NZICF 2016: Felicity Ward – What If There Is No Toilet?

Felicity Ward

It’s a daunting and tricky task, putting a funny spin on mental health. What If There Is No Toilet? sees Felicity Ward not only take on this challenge but do it with effortless gusto.

At the top of the show, Ward reveals that she has been diagnosed with the ‘triple threat of mental illnesses’. Closely linked to this is a long-standing anxiety she’s had at the prospect of losing bladder control, hence the quirky show title.

Over the course of the hour Ward candidly shares her journey of living and struggling with her mental illness before her eventual acceptance that she needed help. She strikes the perfect balance between lively candor and well-crafted comedy, deftly infusing humor in to what is normally viewed as unfunny while all the same not shying from the reality of it all.

Considering the weighty subject matter the mood of the show is anything but. From a hilarious personification of her inner voice Beryl to how she deals with a ‘closing down sale’, you barely have time to catch your breath as the laughs are plentiful and constant. Ward is a skilled comedian who knows how to work the crowd, delivering well-honed, superbly timed joke after joke that had the audience in absolute hysterics.

Ward’s mission to use comedy as her way of removing some of the shroud that covers mental health is extremely bold and inspiring. What If there Is No Toilet? is a wonderfully uproarious and enjoyable hour that is joyously exuberant and endlessly entertaining.

5-stars

What If There Is No Toilet? is on until April 30th at the Herald Theatre at 8:30pm and then heading to San Fran, Wellington for just one performance on May 1st at 7pm. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

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NZICF 2016: Nish Kumar – Back with a New Show

Nish Kumar

After a sold out debut season last year, Nish Kumar is back in New Zealand to give us more of his signature left-leaning, topical comedy. In this year’s offering, his commentary focused particularly on the themes of history, colonialism and capitalism.

Kumar treats the stage as his personal soapbox, conveying his brilliantly perceptive observations in the form of a running diatribe. From current affairs to popular culture and everything in between, he tackled them all in rapid succession and to superb satirical effect.  

Hipster trends, gentrification, his idea for a Friends remake – these were just some of the things that got examined, mocked and ranted about. Some of his opinions were a little incongruous but always unmistakably witty and often punctuated with some really excellent punchlines.

Much of the entertainment came from witnessing Kumar unravel around certain topics. He would get increasingly animated and worked up but what was impressive was how he managed to strike the right balance of being relatable and cleverly facetious without appearing to be ‘just a raving lunatic’.

Back with a New Show is a sharp, energetic and frenetic hour of intelligent, insightful discourse that is highly accessible and frequently funny. His style may not suit everyone but if you do enjoy political humor that is also thought-provoking, you can’t go wrong with this show.

4-stars

Nish Kumar is performing at the Classic at 8:30pm until April 30th then from May 3rd – 7th. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

NZICF 2016: Stuart Bowden – She Was Probably Not a Robot

Stuart Bowden - Probs Not Bot

Physical theatre is often either farcical or brilliant and this modestly charming one man show by Stuart Bowden sits firmly in the latter camp. She Was Probably Not a Robot is a quirky and engaging sci-fi adventure about the end of the world and one man’s plight to survive.

The show unofficially starts as the audience are taking their seats though this isn’t immediately obvious. It is only when the lyrics in the catchy tune we are listening to start referring to what is happening in the theatre that we realize we are being serenaded live by Bowden who is just beyond the curtains.

This is a cleverly placed ‘easter egg’ to what is to come which is an unusual theatrical experience that is a little bit bizarre but a whole lot of fun. We learn that the world has ended and we have all died. Before we can even process this, Bowden goes on to explain to each one of us – to hilariously detailed effect – how we died. This off-beat kind of humor forms the comedic vein of the show.

Over the course of the hour, we are expected to suspend our disbelief and let our imagination soar. Playing both the world’s sole survivor as well as a friendly, other-worldly celestial being aptly named Celeste, Bowden uses the space effectively along with clever use of an audio recording device to take us on a surreal and epic journey.

With only a bare stage and very minimal props, this show relies heavily on the performing prowess of the actor which Bowden possesses in spades. As he sings, mimes and even ‘soars through the air’, it is clear he is a skilled storyteller and talented showman. The theatre essentially becomes his playground with no Fourth Wall or divide between performer and audience making this a fully interactive, immersive show.

She Was Probably Not a Robot is wonderfully whimsical, delightfully melancholic and irresistibly endearing – an absolute joy to behold. This easily enjoyable, thoughtfully poignant theatrical piece is sure to tickle at your heartstrings and funny bone.

5-stars

She Was Probably Not a Robot is on at the Herald Theatre at 7pm until April 30th. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

NZICF 2016: Daniel Sloss – Dark

Daniel Sloss

With regular TV appearances and eight consecutive sold out seasons at the Edinburgh Fringe under his belt, Daniel Sloss is no stranger to the comedy circuit. At 25, it’s remarkable how much he has already accomplished though once you’ve seen him in action, you can totally see why.

It is his first time performing in New Zealand and I certainly hope it won’t be his last. Dark is essentially about Sloss himself – his travels, his opinions (there are a lot of them) and most notably his early years before he became a comedian. His family play an integral role in the narrative particularly his extremely brainy and liberal parents who provide a good source of comedy.

Sloss takes to the stage with a confidence and swagger that is well beyond his years. This could be seen as a little cocky – which he openly admits and proudly embraces – yet he promptly proves that he can walk the talk. From the word go he had us hooked and hanging on to his every word.

His material is skillfully constructed with superbly timed, pitch-perfect jokes that hit the nail on the head every time. He has a sharp wit and innate comedic sense which is second to none. There is also a physicality which he brings, particularly with his facial expressions, that add another layer of amusement to the show.

Sloss’ greatest strength is his ability to, put simply, tell a good story. Each anecdote segues smoothly to the next with every little detail having a purpose and placed strategically to build up to a pivotal point in the narrative. The scene in this moment was orchestrated and set up so brilliantly that even when it took an unexpected turn, it did not significantly affect the energy or mood of the show.

While there is certainly a lot to laugh about, there is also a lot of depth to the show. Sloss has some strong, contentious views which may rub people the wrong way but if you just take them at face value, the underlying message he is trying to impart actually holds a lot of wisdom and truth.

There’s absolutely no doubt about it – Daniel Sloss was born to do comedy. Dark, contrary to the title, is not overtly dark but is an excellent and inherently personal piece which is incredibly intelligent, unexpectedly thought-provoking and effortlessly entertaining.

5-stars

Dark is on at Q Theatre at 7:15pm until April 30th. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

NZICF 2016: Marcel Lucont’s Whine List

Marcel Lucont

After two years away, everyone’s favorite French raconteur and hedonist is back in New Zealand for another ‘cultural exchange’. As with any Marcel Lucont show, it is a low-key affair but one that is dripping with supercilious derision and suggestive repartee.

While away, Lucont has performed in other festivals and during that time he bore witness to a myriad of unsightly and unseemly acts. Subsequently he created the Whine List to provide a means to come together and moan about the annoying, embarrassing and shocking things we have experienced.

This show is slightly different to previous offerings in that there is an interactive element to it with the audience members contributing to said list. From comical first world problems to some truly jaw-dropping outlandish revelations, Lucont plays a quasi ‘agony uncle’ of sorts, responding adeptly to each entry with the perfect blend of mild interest, ridicule and disdain. The cabaret-style seating complements this format brilliantly.

From start to finish Lucont effortlessly had us all in the palm of his hand with his quick wit, sharp tongue and that irresistible French charm. His comedic timing is flawless and there is something oddly captivating about this wonderfully haughty bon vivant’s trademark deadpan delivery of narcissistic humor.

In between whines, we are also educated and entertained in that special Lucont way. We learn things like what happens if you raise your glass incorrectly and how he feels Easter should actually be celebrated. Hilarious videos are played, his saucy memoirs shared and of course no Marcel Lucont show is complete without his signature unabashed provocative sex poetry.

The participatory nature of the show means each one will be a truly unique and unpredictable experience but with Monsieur Lucont at the helm, I have no doubt that the outcome will satisfy each and every time. Whine List is an exceptional and superbly written hour of irreverent comedy that is deliciously audacious, fabulously sardonic and wildly entertaining.

5-stars

Whine List is on at 7pm at the Comedy Chamber in the Auckland Town Hall until April 30th before heading to San Fran for its Wellington season from May 2nd – 7th. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

NZICF 2016: Stephen K Amos – The Laughter Master

Stephen K Amos

Not everyone has the bravado to get away with calling their latest show The Laughter Master. Not unless you are Stephen K Amos in which case it is not only justified but completely true.

Amos is no stranger to the comedy circuit and, lucky for us Kiwis, he does make quite regular visits to our shores. This year’s show sees Amos, once again, masterfully induce laughter through his trademark blend of weaving together a solid repertoire of funny anecdotes with effortless witty banter and good dose of sarcastic humor along with some pretty accurate mimicking of accents thrown in for good measure.

There’s something quite magical and gratifying about going to see a comedian who is a seasoned pro and can totally hold his own on stage. The audience got to see this in action right off the bat when a clueless heckler got absolutely shamed by a brilliantly drawn-out comeback from Amos. The quickfire way in which he responded and handled the situation without so much as batting an eyelid was impressive.

Over the course of the show, Amos recounts amusing stories from his travels and reminisces about the pre-Internet days as well as share thought-provoking musings about things that are happening in the world. Highlights include his sharp observations on what he facetiously tags as ‘casual racism’ and hilarious illustrations of online trolling on social media which had everyone in hysterics.

The Laughter Master is endlessly funny, exceedingly brilliant and packs a comedic punch. Stephen K Amos is an absolute master at his craft and a must-see. If you’re after a rollicking good time with guaranteed laughs, this is the ticket.

5-stars

Stephen K Amos’ Auckland season is over but he will be at the Aurora Centre in Christchurch (May 11th), Baycourt in Tauranga (May 12th), TSB Showplace in New Plymouth (May 13th) and finally the Opera House in Wellington (May 14th). For more details and to book tickets, click here.

 

 

NZICF 2016: The Walking Dead – The Funny Side of the Apocalypse

Dan Willis - TWD

You would have to be living on a different planet to have not heard of the AMC hit TV series of the same title. Zombies have very much become so ingrained in our pop culture framework that it is really not that far-fetched to have a survival plan in place…just in case.

Whether you are already a zombie aficionado or you’re thinking “What if?” and just want to be prepared, Dan Willis is here to help. Part seminar, part tutorial with a good amount of comedy dotted throughout, The Walking Dead is not only an introductory course to all things zombie but will also provide you with the best strategy to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.

Having studied and been obsessed with the undead for a decade, Willis is legitimately your zombie trivia go-to guy. Over the course of the show, he leaves no infected stone unturned from revealing its Haitian origins to sharing what he feels will be his perfect secondary weapon of choice.

The hour is structured like a lecture but it is very much an open forum with Willis actively interacting with and seeking feedback from the crowd. There is a section of the show where the audience come together to form the ultimate group of survivors (using international and local celebrities) which I thought was a brilliant interactive addition to the set.

While he does include other zombie texts in the mix as well as some apt sci-fi crossover references, the majority of his points of discussion derive from the TV series, specifically the first three seasons. Thus you may appreciate the show a bit more if you watch the series but even so don’t let that deter you as it has been thoughtfully written to be highly accessible.

Considering the macabre theme, as with the show’s tagline, Dan Willis does manage to find the funny side of the apocalypse and it is this that makes The Walking Dead such an enjoyable and entertaining piece. Whether you’re already a fan or are just plain curious, this is the ideal late night comedy treat.

4-stars

The Walking Dead is on at The Classic Studio from April 27th – 30th at 10pm. For more details and to book tickets, click here.