Youth Ambassador Review: On the Upside Down of the World

Our youth ambassadors, Rachel and Liv, went along to On The Upside Down of the World on Thursday night. Here are their thoughts......


Beautiful,moving and expertly told, On the Upside Down of the World is an inspirational story about one young English woman's journey of discovery: discovery of a new way of life and a new culture in the rugged wilderness of New Zealand, yet it is also a journey of self-discovery. 

The play tells the story of the Lady Mary Ann Martin (based on her memoirs) as she moves- young, disabled and almost entirely alone - halfway across the world to be with her husband, who she hardly knows, in a strange new country full of strange new culture. Despite initially clinging to the narrow colonial view that she must teach the native 'savages' of New Zealand, the Maori people, to be 'civilised', Mary quickly learns that in order to survive in this new environment she must force herself to look at the world in a different way. She decides to learn Te Reo and with this opens herself up to a whole new way of life and discovers that she can learn as much from Maori she lives with, if not more, than they will learn from her. With determination and a willingness to experience a new culture, Mary quickly begins to understand just how arrogant and closed-minded the colonisation by Europeans can be, and just how beautiful tikanga Maori is.

As a one woman show about colonial New Zealand, the premise of On the Upside Down of the World,  has the potential to go very wrong- but the witty and poetical script coupled with masterful storytelling by  Laurel Devenie (as Mary Ann Martin) makes this show a resounding success. Emotionally played; Devenie conjures up vivid images of bustling trade markets, deep bush and makeshift hospitals in moments,using the excellent script and set- a geometric tangle of ladders- to boost her performance. Her character grows from a naïve and frankly irritating teenager into a wise and compassionate woman who is willing to open herself up to try new experiences in a new world, with a deftness that pulls the audience every step of the way.

On the Upside Down of the World  is a play that all New Zealanders should watch. Not only is it a wonderfully engaging story - it is an important one. It reminds us of the troubles our country has faced in the past and continues to face today. It's a powerful story with a positive look toward what we can change for the future.




On the Upside Down of the World is a moving, heart warming and interesting piece that leaves you at the end of the show with a mixture of emotions of both sadness and joy. 

It is a captivating one-woman show directed by Colin McColl and starring Laurel Devenie as the character Mary Ann Martin. It is about a English woman who married New Zealand's first chief justice. It is a heart warming story of a woman having the opportunity to experience a whole new life and culture, and as I quote from the programme "[she] dared to dream of all possible in this brave new world."

Laurel Devenie is a stunning and captivating performer. She draws the audience in right from the very beginning with her bold actions, great humor and not to mention her beautiful costume that simply put the icing on top of a great cake. She delivered an impressive and compelling performance and we see a raw emotion from her in the show that left me on the brink of tears.

As my experience of being a youth ambassador for the Christchurch Arts Festival draws to a close, I could not imagine a better way to end it than by seeing this beautiful piece. It was  a show that I will not forget.