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March 22, 2010 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Pick of the Fringe!


The Pick of the Fringe is a newly grown tradition at Downstage Theatre. In generous and sexy support of young theatre, they have, for a third year running, chosen the some of the choicest cuts of the recently completed Fringe festival and given them a further run in the hallowed halls of their Hannah playhouse.

As young as this annual season of works is, it has already developed quite a pedigree. Previous works have included the surreally wonderful Sensible Susan and the Queen’s Merkin, the grippingly crushed velvet gothic of A Most Outrageous Humbug and the insta-classic The Intricate Art of Actually Caring (you should check out its website at, it’s pretty cool). The Pick of the Fringe is always a big golden tick for a show and you will be pressed to be disappointed with either of this year’s offerings.

This year Downstage has chosen two very different but equally worthy works. The one point that really unites them, other than their obviously shared performance space, is how young and fresh they are. Previous years of the Pick of the Fringe has been largely populated by already known companies, or at the least, companies with already a show or two behind them. Not so this year. This year’s POF (pronounced like a charmingly fatuous French exclamation) is all fresh meat. Deliciously raw, occasionally bleeding, and when you chew it you get odd looks.

Opening the evening at 7pm is back/words, an exercise in verbatim theatre by the bare hunt collective. The collective (named for a mixture of bear hunting and honest exposure) was formed by three recent graduates of the Otago University theatre department, Jackie Shaw, Catherine Wright and Victoria Abbott.

Verbatim theatre is about the exact recreation of the words, rhythm and feeling of subjects interviewed on video by the theatre makers. The interviews are then edited and the performers then spend lots of time alone with the footage learning every nuance of their presentation and performance. The audio of that video is then listened to live by the performers on stage through iPods.

“It’s so we can get their rhythms right, it’s so easy as a performer to fall into your own rhythm and with the iPod you just can’t,” said Shaw.

“It’s about giving a theatrical voice to those whose stories aren’t normally told in the theatre,” said Scott Ransom, one of the performers.

has a few exciting tricks up its sleeve for its move from the snug space of BATS to the rolling heights of Downstage. New furniture and several more surprises that you’ll have to turn up to see.

Rounding out the evening at 9pm is Wannabe. Which could not be more different from its early evening theatre chum. A one-man show performed by recent Toi Whakaari graduate Guy Langford, it tells the twisted and spazmotically energetic tale of the final return world tour of Brotastik, the biggest boy band of the 90s.

Don’t remember Brotastik? Well, you should check out their website and remind yourself of how shaped your childhood was by their melodious pop anthems of love, loss and bitterness.

“We want to take people out of the traditional theatre space and really get them into an arena, concert mentality,” said writer/performer Guy Langford. “I mean, how do we speak to our generation? How do we talk about our generation’s shared experiences?

“We talked about ideas of tall poppy syndrome and aspiration and the relationship between the two. And boybands seemed to be a way of looking at those ideas that we could have a bit of fun with.

“You just have to consider how ridiculous and surreal the idea of a boyband is. These four or five guys playing these roles, of the hunk, of the nice guy, of the rebel, of the party guy. How crazy that is.”

Wellington theatre institution Jo Randerson has come on board to co-direct the return season and the expansion into Downstage from the muggy hug of the Fringe Bar with the on going mentoring of the talented Downstage tech crew means that Wannabe is a show that needs to be seen again.

Guy will be singing live and his favourite boyband was The Backstreet Boys.

Pick of the Fringe runs at Downstage theatre on the 18th to the 20th and the 23rd to the 27th of March. You can see one for $25/$20 or see both for $40 (which is what you should do, just saying). Booking details are at


About the Author ()

Uther was one of the two arts editors in 2009. He was the horoscopier and theatre writer in 2010. Alongside Elle Hunt, Uther was coeditor in 2011.

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