The glass is blacked out by curtains, the doors are closed and the black and white sign out front is the only indication that the Scruffy Bunny Theatre is open for business tonight. I stand, intrigued with the other three participants of this iteration of The Intrepid Bazaar. I am the only improv novice in my group, with three seasoned performers as my companions. Allowing only four member of the audience per 20-minute show, The Intrepid Bazaar provides a new style of improv comedy to what I have previously experienced.
And it’s that time of year again! The New Zealand Improv Fest is hitting the Wellington stages once more, with a huge running of shows from the 14 - 21st of October at the BATS and Scruffy Bunny Improv Theatre. Last night I had the pleasure of attending the second heat of the Improdome series and it was everything you’d hope and expect from a night of improv comedy; ridiculous, unexpected, hilarious, and a lot of fun.
Settling into my seat in BATS’ Propeller Stage, I feel as though I’m settling into a private concert, but in someone’s garage; instruments sprawl over centre stage in front of a wall full of rock band posters, and there’s classic garage clutter in the form of shoe piles, an old desk, and a coat rack to pull it all together. Satisfied Customers is the tale of four bandmates, part of the band of the same name. They’re barely able to maintain their friendships and keep the band itself together as they try to write a jingle to fit any and all commercials. Directed by Keegan Bragg, Satisfied Customers is funny and downright hilarious at times thanks to how he and the cast grasp Wilson’s clever combination of banter and one-liners. However, Satisfied Customers doesn’t feel complete yet, as though the finer pieces are still missing.
by Laura Ferguson
There is always something incredibly special about being at Circa Theatre, and tonight is no different. Gathered in the foyer, wine or beer in hand, we are here to see the opening night of Molière award-winning, The Father by Florian Zeller. The glitz and glam of theatre comes alive in our faces, a sparkle roguishly twinkles in an eye, dazzling smiles beguile, a sparking crackle of infectious laughter catapults through the room. Anticipation for Zeller’s black comedy creating a susurrus throughout the room... We sit, the lights dim, the play begins. I am immediately enthralled.
The Father is a black comedy surrounding the titular character André (Jeffrey Thomas) and his struggles with Alzheimer’s. His daughter, Anne (Danielle Mason), tries so hard to keep her father comfortable, while simultaneously attempting to lead her own life. In every scene, André is sure he is in his own flat, except the furniture and artwork continuously changes around him, so I know that can’t be true. The disintegration and reforming of what is true and what is not becomes a constant of The Father. I am forced to examine each new truth as André states them. We are in England, no, we’re in Paris. This is André’s flat, no actually, it’s Anne’s husband, Pierre’s. Zeller’s conceptual writing style creates a piece of art that looks disjointed and confused as I walk around it, but when I strike that perfect angle, everything lines up and makes sense. Sadly, this moment never quite comes for André and he wanders, endlessly lost, even as others consistently tell him he has seen it’s true form many times.
by Laura Ferguson
2 actors, 15 characters and a meta interpretation of theatre? Wow, sounds like a fun ride, one I am willingly strapping myself into tonight. Stones in His Pockets has opened at the Gryphon Theatre and I’ve been looking forward to seeing this show for a while. The challenge of seeing two actors portray an Orphan Black style of theatre is very compelling and I can’t wait to see what director, Tanya Piejus, does with such a fascinating concept.
by Laura Ferguson
Among Strangers is the newest work from playwright Angie Farrow. Her show last year, The Politician’s Wife, had given me a lot of think about, and I was looking forward to seeing her newest offerings. Among Strangers is a production of three different plays, Breaking News, Esther, and August Moon, based off Farrow’s conversations with women aged 15-20 about how they see themselves in this world, these ‘changing times’ as the programme describes.
Breaking News centres around a young woman, Jolene, who is at the height of her journalistic career and feels the pressure of maintaining perfection. Esther portrays the return of a girl who went missing for three years; but is she really the same Esther? And finally, August Moon, a tale about the titular character who loses a mother. This is no dire portrait of loss, though; instead, we get a comedy for the conclusion of this showcase. It’s a curious experiment and as I sit, I avidly anticipate the beginning.
by Laura Ferguson
The house was full for Wellington Repertory Theatre’s premiere of Nell Gwynn. The air is festive as we sit, orange-sellers of yore hawking their wares, bringing alive that 17th-century spirit. They stay while the play begins in earnest. A young actor flubbing his lines and the orange-sellers heckle him as if they were the crowd. I love this touch, the cheeky calls and the flustered character on stage turning red and more awkward. Nell starts speaking up and her quick-wittedness is apparent from the start. I laugh heartily at the innuendos and sly remarks, Ewen Coleman’s directing allowing for a spectacularly immersive opening.
With I, Will Jones, comedian Eamonn Marra steps beyond stand-up to create a piece of theatre that expertly explores the feeling of desperately wanting to be somebody else. When Eamonn Marra was 12 years old, Will Jones was the coolest kid in his school. Will was great at sports, he had a girlfriend and his name was unmockable - everything Marra wanted. I, Will Jones is Marra’s recount of stories from his adolescence that centre around his desire to be Will Jones instead.
The stories are at once autobiographical and magical and the production introduces us to Marra’s past youth with style and humour. Entering the theatre, we are treated to a messy tweenage bedroom with a clothes-strewn floor, skates and a child-sized desk. Eamonn enters with amusing spectacle on a bicycle, immediately capturing the audience’s allegiance. His over-the-top entrance as a fully grown man dressed in boys’ shorts and a Planet8 hoody, coinciding with ridiculous welcome-to-the-stage flashing coloured lights, sets us up for a show that approaches recollections of juvenile life with a blend of merriment and regret.
Theatre that tackles the heavy issues isn’t something new. It is often reflective of the things theatre makers believe society needs to work on. My Accomplice’s Me and My Sister Tell Each Other Everything is one such show, dissecting the relationship between two sisters and revealing how each copes with mental illness. This work, however, is more than just another show about mental illness and suicide, and it’s a leap forward in inspecting what mental illness is and how it affects us. It doesn’t just identify mental illness and suicide as things that happen and things we deal with in everyday life, it shows us. This showing rather than telling turns Me and My Sister Tell Each Other Everything into exactly what it needs to be: raw, ugly, and confronting.
by Laura Ferguson
I love politics. I watch the news, I read the articles (not just the headlines!), I search for unbiased opinions. I especially love politics when it’s being made fun of. From The Daily Show and John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight to The Last Leg, I try to absorb news from well-informed, satirical visual formats. How lucky I am then, that the Wellington-based The No Fefe Collective brings us another installment of Public Service Announcements, this one aptly titled: Stranger Politics.
Local Honest Reviews
At Art Murmurs, our aim is to provide honest and constructive art reviews to the Wellington community.