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HIGHLY ENTERTAINING WITH A DARK DIMENSION OF PSYCHOLOGICAL INSIGHT

Print Version

BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH MUST DIE
Written by Abby Howells
Co-directed by Caitlin McNaughton and Alex Wilson
Presented by Discharge

at BATS Theatre (Out Of Site), Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington
From 19 Jun 2014 to 28 Jun 2014

Reviewed by John Smythe, 20 Jun 2014


Clarissa (Caitlin McNaughton), an actress and control-freak, is the founder and self-appointed president of an online Benedict Cumberbatch fan site. When she calls the first ever face-to-face meeting of The Cumberbitches, only two turn up to her bedsit-cum-shrine to the versatile velvet-voiced actor.

Tamara (Kate Schrader) is obsessed with the idea of ‘doing it' with Ben and has a habit and/or fear of losing control of her bodily functions when over-excited. Genevieve (Abbey Howells), who lives an insular life at home with her mum and is borderline Asperger's, socialises – or rather observes – on Facebook rather than in reality.

This is comedy collective Discharge's first long-form play, following their popular success with the sketch show What Is This, Woman's Hour? in Dunedin then Wellington (where these three now reside). They also have stand-up comedy and improv in their CVs, and all these skills come to the fore. 

Abby Howells' script – co-directed by Caitlin McNaughton and Alex Wilson (Kate Schrader is the publicist) – is well structured dramatically to reveal greater depths to the characters and bring about change in each of them and their inter-relatedness.

Motivated by some special news Clarissa has to reveal, the trio share their first encounters with Benedict and their most and least favourite moment is his movies and the Sherlock series, brainstorm a strategy for meeting him, exchange a monologue (Clarissa), fanfiction (Genevieve) and an erotic story (Tamara), then devise a trilogy of scenarios based on their hitherto secret fantasies.  

Happily Genevieve and Tamara take to improv like pros (Clarissa already has the skill), allowing the fantasies to play out fluently. All three get to don the long dark dressing gown and play Benedict And all of it produces a great deal of laugh-out-loud comedy.

Intriguingly McNaughton is more convincing in the make-believe scenarios than she is as Clarissa herself, whose control-freak persona is initially two-dimensional. Schrader pitches her obsessive persona to great comic effect and Howells nails the almost clown-like naivety of Genevieve with a beautifully timed performance.

It all builds up to what gives the play its title and I'll leave you to guess who comes up with it as a solution to their problem. Suffice to say this adds a dark dimension of psychological insight to a highly entertaining character-based comedy.
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See also reviews by:
 Laurie Atkinson (The Dominion Post);