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NZ International Comedy Festival 2014
Created and performed by Chris Parker and Hayley Sproull
Directed by Aaron Cortesi and Leon Wadham
Produced by Timm Nuttall for THE BAKERY

at BATS Theatre (Out Of Site), Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington
From 6 May 2014 to 10 May 2014

Reviewed by John Smythe, 7 May 2014

It's becoming a trend for Toi Whakaari graduates who have gone on to be in shows together to then make a show about very close friendship and the ways it gets tested. 

In this year's Fringe, having toured last year in EnsembleImpact's She'll Be Write, Ria Simmons, Carrie Green and Andrew Patterson created I Could Live Here to explore that theme. Now, as a sequel to last year's Outsiders' Guide in the Comedy Festival, Hayley Sproull and Chris Parker bring us Tighty Whiteys.

“This time we're going inside,” they proclaim. “And this time, it's personal,” their publicity promises; “that uncomfortable, skin-crawly type of personal.” Yup. They certainly deliver on their promise in what is now established as their own inimitable style, abetted by directors Aaron Cortesi and Leon Wadham. 

After some pre-start creepy weepy, it's all upbeat dancey wancey … until it's not. This prologue disjunction /dysfunction captures the essence of the aspiration v reality scenarios to come. This is the high-fiving, party-partying, ‘Yay!' generation after all, thoroughly conditioned to project total awesomeness no matter what. 

Rhyming couplets mash the metaphors splendidly. Mental telepathy proves just how close they are. The unveiling of … what they've created to celebrate the fifth anniversary of their first meeting in a dance studio at drama school exposes the proverbial writing on the wall. And that's just the intro sequence.  

As with Outsiders' Guide, but without the projections, there are chapter titles: ‘Values'; ‘Affirmation'; ‘Honesty'; ‘Experimentation'; ‘Invitation'; ‘Collaboration'; ‘Boundaries'; ‘Substitution'; ‘Confrontation'; ‘Resurrection'; ‘Restoration'.  Yes, it could be described as a 21st century Restoration Comedy; a Travesty of Manners; (a Comedy of Manus?).  

The Swiss ball as metaphor, a eulogy the deceased gets to improve upon and acrostic poems are all employed to prove the value of friendship. A recurring ‘awkward moments at a party' sequence, confidential chats about embarrassing moments, significant gift-giving and the minefield of “I've been meaning to say this for a while now” honesty all serve to explore their theme further. And many memorable moments prove to be set-ups that pay off later.

Song and dance punctuate the show and boy /girl do they nail it! But hey, everyone knows that BPFs (Best Platonic Friends) should not try to go to the ‘next level', don't they? OMG – what some actors will do to re-examine eternal truths …!

When reality bites and the truth hurts, the line in the sand becomes a chasm. So how do you audition a substitute friend? And how do you resurrect the lost friendship? Suffice to say audience participation is very well handled and everything comes together most satisfactorily.  

As a finale number, ‘Friendship' from the 1930s American musical Anything Goes, rounds the hour off brilliantly. These Tighty Whiteys are mighty good.
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 Nik Smythe
 Matt Baker