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FINE TEAMWORK WITH SKETCHY RESULTS

Print Version

NZ Fringe Festival 2013
DOUBLE-BARRELLED SLINGSHOT


at Newtown Community & Cultural Centre, Wellington
From 22 Feb 2013 to 24 Feb 2013

Reviewed by Nancy Catherine Fulford, 23 Feb 2013


Double Barrelled Slingshot is a two-for-one evening of light comedy and drama brought to us by emerging writers and actors. 

Wellington currently has many strong high school drama departments that lead graduates to head up the hill to Victoria University's Theatre and Film department, where they find compatriots to undertake creative enterprises. Such is the case with several actors I spoke to and two of the three writers and directors responsible for this evening's work.

Both of the shows hold some promise and yet neither of them manages to deliver anything that really makes me sit up and think wow, now we're onto something. They are both entertaining and the premiere audience certainly responds to the comedy, but where's the edge? I guess that's the thing with the Fringe: I expect edge.

Obviously it's an opportunity for people to cut their teeth as writers, directors and performers, and learn from that, but I wonder if the creative team involved has ever really stopped and asked themselves, “What are we trying to achieve with this show? What is it that we want to say to our audience?”

The first show up, Idiots Guide to the Family Meeting, seems to be saying “there is a helluva funny side to surviving parents and all the shit they put you through,” fullstop. The scenes are classic examples of parental embarrassment: mum talking about sex; meeting your date's parents; dad announcing he is gay ...

The comedy comes with small twists to these situations and characters that push their most stereotypically annoying edges into the outer stratosphere.  While the actors do a fine job bringing in physical comedy and the text is tight, it is often not audible. Better volume and care with word enunciation is needed and this is true the whole night long.

The two directors of this show, Hannah Drysdale and Kate Norquay, are suave enough to give us at least one character in each scene who is grounded and believable enough to make room for audience empathy: important when the character are so extreme.

Given this is a series of comedy sketches, the dialogue is good, at times excellent. I laughed often and the much older couple in front of me were having a good old giggle on a regular basis, even when I was squirming on their behalf – e.g. the mother asking her daughter for a virginity update and worse.

I can recommend this first show if you are looking for a light laugh and lean fondly towards 1980s situation comedy TV. The actors do a fine job with their characters and much of the text is far superior to what I have often suffered watching this genre in decades past.

The second show of the evening, Audition by Matt Loveranes, is more of a challenge to warm to. In this sketch four actors are waiting together for their turn to audition and earn that part that will, fingers crossed, change their lives forever. The waiting drags on and on and I muse that maybe we have a modern day Waiting for Godot on our hands, especially when an actor delivers the line “Anything is better than banal nothingness.”  Sigh.

It turns out not everyone is who they seem to be and... I'm loathe to give it away, but [spoiler warning?] the play soon gives itself away, following a much overworked entertainment genre which pitches people against each other to ‘win that spot'... for Heaven in this case. Ok I gave it away. Sorry. But while other people appear somewhat entertained, I am more in, well, Purgatory, working to find positive things in a show about auditioning the world's next top angel, and not finding a lot. [ends]  

There is only one actor who convinces me of anything and even that is patchy. It might just be me, and I do already have a bit of a prejudice against reality TV, as in I loathe and detest it, but....

There is some noteworthy dialogue, but it comes from the young people behind me: “Trust is a big word.”

All the same, good on all those involved for getting out there and making things happen. They have demonstrated fine teamwork, organisational skills and commitment to improving their craft by practicing it. I hope they come back and try again.
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