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March 5, 2010 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Storytime for the Hungry


It’s the perfect sell for a student: free show, free porridge. But as with every deal aimed at the Two Minute Noodle demographic, there’s a catch. It’s a clown show.

Director Rachel Baker states in the programme that she’s enjoyed clowning from a young age. For those of us who view clowns with a mixture of boredom and pale terror, however, free tickets aren’t nearly enough incentive. I probably wouldn’t have come if it weren’t for the people behind it, namely Binge Culture Collective.


Formed as part of an honours level research project into UK theatre company Forced Entertainment, Binge Culture Collective is an excellent demonstration of the standard of theatre coming out of Vic. Rooting their performances in both the everyday and the absurd—Grim Reapers prowling Wellington, a panda clearing the streets—Binge Culture Collective know how to involve their audience. They’ve also got an eye for insecurity, as seen in last year’s Drowning Bird, Plummeting Fish, when a perfectly innocent, perfectly naked boy is humiliated for his limited knowledge of green lifestyle choices.

The edgiest moment in Storytime for the Hungry consists of the adolescent amusement in hearing a clown curse, and even then it’s a family-friendly curse. So this is a change of pace. Fortunately, they know what they’re doing. Storytime contains no ambitious attempts to reinvent clowning; the company simply applies its undeniable talents to keeping the audience amused. Put it like this: the plot consists largely of four clowns making porridge.

It’s not a complete departure, though. Their talent for audience involvement is amplified, as we’re invited to shout commands in aid of their noble quest for the correct porridge ingredients. Their keen command of schadenfreude also remains shamelessly intact, in keeping with that worrying strand of unrepentant sadism that runs throughout family comedy.

The collective also retains its sense of place, revealing Aro Valley as the natural habitat for an assortment of clowns. In a suburb with the highest density of pedestrian crossings in New Zealand, they show more fear when confronted with a ream of string than a stream of oncoming traffic.

The players uniformly hit the mark, which is necessary when your set consists of a scraggly lawn. As cook and unelected clown leader Toilette, Claire O’Loughlin holds the piece together. Her rag-tag minions consist of Simon Haren’s accurately named Giggles; Joel Baxendales’ musically inclined stud-muffin Ever Ready; and Gareth Hobbs’ adorably thin-skinned Juillio. Their perfectly timed interactions provided an hour’s sustenance in a hollow, pitiless world.

So in the words of a fellow audience member, “That’s like the first time I’ve found clowns funny!”

Storytime for the Hungry
by Binge Culture
Directed by Rachel Baker
With Gareth Hobbs, Claire O’Loughlin, Simon Haren, Joel Baxendale

At 225 Aro Street
1 – 3 March

Part of the 2010 Fringe Festival.


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Comments (3)

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  1. Ralph Upton says:

    This is a delightful review and a real pleasure to read. Thankyou to the author.
    For anyone interested, info about the company and our upcoming project at BATS is available at

  2. Ian Anderson says:

    For the record, third paragraph originally read “Binge Culture Collective is an excellent demonstration that not everything on Kelburn Campus is completely fruitless.” But we changed it because it could be read as an attack on the excellent Theatre department, and not the godawful management.

    Looking forward to the show with the knife!

  3. Salient Chief Sub-Editor Mikey says:

    Oh shit, someone forgot to close the <em> tag!


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