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TALENT IN SPADES; COULD USE A DIRECTOR

Print Version

NZ Fringe Festival 2013
GOBSMACKED: SHOWBIZ AND DATING
with Nikki Aitken and Jamie Burgess

at Meow, Edward St CBD, Wellington
From 1 Mar 2013 to 8 Mar 2013

Reviewed by Nancy Catherine Fulford, 4 Mar 2013


Gobsmacked – Showbiz and Dating is a whirlwind musical extravaganza brought to us by James Burgess and Nikki Aitken. Meow is an excellent venue for the cabaret styled show which you should definitely calendar as a must-do if you are a fan of either comedy or musical theatre.

Jamie Burgess has written a collection of songs that traverse the trials and tribulations of modern love and Nikki Aitken has a voice I would leave the house for any night of the week. It absolutely soars. Burgess, the principal pianist, is also a gifted singer, bringing a real warmth to his delivery.

What I can't report on is the name of a director. This has been a recurring experience for me this year at the Fringe: shows with some excellent material, and in this case superb delivery, but lacking the conceptual shaping and honing that is the job of a director or dramaturge. If it's your own material, how can you ever expect to have the aesthetic distance necessary to tie it all together into a cohesive night's entertainment by making the hard calls, as in “this section is damned funny, but it doesn't speak to the rest of the show and therefore let's keep it for later.”

Gobsmacked feels like it has three good shows condensed and confused into one. Were they each teased out and grounded in a dominating narrative I'd happily go three different nights. These performers have got talent in spades, as singers, actors and musicians. And whoever is responsible for the costumes deserves the Oscar on that account.

It is clear that everyone in the audience (and especially me) really enjoyed themselves, there is absolutely no doubt about that. I'm just saying... because I think these guys should go far.  They've each got the goods and work well as a team, playing on our cultural expectations of the spicy dynamic between the gay guy and single straight girl. The physical comedy between them is fantastic; very tight and very funny.

Aitken gives us many distinct and engaging character portrayals: the single girl waiting for her date; Miss fitness fanatic; Miss horribly hung over; the smooth and spangled torch singer (my favourite) and a Southern Belle. The characters each sing out their stories and the choreography Aitkin has fitted in around the music is out and out hilarious. 

There are times a couple of the characters feel rushed and I miss lyrics. They are all such delicious entities they deserve more space and sometimes that means a slower pace. Written by Burgess, the lyrics are often entertaining but this is one of the places I feel an outside director might have worked to tighten and focus things.

Burgess himself is very engaging on stage and I really enjoy his Knight-in-shining-armour take on a gay man's view of love in the real world.  

It's a great show and you must go, I just hope a director comes on the scene at some point and takes things to a new level, bringing in greater coherence and depth of story. 
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 Lexie Matheson
 Paul Simei-Barton (New Zealand Herald);
 Kimberley Buchan