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Print Version

NZ International Comedy Festival

at BATS Theatre (Out Of Site), Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington
From 7 May 2013 to 11 May 2013

Reviewed by John Smythe, 8 May 2013

Billed as “interactive chaos that you'll never regret”, One Bucket, Two Comedians is an odd mixture of absurdist and crass comedy. 

Opening the show in bad wigs – Vaughan King in frumpy drag; Alan McElroy in a strange outfit – they play cards, get physical and chase each other about, kicking a few randomly scattered buckets in the process … McElroy has a long and crumpled ‘bucket list' and a bucket that was strategically-placed bucket in the foyer before contains ‘wish list' items deposited by the audience.

It emerges they are a couple of washed up old comedians – way in the future – whose job now is to warm up clothes for various clients, delivered and dispatched via a chute up-stage centre. The second consignment is the dark suits they wear for the rest of the evening, and that's that for that promisingly absurdist idea.  

What looks like a wheelie bin turns out to be a splendidly rigged-out ‘time machine' which transmits them back to this very night at BATS Theatre so they can “put things right”, given their downward spiral began right here … I guess this means if they go down well tonight they'll have redeemed themselves and if they don't, they'll have demonstrated why they become washed up.  

Betwixt and between the interactive stuff, random sketches are played out by the ‘Two Comedians'. Vaughan King has a well-focused moment masquerading as a psychic. But Alan McElroy brings the tone down early on with his “that's what you call a mono-log” gag. Twice.  

I'm not sure any of the ideas plucked from the bucket are genuine, or whether such ‘bucket list offers' as we might make would ever be conducive to improvised comedy. The desire to be shot from a canon certainly isn't ‘real', given the handy proximity of the required props, but it does allow for some enjoyable audience participation (thanks Craig).

In a sequence pumped up as a game show spectacle, one Evan gets to guess the contents of sandwiches. And Mike, also from the audience, is amusingly subjected to a lie detector test to fulfil someone's apparent desire to “Get away with a crime”. 

Alex and Cherie happily role play a LARP fulfilling another presumably phony bucket list item: jousting. But the knight's helmets made from buckets are well wrought. And the prize Alex wins sees his bag searched at Customs, which results in perhaps the best gag of the night. 

The ‘round the world with 15-odd hats and props' is lots of fun too, seasoned as it is with equal opportunity cultural stereotyping. 

The early set up of McElroy wanting to be The Cookie Monster and King wanting to be a street musician from Harlem gets paid off as the musical finale – and if you thought you'd seen the last white actor in blackface somewhere around the middle of last century, think again.  

Over all, possibly because it is both under-developed and under-rehearsed, One Bucket, Two Comedians comes across as a hodgepodge of ‘hey, this'll be funny' ideas with no greater purpose and no real unifying theme despite the bucket motif, so ‘try hard' is the term that springs to mind.

But given the actors and director (Ben Crowder) have impressive credentials, it may well hit its straps as the season progresses. I hope so.
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 Stephen Austin