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Print Version

NZ International Comedy Festival 2014

at Hannah Playhouse, Wellington
From 6 May 2014 to 10 May 2014

Reviewed by Simon Howard, 7 May 2014

Bringing two British comedians together in a double feature is a new and innovative feature for the New Zealand International Comedy Festival. Chris Martin returns to Wellington after a sold out run at the San Francisco Bathhouse last year while for Carl Donnelly this marks a debut on our fair shores.

Carl Donnelly kicks off the evening with an hour of material focussed primarily around the end of his marriage last year, and the subsequent encounters he has thrown himself into. It takes a while to get into his set as he has to deal with a few unusual hecklers, whose bizarre interruptions give the audience the feeling they're not much at a comedy show as at a counselling session, where audience members get things off their chest in the hope Donnelly will deal with it.  

Eventually Donnelly gets into the crux of his set and starts to describe stories from his life in the last year. From strange journeys in India to hanging out in Melbourne with a comedian with a tendency for nudity, Donnelly has acquired a veritable gold mine of tales from which to draw his stand-up comedy. The latter stages of the hour really hit the mark, with a notable increase in the decibel meter from an audience who have warmed to this likeable Brit. 

However, Donnelly's insistence on bringing up any noises from the crowd, such as rustling sweet papers, causes lags. The time lost by these fairly humourless interactions could be better spent delivering another story or two from the series of events Carl has been through. Some of the stories are amongst the funniest I have heard in this year's festival, and he is warmly applauded at the end. 

After a short break Chris Martin comes out and instantly defines himself against Carl Donnelly. Rather than being fresh out of a marriage, he has just moved in with his girlfriend: his first serious relationship at the age of 27. Again the hecklers think it will be clever to contribute their thoughts and questions to the comedian, and Martin deals with them in a quick and efficient manner. Luckily there are no further interruptions, and we are able to enjoy an hour of stand-up from a comedian who is clearly at ease with his material and delivers just enough laughter to be deemed a success.

He rarely provokes belly laughs but regularly receives polite laughter and smatterings of applause from a reserved opening night crowd. Inoffensive and reasonably endearing on the whole, it is a shame that his final crude story misses the mark. His story of having to take a seven year old girl's excrement out of a public toilet and put it in the bin so as not to face the displeasure of the lady going in next is funny in places, but seems so implausible and silly that it fails to accomplish the high point both Martin and the audience are hoping for.

The style and delivery of the two comedians complement each other well, and this show should be commended for giving audiences the chance to experience two rising comedians from the UK circuit on the same bill. Chris Martin and Carl Donnelly are likeable comedians who tell stories in a bright and fairly imaginative way.

Donnelly in particular is someone to keep an eye on in the future, his set delivering consistent laughs after a slow start. Martin on the other hand never really scales the heights I am hoping for and is slightly underwhelming by comparison, lacking the killer punch lines and stories to be deemed an outright success.
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