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Circa's triumph and a little a-Muse-bouche

By Heather 7 Apr 2016 • 1 Comments

Circa turns 40 this year. That’s to be applauded in an industry often impacted by the economic times.

To celebrate, they're re-presenting the play Joyful and Triumphant, commissioned and first performed at the 1992 NZ International Festival. It chronicles the Bishop family’s trials and tribulations over 40 years from the late 1940’s to the late 1980’s - an incidental epic!

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The story goes from Christmas day to Christmas day across various years (1949, 1957, 1961, 1968, 1972, 1978, 1981 and 1989), with each scene set at a progressively later time of day (the 1949 scene is at 8am, the 1957 is at 10am etc). This gives the flow of a whole Christmas day by the end of the play, with a natural wrap up at 10pm in 1989. Society’s beliefs and values at each of those times are cleverly demonstrated, with the audience alternately laughing out loud or cringing at the memories provoked (yours truly included!). So be prepared to leave some of your cultural and political sensitivities at the door. 

There’s a cast of experienced actors covering three generations, and a number of absentee characters cleverly brought to life through dialogue. I’m not going to discuss the plot so there’s no spoilers, but the stand out performances for me were Peter Hambleton as the patriach, Catherine Downes as the busy-body neighbour, and just quietly, Katherine McRae who undergoes quite a transformation from start to finish. 

A play definitely worth seeing for the little slice of NZ history that it is. 

And you know any outing I’m involved with must have food right? 

Given Circa’s Encore restaurant is currently closed and Muse on Allen have now re-opened as the Muse Eatery and Bar in Chews Lane (in the old 3C premises), a pre-show graze seemed in order.

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"Good food doesn’t need to be formal." 

That’s the byline from Executive Chef and Owner Samuel North on his new Muse Eatery website (currently down but soon to be sorted). And that’s exactly what Muse delivers. Tasty and well executed food in a casual setting. 

The food is simpler than at Muse on Allen, but still has smarts in the flavour/texture balances, and a bit of time invested in some of the dishes. In summary:

  • The beef short rib croquette with parsnip cream, braised cabbage and wholegrain mustard was rich and beefy, tender inside and crispy outside, and well complimented by the creamy parsnip and savoury cabbage.
  • The beer battered market fish was fresh and plentiful, with a crispy batter and very satisfying triple cooked chips.
  • The dessert burger had a clever slightly runny ‘egg’ yolk and the strawberry jelly and mint gave a real lift to the thick chocolate marquise 'patty'. Not a five minute job this dish.
  • And the potted chocolate mousse with chocolate soil and mint ice cream was surprisingly not overpowering for all that chocolate, still moderately dense and (we think!) with some sweet strawberry inside.

The food came promptly, so Muse is definitely a shoe-in for pre-show dining. They're also open for lunches, with a changing daily $15 special, which looks pretty good value for the meals listed. Keep an eye on their Facebook page to see the current week’s offerings. 

The drinks feature Asahi beer and a usual range of other suspects, wines are mostly NZ (other than the bubbles and big reds) and available by glass, carafe or bottle, and there’s a range of popular cocktails or non-alcoholics if you've gotta go back and face the boss after lunch (choose your weapon!). 

The décor is similar to previously, with the bar and casual nibbles downstairs, restaurant upstairs, and the kitchen between the two. The service was very welcoming and attentive from young keen staff, and there was a pleasant eclectic mix of background music to cast the day’s stresses off to. Nice.

Joyful and Triumphant plays until 7 May, and Muse are open Monday to Saturday, 11am til late.

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  • Janie on 7 Apr 2016

    Best lil Restaurant in Welly - Love LOVE it!!

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