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Print Version

NZ Fringe 2014
Christine Brooks

at Gryphon, Wellington
From 15 Feb 2014 to 1 Mar 2014
[1hr, Saturdays only]

Reviewed by Hannah August, 16 Feb 2014

Mackenzie Morgan, the character embodied by Christine Brooks in the eponymous Advice Dispensary, evidently has a following. The spontaneous claps and cheers that greet her entrance make this clear, and, having only recently relocated to Wellington, I'm suddenly worried that I might not ‘get' this show, given that I wasn't able to witness the Wellington Improvisation Troupe's 2012 soap opera The Young and the Witless, in which the character was created.  

In the end it's not a huge issue – I suspect some of the jokes go over my head, but it's still an enjoyable way to kick off a Saturday evening.

Mackenzie Morgan is a brightly dressed, teapot-wielding professor (of psychology? psychiatry?), who offers biscuits and romantic advice to audience members daring enough to come on stage and share their emotional quandaries with her (and the rest of the audience).

The night that I see the show the ‘patient' is a young American man called Ben (or is it ‘Bin'?), who gleefully divulges the details of his recent romantic history, proffering information so willingly that Brooks has to do very little prompting. This creates the impression that she is not entirely in control of the direction the show is taking, but I suspect that with a less garrulous participant this wouldn't be the case, and Brooks is good at pulling humour from the conversation while avoiding mockery.

The appearance of Mackenzie's husband after Ben has been sent back to his seat takes the show in a different direction, turning the spotlight on the amorous problems of the advice-giver herself, and there's a hint that this storyline will be further developed in Brooks' further two shows throughout the Fringe.  

Reviewing improv always feels like doing a disservice to the ephemeral nature of the event – it will, of course, be different every time you see it. Suffice to say that Brooks' improvisatory style is strong on the traits that produce laughter – reincorporation, metatheatre – and she is adept at creating a non-threatening atmosphere of audience participation.

Given that this is a koha show, there's no reason at all not to go along and check it out for yourself. 
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