Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Wellington

24/02/2015 - 28/02/2015

NZ Fringe Festival 2015 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Production Details

You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You

New Zealand Fringe Festival 2015 is upon us, so let PlayShop mend your broken heart with a tale of love, loss, mistrust, and lust.

10 Things I Hate About Usexplores the hilarious complexities of a relationship from first date onwards. Whether this will lead to happily-ever-after or happily-never-after is anyone’s guess.

The audience will play matchmaker, choosing the couple from our cast to watch the relationship evolve. Will you dare them to push the limits of PlayShop’s ingenuity? Why not throw them a curve ball and watch the chaos unfold before your very eyes! In 10 Things I Hate About Usthe audience will be more involved than an awkward third wheel.

Since its inception in 2012, PlayShop has taken the Wellington theatre scene by storm with various shows such as Riddiford Street, Game of Things, This Fair Verona, and our weekly show PlayShop LIVE. Reviewers have deemed our players to be “high calibre performers” (The Silent Treatment), and watching the show is “like being at a very fun house party” (Riddford Street). The Wireless has called PlayShop “Hip, Young, Exciting . . . an improv company that insists on wildness and liveliness” (21 February 2014).

10 Things I Hate About Us is directed by PlayShop’s Artistic Director Lori Leigh (This Fair Verona). Originally from the United States, Lori has been studying, performing, teaching, and directing improv for over a decade. She was recently a workshop leader at the 2014 New Zealand Improv Festival. Lori currently lectures in Theatre Studies at Victoria University of Wellington.

As part of the 2015 New Zealand Fringe Festival,
10 Things I Hate About Us
24th to the 28th February
Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street.
Each performance begins at 8pm.

Ticket pricing and booking information can be found at www.fringe.co.nz or at www.gryphon.stagecraft.co.nz

PlayShop is a Wellington-based performance company that aims to create spontaneous, thrilling theatre. We create opportunities for people to experience the joy of playful interaction, through theatre, storytelling, education, and improvisation. We are risk-takers, open to the potential of every moment, so that actor and audience share meaningful stories that arise from the present, and stay in memory for time to come.

Ryan Knighton
Callum Devlin
Amy Griffin-Browne
Jed Davies
Pippa Drakeford
Tom Hutchinson
Sabrina Martin
Karin McCracken
Jonny Paul
Freya Sadgrove 

Tillz Solia-Matafeo:  Live Musician

Lori Leigh:  Director
Ryan Knighton:  Assistant Director
Keely McCann:  Production Manager
Catherine Hart:  Marketing Manager
Callum Devlin:  Marketing Design
Harriet Denby:  Design
Darryn Woods:  Lighting Operator

Theatre , Improv ,

“It is one of the most astonishing things I have ever seen anyone do, ever”

Review by James McKinnon 25th Feb 2015

Improvised performance implies certain obvious difficulties for theatre criticism, but I have never felt safer in guaranteeing that your investment will be rewarded.  

10 Things I Hate About Us is a long-form improvised performance which combines clever design, an interesting premise and capable performers, so even though your version will end differently than the one I saw, there is a good chance that it will be equally good. It tells the story of a relationship from the first date until happily ever (or never) after. Being a long-form game (not the more common format of short sketches or games), the actors must sustain a plot and develop characters for the whole hour: a very challenging feat.

This version has a simple but effective structure. At the beginning of the show, the spectators are invited to volunteer a story about a date. We are then introduced to about 10 performers, who introduce their characters with a name and a single statement about why we would want to date them. The spectator who volunteers the story gets to choose one character to be half of the couple, and his or her date spins a bottle to choose the second half.

This simple introduction is the equivalent of the magician showing us that he has nothing up his sleeve: the couple is randomised every night. (Yes, do warn Uncle Dwight from Turangi that it can even be two dudes; if Uncle Dwight is from Ponsonby, on the other hand, this may be a selling point – but I digress.) 

From this point on, the two actors performing the relationship are tethered to those characters, while the others form a supporting cast of flatmates, parents, bosses, exes, and whatever else is required to move the story along. The supporting actors also have the option of moving the story forward and back in time, and shifting locations.

During the performance I see, the story begins two years into the relationship, and moves both forward in time, and then back, to the night Freya and Pip (Freya Sadgrove and Pippa Drakeford) met at a karaoke bar (Yes, Uncle Dwight – it could also be two chicks!). This scene, which reintegrates the story volunteered by the spectators at the top of the show, not only requires the actors to do a duet, but to perform, without lyrics or music, the song specified by the spectators: ‘Baby Got Back’. (Give it a shot, I’ll wait.)

They nail it, all the while maintaining the pretense of falling in love at the first sight. It is one of the most astonishing things I have ever seen anyone do, ever, and makes the sum total of my life’s achievements feel worthless by comparison.

This structure puts huge pressure on the actors playing the two principle roles, and that pressure is what makes the show risky and fun for the audience. At the same time, it allows the other performers to either relieve the pressure (e.g. by cutting to a new scene if the active performers are floundering), or jack it up by adding a new complication to the plot. This system of keeping two actors on the hot seat while the others adjust the temperature works beautifully.

The performance I see almost never loses its focus or intensity, and sustains our interest in the main characters. The supporting actors almost never become distracting actors (and the one time they do, it reveals a macabre 51st shade of grey that is well worth the detour from the main plot), and add depth, charm, and humour to the story. 

This structure enables the performers to achieve a challenging and rewarding balance of hilarious gags and emotional investment. Most people seek out improv for laughs, but playing it straight is more challenging, and a sustained simulation of authentic human behaviour is more impressive than a series of cheap throwaway gags.

The arguments between Pip and Freya sound and feel extremely authentic and even poignant, and frankly I find myself admiring their ability to talk frankly about difficult topics. Amy (Amy Griffin-Browne) and Pip reach a similar level of authenticity as sisters. That is not to suggest that you should expect an hour of serious drama: the gags are still there, but they are more rewarding when they build organically from the situation (Et tu, Seth MacFarlane?).

On the night I see it, 10 Things I Hate About Us is easily one of the best hours of long-form improvised performance I have ever seen – and just to be clear, I come from the same place as Keith Johnstone (who literally wrote the book on improvised theatre) and have seen some of the world’s best improvisers over the last 30 years. (But I can’t just rattle off an impromptu duet of ‘Baby Got Back’, so who cares?)

You might not get the same results, but with the structure devised by Lori Leigh and the skills provided by the performers, I like those odds.


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