Reviews - Regional News | Connecting Wellington


Truly Friday – Before They Were Famous | Regional News

Truly Friday – Before They Were Famous

Written by: Jackson Herman and Nathan Roys

2/57, 2nd March 2023

Reviewed by: Kate Morris

Back in 2011, in New York City, I giddily bought tickets from a tout for an intimate Flight of the Conchords show. Alas, my mother questioned the legitimacy of the tickets and marched us back for a refund. 12 years on I still regret that missed opportunity, but that changed after watching Truly Friday – Before They Were Famous.

I almost feel guilty making the comparison but the musical duo of Truly Friday – Jackson Herman and Nathan Roys – beat me to the punch, quipping that their “sustainably made comedy” recycles chord sequences straight from the Conchords. That’s not shade if you want something familiar, nostalgic, and hilarious, then this show is for you.

We witness Herman and Roys as they attempt to find that one song that will catapult them to fame. We open with a short film (by Kelsey Robson and edited by Ashneil Dutt) of a dramatic shootout with parallel and future versions of the boys, dead set on stopping our heroes from making it to the stage and setting off an unavoidable sequence of events. The footage ends with the duo wrestling with the blackout curtains, breaking the fourth wall as they take to the stage.

Set against acoustic love letters to pop punk and mid-2000s indie, we are taken on a journey through a myriad of cleverly crafted topics. The raunchy Sexy Serial Killer perfectly pokes fun at the misplaced fascination with and borderline eroticism of true crime, followed up with more on-the-nose hits about everything from killing billionaires to single moms and grieving that men can never experience lesbian sex. You know, the big stuff.

On top of their hysterical lyrics and musical flair, these two have chemistry in spades. Their banter between songs – both with each other and the audience – is infectious, all culminating in an onstage meat raffle and an ode to the great Kiwi tradition, Crate Day.

If you like your music funny, and your funny musical, you need to see this show. The future depends on it.

The Sensemaker | Regional News

The Sensemaker

Presented by: Woman’s Move

Created by: Elsa Couvreur

Gryphon Theatre, 1st Mar 2023

Reviewed by: Nikolai Bain

Imagine, if you will, a barren stage containing nothing but a chair, a seat, and a home phone. With just a couple of simple elements, what follows is a show based around an idea that is taken, flattened, stretched, bent into a triangle shape, and then thrown off the side of a building. It’s clever, it’s unusual, and it plays with awkwardness to lengths you’d have never thought possible.

The Sensemaker is a genre-bending solo performance from Elsa Couvreur (concept, choreography, soundtrack) featuring the back-and-forth of an answering machine robot and a woman waiting patiently. We can all relate to being stuck on hold on for far too long whilst having to endure some form of pop music or elevator chimes, but this show imagines just how bizarre and extreme this scenario could become. What if instead of responding by voice, you had to respond with claps? What if you had to agree to all terms and conditions over the phone? What if you had to perform a dance routine from High School Musical just to get your request submitted? In The Sensemaker, nothing is off the table. 

The show is as gripping as it is uncomfortable, with the performer standing still on the stage waiting for extended periods of time. That’s not to say that little is happening though; Couvreur knows exactly how to use awkwardness in a way that provokes and keeps the audience on the edge of their seats for the entire duration of the show. She is as skilful a writer as she is a performer, having to utilise precise timing to sync her movements and dance with the backing track that keeps The Sensemaker on course. 

We’re left to wonder – what exactly could she be waiting on the line for that makes it worth jumping through so many hoops? After everything that the performer goes through, let’s hope it’s for more than just to cancel a flight.

The Culture | Regional News

The Culture

Written by: Laura Jackson

Directed by: Bethany Caputo

Gryphon Theatre, 28th Feb 2023

Reviewed by: Zac Fitzgibbon

I don’t know how to begin a review of a show that made me feel virtually every emotion on the planet. Never have I laughed so much or felt so uncomfortable (in a good way) at the same time! This is all kudos to one fantastically crafted production. Written and performed by Laura Jackson as Katie, The Culture explores – through the close friendship of Katie and Will (the humorous Mina Asfour) – the dangers of romance in the modern world. Every word has been crafted for maximum impact. We get an intimate view of this dynamic duo, an ambitious woman and a gay man who take us on a journey of finding love that becomes all too real. So visceral, so captivating.

The lighting design (Capri Harris) and sound design (Charlotte Leamon) allow us to seamlessly flow from Katie and Will’s lounge to the wider Sydney area. This show translates well onto New Zealand soil; particularly because of how relevant the themes are to us. It finds a perfect balance of telling an important story beautifully interwoven with comedy and seriousness.

The Culture is an important conversation piece that all need to see for the way it addresses partner violence. People need to become aware of how real this is, how it is quite literally happening under our noses. What’s scary is I don’t know who I know that has gone or will go through this. What’s even scarier is I might know or be friends with the perpetrators of such actions. One-third of women in New Zealand have experienced partner violence to date. This show brings voice to the voiceless. It empowers those who are faced with such events that it is okay to stand up for yourself; it shines a light on something that is seldom spoken about or seen by others.

This piece moves me. I know that I will be thinking about it for weeks to come, and I hope that anyone who gets a chance to watch it will. The Culture is not to be missed.

Enter the Sandman | Regional News

Enter the Sandman

Written by: Keegan Thomas

Directed by: Keegan Thomas

The Fringe Bar, 28th Feb 2023

Reviewed by: Stanford Reynolds

Part stand-up, part informational slideshow, Enter the Sandman sees comedian Keegan Thomas detailing how, in 2022, he watched every Adam Sandler movie ever made – all 42 of them – just because he wanted to. Now, he gets to share all of the highs and lows of Sandler’s filmography with us.

The show begins with a video montage of Academy Award winners being announced, with Adam Sandler noted to be missing from the list. The use of the projector screen is a great warm-up act that has the audience laughing before Thomas even steps on stage. The screen is then used for the remainder of the performance as Thomas clicks through a hilarious slideshow, covering every one of Sandler’s films. A sound board is also used to support Thomas’ improvisation, and the lighting changes subtly for different emotional moments (lighting and music by Leki Lyons).

Thomas’ performance brings us into this manic hyperfixation with Sandler’s films so convincingly. The delivery is hurried and frantic, the slideshow looks like a school project that has been slapped together the night before it is due, and the soundboard is pushed to play absurd soundbites at random moments. The script is exceedingly varied, featuring such moments as an audience singalong, three different AI-generated raps about the Hotel Transylvania movies, and a crowd member being brought up to read a role in a scripted skit.

Thomas makes the most of every second on stage, squeezing in jokes and ideas at a speed that becomes a little unhinged – because who wouldn’t be after a whole year of Adam Sandler movies? At times the performance becomes rushed and unfiltered, and perhaps could have been edited down to make the comedy more apparent, but it also feels like the point is that the show is a chaotic rollercoaster ride.

The finale is a dive into the ‘Sandler-verse’ conspiracy theory, which alleges that all Adam Sandler films are connected in a shared universe. This theory does not entirely convince me, but Thomas’ frenzied energy on stage sure does.

In Bed with Schoenberg | Regional News

In Bed with Schoenberg

Written by: Dave Armstrong

Directed by: Conrad Newport

Circa Theatre, 26th Feb 2023

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

It's Friday the 13th of July 1951 and composer Arnold Schoenberg (Gavin Rutherford) has taken to bed in his Los Angeles home, convinced this is the day he will die. Having been forced to move to the US by the rise of Fascism in Europe, Schoenberg reminisces about his early life in Vienna where his atonal compositions and “horrible music” caused uproar and his students became more successful than him, his struggles in an unappreciative Hollywood, and his often-fractious relationships.

Andrew Laing who was originally cast as Schoenberg had to pull out at the last minute and his role has been admirably filled by Rutherford, who makes the stage his own. Shuffling around in pajamas and silk dressing gown, he is by turns grumpy and self-aggrandising, then vulnerable and undervalued. Coming from the pen of Dave Armstrong, the script was always going to be funny, and Rutherford especially shines in the moments of wry humour. He holds a full audience in thrall from start to finish.

Supporting, but never directly interacting with, Rutherford is a superb string quartet led by Dave’s brother Donald Armstrong on violin. Sophie Bird (violin), Sophia Acheson (viola), and Brenton Veitch (cello) work seamlessly alongside him to play snatches of Schoenberg’s work along with that of other greats, such as Mahler and Mozart. Somewhere Over the Rainbow even sneaks in. This balance between script and music is the play’s great success and brings to vivid life a composer whose work many Kiwis will be unfamiliar with. Schoenberg’s compositions were as eccentric as his personality and it is entirely appropriate to give them equal weight.

A beautifully simple set (William Smith) of bed, music stands, and oblong panels that look like beaten copper is cleverly lit (also Smith) to spotlight actor and musicians. A well-placed side light spectacularly throws half of Rutherford’s face into shadow when he talks about the Holocaust.

Overall, this is a beautifully scripted, played, and rendered production that hits every note.

U R Here | Regional News

U R Here

Presented by: Barbarian Productions

Directed by: Jo Randerson

Martin Luckie Park, 25th Feb 2023

Reviewed by: Stanford Reynolds

U R Here by Barbarian Productions is a unique experience – a choose-your-own adventure walk through Martin Luckie Park filled with surreal attractions and a story that can only unfold through exploration. Despite damp weather there is a reasonable turnout of people, so the park is bustling with an audience of all ages, surrounded by performers in loud, eccentric costumes. It feels like a carnival from another planet, and appreciation must be given to the craftsmanship of the quirky costumes, puppets, props, and set elements (set and costume design by Frankie Berge, puppets by Roxanne Black).

We are guided through the first part of the experience by enthusiastic ‘aunties’ in 80s athletic wear before setting out “into the unknown”. Our journey begins in a field with a range of games and activities. I particularly enjoy the zone covered in balls of mud with popsicle sticks in them, created by the audience over the day. We are asked to make one ourselves and write on the stick something we “know to be true”. This is one of many subtle ways that we are asked to reflect on ourselves before setting out on the wider adventure through the park. These self-observations turn the experience introspective as we consider who we are and genuinely see ourselves in the space. This idea is expanded on as we continue through the park and the devoted performers react to our input – we are as much a part of the performance as they are, and the story only progresses if we do.

This makes for a fascinating experience. The large performance area is taken advantage of to continually hide the next attraction from view around a bend. However, this does mean some of the walks between attractions are rather steep and slippery.

I find myself often asking, “Is this part of it?” when coming across different parts of the park, which, depending on your perspective, could be exasperating or exciting. U R Here is what the audience makes of it, and if you aren’t excited to participate, the frustration can outweigh the fun. Overall, I enjoyed the experience, and applaud Barbarian Production’s experimentation.

Lesbihonest | Regional News


Written by: Laura Piccinin

Ivy Bar and Cabaret, 24th Feb 2023

Reviewed by: Stanford Reynolds

Friday night at Ivy Bar, and the crowd is instantly on Laura Piccinin’s side as she begins to recount her coming out stories. Her wry, ironic delivery coupled with moments of expressive physicality get big, satisfying laughs from the audience along with enthusiastic whoops and cheers. The venue is intimate enough that there is opportunity for Piccinin to engage with us on an individual level, furthering our sense of familiarity and inclusion with her experiences.

Many parts of her show have broad relatability, and the listeners are just as likely to be nodding along as they laugh. Piccinin has dated both men and women, and knowingly tells us that “men are stupid, and women are insane”. This is one of many quips that have the audience roaring with laughter as she explains the experiences that have informed this oversimplified reasoning of hers. Piccinin also takes the opportunity to explain identities that exist between and outside the gender binary and their personal exploration of this, one of many satisfying moments where the audience feels seen; the room is welcoming and cosy for everyone along the sexuality and gender spectrums.

The social commentary that is mixed in is also witty and acute, covering ideas like the changing nature of what it means to be queer as society becomes more welcoming, but how the feelings of shame and guilt can linger – only making us feel more shameful and guilty for not being able to let go. Ultimately, this is a tale about learning to love oneself, despite all the confusion caused by the reactions of our loved ones, and the myriad of labels that can feel prescribed. Piccinin asks why queer people have to bear the responsibility of explaining and quantifying queerness – let straight people work it out, she says, and stop feeling an obligation to “come out”.

Piccinin doesn’t claim to have all the answers, and acknowledges personal slip-ups and confusion in her journey. It is this unabashed honesty that is so endearing about her performance.

Access | Regional News


Presented by: Hamish Annan

Created by: Hamish Annan

Te Auaha, 22nd Feb 2023

Reviewed by: Kate Morris

Fringe is like a box of chocolates… you never know what you’re going to get. And that unpredictability, that suspense, that adventure, is what keeps audiences coming back. The pieces I find most exciting are the ones that are ever-shifting. The ones that can be influenced and shaped by the audience, as well as the delicate nuances and energies in the room. These shows are rare, but when you find them they are always interesting. All of that rings true with Access, created by Hamish Annan in collaboration with Katie Burson and Rob Byrne.

I’ve returned to Te Auaha for the third time in a week to soak up more of that delicious mystery. The audience is welcomed into a well-lit gallery space with sparse seating. At the centre are two vacant chairs inside an intimate performance space, tidily marked out with tape. On the wall are the instructions for engaging with the performer, Annan: “This performance includes: Aggression, Happiness, Grief, Lust, Disgust”. Audience members are instructed that one person at a time may sit with Annan and request an emotion. The prompted emotion is then performed for as long as the contributor remains seated. 

Access is an exploration of authentic human emotion. Emotions of performer, prompter, and we the spectators. The audience becomes part of the work, with every empathic tilt of their head in response to grief, every eyebrow lift to lust, and each flinch from aggression. Each response is incredibly moving and visceral.

Annan is a valorous performer, poignantly expressing each emotion with breath and facial expressions, without physical contact or dialogue. The result is something truly guttural and deeply confronting.  At its heart, this performance art is about human connection and emotional vulnerability. An unforgettable, alive, and incredibly unique experience, existing solely for the participants who happen to be there in that place in time – like a journal entry. And since every performance is different, what will your entry be?

Just The Tip or A Guide to Strip Club Etiquette | Regional News

Just The Tip or A Guide to Strip Club Etiquette

Written by: Vixen Temple

Directed by: Shaun ‘Cloud’ Swain

Ivy Bar, 22nd Feb 2023

Reviewed by: Nikolai Bain

Come one, come all, and experience the tales from a strip club that you never thought you’d hear, including the highs and lows of the culture, clientele, and craziness of what happens on stage and behind the curtains. 

Just The Tip is an eye-opening storytelling comedy show that explores the etiquette of strip clubs by weaving through the stories of several different personalities that stop by. Set from the point of view of the audience as a new stripper on the first day of the job, writer and performer Vixen Temple talks the audience through the kind of customers she often sees before transforming into the various roles before our very eyes. 

From Bruce the Tradie (“Don’t get too close ladies, I’m a married man!”) to Leo the Male Feminist (“I’m actually in a band, we’re called The Generic White Guys”), Vixen delves into these examples of obnoxious strip club ‘civilians’ (the sex industry’s name for the non-sex-industry population), and their various different excuses for why they don’t need to tip. The audience even meets some female ‘civilians’ that end up being just as bad as the men for different reasons, including Sarah the Girl Boss and even a hens bride who’s had far too much to drink and fails to grasp just how loud her “WOOOOOO”s are. 

Just The Tip was the perfect show to grab a drink at the bar, find a good seat, and sneak in sips between the all-too-frequent laughs. Vixen’s performance was outstanding, offering valuable insight and perspective into an industry from a person who clearly knows it better than a fish knows water. The show was a joy to watch, funny till the very end, and more importantly, showed a side of the industry that we don’t often reflect on. If you’re lucky enough to catch the show, know that you’re in for a ride and above all else, don’t forget to tip!