Category Archives: performing arts

NZICF 17| Hal Cruttenden – Straight Outta Cruttenden


Last night Hal Cruttenden made a strong initial impression entering stone-faced to NWA – his nod to the show’s title. He then opened his mouth, broke the spell, and treated the audience to some very British humor.

Interestingly, the naming of the show can be credited to Hal’s recent re-immersion to hip hop music after a hiatus of a few decades; In fact my favourite aspects of the show were perhaps his musings on age and the passage of time. Shakespeare talks about the 7 stages of man; He cleverly condensed it to about 3.

Hal also unabashedly interacted with the audience, ribbing them mercilessly but, for the most part in a non-combative tone (though maybe the biggest laugh of the night came when, on learning about the presence of psychiatrists in his audience, Hal ordered them to “LEAVE NOW”).

The choice of material, and his intelligent commentary on most of it were all fantastic, however his greatest strength is that he seems truly relatible. Scattered with the occasional segue and rant, Hal transitioned smoothly from Brexit to the folly of youth to parenting teenagers to his own upbringing and relationships – the night studded with many a groan or laugh of recognition from the audience. He is clearly intelligent, and clearly concerned with the state of the world – that said, the fact he left America well alone was actually rather refreshing (perhaps it provides too much easy material). He is a comedian who certainly knows how to read the audience and their responses.

The evening passed quickly and energetically, and I can’t recommend you go see him enough, as he really is a true comedic professional.

Get tickets to experience Hal Cruttenden in all of his glory HERE.

4/5 Stars

HAL CRUTTENDEN performs at The Classic until Saturday May 20th as part of the 2017 NZ International Comedy Festival from 27 April – 21 May. For the full line-up of shows in the Festival head to the Comedy Fest website!


NZICF 17 | Dusty Rich – Dusty Rich and The Voices

Dusty Rich

After years of living dangerously and sitting in the front row at comedy shows, it finally happened. The comedian called on me to interact with him, and it could not have been for a better set. I lied about my name and neglected to mention my other job as a writer who was reviewing his show, and I’ll always have regrets about the hilarity that might have ensued had I done so.

South African comedian Dusty Rich has a manic and masterful improvisational style, with an effective use of bodily movements for physical comedy as well, that makes him a true delight to watch. You have no idea where it’s going, but it will leave you in stitches. It is this talent that most notably made him a perfect opening act for three of The Daily Show host Trevor Noah’s shows, and the host of one of Trevor Noah’s tours.

I had never experienced a comedy show where almost the entire set was composed of audience interaction. You would expect such a performance to feel fragmented given the range of tangents the audience could provide, but Dusty always finds a way to personally relate and bounces around the room without ever missing a beat. Never fear if Dusty points your way – quick-witted, engaging, and likeable, he is never mean-spirited. You are made to feel like a part of his performance, not a pawn in it.

Embracing his roots, Dusty is at his best when comparing our cultures, describing the beginning of colonialism in South Africa when the indigenous Khoisan met white people, and skewering the South African government.

Regardless of where you come from, everyone will find something to laugh hysterically at in his show.

4 out of 5 stars

Dusty Rich and The Voices

NZICF 17 | Ed Gamble – The Best of Ed Gamble

Ed Gamble

Comedian Ed Gamble is a regular performer at the famed Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and I hope he becomes a regular here in New Zealand as well. Full of classically British self-deprecating humour, enthusiasm and charm, he guides you through trials of internal panic and bodily betrayal with easy laughter.

Earlier in his career, Gamble was best known for his work as one half of the comedic duo Gamble & Peacock. In 2014 Gamble debuted his first solo stand-up act and since then has had numerous television appearances, including regular spots on BBC2’s Mock of the Week, a headline stand-up spot on Russell Howard’s Stand Up Central and a performance on the US television show Conan. In addition, he is also the star of BBC America’s faux reality show Almost Royal, in which he plays a clueless British aristocrat experiencing America for the first time.

In his own words tonight, “As a comedian, my goal is to lure you in with observational material and then make you think I’m disgusting”. But, strangely, I don’t. I think he’s genius.

Gamble’s interaction with the audience throughout his performance was a highlight. Full of sharp wit and observations about both British and New Zealand stereotypes, he immediately made the audience warm to him.

His flatulence, propensity to panic and say exactly the wrong thing, adult circumcision, and foreign hair in the strangest of places…nothing is off limits. Gamble’s comedy set is very personal and he deftly manages to turn his insecurities and the awkward experiences of the human condition into comedic gold without being overly crass.

Exceeding thirty years of age holds nothing positive for some people, but for Gamble the transition into a new stage of life is a wealth of humorous content for his set. From navigating the bizarre living habits of girlfriends once they move in, to deciphering whether the universe is signalling that it’s time to reproduce, if Gamble is anything he is incredibly relatable and honest.

4 out of 5 stars


Be sure to catch Ed Gamble at the Comedy Festival performing in Auckland until the 6th of May and in Wellington on the 14th of May. You can buy tickets to see him here.

NZICF 17 | Guy Williams – Why Am I Like This?


This year at the NZ International Comedy Festival, Guy Williams managed to impress with a lively (albeit slightly shouty) sell-out show at the Basement Theatre with self-deprecating ease.

The Basement provided a comfortable setting for Williams’ featured show, engaging the audience seamlessly, and keeping the atmosphere buoyant with a spirited performance. ‘Why Am I Like This?’ begins confidently, with him keeping his material relevant and current throughout.

Williams’ undeniable talent for political heckling remains, and we are updated in regards to his recent antics on social media – blessed. He communicates raw comical honestly which is refreshing when compared to the rehearsed-mood sometimes encountered in the current comedy scene. Although some of the show feels a little rehearsed with music cues and whatnot, he handles improv with ease (twice his performance was interrupted by late-comers, which is possibly not a great thing to happen to the late-comer, but can really work to a comedians advantage).

I have to recommend Guy Williams’ show – go and see him while you can readily acquire tickets; His reach and audience appeal continue to grow, as does his obvious comfort on a larger visible public platform. Also he treats us to more texts from his Mum. Thumbs up.

4/5 Stars   Get tickets for his show HERE.

GUY WILLIAMS performs at the Basement Theatre; His last show Sun 7 May as part of the 2017 NZ International Comedy Festival from 27 April – 21 May. For the full line-up of shows in the Festival head to the Comedy Fest website!

Been | Jesse Griffin ‘Centaur’


Is it a man or is it a horse? Jesus incarnate or just some random vagrant with a penchant for wearing patient gowns, backside exposed and a sense of artistic superiority?

Hold up! That’s just N.Z’s own comedic caper Jessie Griffin with his one-man show ‘Centaur’ and alter-ego Clifton, providing us with persuasive, obscure, out-of-the-box ponderings over performance art and its relation to ourselves, the observer.  Albeit, following a hilariously uninhibited wardrobe change from an adult diaper to the cliché brown corduroy trouser suit, popular with the most articulate highbrow

Suitably coinciding with Auckland’s own ‘Art Week’, Centaur tackles the big issues; child trauma, the sad transience of life, negative space, and the infinite question regarding artistic license, thus highlighted by one such disturbing piece involving sprouting tufts of ginger mane …

Jesse Griffin hits the spot with his sardonic, yet genuinely observant wit. The expressive and artistic platform on which he performed, I found to be fun and uniquely interactive.

Fans of Rod Stewart and marathon runners alike, be sure not to let the artistic talents of Clifton – aka. Jesse Griffin escape you!

Now showing from the 11th October – 15th. Basement Theatre

been | Close City


The Passion, excitement and unspoken nervous tension of an opening night are heightened in the small crammed studio host to ‘Close City’ – a play produced by Amber Rose Henshall and directed by Egle Simkeviciute Kulvelis.

Written by Marius Ivaskevicius, Close City paints a colourful and provocative tale of marriage most mundane, dominance and submission, all with a decidedly Scandinavian quintessence.

Sheena Irving and Jeff Szusterman play the fragile centrepieces of this play with superb support from Lucy Suttor as the fantastical mermaid, Thomas Sainsbury provides comedy with his character’s quirky swedish anecdotes and bizarre reflective musings, Daniel Watterson plays the dashingly deviant Lars, along with Emma Newborn as the morally corrupt Birgit.

With clever metaphors between glass and the innate fractures of close relationships, parallels pertaining to the distance of cities, (Malmo & Copenhagen) and the journey of discovering another part of oneself previously repressed, albeit far from home, Close City is a story that alongside superb acting, clever and detailed artistic direction that leaves one feeling not quite the same as when they entered.

Thought-provoking and engaging, this is one show of the Basement Theatre’s Spring Season that is a must-see!


Close City is showing at Basement Theatre 6th-17th September

Been | Leilani


From first throes, seated in the back row of a dimly lit and intimate theater, we are drawn into the tragycomedy of Leilani (Irasa Siave), a naive but incredibly loveable heroine, who shares her journey from the onset – the consequences of an unrewarding love, to being down on her luck and cast amongst the undesirables of society.

Director Pedro Ilgenfritz introduces the play and it’s players; Aymee Karaitiana, Irasa Siave & Natasha Daniel and their young, yet uniquely impressive Mahukia Theatre Company.

The use of masks to emulate the emotions of it’s characters, together with the sparse and barren settings of the stage, play a very important part in capturing the core soul of the play.  One that deals with such issues relevant to our own urban culture; homelessness, unplanned pregnancy and despair.

Pedro’s direction combined with the subtle use of choreography, sets just the right pace throughout the 70min performance to engage the audience’s attention and keep us invested in it’s characters and their evolution towards the end.  The inclusion of comedic elements as well as the irony of finding love, acceptance and hope from out on the bleak dark streets, bring too, some light relief to an otherwise grim subject.

Language is not merely confined to just words, language can manifest itself through imagery, movement and music, which is what Leilani successfully achieves as a theatrical experience, one that takes you on a journey through the essence of music reminiscent of silent movies, movement, comedy and a reverent tribute to the Commedia dell’Arte”.

It is an experience that is worth the admission price 10 times over!   A truly moving and polished performance.


***  Leilani is part of the Matchbox 2016 Season and is showing at the Q-Theatre (Loft) from August 4th – Saturday 13th