.


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