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Print Version

NZ International Comedy Festival
Puppetry of the Penis - “Live”

at Opera House, Wellington
19 May 2013

Reviewed by Lucy O'Connor, 20 May 2013

Staring in the mirror, splashing water on my face wondering what abuse of the retina is about to occur, I cannot help but think whether my mother thinks she has failed me. I go into this with the honest thought that it will shock me into some sort of nun state whereby I could never take a man A) seriously and B) literally again. Mum probably hopes the same thing. A life of asceticism.

My first vow as a converted nun? One will use no penis puns throughout this entire review.

Enter into the foyer. Now, there are obviously going to be women at this show. At least 90% of the attendees do not possess a Y chromosome. And strangely enough, everyone seems dressed to the nines. Not surprising is the fact that everyone has a glass of wine in their hot little hands to take the edge off.  The first man I see – how exciting – is blonde, well dressed and… proudly gay. 

Descending into the Opera House gets a little more interesting. A couple who share about 160 years between them walk hand in hand. I wonder who the instigator was! Next to me sits a Polynesian man who is extremely comfortable with his legs hip width apart and one fist resting on each thigh. A gentleman resides next to a group of girls. He is obviously the doting partner of the one next to him. How sweet..?

Enter the stars of the show. No not the puppeteers, but the gaggle of middle aged women who place themselves directly behind me. “Oh, good seats, right in the middle,” one raves. “Well done Sharon.” Well done indeed, Sharon. I'm glad she is happy. I myself am also seated bang in the middle. I am tempted to apologise to my seat – “Thanks but this just won't work” – and creep out to the fringes so as not to be forced to stare down the barrel of a … (first failure as a nun).

Alright, alright, to the actual show we go. Enter Sammy and Willow, the renowned puppeteers. Sammy and Willow? Please, what fitting names.

Sammy is tall, dark and handsome with Johnny Depp-ish hair. He emits cheek and excitement as he whips out pun after pun and laughs at each one. A 10-year-old in the body of a man. Willow is smaller in stature with innocent(ish) blue eyes and spiky blonde hair. You may note that faces are a strong focus for me. That's visual enough thanks, especially on the first date. They emerge wearing floor length velvet capes. Hopefully this is just a flash of skin, nothing too offensive, and they'll disappear.  Unlikely.

The capes are ditched. Yup, hey, there they are. Wow. A slightly intoxicated girl screams, “Show us your sh*t!!” Perhaps a Mormon? The boyfriend sits with a plastered semi smile on his face but his gaze veers off to stage left. Subtle, so as not to upset his girlfriend. The Polynesian man next to me starts to laugh whole heartedly. Obviously an appreciator of fine art. But the lady behind me whose voice is a magnet to my ears says, “I'm glad my phone's on vibrate.” Crucify me.

We are told that CGI will be used to ‘enhance' and ‘embellish'. What that basically means is that their members will be blown up on screen with a suitable setting for whichever arrangement they have undertaken. I think I'm ok with the distance established. Thanks, but no need for embellishment. Praise I'm not in the front row.

You can use your imaginations to recreate the following scenes using penile realities. 

First we go travelling to the city of Paris none the less. What a treat! I've actually been to Paris and truly the best thing, like everyone says is the Eiffel Tower! In my memory it was a little more industrial, a little less… skin.

To Australia we go! There's Ayer's Rock! More like Ayer's something-that-rhymes-with-rock-but-starts-with-c. Thanks CGI, you're really setting the scene. Who would have thought we would be lucky enough to see a kangaroo. With a baby Joey! Oh. How…. cute. Cuter than the pelican at least.

Time for a quote from Sharon's friend: “I can see Charlie doing something like this.”

We are even treated to a few movie trailers. E T brings back memories. And what crosses my mind and makes me feel a small yearn for my childhood innocence is that this this depiction is probably the most true to form so far.

As with every great show, there has to be audience participation. My prayers are with the poor girl who has the birthday today. Hopefully the sweat from Sammy as he goes to collect his victim, sorry, participant, has not dripped down too far. He is running pretty enthusiastically.

Up she goes (calm down nuns, if it was up he goes then it would be a pun). She seems in good spirits as she prances on stage and her facials are so appropriate anyone would think she was a plant. A fruit bat which hangs upside down from a tree is constructed by Sammy and birthday girl. Cue Sharon's friend: “Lucky she isn't a little shorter.”

A hamburger ‘how to' session is undertaken; not a male in the crowd wants to promote their skill on stage. I swear some women start to take notes. It could be an interesting night for the men in their lives. 

It ends (I can't help but say end!) with a jingle. The older lady is asked to assist so they can play the piano piece by saying “You two have been naughty boys” in a naughty voice. She sounds a bit like a dominatrix but Sammy and Willow obviously like that as the jingle plays without a hitch. They don't use their hands at all.

Limber is a word and one I'd use to sum up this show. Skilled? Sure, I could never do anything like that for lack of motivation. And equipment. Sammy and Willow are very entertaining and have an unbeatable stage presence and confidence. Did I mention they were Australian? 

I'll leave you in the capable hands of Sharon's friend: “Well, what can you say?” Amen to that.
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 Cherie Moore