New Zealand theatre reviews, performace reviews and performing arts directory

Follow Theatreview
Follow Theatreview on Twitter


Print Version

NZ Fringe Festival 2013
Breaking the Fifth Wall Productions

at Gryphon, Wellington
From 19 Feb 2013 to 23 Feb 2013

Reviewed by Nancy Catherine Fulford, 20 Feb 2013

Spider Dance attracted a good crowd to the Gryphon for opening night, especially given it was three gals from out of town and the promo sounded to me to be angled sharply at a female audience. That was my mistake.

I had baulked at inviting a ‘male friend' on the basis of the line on the flyer that reads ‘cheeky side of girl power' (he's still an unknown quantity). I don't know why I didn't take that as tongue-in-cheek given the context but I interpreted it to mean lightweight girly stuff. It so is not.

In fact Spider Dance is a side splitting example of improvising women comedians spanning the full range of character and genre, on the spot: no text, no rehearsing; it's all created in the moment. This was a bit of a surprise as I thought I was in for ‘stories Mama was afraid to tell' etc.

The three actors' dexterity at working with male and female roles and making them completely wacked and believable is legendary. And they do it as a balanced trio. They are all quirk-stars; ask anyone in the audience. The man in front of me was in hysterics.

When we first arrive into the Gryphon, Dolly Parton is belting it out and three chairs sit looking back at us.  Not the three bears' chairs. These look to be the favourite perch of dearest old Aunt Mabel, the blushing Miss Eyre and posture-erect Sybil, with pocket watch and a propensity for naughty innuendo.

The lights go down and shuffle-shuffle, amber hues rise to reveal three lovely ‘ladies' with pretty dresses, pearls , and a hair broach each. They sing You Are My Sunshine, first sweetly and then ugly, as they promise in their promo. For me that is one of the few things about the show that doesn't work, quickly feeling predictable.

It as a framing device as they also close with a song and these sorts of things are helpful, however it lacks the spontaneity and playful sense of relationship that is otherwise such a feature of this show. Small glitch in the scheme of things. It only stands out because it is such a contrast to the warmth and ease that prevails.

The way the three actors speak to, cajole, encourage, surprise and tease each other in between improvising scenes is hugely entertaining and endearing. The spirit of Aunt Mabel is there at least part of the time, and that naughty Sybil, egging them on.

I spoke to the comedians afterwards and learned they are all part of Impro Melbourne. “We largely work with long form improvisation and we wanted to work together as a group of women and see how that would be, particularly exploring the edgy irreverent side of improvisation.” They do that, with bows on.

A notable feature of Spider Dance is the intelligence that shines through the work; the worldly wit that comes through inter-textual references, the richness and detail of the historical contexts all make for a scintillating watch. They pepper the intellectual banter with the grotesque and the absurd, but of course. You just never know where it's going to go and I never lose faith.

One must also mention that it is sugar-bun risqué in parts as well. Quite a few parts. I can't guarantee you'll be entreated to the same waywardness when you go, as their closing promise is “every night a different show, a different creepy moment.”

“Really! Nothing was pre-planned? Nothing?” I had to repeat that question about 16 times in the foyer afterwards because I just couldn't believe they hadn't set some of those scenes, they were that good. But such is the nature of excellent improv; it's so alive it's difficult to comprehend it as the spontaneously created work of mere mortals. 

And how refreshing to see women stepping up so fully in a field that has traditionally been male dominated. In my view it isn't ‘girl power', it is a feminine tempest of divine creativity. Don't miss it.  
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.