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Laser Kiwi – Rise of the Olive | Regional News

Laser Kiwi – Rise of the Olive

Te Auaha, 25th May 2023

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

Laser Kiwi is the world’s best and only surreal sketch circus trio. Zane and Degge Jarvie and Imogen Stone have a very particular set of skills, skills they have acquired over a very long career of dazzling audiences, first in their hometown of Wellington, then across the motu, and now around the world. Some of the skills you’ll know (juggling, balancing acts, aerial arts) and some you won’t (chopping airborne cucumbers, metamorphosing into olives).

Upon arrival, audiences are given 3D glasses and a run-sheet featuring such act titles as Casual Chat, End of Casual Chat, I am an Olive, Imagine an Ant, and Skrrrrrt Pow Pow. Zane assures the full house that the programme won’t help us make any sense of the show, so those who came for dedicated nonsense need not fear.

He’s quite right. Even with it in front of me, I can’t match half of what I saw to what’s listed – especially $548. What I can see and what is a unique and delightful component of the show is Laser Kiwi’s own ratings of the segments. The silly, 10-second Foot First, in which a grinning Zane reveals he’s wearing crocodile socks underneath a pair of crocs, gets the first 10 of the night. ▯▯▯▯▯▯ Rap, which sees Stone showcase colossal strength, grace, and acrobatic agility in a breathtaking aerial rope routine, scores an eight.

Laser Kiwi turns botches into comedy gold, like the crackling mics (which become a highlight of the show thanks to the stroppy sass of sound technician Dean Holdaway) and a gravity-defying stunt involving catching an olive in a martini glass. It misses over and over, yet we’re wildly invested and celebrate the eventual win as if it’s our own. They push boundaries of what should be physically possible as well as what is ‘appropriate’, taking big swings that hit the olive out of the park every time… bar one. I do wonder, had that contentious joke landed, would the payoff be worth the consequences of it sinking?

My friend and I had a glorious time with the indescribable, inimitable Laser Kiwi. We chuckled and chortled, squealed and snorted, and ate up olive it.  

Hi, Delusion! | Regional News

Hi, Delusion!

Directed by: Jess Joy Wood

BATS Theatre, 23rd May 2023

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

In a flash of spotlight, Johanna Cosgrove stalks onto the BATS stage in a slinky black satin dress, black veil, and thigh-high patent leather platform boots for an hour of unrelentingly bold sketch stand-up about her life and social observations.

Asking first “Have we f****d?”, this is not a show for the faint-hearted or easily offended and comes with an R16 rating. The F bombs and sexual references are plentiful in the following hour, as is the wickedly dark humour as Cosgrove takes us through a number of topics concerning her as she enters her third decade.

Starting with a bit of politics and how messed up Auckland is (did you know P has been detected in the central city air?), she moves swiftly into a hilarious send up of hens’ parties on Waiheke. Her love life and experiences of “overtherapised men” with no gumption comes next, along with unsuccessful sexting, a baby CEO, and why she wants a gay son. The false sense of oppression felt by those with white privilege and her allergies to “gluten, dairy, eggs, constructive criticism” come next.

We also hear about her experiences backpacking in the south of France, her views on cancel culture, Christians, and Gen Z, brawls with her sister, her parents’ cancer journeys, and her desire to play one of the leads in Daughters of Heaven. All of this is delivered with confidence, clarity, and a biting sense of humour that pulls no punches. That’s perhaps not to everyone’s taste and Cosgrove’s improvised reactions to the two people who left the auditorium partway through get some of the biggest laughs of the night.

Cosgrove’s three years at drama school shine through as she energetically demonstrates a hipster playing hacky sack in Cuba Street and a strip-club routine to Mumford & Sons’ Little Lion Man.

With its spicily candid wit and mesmerising solo execution, Hi, Delusion! cements Cosgrove as a comedy and performance force of nature. Strap in for the ride!

Loud & Queer | Regional News

Loud & Queer

Presented by: New Zealand Comedy Trust

St James Theatre, 20th May 2023

Reviewed by: Tanya Piejus

Loud & Queer is a one-off, two-hour show of stand-up and sketch comedy, songs, and drag performances as part of the New Zealand International Comedy Festival. The outpouring of audience support for Wellington’s queer community was palpable and exciting, and only enhanced a high-quality evening of entertainment.

Fabulous drag queen Judy Virago opened the show in one of three spectacular dresses she was to don throughout the evening. Co-host Tom Sainsbury’s dowdy arts administrator was a hilarious contrast. They were a fine pair of emcees who kept the performances rolling with interjections of their own feisty wit and repartee with audience members.

The bulk of the show was taken up by short sets from stand-up comedians Clarissa Chandrahasen, Neil Thornton, Mx. Well, Ryan McGhee, and Eli Matthewson, plus comedy duo Jez and Jace. The latter’s gauche, sexually repressed Wairarapa farming blokes and Matthewson’s story of his and his 62-year-old dad’s journeys to coming out were particular highlights in an excellent and eclectic comedy collection.

In an unexpected interlude, four members of the audience got involved doing catwalks along the stage for the chance to compete in a banana-swallowing contest. This was won by a game lady called Sandra who didn’t even wait for the countdown before she got stuck in and enthusiastically necked her fruit.

Drag acts Amanduh la Whore and Nova Starr bookended the show with stunning performances of powerful feminist songs. Starr’s rendition of This Is Me, the Bearded Lady’s song from The Greatest Showman, was a spectacular conclusion to the show, especially with the accompaniment of The Glamaphones, a 60-strong queer community choir. They had their own joyously performed set of three songs – Rainbowland, Don’t Tell Mama, and Go West.

The recent 4000-strong anti-TERF protest showed how much Wellington loves and values its LGBTQIA+ communities and Loud & Queer was a wonderful celebration of our diversity.

Guy Montgomery: My Brain is Blowing Me Crazy | Regional News

Guy Montgomery: My Brain is Blowing Me Crazy

Te Auaha, 17th May 2023

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

Guy Montgomery – as seen on Taskmaster NZ, 7 Days, Have You Been Paying Attention?, and “very, very briefly” on Celebrity Treasure Island – is one of my favourite New Zealand comedians. I jumped at the chance to see this NZ International Comedy Festival show from a Billy T Award winner who came up with The Worst Idea of all Time and, together with Tim Batt, proudly followed through with it. Multiple times.

There are no bad ideas here, although there sure are some interesting ones. In My Brain is Blowing Me Crazy, a 34-year-old man who was once a little boy tells us about the crazy place that is the world. That’s how Montgomery bills the show anyway, quoting “I’ve got a really good feeling about this one” in amongst other favourable reviews.

I don’t want to spoil any of his jokes, so very, very briefly, content includes the alphabet, jammies, horses, and the Bechdel test. Montgomery fries some bigger fish too, like the interesting lack of representation for stepparents in mainstream media despite how many blended families there are. Absolutely none of it has anything to do with the price of fish.

There’s a reason Montgomery is killing it in the comedy game, and I reckon it’s more to do with his delivery than the content itself, because he could make anything funny. This is a comedian who could sell laughs to a hyena. That being said, it’s very difficult to describe his comedy stylings in the first place, let alone without making multiple contradictions. He’s a very smart Guy with a magnetic stage presence who seems surprised we’re there and pleased he managed to dress himself. In amongst his absurd anecdotes and zigzag tangents, there is structure, composition, finesse. Everything he says is weird but makes sense. Too much sense. Like when two stoney-bolognas think they’ve discovered the meaning of life. He’s one, you’re the other.

On a high, my plus one and I walk out with big grins but one burning question that occurred to both of us repeatedly throughout the show: what actually is the price of fish?

The Tank | Regional News

The Tank


100 minutes

(4 out of 5)

Reviewed by: Alessia Belsito-Riera

I would like to preface this review by saying I’m not a horror movie gal. Quite frankly, I’m a big wuss. Give me the weirdest Fellini film or a twisted Coen brothers’ movie and I’ll be happy as Larry, but one jump scare and boom: blanket up to the ears. Don’t laugh – it is a proven fact that a blankie can protect you from anything.

I would also like to say I watched the new Kiwi film The Tank alone. I will take my gold star stickers now, thank you.

That said, I recently had the privilege of speaking with the director, writer, and producer of The Tank, Aucklander Scott Walker (check out our next issue for a fun close-up on him), and he informed me his 11-year-old and company were not scared in the slightest.

Well, I was. But isn’t that a good thing?

The Tank follows Ben (Matt Whelan), Jules (Luciane Buchanan), and their daughter Reia (Zara Nausbaum). After mysteriously inheriting an abandoned property along the Oregon Coast, the family accidently unleash an ancient creature (Regina Hegemann) that has terrorised the region, and Ben’s ancestors, for generations.

Initially the story seems to follow the classic creature-feature, but there is a great twist which I won’t spoil. It’s quite satisfying to see the mould broken a bit. The Tank also comments on human greed and impact on the environment, begging the question: who is the real monster here?

It’s set in the 70s, and the 40s technically, and Paul Murphy’s set decoration as well as Nick William’s production design are superb. You also will have noticed that the creature holds a credit. That’s because this entire film is made using practical effects instead of CGI. This is hands down the coolest thing; simply phenomenal. I love it.

The Tank is out in cinemas on the 6th of June. New Zealand has a long history with genre films, and Scott Walker now joins that legacy. So grab a mate and a blankie for protection, and go support Aotearoa’s newest feature film. It’s a doozy, and pretty cool if you ask me.

Frigid | Regional News


Created by: Brynley Stent

BATS Theatre, 16th May 2023

Reviewed by: Zac Fitzgibbon

The frigid winter Wellington climate changes shortly after thunderous applause as Brynley Stent walks onstage. Within seconds, BATS is warm with laughter. Frigid is a hilarious, somewhat semiautobiographical, absurdist sketch comedy about Stent’s seemingly fruitless love life.

I find it clever that Stent manages to create a set with no set. Through her excellent acting capabilities and comic audio effects, we can clearly imagine where each sketch takes place – be it a football field or a family room. What else is clear is her obsession with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, an obsession that somehow remains after whatever that 2019 film was. Refraining from opinions on this feline flop, I will say her takes on the songs Memory and Mr Mistoffelees are very on-brand and downright funny.

I love the frequent audience participation and unbeknownst to me, I somehow become part of one of the sketches. I must say it’s one of the best in the show. There is definitely no bias in the previous statement. As a result of it, Stent makes me acutely insecure about the state of my pillows and mattress.

Projection designs created by Stent herself strongly reinforce the sketches, especially humorous magazine covers and their clickbait headlines. They are utilised excellently throughout the show, through opening credits or exploring Stent’s animalistic childhood.

While most of the comedy is respectful, I am not sure about the segment of the show where the audience participates in whether dating profiles of men holding fish are ‘hot or not’. Nevertheless, the rest of the show gets me bursting with laughter so much I think I was a bit sore afterwards. There is not one quiet moment in Frigid.

It’s easy to see why Stent is a Billy T Award winner, as I don’t think there ever was a New Zealand comedian so clever as magical Brynley Stent. If you want to see a piece that will warm you from the inside out with laughter, Frigid is the show for you.

Sex & Fast Food | Regional News

Sex & Fast Food

Daisy’s, 16th May 2023

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

I’m always up for dinner and a show. Fast food and fast burlesque? Can’t think of anything better. On as part of Visa Wellington on a Plate, Sex & Fast Food is a whopper of an interactive dining event that pairs fast food dishes with spicy strip tease performances. Mouth-watering on all counts.

We’re greeted at Daisy’s door by Lizzie Tollemache, an electric sparkplug of an MC and maître d’ in one. Lizzie shows us to our seats while giving us the lowdown: we don’t have to get up onstage, we won’t be singled out if we don’t want to be, we can eat the food but not the performers… you get it. I appreciate the lengths to which she goes to make her audience feel comfortable and at home.

Once seated, we’re served a delicious welcome cocktail (Daisy’s secret recipe hard cherry kawakawa cola) before the main course: a cheeseburger served with a frickle (fried pickle on a stick à la hotdog), thin-cut fries, and the classic Kiwiana long-cream donut. Unfortunately, the meal is lukewarm, but the accoutrements – fermented ketchup, tangy mustard, bread and butter pickles, and the dirty burger sauce – do lift the game.

After Lizzie warms up the crowd by introducing terminology some of us may not have heard before, The Everchanging Boy, dressed as the spiciest pickle you ever did see (exquisite costume design by Victoria Gridley), hypnotises us with a Frank Sinatra and Paris Hilton mash-up. With graceful, mesmerising movement and a sultry stare that could undo even the tightest pickle jar, it is always a joy to watch The Everchanging Boy perform.

Next up we have Ginger Velour dancing to a medley of All That Meat And No Potatoes and the Burger King banger Whopper Whopper. Clad in cheeky burger lingerie (The Sexy Burger), Ginger makes great use of the intimate space, sauntering up and down the aisles, interacting with the crowd, and sparkling like cola all the way. Effervescent!

I would’ve loved the pickle and the burger to come together in a joint routine at the end. Sex & Food was billed as three performances with Hugo Grrrl as MC, so I think something may have gone amiss in the lead-up to the show. Two performances aren’t quite enough, but hey, we were certainly left drooling and wanting for more.

Conceptually and thematically, Sex & Fast Food is an excellent event.

Emperor | Regional News


Presented by: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Conducted by: Eduardo Strausser

Michael Fowler Centre, 11th May 2023

Reviewed by: Tamsin Evans

Cento by Ross Harris is a very clever exercise in musical collage. Taking quotes from other composers’ works, Harris has skillfully overlaid and overlapped familiar and unfamiliar phrases into something new and exciting to listen to. Just when ears and brain had tuned into a recognisable moment, the orchestra was already on to the next. An appetiser for the ears, Cento prepared the audience well for what came next.

What followed was truly wonderful. Paul Lewis played Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major impeccably. Musicians surely feel the same adrenaline high as athletes, and from the opening virtuosic runs, we knew Lewis was fully immersed in the music, relaxed and joyous, well past flow state and at peak performance. The audience absorbed and reflected the energy. The feeling was of being part of a unique and special combination of time, place, and people. Lewis is a magical pianist, giving us a performance of something very familiar but making it entirely original.

His performance was immaculate, always enough and never too much. The overall performance was delivered with a genius lightness of touch. Strausser ensured the whole was far greater than the sum of its parts; the orchestra met the piano on exactly the right level, always enough, never too much.

Schumann’s Symphony No. 2 in C Major is a series of complex and varying styles. The orchestra, led by the skillful and nimble Strausser, tackled the contradictory piece with their usual high levels of skill and musicianship. The trombones relished their unusual moment to shine in the first movement’s opening fanfares. The violins also deserve a special mention for their incredible, lightning-fast fingers in the second movement. The third movement was sensitively played, a welcome relief from the agitation of the opening movements. Although Schumann said the work reminded him of a dark time, the magnificent timpani solo brought joy to the finale.

The Coven on Grey Street | Regional News

The Coven on Grey Street

Written by: James Cain

Directed by: Harriet Prebble

Running at Circa Theatre until 27th May 2023

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

When shall we three meet again? Well, it’s been 10 years since the last family gathering – just a blink of an eye for these immortal beings – and more centuries still since the Weird Sisters met Macbeth. Now, Daphne (Helen Moulder), Fay (Hilary Norris), and Sybil (Irene Wood) are back together again, this time to meet Daphne’s fiancé Ted (Peter Hambleton). But bringing a new member into the familial fold won’t be a piece of quiche…

Red Scare Theatre Company’s The Coven on Grey Street brings Shakespeare’s three witches to current-day Hamilton to lunch together under the hallowed pōhutukawa tree at Daphne’s place. Looming large over the action, the tree is realised in all its might and majesty by set designer Lucas Neal. What an eye for detail! Its stunning features are highlighted by lighting designer Isadora Lao’s magic touch, while flourishes from sound designer Patrick Barnes tinkle and charm.

The actors make quick work of playwright James Cain’s whip-smart dialogue and lean into its tender moments with easy grace, natural rapport, and collective chemistry that crackles like a toad on a bonfire. It’s clear from both the writing and acting that underneath the sass and snark, these characters love each other like only family can.

Moulder and Hambleton sprinkle longing gazes and lingering touches into a romance that feels like the stuff of fairytales. Both soon come into their individual power, navigating sky-high character arcs with ease. Norris pulls no punches as the potty-mouthed Fay, but beneath her no-nonsense exterior, we feel her aching need for connection and approval. Wood is comedy gold, delivering acrid one-liners with a straight face and supreme composure at every turn. I want Sybil to be my grandma and I especially want to sic her on all of my enemies.

An intricate script, visionary design, consummate cast, and expert direction… these were the ingredients chosen to create the perfect little production. The Coven on Grey Street is pure magic.