Sunday, May 15, 2016

Started At The Top

The comedy festival is coming to a close. Before I decided on the theme for this year’s festival selections (did you spot what it was?) I’d decided that Guy Williams would be a good person to go and see, having seen him on Jono & Ben.

What I’d forgotten was that I’d also booked The Ten Tenors for the same night a month or so previously. It is my habit to book these things when they are first advertised, often several months in advance, to avoid disappointment (these shows do sometimes sell out in Wellington – we’re not that apathetic!).  Fortunately, Guy was doing an early evening slot at 5pm, whereas the next show was at 8pm. Phew! We could do both, and grab some dinner in between.

Guy Williams’ show, Started At The Top, is in homage to rapper Drake with his song Started From The Bottom. Guy notes that he is white, male, middle class and privileged, so naturally he started from the other end. His show is very similar to the kinds of stuff he does on television, including a long section on the TPPA where he shows how ignorant people are of what it is and what it means…and even how many countries are involved. The people he asks about this are MPs, as he accosted them at Auckland Airport. His point being that it’s easy to make someone look stupid when you stick a camera in their face, and news reports of protestors who don’t know what they’re protesting about aren’t the only story. He also riffed on his favourite subjects – being tall but no good at basketball, fulfilling dreams, and emails from his mother.

So this year we’ve been to see five women comedians/actors/performers, and one bloke. I’d never heard of the women before, and selected them more or less at random, based on availability and the short blurb on the festival website. Guy Williams I have heard of. And I’m sorry Guy, you weren’t the best, funniest, or most original act we’ve been to see this year. B-.

I’d originally planned to have a tapas-style dinner at Basque, which is just round the corner on Courtenay Place. But when we stuck our heads round the door all the tables were taken. A quick rethink took us to Yakitori and Sake Bar, where we had a Japanese dinner of – yes, yakitori and sake (me) and sashimi and chicken hotpot (Nicola). We then strolled in leisurely fashion up the road to St James Theatre, where the Ten Tenors were performing.

Now you’ll have heard of The Three Tenors (Pavarotti, Carreras and Domingo). They were big in the 90s, and gave concerts of popular arias from opera. I thought that what we’d be seeing was going to be much the same, but with ten instead of three. From the look of the audience, it appeared that they were expecting much the same sort of thing.

That was not what we got, however. The show mostly consisted of covers of pop songs. Mostly not even very good pop songs. They did do a medley of Neapolitan opera in the first half for about 10 minutes, and Nessun Dorma as the encore, but in between they were mostly doing stuff by the current (and not-so-current) crop of boy and girl bands. They threw in a couple of New Zealand songs  - classic lullaby Hine e Hine, and Crowded House’s Don’t Dream It’s Over. The highlight was probably the opening of the second half - Bohemian Rhapsody. This is a song that's entirely suited to their style.

The performance, singing and staging was all very professional but I couldn’t help feeling that we’d been somewhat shortchanged. I was expecting a lot more opera, and we didn’t get it. I don’t know who selects their songs, but someone needs to have a word. They did a Bowie tribute with Heroes – a song entirely inappropriate for their voices.

So that was Saturday night in Wellington. The comedy festival is over, roll on the food festivals!

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