You’re at a party. You don’t really know anyone but you’ve got a very excited host making sure you have a good time. It doesn’t matter that nobody here is the type that likes parties - because this is the last party before we are devoured by a black hole. DEEP and MEANINGFUL, written and starring Alayne Dick, produced by Toi Ngākau, and directed by Jennifer O’Sullivan is one final hurrah before the end of the world as we know it.
As we enter the Heyday Dome in BATS theatre, upbeat yet macabre songs play over speakers (The End of the World as We Know It by R.E.M) while Dick plays party games with us, such as making us write down all the things we wished we had done before the world ends. She is charming, awkward, and charismatic which sets the tone of the night. It isn’t lost on us that the timing of a show about the end of the world is depressingly poignant at a time like this yet we laugh, put on party hats and blow our noisemakers.
The set colours are aesthetic and reminiscent of a well-to-do student or yo-pro’s bedroom; lush green houseplants, pastel banners, fairy lights, balloons, and persian style rugs. Paired with Dick’s warm and positive energy, and her cute faded pink denim overalls, I feel like I am lounging in the house of my slightly anxious, more successful-than-me friend.
Aaron Pyke quietly plays music, and is an unobtrusive guest on stage. Their cigar box guitar and pre-recorded synth adds a dream pop element that creates a sense of surrealness to the show. The music made a great sensory pairing with the pastel aesthetics of the stage. Pyke feels like one of Dick’s close friends at this party and adds energy by staying attuned to her, solemnly acknowledging her darker moods, and grinning along with the jokes. He also controls the Supermassive Black Hole who looms in and out of the party. While the lines are recorded well and make us giggle (it’s apparent that the Supermassive Black Hole is just Dick doing a spooky voice with distortion), the timing doesn’t account for audience laughter, and at times key details in the recordings are unable to be heard.
This is a one woman show - unless you count the Supermassive Black Hole - and Dick keeps us well entertained, with poetry, prose, games, and wish lists. Dick has poured her heart into the language of this show; her poetry is funny, precious, and loving. I feel like listening to Dick’s poetry is like soul food for me at this challenging time.
Dick weaves in her thoughts and feelings about herself and her life with the storyline of what could be a really good, or a really bad party. It’s hard to know how much fun you are having when you are stuck in your own head, and we empathise with Dick as she comes to terms with the fact that this might be her last night on earth. There are occasional times where I lose whether we are at the party or in a memory in her head; for instance, at one point, draped in a blanket, playing on her phone, she talks of the couples around her - and I can’t tell if this is past or present. I would have liked more clarity and sincerity in these moments, and to feel like this is part of a house party - faded party music could help this, as could recordings of people chattering, to set the scene. However, overall I am invested and connected to Dick throughout her night.
A stellar feature to this show is the audience interaction, strengthened with direction from O’Sullivan. Dick is well paced, taking her time with the audience, and never misses a moment to make us laugh. A particularly funny moment is after Dick discusses the shining veneer of being part of the group that does “The Drugs”, and locks onto a particular audience member, persuading them to take part in The Drugs. It’s heady stuff, she says. She pulls out a Bop-It! toy… and we all lose our minds. O’Sullivan and Dick work well together to pull the gold from the text. The show ties up nicely, as Dick can only rent this room for one hour- Wellington flat prices are crazy, after all!
DEEP and MEANINGFUL gives a sense of wonder and hope amongst the despair of the inevitable end of the world, and Dick does a fantastic job of holding us tight through this journey. Without wanting to spoil the story of this show, as the absurdity part of the fun, this is a feel good, at times bittersweet hour of entertainment.
Finally! Beloved Wellington drag king Hugo Grrrl (also known as George Fowler) gets an entire hour to show off his many talents. In this “one-trans” show, Fowler takes us on a journey through his own coming-of-age tale, which involves more than a few closets and one particularly nasty skeleton.
Courtney Rose Brown
Horny & Confused, Big Estrogen Energy’s debut show is a nuanced comedic triumph. Katie Hill and Charlotte Glucina bring wit, spice and every delight to retellings of their sexual experiences as they charm all with their upbeat Taylor Swift-esq (but woke-er) musical numbers and Hill’s stand up.
Sara and Jordan Aren't Supposed To Be Here is a very funny, cringe comedy, a little reminiscent of the America Office. Sara and Jordan are members of the most popular up and coming Wellington band, T-Sauce and the Unexpected Mannequins. They haven’t played their first gig yet, in fact they don’t know how to play any instruments, but that hasn’t stopped them from putting together a workshop - how to start a wildly successful band. We are their first paying customers, and there will be no refunds.
Waiting for Shark Week is an hour of feminist buffoonery, sincerity and rage that charms, entertains and educates – and possibly also startles a non-menstruater or two. Directed and co-written by Dr Lori Leigh with performers Stevie Hancox-Monk, Pippa Drakeford-Croad, Maggie White and Sarah Bergbusch, this show is a powerful sketch-based comedy that calls out sexism in the theatre industry, veiled as the preservation of (male) playwrights’ visions.
Years ago, Andi Snelling was bitten by a tick while on holiday in New Zealand. The resulting Lyme Disease left her unable to perform, unable to do much except fight to stay alive. Happy Go Wrong is the show she never thought she would be able to make. That description makes the show sound rather tragic, but Snelling presents us with a moving take on suffering - That it’s not until you are close to death that you truly know how much you want to live. The result is a celebration of life that is profoundly moving, joyful and life affirming.
You’re a Good Man, Doctor Pirate is the latest offering from cult-classic comedian Gillian English. I sit down next to a Fringe regular who informs me that they saw English’s show at last year’s festival and “she’s brilliant”. The bar is set high, and English leaps over it pulling the finger and probably yelling “F**K THE MAN”.
Spoiler: Will and Brendan Are Cancelled was in fact, not cancelled. The title of the show is just the first snafu of many in this messy, but somehow endearing sketch comedy show.
Blue Flicker Productions offers up an ethical dilemma about pain and the power of knowledge through a feminist lens. Is it better to forget your trauma? Should you tell someone the truth if all it brings is suffering? In Should Have Said No, directed by Zoe Christall, it’s up to the audience to decide.
The suburb of Mount Victoria in Wellington is home to many character houses, they sit picturesque with pillars upon porches to shelter the front door, and key fumblers, from rain. In one such home, I enter Luke Scott’s Little Theater of Big Dreams. The charming folks at the theatre company Horse With No Name have entered another thoroughbred of a show into this year’s Fringe Festival. This time we enter a world of shadow puppetry and more stories that will make you laugh, cry and some that will hug you with a feeling of warm familiarity. All of it is ecstatically, fantastically amazing.
Wellington actor and theatremaker Jean Sergent may have her sun in Aries and moon in Libra, but damn, she must have some kind of special relationship with Pluto.
Her new solo show Change Your Own Life is a warmly presented and sharply observed take on life after death – not for those in heaven, but for those on Earth still writhing in the hellish pain of loss.
Inquiet Moments, written and directed by Campbell Wright, is a physical theatre piece that explores anxiety and its impacts on relationships. Caught in a panic attack, Riley (Abby Lyons) is haunted by Wisp (Tom Hughes) and Nightmare (Emily Griffiths), the personifications of her anxiety, as she navigates memories of her relationship with Rowan (Prea Millar). It is a fast-paced and non-consecutive collection of vignettes that seems to draw its inspiration from plays like Constellations by Nick Payne, giving the audience snippets of the story to piece together as they go.
Feminah is a funny, feirce and furiously feminist ‘f*** you’ to the power structures that be. Creator and performer Charlotte Otton is so watchable that even during curated moments of deep discomfort, I cannot keep my eyes off her. The patriarchy is ‘going down on us but not in a good way’ and Otton is here to save us from shit sex and even shitter sexism. The show promises an ‘explosion of gritty femininity’. While it delivers vulgarity in bucket loads, for this reviewer who is all too familiar with feminist theory, it takes off admirably but never quite lands on anything we haven’t heard before.
Transhumance explores gender and what it means to exist between locations. What’s it like to take your best guess at womanhood, or at manhood? How do we get treated by society when we occupy these spaces? And how does this make us feel? This clown show slowly unpacks these concepts, uncoiling in front of the audience, showing us what it might feel like to not quite belong in one, or the other. Ania Upstill takes a train of sorts, between each experience of gender, and endeavours to follow a map of “female” and “male” at each destination. Upstills’ physical struggles to maintain these genders and their larger than life attempts to occupy them provokes both laughter and empathy.
Local Honest Reviews
At Art Murmurs, our aim is to provide honest and constructive art reviews to the Wellington community.