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POLISHED YET PLAYFUL

Print Version

New Zealand Festival 2014
Miss Fletcher Sings the Blues
Cuba Creative/The Bakery

at Whitireia Performance Centre, 25-27 Vivian Street, Wellington
From 11 Feb 2014 to 15 Feb 2014
[80 mins]

Reviewed by Deborah Eve Rea, 12 Feb 2014


Relief teacher, Miss Fletcher (Hayley Sproull) casts us, her audience, as a class of teenage boys and admits she can't teach geography but she can play the piano. Miss Fletcher has a lot of love for her students and is committed to helping pubescent boys answer life's questions and solve conflict through the use of music.

Sproull's comic timing is faultless and her riffing and audience banter is ingenious. Some audience members are cast as students by name, who she engages with throughout the show. These include Michael who has won the puberty lottery - Miss Fletcher says he has a “manly Adam's apple I wish I could bob for” - and less fortunate Hugh who is encouraged to hang in there, except when singing.

Miss Fletcher Sings the Blues, deservedly, is now in its fourth Wellington season. At times audience members who have seen the show accidently give away minor plot/jokes when they interact but, Sproull, like a seasoned comic, corrects it and adjusts her show seamlessly.

The marriage between comedy, cabaret and theatre is a less charted area in Wellington and the audience seems a little unsure of the rules of engagement at times. Sproull uses Miss Fletcher's authority (and sometimes lack of) to encourage and discourage their participation when necessary.

I first saw Miss Fletcher Sings the Blues as a rough but sparkly diamond in its 2011 Toi Whakaari season. I have since had the pleasure of being present at its BATS, Downstage and now Whitireia seasons.

The lighting has been much simplified since its Downstage season and the piece is stronger for it. Although I do wish something slightly more could be done to transform Whitireia theatre space into a classroom.

In preparation for the Edinburgh Fringe, the show has been extended by 20 minutes.  The new sections, including songs “Facebook” and “Always with the Wrong Guy”, draw us into the character's faults and vulnerability even more. Miss Fletcher's insecurities are brilliantly partnered with her attempt at being an authority figure which allows us to laugh at the characters tragedies and misgivings. The character and comedy has deepened to include flickers of Ricky Gervais and Sarah Silverman along with its usual Tim Minchin and Flight of the Concords comparisons.

Miss Fletcher Sings the Blues is superbly polished but playful and a must-see before she takes leave for Edinburgh.
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