AGENTS PROVOCATEURS

Te Auaha, Tapere Iti, 65 Dixon St, Wellington

22/02/2022 - 26/02/2022

New Athenaeum Theatre, 24 The Octagon, Dunedin

18/03/2022 - 20/03/2022

BATS Theatre, The Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

14/09/2022 - 15/09/2022

NZ Fringe Festival 2022

Dunedin Fringe 2022

TAHI FESTIVAL 2022

Production Details


Directed by Sameena Zehra
Choreography by Niko Walford
Vocal Direction by Lauren Armstrong

The Magnificent Weirdos


A one-woman theatrical cabaret about history’s greatest femme spies.
A celebration of history, subterfuge, and the women who did it all.
Independent, underestimated and unapologetic, these women lived life on their own terms and rarely took prisoners.
Remember: the most dangerous dagger is covered with blood and perfume.

Accompanied by the songs and delights of Edith Piaf, The Eurythmics & Pat Benetar, to name a few, the show weaves storytelling and humour together to bring these kick ass women’s stories to life.

Winner Outstanding Performer – Dunedin Fringe 2021
Nominee Outstanding Solo Performance – NZ Fringe 2021
Nominee Best Comedy – Dunedin Fringe 2021

Content forecast: Death, War

NZ Fringe 2022

Te Auaha – Tapere Iti, Level 1, 65 Dixon Street, Te Aro
Tuesday 22 – Saturday 26 February
7:30pm
General Admission $25.00
Concession $20.00
Fringe Addict $20.00
Ticket + $5 $30.00
Ticket + $10 $35.00

Dunedin Fringe 2022
New Athenaeum 23 The Octagon Dunedin
18 – 20 March 2022
7.30pm
$16.00 – $18.00

 


Performed by Jo Marsh


Theatre , Music , Comedy , Cabaret , Solo ,


1 hr

Incredibly powerful with a charming cheek

Review by Emma Maguire 16th Sep 2022

When I was a kid I wanted to be a spy. I was right in the demographic for Spy Kids, and as I grew up I got more and more besotted with things like Alex Rider, Mission Impossible and James Bond.

Sometimes I still dream of a life where spying is like it is in the movies (cool and rad). It is with that lens that I come into Agents Provocateurs, a theatrical cabaret about some of history’s most famous spies. From Nancy Wake to Mademoiselle Le Chevalier D’Eon de Beaumont, performer Jo Marsh brings us a smorgasbord of theatrical delights – while teaching us a lot about these heroic women along the way.

The stage is littered with brown filing boxes, which get turned during the show to reveal each spy. From within the boxes, Marsh pulls various character accoutrements; a long glittery shawl for Mata Hari, an Air Force hat for Noor Inayat Khan and, in one particularly memorable moment, a cat and a mouse puppet. You’ve gotta see this show, even if you’re just seeing it for the Nazi cat and Nancy Wake mouse tribute to Blondie – reader, I cried laughing.

A queer feminist delight, this show does it all. From singing to dancing to acting, Marsh’s stage presence is incredibly powerful with a charming cheek. From my position in the audience, I’m exhausted! – seven songs in 50 mins is a ton – but wholly captivated for the entire time. It can be challenging to stage a work with so many constituent parts without it becoming droll or too caught up in its format, but Agents Provocateurs does it well, signalling a clear synchronicity between artist and director (Sameena Zehra).

I perhaps wonder if this show would be better suited for a younger audience – I think with a handful of tweaks it would be a perfect show to teach older teens about rad spies from history, as it sort of rides the line between educational show and adult show but doesn’t quite find the genre solidity it needs for its current staging. Some pieces could be a little tighter, and I’m not quite sure what I’m supposed to be feeling in a few moments.

However, Agents Provocateurs does what it says it does, and does it well. It’s a fantastically fun cabaret piece, and I commend Marsh for taking on such a weighty subject and making a piece that’s an excellent topper to a night out. My spy-filled heart is pleased.

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A clever idea charmingly executed

Review by Hannah Molloy 20th Mar 2022

Described as “a celebration of history, subterfuge, and the women who did it all”, Agents Provocateurs by Jo Marsh is charming and fun, a clever idea that, with a little more development, could become a fantastic and engaging show. 

Marsh discusses half a dozen of the most famous femme spies and interweaves her historical narrative with digs at current (why are they still current…?!) social issues and of course the patriarchy in all its tediousness. There’s enough historical detail to keep the show together, and plenty of humour to keep the audience coming along for the ride. Marsh sings a range of songs to illustrate each of the women’s stories, and the audience responded with particular delight to her rendition of Edith Piaf’s ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’. 

Marsh charms the audience right at the start, inviting us to be part of the storytelling, before telling us about her own childhood dreams of being a spy and her frustration with the male centric representations that we’re so familiar with (Bond, The King’s Man, Austin Powers etc) which drive her to find out about the women who caused mayhem for one side on behalf of the other. There’s not a lot more audience participation after this but we’re invested in the story now. 

Simple use of archive boxes embellished with a photograph and name plate enables Marsh to draw on props to illustrate each character with simplicity and efficiency. The props range from an air force hat to newspaper clippings with excerpts from the King’s award to a pair of cat and mouse puppets. This little scene is quite bonkers and hilarious, with Marsh singing ‘One way or another’ by Blondie while the gestapo cat unsuccessfully chases the White Mouse. It has a completely different feel to the rest of the performance, and suggests a potential for the show to be redevised as a children’s pantomime (with fewer swears maybe but all the social commentary). 

 

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High energy, funny and informative

Review by Shauwn Keil 24th Feb 2022

Stepping into Te Auaha’s Tapere Iti, I already feel the lull of an unpopulated venue. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sitting in a sold-out show, but under red light restrictions, the maximum capacity here is twelve people. It breaks my heart, and were it not relevant to later on in my review, I would keep those words to myself. Moving on to the good bits…

What intrigues me from the get-go are a series of cardboard boxes, stacked and plotted around the stage. All clones, at first glance. I notice a tin bucket overflowing with cardboard tubes and already smile at the possibilities. I love when my mind is challenged to see a prop used as anything other than what it is known for. Soon enough, the house lights drop, and the show lights rise.

Jo Marsh (Writer, Performer) enters in a blue dress and black heels, with a head mic attached for the duration of the performance. It isn’t too long before we are treated to a rendition of ‘Bette Davis Eyes’, setting the spy tone early. Out comes a Manilla folder, and then the show really begins.  

There’s a lot to enjoy and take in on this one. We learn about a few femme spies of the ages and enjoy musical homages to each one with simple, often pink, lighting changes to accompany these character moments. There are even a couple of brief costume changes and the diversity of a long, sparkly scarf impresses me greatly at one point.

If I have one grievance with this production, it’s the microphone. Marsh has clear diction and a powerful enough voice to not need this piece of equipment. At times, the volume is pushing audience back into their seats. But I digress.

One by one, we learn more about these certain spies; about their unjust hardships and their monumental achievements. Half of me wants to name them out of respect, but half of me wants to allow those surprises to be seen. All I’ll say is, the Nazi Cat and the White Mouse puppetry are a highlight of the show. Visually enjoyable and incredibly unexpected. I am a fan.

What’s really important is the content here: sexism, double standards, dumb men, and justice, or lack thereof. Historical greatness buried beneath patriarchal foundations are ripped from their silent tomb and brought to life through Marsh, who has the charm and confidence to keep us engaged entirely.

It’s the never ending energy and commitment that I most admire about this performer. Sameena Zehra (Director) has helped to give us a clear throughline, with simple and crafty blocking as well as intelligent application of visual motif. I might think it’s predictable at times, but then something new just gets me with each cardboard box and I have to laugh at my ever-guessing ego. Well done.

As I enjoy much of what I see, I do observe a similar response around me, if a little reserved at times. Part of me feels that with a higher attendance, a greater response from the audience would meet the performer. One could argue that a good show should be able to lift a crowd regardless of numbers, but when I can hear laughter begin and clip as if we’re doing the wrong thing in a library, I can’t help but argue back on this one. Really, there’s little to be done about this than wait patiently for the next traffic light.

All in all, Jo puts on a high energy, funny and informative piece of work with a very cheeky, subtle plug for her next show in March. The creative team have made a pretty darn cool piece. A real shame about the seating capacity, though. Maybe next time! 

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