Cavern Club, 22 Allen St, Te Aro, Wellington

19/02/2016 - 27/02/2016

Dunedin Fringe Festival Club, 20 Princes St, Dunedin

04/03/2016 - 06/03/2016

NZ Fringe Festival 2016 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Dunedin Fringe 2016

Production Details

Nowhere-based comedian Gerard Harris brings the hit storytelling show A Tension To Detail to the Cavern Club for 5 nights in February as part of the 2016 Wellington Fringe Festival.

The show is a hyperactive philosophical comedy about the many awesome feats of stupidity and self-delusion we perform whenever love and happiness threaten to transform our lives. Delivered as a series of true stories and wild tangents by one of the most popular, energetic and unpredictable storytellers on the Canadian Fringe and Theatre festival circuit of the last 5 years, A Tension To Detail has provoked laughter, tears, sellout houses, stage invasions, stalkers and widespread critical praise across the country.  

South African born, Gerard spent a very long childhood in the United Kingdom before escaping first to France, then Ireland and finally Canada, where his stuff still lives. He started out writing material for top British standup Jimmy Carr and has since worked in radio, film, television, music, journalism, human rights, cybersecurity, catering, education, theatre, art and, for a brief period, the dangerous and secretive world of high-level data entry.

A British-firecracker, he speaks with the speed of lightning strikes…extremely engaging…classic Fringe viewing – The Coast, Halifax

A Tension to Detail is an ardent reminder that being an active audience member watching great theatre can be an exhilarating experience… Harris is rapid, catapulting energy, reminiscent of someone like Robin Williams… who jam packs his stories with comedy and charm and builds and builds and builds toward a heart-racing, beat the clock, storytelling sprint” – Twist, Toronto         

“…embarrassing and awkward in the best possible way… quick-witted, quirky, and nonchalant… The stories we choose to share make us who are to the world, and this reminder makes the difference between an enjoyable evening’s entertainment and a work of art that will remain with me for a long time” – DART Critics, Ontario

“…a wickedly funny one-person show… Through his sharp sense of humour and captivating storytelling skills, Harris has a knack for making ordinary experiences incredibly entertaining… a hilarious and unforgettable experience that stays good the whole way through” – Raise The Hammer, Hamilton

“I found myself hanging on every word as he eloquently detailed the events of his life… Extinguishing the tension of a sometimes tragic event and revealing the core humanity of that event is truly a talent. Gerard Harris is a very funny guy and an exceptional story teller” – Hamilton Today, Hamilton

“He’s prone to self-deprecation, philosophical ruminations and descriptions which might make the more sensitive members of the audience wince – which is why you should definitely go see him” – Edmonton Journal

“…the audience hung onto every word, waiting to see where he was going next… Harris said the show used to be 2 hours long and by the time his hour-long performance is over, you’ll wish it still was” – Capilano Courier, Vancouver

The Cavern Club, 22 Allen Street 
Fri 19, Sat 20 @7pm,
Fri 26, Sat 27 @6:30pm,
Sun 28 @7pm
TICKETS: Full $20 / C $15 / FA $12
from the Fringe boxoffice, fringe.co.nz and on the door 

Dunedin Fringe Festival Club, 20 Princes St, Dunedin
Fri 4 Mar – Sun 6 Mar 2016
$15.00 – $20.00 

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/147076719
Website: http://gerardharrisdotcomistaken.com
Twitter: @gerardharris
Instagram: @hardspear
Videos: https://vimeo.com/gerardharris

Theatre , Stand-up comedy ,

Fri & Sat only + 1 Sun

Leaves you with much more than the story

Review by Kimberley Buchan 06th Mar 2016

Your initial impression of Gerard Harris in the opening stages of his performance is of an earnest Year 10 boy who has gone off his meds. He subsequently backs up this impression with his delight in masturbation and scatological humour. Do not let this put you off, however, as this Year 10 boy comes packaged in a cleverly structured show with intriguing philosophical insights. What seems a quick fire barrage of words soon becomes a narrative that expertly navigates the boundaries between comedy, pathos and even bathos.

Harris makes his disdain for such performance fripperies as microphones and stages clear from the very beginning, eschewing both in favour of borrowing a chair from the audience, coming down to our level and telling us about the need for storytelling in our modern world. As he does so you can see he would very much rather be lit by a campfire with the villagers hanging on to his every word, sparks flying up into the night air to emphasise his wildly made points.

He would make a very good Homeresque travelling bard if the century were right, but alas he has to put up with a divide between the audience and the performer and the whimsical lighting of the Fringe Festival Club for now. 

The performance is not your usual stand-up comedy routine of loosely linked jokes blurted at the audience in the hopes of a response. This show is the story of Harris’ life. It seems that many events in his life are accompanied by Harris filling his own pants at a rate that would impress most babies. The confessional style creates vulnerabilities and the sense of voyeurism, at times like we are watching a session in a psychiatrist’s office. This sense ties in with Harris’ reiterated point about the need for collective storytelling as we now individually pay for the privilege to tell the stories of our own lives to trained professionals.

Like any good story teller, Harris leaves you with much more than the story. He makes you look at things in a different way even, and maybe especially, the performance of doors and the need to thank them for their good service. The whole thing is laced with analysis of storytelling techniques and reflections on the meaning of life.

In between these thought-provoking insights the attention to detail is delicious. The varying methods of how to kill a lobster are given more scrutiny than ten years of marriage. Each moment in his life is expanded out by one wild tangent stretched out from its original starting point as far as it can go and then snapped back on a silver bungee cord after another.

Admirably Harris’ handles one audience member by helpfully pointing out their lack of awareness of their own racism with grace and style. The gentleman is engaged with and the situation turned into a genuinely funny joke with no dignity being lost on either side. That is an ability that is extremely rare in most comedians. 


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Thoroughly sensitive, carefully crafted and performed

Review by Shannon Friday 21st Feb 2016

There’s this fascinating little fact from the world of neuroscience, where any time you recall a memory, you actually re-write the neural pathways that hold the memory. So every time you remember something, you change it; you re-write the story.  

I can’t help but think of this while reflecting on Gerard Harris’ A Tension to Detail. Harris is constantly not only telling us personal, crafted stories about himself, but in doing so, he is changing the story of himself. He is crafting it; leaving things out to create a distinct impression. It is a testament to his considerable skill that the night feels so fresh and off-the-cuff, like talking to an exceptionally chatty bloke at the pub; The Cavern Club, in this case.  

Harris himself is a mile-a-minute kind of dude; I get the feeling he never walks if he can run. As he introduces both himself and the idea of a storytelling show to us, there is a sense of holding himself back; feet tightly pushed together, his arms seem to fling themselves out from his centre of their own volition. While his posture loosens up over the show – he bounces around the room at one point to illustrate the geography of a story – his rapid delivery implies that he would go even faster, except that no-one would then understand him. He wants us to go with him as he explains his stories – and thus himself — to us.  

And it is a storytelling event, like a one-man version of The Moth or The Watercooler. The setup is simple: Harris, onstage with his beer, talking at – and occasionally to – us for an hour about his experiences. There’s no fancy lights, no music, no costumes, no dance breaks or poems, just a guy telling stories very skillfully.  

The stories, which range from twenty minutes to about 3 seconds, are framed at the beginning by the six life lessons drilled into Harris as a child by his mother in (mostly) England. His early warning that the show contains “some mature content, but much more immature content” is welcome. There’s some sex, much more masturbation, and far more shit – no, literally shit – than I ever expected to hear about. It’s a framework with the potential to backfire – for a bored audience to start ticking items off the list – but events move so fast that we’re only given the chance in Harris’s call-backs to those lessons. 

Contrasting with the decidedly human and biological content of many tales, the ideas of stories as objects comes back constantly: not just how we choose to edit and frame them for ourselves, but who gets to ‘own’ stories, and how stories can be used as tools of violence on each other. This is touched on directly and lightly, but is clearly thought out in how each story is framed. 

Harris is masterful about dropping early lines at the beginning of each story to check our responses. It’s incredibly refreshing – a trigger warning that does more than say “Here be monsters,” but actually frames the content with sensitivity to both Harris’ experience and our reception of it. A tale about a close encounter with a possible sexual predator is framed with “This is my story.” Reflecting on why he didn’t tell this story to anyone at the time, Harris asks whose story would be better, a tween boy’s or a grown man’s, before considering how his silence might have impacted other people’s stories. 

It’s not all assaults and dismay, however. Harris worked as a joke writer, and bits of cheeky comedy peek all through his stories. Usually his distracted nature is the butt of the joke, such as when he details his awkward pre-adolescent attempt to sabotage his rival’s love life. The comedy doesn’t dominate, like it might at a stand-up show, but it gives us a chance to be in the room again. 

Harris’ vocal performance is kind of wonderful, which is good given the Cavern Club’s ambient bar lighting does not focus on the performer but instead spreads focus over the whole room. Describing the time he had to kill a very angry crustacean, he drives to the point, never letting up on the gas, before dropping us into a moment of quiet. Moments of time dilation, like in meditation or car crashes, are given time to expand with sound filling in between the speech or Harris’ frenetic movements becoming more sustained, before the rushing impulse of the narrative carries us away again. 

I have some quibbles. The second-to-last story doesn’t feel as neatly structured as many of the others, and I have trouble figuring out its relationship to the 6 lessons of childhood framing device. The final story – which may just be the most engaging cooking story I have ever heard – far outshines it and carries us easily back to the beginning. And the ending is still a bit sudden, with some rushed ‘Joseph Campbell 101’ thrown in to try and create a second bow to tie everything together. It’s unnecessary and lacks the attention to detail of the rest of A Tension to Detail. Still, these are quibbles with what is overall a thoroughly sensitive and carefully crafted and performed show. 


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