Last night was the final cheap Wednesday of the NZ International Comedy Festival and we’d booked in two shows to make the most of it.
It was a rainy, blustery night in Wellington – typical autumn weather, windy but not cold. After parking the car in Courtenay Place for a quick getaway, I realised I’d foolishly left the tickets in my desk drawer at work. It was too far to walk back, but we managed to find a handy internet place to print them out again from Gmail. Phew! Unfortunately we’d wasted a lot of time by this stage so we dived into Egmont Street Eatery for a quick but tasty dinner before scurrying up the road to VK’s Comedy and Blues Bar – in the place that was BATS Theatre’s home away from home whilst their original building was being strengthened.
At the venue we chatted with Tor and Gavin who were also in the audience. Then Angela Barnes hobbled onto stage – as she explained, she’d hurt her foot in an argument with Mount Eden. Angela Barnes is an English comedian who does a good line in self-deprecating comedy. She was doing sit-down rather than stand-up because of her leg. Part of her show deals with the subject of ugliness and expectations of beauty, having suffered at the hands of nasty girls at school. She also told us about her father, who owned a sex shop. Well, someone has to! She illustrated her show with photos and a short film she’d made and put on Youtube, and also discussed her article in the Guardian, and the feedback from it. All good stuff, and very entertaining. This all explained the show's title "Come As You Are", as she played out with the song by Nirvana. We couldn’t hang around much afterwards, though, as we had to head off to The Fringe Bar in Allen St for our next instalment of the evening…
The audience set-up was a little different here. Instead of the serried ranks of seats, it was arranged café-style with tables and chairs. We selected a table near, but not right at, the front, in the expectation that we’d be safe from any audience participation being foisted on us.
This turned out to be a schoolboy error. First, no-one occupied the two front tables - the show had a disappointingly low turnout, possibly due to the weather. I assume they put out tables based on ticket sales, but not even the ones they’d put out were fully occupied. And on a night like this, passing trade was likely to be sparse. As it was, we were effectively in the front row. Not that this mattered.
Tessa Waters’ show, WOMANz, is strange. It’s part performance art, part comedy, total audience participation, and most of all, FUN! She starts off with the birth of the world from a coupling between a rock and a star, and then gave us a demonstration of stagecraft and art. All whilst wearing a leotard and sequin-encrusted sports bra. Fairly early in she demonstrated how to do her favourite dance move, which she explained was like rowing, then asked me to get up and demonstrate my dance…so I invited Nicola up to the front and we did a quick six-turning-basics waltz for her. This, she told us, was amazing! In doing her show over 200 times no-one had ever done that! She then invited other audience members to do their dances, and we were treated to Becs’s box, and Sam’s sit-down dance. She then got us all up on our feet to do a dance medley incorporating all these elements into our performance. Everyone got up and enjoyed themselves.
It’s really hard to explain how and why this is fun. Maybe this will help:
All of this is delivered in a cod Eastern European accent, for a reason that is never explained. After the show she greeted everyone as they left, thanked us for coming, and was generally enthused. We wandered out into the Wellington night, somewhat dazed and confused, but smiling. We'd seen two very different shows, both good in utterly different ways, Both are on until Saturday, but if you get the chance to only go to one of them, I'd pick Tessa Waters. Go see her! You'll emerge a changed person.
That pretty much ends our adventures in the comedy festival for this year. Did you spot the theme?