AN EVENING WITH JOE BENNETT - Fish Like a Drink and Other Stories

Theatre Royal, 78 Rutherford Street, Nelson

21/03/2013 - 21/03/2013

Production Details

Bennett’s wit and wisdom comes to the Theatre Royal   

Prolific columnist and travel writer Joe Bennett says Fish Like a Drink… and Other Stories, will be an evening of free range conversation, where ‘what happens happens’.

Bennett’s presentation is at the Theatre Royal on 21 March and is based on stories, anecdotes and questions from the audience. 

“People can fire any questions at me – there is nowhere we can’t go, no taboo questions,” Joe says.  “Anything from earthquakes to sex – or even sex during earthquakes.” 

Although he doesn’t know where the show will go until it starts, one thing he promises is, ‘if you don’t laugh, you can have your money back’. 

Joe Bennett is no stranger to Nelson audiences. He has performed here several times, including sell-out shows at the 2011 and 2008 Nelson Arts Festivals, and he is looking forward to coming back.  

“Nelson is a famously sunny place – and I mean that there is good cheer there,” he says. “It’s small enough that people feel they know each other and on the several occasions I’ve performed there I’ve always found the reception warm and generous.”

An Evening with Joe Bennett – Fish Like a Drink and Other Stories is presented by the Top of the South Arts Touring Consortium at the Theatre Royal Nelson, the NBS Theatre Westport and the Ashburton Trust Events Centre. Spokesperson Janice Marthen from Nelson’s Theatre Royal says they are thrilled to be able to bring the show here.

“Joe is off to the UK later this year so we are very lucky to catch him before he goes – the audience is in for a great night of hilarity and comment,” she says.

Since his last collection of columns, Joe’s been shaken and stickered, and faced arrest and court action in his battle against a council order to evacuate his quake-hit home. He also witnessed the reduction of ‘drinking holes’ from 25 down to one in his beloved Lyttelton. 

Joe Bennett was born in Eastbourne, England. After leaving Cambridge University he taught English in several countries, including Canada, Spain, France and New Zealand, before quitting the classroom in 1998 to make his living as a writer. Joe’s newspaper columns are syndicated throughout the country and he has been judged New Zealand’s Columnist of the Year five times, most recently in 2011.

Page & Blackmore will have copies of Double Happiness: How Bullshit Works and his latest work Fish Like a Drink at the theatre for Joe to sign after the performance.

An Evening with Joe Bennett – Fish Like a Drink and Other Stories  
Theatre Royal, Nelson 21 March at 7.30pm
Reserved seating.
Ticket prices:  Adults $20, Seniors $18, Royal Family $18, Students $15 (plus service fees).
Tickets available from the Theatre Royal Box Office, 78 Rutherford Street, Nelson 03 548 3840 (option 2) or TicketDirect 0800 224 224 (toll free). 

A pot-pourri of experiences and insights

Review by Gail Tresidder 23rd Mar 2013

In a loud voice, interspersed with swear words that seem completely fatuous as he acts out stories of his life, this clever man spends the first half of his show hectoring his listeners, or at least that is how it feels.  This is a shame as some of the audience leave within the first ten minutes, many more at the interval, and consequently they miss the best part: a softer different Joe Bennett. 

He is engaging, answering the many questions fired at him in the most thoughtful way possible.  His wit, gentle humour, razor-sharp mind and prodigious knowledge of the English language and the art of writing, charm and delight everyone. 

Despite the one-volume delivery, there are real gems in the first hour. Bennett is splendid on the subject of dogs.  His demonstration of a dog throwing up is perfect as is his story about the dog that was the greatest possum hunter ever; that, however long the distance, carried home the dead possum in his mouth:  “He should have got a rebate on his dog license,” He is also touching about his current dog Blue who, before the earthquakes, was totally unfazed by thunder, storms and loud bangs and now at the slightest little noise rushes to get into his sanctuary, the car boot, left open permanently.  “Occupied by spiders,” as well, says Bennett. 

Quoting the lines “Half life is over now / And I meet full face on dark mornings / The bestial visor, bent in by the blows of what happened to happen” from the Philip Larkin poem ‘Send No Money’, we hear of the English teacher Jack Smithers and how important he was in the young Joe’s life.  Bennett is poignant as he tells of a revisit to the now old and terminally ill Smithers and the effect this has on him.  “Comedy/tragedy side by side in life.”

We love the description of his foray into writing one page romantic stories for women’s magazines.  Jo Bennett, not Joe Bennett, always got the by line credit but it was Joe, not Jo, who acted out the various parts for our delight.  The handsome hero Julian, the good girl, the bad girl, the happy ending.  Delicious.

Eight years+ of monthly columns with NZ Gardener and non-gardener Bennett is now gardener Bennett, proud of the wonderful vegetables he grows.  He tells us that “a carrot tastes of your own virtue and tomatoes taste of childhood.”  And we hear the story of his coming to New Zealand for just a year’s teaching at Christ’s College.  That was in 1987 and he is still here.  He likes it here, he stays. 

Thousands of columns and many books later, though not as yet the great novel, Joe Bennett is a New Zealand institution.  This show is a pot-pourri of his experiences: a little bit of theatre, a little bit of stand-up comedy seasoned with some truly illuminating insight into the vagaries and see-saws of living and the life of a writer.  To quote him, “Happiness writes white.” 


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