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May 19, 2008 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Pick of the fringe

Pick of the Fringe
At Downstage
May 6 – 10

The Fringe Festival, usually held around February, has always been a primo opportunity for Wellington’s artists to jump onto the stage and show off their talent. However with the sheer amount of stuff going on and typically short seasons, it’s sometimes easy for the real gems of the Fringe to get lost or be missed. Thankfully, for those of us who couldn’t make it to their original runs, Downstage has restaged three of this year’s most popular Fringe shows.

The first play of Pick of the Fringe is Three Spoon Theatre’s award-winning March of the Meeklings: An Apocalyptic Romp, which took the ‘Best of the Fringe’ award at this years festival. The show has a peculiar sense of intrigue and an indefineable something which just makes you want to keep watching. Perhaps it is the mysterious opening which draws you in, with deep organ chords rolling across the auditorium and shadowy monks skittering about the stage, or perhaps it is the humour, which wiggles quickly into nothing short of utterly wacky. Ultimately, March of the Meeklings is a charming piece and, if their recent successes are anything to go by, I am sure its participants will go far.

The evening’s middle show is Sensible Susan and the Queen’s Merkin, by the ever-popular Theatre Militia. It is testimony to their popularity that the audience at least tripled in size between Meeklings and Susan, which is really no surprise considering their continued box-office popularity and high critical acclaim. For the most part, the show remains largely the same as its original incarnation (check out our review from earlier in the year at, although some of the show’s flatter moments (such as the Spice Girls scene) have been pepped up, and to great effect. Theatre Militia has again produced a triumph, and, quite simply, they continue to show us all how to do great theatre.

The final show of the evening, 2b or nt 2b?, is set in the Downstage bar. Written by Sarah Delahunty for her senior school drama class, this show takes the central characters from a variety of classic plays, such as Antigone and The Seagull, and recontextualises them as teenagers in modern New Zealand society – or should that be post-modern society? In its analysis of the insecurities of today’s youth, the play integrates contemporary technologies such as laptops and cellphones, but what is most surprising about the play is how well these classic characters work as manifestations of today’s youth – although I must say that it is unfortunate for the play that kids these days are so damn whiney! Regardless, the performers of this production have a lot to be proud of.

It’s great to see Downstage offering all of these emerging artists a chance to stage their works in a professional capacity, and we hope that Downstage will continue to open its doors to more novel undertakings such as these in the future.


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