Saturday, April 21, 2018

Seven Deadly Stunts


Back to Circa for another Thursday night outing and this time it’s comedy magic duo David Ladderman and Lizzie Tollemache, aka Rollicking Entertainment. We saw them last year when they brought us Mr and Mrs Alexander: Sideshows and Psychics, so when we saw them on the schedule it was a no-brainer.

This week also sees the short-lived Wellington Night Noodle Markets, whereby various eateries set up mobile kitchens in Frank Kitts Park (not Waitangi Park) and sell foods of various Asian cuisines to the thronging hordes. And throng they did on the opening Thursday night, so we had to queue for a bit before getting pork belly and mushroom skewers from Hot Sauce, followed by chicken crepes from Mr. Circle. We had enough time left over to get to Circa Theatre and get a beverage before the show.

Seven Deadly Stunts opened on Wednesday, and this second night was a sell-out. We were in the second row, and firmly in the centre, so thought ourselves safe from being called out onto the stage to participate, as we had been last year. We got away with it! For reasons I can barely fathom, I don’t appear to have blogged about last year’s show, so I’ll just provide you with a quick update. David and Lizzie are fans of old-fashioned vaudeville, sideshow magic, and do tricks based on the old shows…whilst also providing us with some of the history and explanation of those shows and the people involved in them.


This year’s show does exactly what it says on the tin: they perform seven stunts, with a bit of explanation, audience participation, and comedy thrown in to help. As there’s no actual plot, it’s not like I’m revealing spoilers if I tell you what the stunts are, so here goes:

To begin with, we all stood up and played a game of upstairs, downstairs: this is basically heads or tails, and allowed, after eight rounds, one audience member to be selected as the “volunteer” for the next trick:

Russian Roulette: regrettably(!) the Health and Safety wonks won’t allow them to perform this trick with guns and live ammo any more, so instead they use industrial-strength staplers – the kind used by carpet-layers to, er, lay carpets. One was loaded with staples in front of the audience, then they were placed in a bag and jumbled up. The volunteer had to pick them out, one at a time, and staple David on various places on his hand, arm, and body. Obviously, as she picked each one out and it turned out to be empty, the chances of a loaded stapler increased. After five empty staplers had been discharged, David took the sixth one and stapled a flyer to a block of wood as a souvenir, and handed it to her.

Walking On Broken Glass: Next up, to the strains of Annie Lennox, Lizzie walked barefoot across some broken wine bottles that had been arranged on a tarpaulin on the stage. As she reached the end, she carefully cleaned the sole of each foot with a brush, to ensure no bits of glass remained. She then laid her face sideways on the broken glass, and David stood on the other side of her face.

Straitjacket: This one is literally straight out of Houdini: Lizzie was tied in a straitjacket, then wrapped in chains and padlocks. A screen was raised around her for the first part of the escape – from the chains – so we couldn’t see how it was done. The escape from the straitjacket, however, was performed in front of the audience with no screen. If you’ve ever seen Lethal Weapon 2, you’ll know how this is done.

Juggling Chainsaws: Sounds simple, doesn’t it? So, to make it a bit harder, instead of juggling three chainsaws, which are all the same size and shape, David decided to juggle three objects of different size and shape – a chainsaw, an apple, and a bowling ball. First, he positioned three stunt apples on the stage. To demonstrate that it was a proper bowling ball, he dropped the ball onto stunt apple #1 (it splattered satisfactorily). To prove it was a real chainsaw, he placed stunt apple #2 in his mouth, and chopped it in half with the chainsaw. If that’s not enough, whilst juggling the apple, bowling ball and chainsaw, he took a bite out of the apple and threw it into a bucket held by Lizzie.

Whipcracking: David gave us an explanation of whipcracking, the different types of whipcrack, the science behind it, and a bit of history about Wild Bill Hickok and his travelling shows, before demonstrating the different whipcracks, using the whip to break some roses held by Lizzie...held between the teeth, and other areas. David quipped that although it was dangerous for Lizzie, it was even more dangerous for himself as he was married to her!

Nail In A Bag: Another very straightforward trick, this one, but one that has gone horribly wrong on many an occasion. They revealed a small screen and projected onto it a brief compilation of incidences of this trick going wrong…the audience were invited to look away if they were squeamish. They also told us this trick is so dangerous, it’s been banned by the Magic Circle… "but that’s OK, we’re not members!” (It’s not and it isn’t, in case you’re wondering.)

Fire Eating: The grand finale was some tricks with fire, including eating it. Given their use of fire, I assume that their arms, hands and legs are completely hair-free. (If they weren’t before, they are now!) The major problem with fire-eating is how yucky the low-temperature fuel compound tastes.

And that’s all, folks! If it doesn’t sound like much, don’t worry, as we got a full 90 minutes’ entertainment with all the jokes, exposition and history thrown in. They came out for a bow, and off home we went.


Friday, April 20, 2018

The Lie


Now that Winter Is Coming, Thursday night is once more theatre night, and we are looking forward to the 2018 season at Circa Theatre. This week, we went to see The Lie, a new (for New Zealand) play by French playwright Florian Zeller. He was the man who also brought us The Father, which we saw last November. His other plays include The Mother and The Truth. I’m detecting a theme here.

Circa Theatre has recently rebuilt and upgraded their café and foyer, so as we had a 6:30 start I thought it would be prudent not to stray too far from the environs, and we opted to give the new café a try. I had the slow-cooked beef stew and Nicola had the halloumi. The stew was of the “I could do this better at home” variety, unfortunately…they should have taken the opportunity to upgrade their menu (and possibly chef) at the same time. Ah well, lesson learnt.


The play centres on two couples: Paul and Alice, and their friends Michel and Laurence. On the eve of a dinner party, Alice confides to her husband that she saw Michel kissing an unknown woman on the street earlier in the day, and she wants to cancel the party as she feels uncomfortable knowing this and concealing the truth from Laurence. But they’re too late, and the doorbell rings. The dinner party is excruciating, as Alice leads them all through a hypothetical “what would you do if…?” based on what she’d seen earlier.

The play has been criticised as contrived, and some even question the necessity for the final scene (as you should have worked out what was going on by then anyway). Nevertheless, we enjoyed it (simple souls that we are). It starred the usual suspects from the Wellington scene – Gavin Rutherford, Andrew Foster, and Bronwyn Turei are regularly seen at Circa, whilst Claire Dougan as Alice is a rarer bird.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Switzerland


Blimey! I’ve left this one a while! We went to see Switzerland at Circa last month. This is one of the theatre’s headline plays for the beginning of 2018. It’s an imagining of the final days of Patricia Highsmith, celebrated author of The Talented Mr Ripley, and even more celebrated pain in the arse.

As the Entertainment book year draws to a close, I scanned the app to see what we still had outstanding, and found, to my surprise, that we’d not used the Zibibbo discount. That’s easily rectified, and I booked us in for dinner. As usual, the food was up to standard, and also as usual, the maitre d’ recognised us but couldn’t remember our names. His is Gareth. I think.

The play is a two-hander, featuring two old hands from Circa, Catherine Downes as Highsmith and Simon Leary as Edward Ridgeway. Edward has been sent by her publisher to see the reclusive Highsmith in her retreat in Switzerland, to try and cajole a last Ripley book out of her. In fact, he volunteered for the job, as he’s a huge fan. Naturally, Highsmith takes exception to him, her publishers, and the world in general, and tries to throw him out. Although at first he seems pretty weedy, he eventually shows himself to be made of sterner stuff and makes a deal with Highsmith, which allows him to stay overnight.


Spoilers? You want spoilers? OK, it turns out that all is not quite as it seems. Well, duh! As the scenes change, Ridgeway grows in confidence, and this is reflected in his better sartorial sense with each change – from dowdy New York publisher-nerd to dapper confidence trickster. By the end, he is getting the better of Highsmith in their verbal duelling, and this leads to the final denouement. Which I won’t spoil.

A jolly fun night out, go see it if you get a chance.