Whitireia Performance Centre, 25-27 Vivian Street, Wellington

01/05/2012 - 05/05/2012

Q Theatre Loft, 305 Queen St, Auckland

08/05/2012 - 12/05/2012

NZ International Comedy Festival 2012

Production Details

He was the hot ticket at last year’s NZ International Comedy Festival, and now the UK’s master impressionist returns!

The standup chameleon Anil Desai returns to NZ with a brand new show.  ‘Night at the Movies‘ sees the master mimic takes you on a star-studded tour of his imagination. Featuring a host of Hollywood stars, live movie trailers, slick standup and hilarious stories, this feel good show promises to delight Kiwi audiences all over again.

Described as a “possessed, schizophrenic tour-de-force”, Anil is a veteran of the world’s great festivals.  His warm affability and pin point impressions make him a sought after performer in the UK, Europe and South Asia.

Desai’s pedigree on the festival circuit includes 15 years as a regular at the Edinburgh Fringe including a show that featured a record-breaking 52 impressions in 5 minutes. He began his career starring in the award-winning BBC sketch show series Goodness Gracious Me. He also co-hosted on the ever popular, occasionally risqué live late show Spank! Desai is one of the few acts who has crossed the genre divide, performing regularly on the comedy, cabaret, variety and burlesque circuits. He is a regular at the Melbourne and Sydney Comedy Festivals and throughout Asia and Europe.

“Uniquely entertaining…consistently funny and memorable” * * * * Three Weeks

“Skill, elegance and confidence…a technically impressive performance, it deserves a lot of respect…if you love impressions, you’ll love this!” Chortle 2010

“A Tour-de-force of impressions…side-splittingly funny… Desai is ridiculously talented…his ability to change his face, voice and physicality is undeniably astounding…Stardom is beckoning” 
* * * * Edinburgh Guide 

As part of the NZ International Comedy Festival 2012 


Date: Tues 1 – Sat 5 May, 7pm
Venue: Whitireia Performing Arts Centre, 25- 27  Vivian St, Te Aro, Wellington
Bookings: 0800 TICKETEK or

Dates: Tues 8 – Sat May 12, 7.15pm
Venue: Q Theatre Loft, 305 Queen St
Bookings: 09 309 9771

Tickets:  Adult  $25, Conc. $19.50
Duration:  1 Hour

For a full line up of performances, booking details & more information, visit  

Impressive impressions with some reservations

Review by Maraea Rakuraku 02nd May 2012

Why can’t I play the hero?  Why can’t I save the president? Why don’t Indians exist in Sci-fi future?  

Big questions which have all, at some time, guided Anil Desai in his career, his management of intimate relationships and led to his latest comedic offering, A Night at the Movies

Shuffling into the auditorium 15 minutes later than the advertised start time I’m a little grumpy (Staff: If you’re going to start later at least tell us) and I can’t help but agree, perhaps unkindly, when I hear, “I hope he’s worth it”. The movie theme that plays while we wait is promising epic to me and I’m hoping Desai will deliver. 

Though perhaps more popcorn than mega size packs, there is something immediately likeable about the Londoner, so the audience – including myself – isn’t slow to get on his side. The expected audience banter is warming too and it doesn’t take long till he’s talking Bollywood, movie theatre etiquette and taking the piss out of LOTR with a Rhys Darby-channelled New Zealand accent.  The talked up competitive Tasman relationship (yawn) even gets a jab.

However, it’s when the impressions of well-known actors roll out – which is what the premise of this show really depends on – that he displays his obvious talent for observation. And some of them are great.

An Al Pacino /Robert De Niro /Jeff Goldblum relationship intervention verges on brilliant.  As too, James (It’s a wonderful life) Stewart morphing into Bill (“I didn’t have sexual relations with that woman”) Clinton.  It’s subtle. He throws in lines from movies like Bill and Teds Excellent Adventure, The Fly, Back to the Future.

Unless you’re really listening or familiar with the characters and content, it’s straight over the top of your head stuff, right there, which, brings me to one of my criticisms.  Most are staples of the late 1980’s. Apart from very capable and more latterly hilarious impressions of Mission Impossible’s Tom (Ethan Hunt) Cruise, Johnny Depp’s Captain Sparrow and the donkey from Shrek, almost all are from movies from that era. 

If the poignant statement, “A lot of life’s questions are answered in movies,” and that what he learned as an avid movie goer is, “If you put your heart and mind to it, you can make it true is to be believed,” his set needs to reflect a broader range than what’s included. 

This brings me to criticism number two.  Apart from the obvious animal (even Kermit the frog makes an appearance), they’re all men. Dude, where are the women? They act in movies too. Whoopi Goldberg gets a mention, as does an unhappy girlfriend.  It’s clear from the outset that, Desai can do a great impression so why women are excluded as part of his set is puzzling. 

A segment later, and it starts to feel a little like theatresports but without the mad thinking, slightly addictive watching, on-your-feet spontaneity. As an audience member reads out the name of an actor from a stack of cards, Desai does his thing and some of them are spot-on. 

Had that been me, I’d have ditched half of them and suggested women and any other New Zealander just to see if he can do the accent without sounding like Murray, the 2 Degrees guy, and to test just how good he is because I suspect he may be a lot better than he shows. Even so, his Christopher Walken alone is priceless.

Once he hits his straps, he’s good.  Any storyteller will tell you, “show don’t tell,” and when Desai over-explains a confrontation with a heckler, while in character, it’s just not necessary.  Leave it to the audience, dude.  We’ll figure it out.  Part of the magic in watching impressions is doing just that then being blown away as realisation dawns. By the time he tells/ shows us this story the show is nearly over. The audience is well on his side and it’s been a laugh. Not of the rollicking, belly aching kind but enough to walk away smiling. 

A Night at the Movies could be something exceptional.  Like other reviewers have said, he’s a nice guy; you root for him; he’s likeable. But with a tightening and balancing of the material, more depth and a shifting of some material, it could be truly excellent.  And to the person I overheard saying, “I hope he’s worth it” – yes, he definitely is.  


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