BATS Theatre, Wellington

17/02/2008 - 20/02/2008

NZ Fringe Festival 2008

Production Details

Pop Juan Productions presents BabyCakes written by Playmarket Young Playwright of the Year 2007, Georgina Titheridge (The Hunting of the Snark), and directed by Edward Watson, actor and recent graduate of VUW Theatre and Film School, who brings a fresh insight to theatre direction.

This debut performance as part of the Fringe is a character driven comedy with witty, honest, confrontational dialogue that will make cringe, make you cry, make you wet yourself and die (with laughter).

BabyCakes is a comedy about trashy weddings, a call centre, and people that are overly bent on being normal. And cake. Lots of cake. Mmmm cake.

Imagine you are Anais, sitting at the reject table of a wedding reception surrounded by your old call centre buddies – the booze hag, the sleaze bag and the guy she probably would have pashed if she was drunk enough. An unashamedly honest, at times cringe worthy exploration of relationships, coming to terms with who you are and especially who you don’t like. 

The cast includes some of Wellington’s hottest young actors and recent graduates of Toi Whakari Drama School. Starring Aaron Cortesi (Eagle vs. Shark, Settling, Paua), Lee Smith-Gibbons (Arcadia), Byron Coll (Angels in America), and Anya Tate-Manning (Revenge of the Amazons, Angels in America).  These talented actors confidently bring to life this character driven no-nonsense comedy.  

If you like your comedies a little bit loose, a little sloshed, with some cake on the side, come see BabyCakes this Fringe 08.

"It’s piss yourself funny" Janie Walker, Playmarket

Season: Sunday 17 – Wednesday 20 February 2008
Time: 6.30pm
Venue: Bats Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace, Wellington
Tickets: Full $16/Concession $12/Fringe Addict $10
Bookings: or 04 802 4010

Undemanding romp

Review by Lynn Freeman 06th Mar 2008

Babycakes is an undemanding invitation to the wedding table from hell, where a reunion of old call centre workmates turns into a slanging match.  Georgina Titheridge goes for easy laughs and stereotypes (and that’s ok if, as it did on opening night, it gets the audience laughing).

There’s the all-talk rude Matt (played with gusto by Aaron Cortesi), the blonde bimbo Haidee (Lee Smith-Gibbons slurs her words just a bit too much to be heard at times), Byron Coll is a hoot as the nervy Hayden, while Anya Tate-Manning gives Anais real presence; one character we could actually like even though she becomes just as monstrous and nasty as the others at times.


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Great little play with twists

Review by Kate Blackhurst 29th Feb 2008

With Babycakes, Georgina Titheridge has written a Kiwi version of Closer. That’s not to say that it is derivative, but that it shares the same tight script and cutting-edge characterisation of the award-winning play and subsequent film. Four people, who have not been together as a group since they all worked at a Westpac call centre, get together at the wedding of an acquaintance.

Each tries to impress the others in their own way; whether it be boasting about their illustrious career; handing out business cards; acting like a tosser and throwing food about; or getting drunk and throwing up. We make assumptions about these people due to their primary characteristics, just as they judge each other. Anais says she wanted to see what had happened to them, but finds them, ‘a bit munted and in exactly the same place as you were three years ago’. Each time you think you like someone, there is a twist in the script until you realise that all of these people are horrible.

Anais (played with animated gestures and a wide range of facial expressions by Anya Tate-Manning) manipulates people and communicates through fiction. Hayden (a study in social cringe by Bryon Coll) takes his new role at the bank so seriously that he talks about being a ‘people-person’ and ‘work-life’ balance as though he has swallowed an HR manual. Lee Smith-Gibbons is fantastically flirty and ditzy as Haidee – think Kaz, the rabbit in the Telecom ads – and Matt (Aaron Cortesi) is utterly convincing as an obnoxious bloke hiding his insecurities beneath layers of bigotry and bravado – Anais must be a lesbian if she doesn’t fancy him.

The single setting works well as the action unfolds over the space of the reception. The table is clearly set some way back for the rejects, and the audience feel they are actually guests at the wedding too; a sense heightened by disco lights and distant chatter. The actors’ genuine reactions to the speeches from laughter and encouragement through bewilderment and boredom are excellent. The dialogue is fast and authentic – people really do talk like this. The discussions are well captured – one person’s debate is another person’s conflict – and the tension is palpable. At times it is almost too realistic as the characters talk over the top of each other and don’t wait for the audience reaction.

Despite the frequent laughs, there is an undercurrent of unease. The two women are essentially fighting over a man who is entirely inappropriate for either of them because no one wants to be alone at a wedding, where emotions are close to the surface. It may be demeaning to suggest that all women want is marriage and a man, but when Hayden announces, ‘I love you because you’re the only person who’s ever really liked me,’ it is clear that it works both ways. The ending has an almost Shakespearean quality as there are pairings among the couples but we know they are unlikely to last through the honeymoon period.

This is a great little play from the winner of the 2007 New Zealand Young Playwright Competition. On the strength of this, it is a well-deserved award and I look forward to the next offering.

Originally published in The Lumière Reader.


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Character clash comedy

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 21st Feb 2008

[In reviewing both Babycakes and Sensible Susan and the Queen’s Merkin: a Morality Play, Laurie describes both as "brash and often coarse, tasteless and funny."] 

[A] comic play set at a social ritual … Babycakes takes place at a wedding reception with four KiwiBank Call-Centre workmates seated at a table tucked away far from the rest of the guests. Haidee (Lee Smith-Gibbons) is a drunken dumb blonde, Hayden (Byron Coll) is a confusion of little boy lost and control freak, Matt (Aaron Cortesi) an oafish sexist pig, and Anais (Anya Tate-Manning), a quieter, more sympathetic character, who observes her old workmates with an amusingly jaundiced eye.

Plot isn’t the point; it is the clash of characters, the sustaining of belief in them, while some excellent fluent dialogue keeps the comedy bobbing along and an opening night audience roaring with laughter. Georgina Titheridge is a talent to watch out for and she must pray her next play has a cast as adept at comedy and characterization as this one.


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Ebullient cringe-worthy comedy

Review by John Smythe 18th Feb 2008

A comedy about a dissolute bunch of work colleagues stuck on the fringe of a wedding reception, if not on the fringes of life itself, is well placed in the Fringe programme.

What a tiny world they inhabit, these employees at the KiwiBank Call Centre: Haidee (Lee Smith-Gibbons), Hayden (Byron Coll) and Matt (Aaron Cortesi). Even Anais (Anya Tate-Manning), who – it is said – escaped to travel the world and broaden her horizons, is sucked back into their vacuous vortex.

In the hands of lesser actors, and their director Edward Watson, Georgina Titheridge’s comedy might have suffered credibility issues. But this crew makes her characters compellingly real: Haidee, the "psychotic booze hag" desperate to wed upwardly mobile, if vertically challenged, HR team leader Hayden; Matt the compulsively offensive yobbo who bumped into Anais in the supermarket and talked her into coming; Anais who mistakenly thought it might be good to catch up with her old mates again …

Ideally this play could inexorably peel back the layers to reveal private aspects of all four characters but it’s only Anais who offers a twist in her tale. And Matt does manage to drop his bravado in circumstances involving the discovery of bullshit (can’t say what), so that’s good too.

Anya Tate-Manning does a superb job of sharing her thoughts and feelings non-verbally and because she gets us on side with her mostly unspoken judgements of the others, she manages to win compassion when we discover she too is flawed. Cortesi lays it on a bit thick at times, and is always funnier when he’s being Matt rather than commenting on him.

Haidee and Hayden offer the entertainment spectacle of an emotional train wreck happening in slow motion, so that when they disappear down their particular tunnel of ‘love’ we are in no doubt they are headed for further disaster.

Smith-Gibbons draws great hilarity from Haidee’s tragic emotional immaturity. If you don’t already know someone like her in the real world, she’ll make you believe they’re out there. Coll brings an extraordinary range to Hayden, from charismatic leader to vulnerable boy, from gentle love to purple anger, from in control to all at sea.

I’m tempted to say the actors and director have given their characters more depth than the playwright envisaged, by this may be unfair on Titheridge. She has certainly ensured they share a past with unresolved elements that play key parts in corroding their present relationships, and the way she plots to shift the ground beneath them, and re-jig the hierarchy of status, keeps us all on our toes.

And her dialogue is superb: a whole new lexicon common in the street but rarely heard on our stages. With character, dialogue and plotting skills like this, I can only look forward to more work from her, hoping she takes her well conceived raw material further and deeper to reveal more dimensions.

Meanwhile BabyCakes – named for the pet name Hayden give Haidee – offers 50 minutes of ebullient cringe-worthy comedy.


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