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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!

Where the Water Lies | Regional News

Where the Water Lies

Written by: James Ladanyi

Directed by: James Cain

Meanwhile Gallery, 21st Feb 2023

Reviewed by: Stanford Reynolds

In the stark but intimate Meanwhile gallery, the audience is seated on an assortment of borrowed chairs to hear James Ladanyi’s monologue Where the Water Lies. Ladanyi tells us about events in his life – from a date at the beach, a movie night with friends, to watching rugby at the pub. His story highlights the cause and effect that tie these moments together into something more significant, and while at first the pieces of the story are jumbled and unrelated, they come together like a satisfying puzzle. This is underscored by his description of the background of the Rubik’s cube, then solving one on stage after a member of the audience has shuffled it – all while effortlessly continuing in his telling of the story.

A table lamp that flashes different colours and ethereal music to begin and end the show (design by Nino Raphael, direction by James Cain) help to make the most of the simple space, but it is Ladanyi’s energy and connection with the audience that really suck us in. At times he is infectious and dynamic, and at others wistful and nostalgic, balancing changing between these emotions skilfully. While at first the audience is waiting for the point of connecting the pieces to become apparent, and some of the comedic timing gets lost, the structure of the script engages us as the picture Ladanyi is painting comes into focus.

During the show, Ladanyi hangs pieces of art by local artists that reflect ideas in the work, and at the end we are invited to come forward to appreciate them more closely. This is a nice touch, and imparts the feeling that the telling of his story has changed the space.

Where the Water Lies is a personal but relatable story about moments when life decides to happen to us, the cause and effect normally invisible behind events in our lives, and appreciating the coincidences and serendipity this all energises.

Hell School: The Musical | Regional News

Hell School: The Musical

Directed by: James Wenley

Hannah Playhouse, 21st Feb 2023

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

“I work 24 hours a day to make this hell a home”, Joker (Jules Daniel) exclaims, and I have to be honest here, Hell School: The Musical does make me feel back at home… in the halls of high school. Dun dun dun.

You either peaked in high school or it was your living hell. Hell School: the Musical encapsulates exactly that, with a little bit of demonic possession and the supernatural to really hammer it home. Hell School captures the ethos of teenage angst, when everything seems like the end of the world. The show exaggerates this but also honours those feelings without diminishing them from a perspective of hindsight.

A product of the Victoria University – Te Herenga Waka Theatre 302: Conventions of Musical Theatre course, Hell School: The Musical is a full-length, well and proper musical with two acts, catchy numbers, plot twists, smashing choreography (Elora Battah), some brilliant lighting effects (show designer Scott Maxim), and an oh-so-suave band, The Butt Plugs. Though the audio was rough – the mics cut in and out and at times the music could be louder than the singing – Hell School was a hellishly devious adventure, sits on extremely promising bones, made everyone laugh maniacally, and had some truly divine moments.  

The whole cast wrote and composed the songs, which is a monumental achievement. In fact, I would especially like to praise Lily Fitzgerald as musical director and in her role as Ed… you are so cool. Daniel’s Joker has great stage presence; Jayden (Caleb O’Halloran) and Jessica (Battah), the high school sweethearts, are honest and tender; Liv Pettitt as Dana is the epitome of a snooty celebrity; Sophie Helm, playing Maggie, has a gorgeous voice; former head prefect Alice, portrayed by Annie Black, is expertly acted throughout her entire arc; and Ezra (Aylana Francis-Darrah) is oh-so loveable.

My favourites, however, are Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs, and Spades (Zayne Barefoot, Marie Katsanos, Faith Holley, and Lulu Harkness respectively). Oh, you want to know why? I guess you’ll have to go find out! Muahahaha.

CAUTION WET FLOOR  | Regional News


Presented by: Brick Haus Productions NZ

Directed by: Genoveva Reverte

Te Auaha, 21st Feb 2023

Reviewed by: Kate Morris

Grab your passport and turn on your out-of-office, we’re heading to the airport. And you won’t even need to queue for security. Winner!

It’s Christmas Eve and we are introduced to Francis (Jackson Burling), a loveable but lonely airport cleaner. While scrubbing floors and cleaning up explosive post-curry messes, he dreams of a life where he is in the spotlight. We accompany Francis in his reverie away from this less-than glamorous existence, transported ourselves to a fantastical life of romances, far-off islands and numerous prestigious accolades for ‘best cleaner’ (seven nominations and seven wins, naturally).

As each new daydream unfolds, we can’t help but be swept away by the loveable character and his fantasies. The world Francis builds is so engaging that when reality inevitably comes crashing back, punctuated by every berating phone call from his boss, it’s not just Francis that has to wake up and smell the er… let’s say roses… coming from the toilet cubicle. The audience feels that deflation too.

Burling is such a stunning performer. He has an incredible command of his physical range and comic precision that will make you laugh and then break your heart in two seconds flat. This is most evident during a glimpse of Francis at, arguably, his truest self. He is at home, alone, no longer a cleaner nor living in his imagination. Just simply watching an episode of The Chase and heating up leftovers. An impactful and beautiful juxtaposition to the comic unfolding of Francis’ escapist fantasy, and yet so relatable – haven’t we all wished for something more?

There is little dialogue, but Burling’s impeccable physicality and expression, accompanied by the selective soundtrack and creative lighting (Genoveva Reverte), speak volumes. The synchronicity of these elements keeps the piece engaging from start to finish.

Brick Haus Productions are quickly becoming known for their thought-provoking work that asks us to think of our relationships with ourselves, our communities, and one another. CAUTION WET FLOOR is no exception.