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Print Version

Directed by Christine Brooks

at BATS Theatre (Out Of Site), Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington
From 24 Jun 2014 to 28 Jun 2014

Reviewed by Phoebe Smith, 25 Jun 2014

Taking off the Bird Suit at BATS Theatre (Out of Site) is an improvised scene or skit based show that is performed, produced, directed, designed and operated entirely by women. Christine Brooks, director and producer of this show, writes in her programme notes:
“There are a lot of reasons why women are not on stage in the numbers that men are. As well as talking about these issues, taking action and putting some women on stage seemed like an effective way to try to work towards some change.” 

Kudos. And it is fantastic to go to a show where there are sometimes 11 women on stage at one time! 

Theatreview reviewer James McKinnon recently wrote: 
“Reviewing improvised performance can feel pointless, since one is unable to predict the quality or even content of future performances based on the performance under consideration. But there are a few indices we can use to predict the likelihood of a good improvised performance, such as the calibre of the performers, the construction of the game, the integration of the audience, and the appropriateness of the ‘givens'.”

I intend to apply his suggested indices to this performance.

Are the performers any good?

Yes. There are some very high calibre performers here, most notably Fairy Wren, Curious Kaka, Fast-Talking Magpie and Sassy Fantail. More importantly, we have here a cast of improvisers that ranges from the very inexperienced to the very experienced.

On opening night it is a real pleasure to witness the more experienced or confident improvisers help to keep moments floating while actively providing opportunities for their fellow actors to step in and steer the boat. This is a refreshing change from the competitive spirit that is central to most of the improvised shows that we see in Wellington.

Is the game well-conceived? 

It is enjoyably simple. This is a performance comprised of a range of ‘types' of scenes (i.e. 4 people tell a story/everyone sings a song/everyone must be a rabbit, etc) with progressive scenes from an improvised story episodically placed in between. Christine Brooks serves as director and she has a near perfect balance between letting the performers travel their own paths and also pointing them in the most interesting or constructive direction.

Is the audience used well? 

The audience enjoy themselves thoroughly, though on opening night are not particularly loquacious. A more varied line of ask-fors could be more interesting. 

Would I go back?

Yes. This will be a different show every night and I would happily see all of them. 

[Profits from the show will be donated to Wellington Rape Crisis.]
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