A Darling Debut

PowWow, 74 Courtenay Place (above Dakota), Wellington

15/06/2023 - 15/06/2023

Production Details

Producer, Creator, Performer: Jak Darling

A comedy showcase debuting the talent of Jak Darling and their friends. With standup, musical comedy, theatre, clowning, live music, and a giant spoon, this show has something for everyone. This is a development show with plans to be put on in the future, so I am ideally looking for pull quotes and feedback for future shows. I would ideally like someone well-versed in comedy and LGBTQ+ to do the review.
Venue: PowWow Room
Date: 15th of June
Time: Doors open 7pm, Show starts 7:30pm
Price: Tickets are $10 on Kiwiticket (Link below)

Live Musicians:
Viola - Lauren Jack
Trumpet - Eleanore Grigg, Clarke Spence, Kodi Rasmussen

Lorraine Ward, Gabby Anderson, Booth the Clown

LGBTQIA+ , Theatre , Comedy ,

2 Hours and 15 Minutes

Charming, sensuous and cheeky Jak supported by strong performers, brilliant writing, brilliant performing and music 

Review by Wesley Hollis 16th Jun 2023

There are a few shows out there that promise real talent and potential, and tonight I have the pleasure of viewing one. A Darling Debut at Pow Wow Room promises a stellar night of comedy, music, performance poetry and dance. Co-directed by Alia Marshall, it stars comedians Lorraine Ward, Gabby Anderson, Booth the Clown, and of course the headline act Jak Darling. Also featured are musicians Lauren Jack, Clarke Spence, Kodi Rasmussen and Eleanor Grigg. With so much talent on the line up I know we’re in for a special night.

Many of the audience members have taken up Jak’s suggestion to dress glamorously for the event, with permission given to upstage Jak themself. This is hardly possible though, as we see when Jak enters looking stunning in a blue gown with a white fur stole and pearls. There are a number of costume changes throughout the night, and Jak shows off dresses in every colour of the rainbow. This, coupled with the live music from a brass band, piano and violin, gives the evening a sophisticated vibe – which at times is at odds with the kind of comedy being performed. 

The brass band welcomes Jak onto the stage, and does an excellent job of welcoming the other acts as well. Although at times their playing is accompanied by recorded music, the live music always shines through as the star of the show. It is a shame that so much of the focus this evening is on the comedians, as it is clear that these talented musicians are due as much praise as their comedian counterparts. I particularly enjoy the musical accompaniment of the piano and the violin during Jak’s performance poetry.

The crowd is quickly warmed up with Jak’s clever comedy and infectious smile. Jak is charming, sensuous and cheeky and throughout the night there’s rarely a moment the audience isn’t in stitches while they’re on stage. Their crowd work is on point, with some good audience responses and banter. Their dramatic act outs are hilarious, especially during their performance poetry, adding extra life to the show. I find that a lot of poetry takes itself very seriously – Jak’s poetry knows how to laugh at itself while also sharing a unique perspective on the world.

Throughout the evening, they cover a broad range of topics, from queer life, to family, to catching the bus, to surreal and fantastic scenes of fiction that could only come from their brilliant creative mind. There’s even a bit of character work. There are many filthy and outrageous moments, and Jak knows how to make an audience gasp, groan and aww as much as they know how to make them laugh.

They play several songs for us, with the ukulele being their instrument of choice. They are a capable musician and singer, able to express a wide range of emotions as they sing with both their voice and their facial expressions. The lyrics are clever, funny and surprising. Jak knows how to use misdirection to their advantage to get a big laugh. They also know how to pause to let a joke sink in and let a laugh play out without interrupting the flow of the song. Though they lose their place a couple of times they know how to make this funny and it never breaks the spell of the moment or makes their performance any less impressive.

The first performer other than Jak for the night is Lorraine Ward. She quickly warms us up for her act with a good ice breaker joke and a few puns. Her comedy style is more understated, with a slow and measured delivery. I suspect that on a night with a smaller or colder audience the crowd response may have been more muted, but tonight the audience is hot and keen to laugh along with her. She’s a brilliant storyteller, able to keep us leaning forward in our seats waiting to hear what she has to say next. Her comedy focuses on small moments from everyday life that many people will find relatable and everyone will enjoy. Undoubtedly, she is a charming performer. 

The next performer is Gabby Anderson, sharing with us many tales of her time as a teacher. Gabby is friendly and engaging with an infectious smile to rival Jak’s, and she delivers her set with a confidence and warmth that I am sure would be the envy of many comedians. There’s a good vibe between her and the crowd, especially during moments of audience interaction. Her set makes me nostalgic for my school days and includes many worthy messages, particularly for those who enjoy left wing humour. There’s even a few choice burns to finish off the set. Gabby’s comedy is a lot of fun, and I could easily watch a whole hour of her performing. 

Booth the Clown is the last performer for the night, bringing with them brilliant comedy and clowning. They open with some stand up before giving us a glimpse into the world of interpretive dance. As a performer they’re flirtatious, silly, and endlessly joyous. As a clown they know how to make even a costume change a performance. During their dances they take small everyday moments and make them dramatic, larger than life, and side-splittingly funny. Their interpretive dances are the perfect blend of clowning, mime, movement and music. Their dancing is fluid and perfectly coordinated with the music. Their creativity and originality, limitless.

The night is capped off with one of Jak’s songs and closes to a well-deserved standing ovation. A Darling Debut is a strong show, held up by a group of strong performers, brilliant writing, brilliant performing and music. Every single performer brings something unique to the stage, with their own energy and style.

Anybody coming to the show should be prepared for a long night – with the break in the middle, it’s over two and a half hours long. But it’s well worth it for a performance of this standard. You can also catch the comics performing around Wellington and beyond, so even if you can’t make it to any future performances you can always catch the talent elsewhere. As for the future of A Darling Debut, I can’t wait to see it become A Darling Phenomenon.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council
Waiematā Local Board logo