NZICF 2019: Alan McElroy is Sh*t @Twitter

What’s your social media game like? Do you have a good retweet rate? Do you know your hashtags? Are you well-versed in the art of a good meme?

Alan McElroy is Sh*t @Twitter, as the name suggests, sees McElroy unashamedly flaunt his inaptitude at expressing his thoughts within 280 characters, try as he might. With the help of a Powerpoint presentation, we are shown a selection of tweets where he has tried to engage with his “f**k all” followers with little to no success.

Along the way we also learn some fun facts about McElroy like his fear of insects, anxiety when it comes to flying and the time he found himself involved in an unexpectedly harrowing sexual encounter. These anecdotes are where he really hits his stride because though it appears that he flounders in the social media world, he excels in the ‘real’ world and in what he does best – comedy.

His self-deprecating humour matched with his personable nature and ease at engaging with the crowd is very much the beating heart of the show. Interspersed in between failed tweets and comic mishaps, we are also treated to a few silly musical numbers which felt slightly out of place but all the same did add another comedic layer to the narrative.

What McElroy lacks in number of retweets and social media savvy, he makes up for in spades with his comical prowess and jovial energy live on stage.  Alan McElroy is Sh*t @Twitter veers a little on the self-indulgent side but overall is an enjoyable and frequently funny late night offering.

Alan McElroy has one more show TONIGHT 10pm at the Classic. For more info and to book tickets, click here.

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NZICF 2019: Phil Nichol – Your Wrong

Some people are born to entertain and just thrive at being centre stage – Phil Nichol is one of these people and boy does he do it well. There is stand up comedy and there is Phil Nichol doing stand up comedy which is a totally out-of-this world experience.

Your Wrong is a crazy and capricious multi-layered narrative that takes you on an epic ride through Nichol’s life as a self-proclaimed hedonist which unexpectedly turns in to a journey of self-discovery following a curveball involving his older brother Andrew. He even throws in some rock and roll comedy on guitar for good measure.

Contrary to his accent, Nichol is actually of Scottish descent; he and his family moved to Canada when he was 12. He switches between the two accents with ease and his portrayal of his dotty mother Ethel who believes buttons are evil is a particular highlight.

The main pull of the show that keeps you engaged from start to finish is Nichol’s larger than life personality and infectious energy. He’s loud and brash but not divisively so; he is both over-the-top yet also deftly perceptive. In and amongst the silliness and outrageous antics, is some truly brilliant comedy. Nichol has his finger firmly on the pulse of the crowd and his material and it’s a joy to watch.

Your Wrong is a gloriously freewheeling, riotous affair with surprises on every turn and laughs at each corner. Nichol is the consummate entertainer in a league of his own – an absolute must-see for all comedy lovers.

Phil Nichol is performing at The Classic all of this week until 25 May. For more info and to book tickets, click here.

NZICF 2019: Tim Batt’s & Disasteradio’s Space Couch – A Live Comedy Chat Show

During the comedy festival season where stand up shows are in abundance, it’s nice to try something new to cleanse the comedic palate. Enter Space Couch: A Live Comedy Chat Show – a refreshing blend of comedy and conversation which takes inspiration from iconic talk shows like David Letterman and Jon Stewart.

This late night soiree is the brainchild of two-time Billy T nominee Tim Batt and electronic/ synthpop musician Luke Rowell (aka Disasteradio). Together they have created an entertaining and eccentric hour of comical banter, facetious commentary and riotous antics with some sketch comedy thrown in and even a commercial break.

Batt’s charisma and amiable persona make him the ideal host while Disasteradio provides well-timed musical cues as the show’s one-man house band. At centre stage is the titular Space Couch who we learn was named so after traversing space in 1958 and along the way found his voice, albeit a communist one. A talking couch may sound ludicrous but somehow doesn’t seem totally out of the ordinary within the context of this show.

Each night, in keeping with the talk show format, the audience is treated to a panel of different guests. For this show we had local comic Hamish Parkinson and his mum Lynette who took part in a guessing game with a shock factor that sent audible responses both onstage and in the crowd.

Actress Claire Chitham of Shortland Street/ Outrageous Fortune fame was the celebrity guest and who was just an absolute delight to have onstage. When she closed the show with an impromptu pilates class, we don’t even blink an eye – we’d seen far more outrageous things at this point.

With a bit of refining, Space Couch: A Live Comedy Chat Show certainly has the potential to be a permanent offering in the comedy festival programme. If you’re getting a bit of show fatigue and keen for something a bit different and unpredictable, this is a great late night treat.

Just one more opportunity to see Tim Batt fulfill his chat show dreams! The last show is at 10pm tonight at the Basement Theatre. For more info and to book tickets, click here.

Zanetti Productions: Medusa

This is Medusa as you’ve never seen before. There is no creature with a head of snakes instead the rage that embodies this character unravels before our eyes in a vivid and visceral tapestry of spoken word, light and sound.

Nisha Madhan, Julia Croft and Bronwyn Ensor collectively “play” this mythological monster and they do so like a well-oiled machine. The piece starts in complete silence bar a few awkward sniggers and shuffling before evolving, coming alive and eventually going the other extreme in a defiantly discordant way.

We are taken on an erratic journey where any notion of a conventional narrative is completely dismantled. Things get chaotic, raucously loud, uncomfortable, raw, unsettling yet oddly hypnotic. The lighting design and soundscape are like characters in their own right, adding a visual and aural layer to the cacophony of words.

Medusa is an assertive assault to the senses, reminding you of the power of theatre. Postmodern in its approach, it will not be for everyone but for those who take the chance, it is a bold beast that will affect and bewilder as well as challenge your ideas on femininity.

Medusa is part of Q Theatre’s Matchbox 2018 season and is on upstairs in the Loft until 3 November. For more details and to book tickets, click here.

Proudly Asian Theatre: Orientation

Love and sexuality are complicated enough to navigate without adding race in to the mix. Orientation is a bold new work by Proudly Asian Theatre that explores what it means to be Asian in Aotearoa, dissecting in particular common stereotypes associated with sex and relationships.

Mei, the central character of the story, finds herself battling an identity crisis being half Pākehā and half Chinese yet only having dated white men. Enlisting the help of the ‘Asian Everyman’, she goes on a quest – to “root herself back to her roots”. As she speed dates her way through various suitors, we are given a superficial representation of “Asianess” which will no doubt speak to and resonate more to those of Asian descent in the crowd.

This audacious way of self discovery is certainly unorthodox but paves the way to the bigger subject matter at hand – the racism and social conditioning that is deeply ingrained into the fabric of New Zealand society. From dumplings and that iconic lucky cat to throwing around popular prejudice and cringe-worthy clichés, playwright and director Chye-Ling Huang’s script is unabashedly honest as it is deeply perceptive.

Where this piece falters ever so slightly is in its over ambition and pace. While what is being presented is compelling, the overall narrative could have benefited from being tighter, focusing on a select few talking points rather than a whole slew – though perhaps this was the intent. Regardless things did drag in parts and at times felt on the over-indulgent side.

All in all Orientation packs a punch. It is an edgy and thought-provoking theatre piece that uses one woman’s mission to find her place as the beacon that casts a light on Asian sexuality and the racial undercurrents that exists in this country.

Orientation is on at Q Theatre until 15 May as part of the MATCHBOX 2018 season. For more info and to book tickets, click here.

Indian Ink Theatre Company: Mrs Krishnan’s Party

Indian Ink Theatre Company are renowned for their innovative and visual storytelling with Mrs Krishnan’s Party delivering just that and more. Taking place in the back room of the titular character’s dairy, it centres around recreating Onam, the annual harvest festival of Kerala which celebrates life, death and rebirth.

The party atmosphere is pulled off brilliantly with the use of theatre in the round style seating. Performance and audience spaces are very much blurred with no Fourth Wall in sight as audience members are engaged in conversation and invited to participate. The different tiers of tickets allows attendees to be as involved as they want to, very much mirroring what would happen at an actual party.

Aspiring DJ James played with charming aplomb by Justin Rogers is the amiable host of the festivities who is intent on bringing us together for a merry affair that’s like “Christmas, Easter, and Diwali all rolled into one”. Colourful scarves are passed around and bindis donned before the imminent arrival of the assertive yet endearing Mrs Krishnan herself portrayed superbly by Kalyani Nagarajan.

A highlight of this festive gathering is watching a pot of dahl come together live before our eyes. Just like how the flavours of a curry build over time, the depth of both these characters develop (and unravel) as the narrative unfolds. The journey their characters go on parallels the heart of Onam and the Hindu mythology that surrounds it.

Mrs Krishnan’s Party is another solid offering from Indian Ink Theatre Company that is a heartwarming recipe of culture, folklore, dance and cookery. It is a fun, feel-good, multi-sensory theatrical soiree that uses interactive theatre – and food – to bring everyone together.

The season at Q has finished but the company are taking the show to Wellington and Christchurch next. For more info and to book tickets, click here.

NZICF 2018: Arj Barker – Organic

With thirty years of experience under his belt, Arj Barker is a seasoned pro who has well cemented himself in the comedy circuit beyond his Flight of the Conchords fame. It’s been a couple of years since his last visit to our shores so he has a few things to update us on.

Organic is a fitting title for this show as while Barker’s style has always been more on the laidback side and this still holds true, there is something even more stripped back about his performance this time round. He is now a married man which could be the reason and it is adjusting to this new phase in his life which forms the comedic backbone of this show.

Barker’s recent transition to a gluten free lifestyle (thanks to his wife) is a recurring theme and particular highlight. He channels his struggle to adapt by giving popular gluten foods new meaning with amusing nicknames like “bread in a bottle” and “nautical seafaring bread” to hilarious effect.

Whether it’s debating Uber versus taxis, discussing flying business class or lamenting about the social etiquette around talking about Game of Thrones in public, Barker has the audience thoroughly engaged with his comic wordplay, sharp irony and perfectly timed punchlines. His closing set sees him treat us with a bit of musical comedy which adds another great comedic element to the show.

Organic is another enjoyable offering from Arj Barker filled with perceptive observations and entertaining anecdotes delivered in that signature style of his. As an added bonus, if after the show you still can’t get enough, after the show you can purchase some funny “Arjisms” to take home with you!

Arj Barker had only two shows at SKYCITY Theatre this year but I’m sure he will be back in NZ again soon! To find out when and where he is performing next, visit www.arjbarker.com

He has also started a hilarious DIY YouTube channel you should totally subscribe to – check it out here.