Fringe Bar, 26-32 Allen St, Te Aro, Wellington

09/02/2014 - 02/03/2014

NZ Fringe Festival 2014

Production Details

Improv Battlers back for NZ Fringe Festival 2014

Wellington’s best loved community improv troupe is back with another glorious season of Battle of WITs, and this time you can see it for FREE!

The Wellington Improvisation Troupe (WIT) want to share the love with their hometown. All the Sunday evenings of this Fringe Festival come on down to the Fringe Bar and watch teams of intrepid improvisors battle it out to be crowned the champions.

Original theatre will be made up on the spot by tireless teams formed from a frothy mix of Wellington’s leading improvisers and some courageously adorable newcomers. Choose your favourites, and help them soar to victory on a tide of audience approval.

Director Geoff Simmons promises an evening of spur-of-the-moment storytelling and glorious failure. He explains that improv is “sometimes serious and frequently hilarious, either way I promise each night be a show that no one has ever seen before – or ever will again”. So, grab a drink and enjoy an unrepeatable blend of improvised games, tales, songs and shenanigans.

This Fringe Festival there are no tickets on sale for Battle of WITs. There may be a hat handed round, but just ignore it if you don’t have money, or don’t have fun.

“One of the safest bets for a good time at the Fringe ” – Theatreview

“I laughed so hard I couldn’t see” – Salient

Battle of WITs
Featuring teams of players drawn from the members of the Wellington Improvisation Troupe (WIT)
Part of the Fringe Festival 2014
When: Sundays 7pm, Feb 9th, 16th 23rd, and Mar 2nd.
Venue: The Fringe Bar, 26 Allen St Wellington
Cost: free or koha 

Theatre , Improv , Comedy ,


Muddled middles subvert good endings

Review by Lucy O'Connor 10th Feb 2014

The set-up is what you’d imagine at the Fringe Bar. Despite its recent relocation, it definitely has the same feel! Amidst a few beer-soaked couches and vodka lemonade-coated tables (my notebook sticks) sit 30 chairs in front of a carpeted stage curtained by purple peep show-ish drapes.

The stage itself is relatively small but surely any point of difference makes for great material in an improv show. There is an improvement from the last Fringe bar – there is actually a side stage directly on the side.

It takes a wee while for the improvisation jury to turn up – that is the crowd. It’s fair to say that I am a bit early though. Just a tad. Ok, I’m a good half hour early which is enough time for me to witness the performers’ pre show flutters, stresses and the warm ups games. I am thinking that Sevens weekend may have got the better of a few crowd members’ Sunday night plans as I am the solo witness for a long time.

But, bang on 7pm, the people come. To view, to scrutinize to laugh with and to hopefully credit the Improvisation troupes as they perform Round One of Battle of Wits with unashamed confidence. 

Because I am so early, I gain insight to the fact that the resident MC may not make it – and guessing from the introduction we are delivered, this is (hopefully) not the resident MC. He seems just a little bit clueless in this role (probably a result of having been thrown in to it two minutes ago), reading down at a piece of paper and looking way over the head of the audience when he does look up. He is also pretty inaudible which I find frustrating as he is explaining the rules of the improvisation game at hand.

This is no one’s fault in particular and I catch enough between the rowdy revellers shooting pool and the bar staff pouring pints to get the idea. He seems oblivious to the background noise however as he never increases his volume. Luckily I am incredibly good at lip reading.  

So, here we go. Three teams. Four rounds. One winner. We (the audience) choose the team who will perform in the final with our enthusiastic – or not-so-much – applause. 

The teams have particularly interesting names. First up is Memoirs of an Uneaten Banana. Round one sees them selecting at random a game from a hat. Their selection, ‘Gibberish’ turns out to be a more apt label than we’d hoped for. The scene unfolds in a series of empty offers in that no one takes up. It’s one thing to act out being a bit slow on the uptake; it’s another to be reluctant to take it up. Leading the charge is a man with amazing facial hair and without him, the scene would have crashed and burned. A slightly cringe start.

Space Puppy is the next team to take to the stage and as in the first skit, the scene’s set up is not overly clear. The team attempts to involve the audience but it seems in vain. Our role is to make the sound effects for the scene as it unfolds but it unfolds too slowly to remain interested. If not for the punch line at the end, there would be little to hold on to for Space Puppy in this particular round. 

The last and final group, Jenefarious, finally gives us some steady laughs with their poem-cum-interpretive dance. Although it verges at times on cheap, at least the crowd is enjoying it.  

After round two, the team with the lowest number of points is kicked out of the competition. Sad to say this team is Space Puppy who couldn’t quite win us, even with their effort at Alphabet Shakespeare.

And then there are two. Both teams at times find it difficult to offer, accept and close in the last round. Some scenes get extremely lost. The key is often to perform a scene that is surprising but most importantly succinct. There are too many problems introduced within a scene without real solutions. Perhaps a lesson there is to always say yes and go within the believable realities of that yes.  

There is a bit too much time spent explaining and joking between rounds to the point where the audience feels out of touch.  If the transitions between skits and rounds were sharper and more to the point, the audience would have no choice but to be attentive. A more boxing ring feel would keep the excitement and readiness of the crowd, as that is whom these performers are trying to win over.

Although most scenes end positively – that is they are closed out at an appropriate point – this doesn’t always rectify the muddled middle. I applaud the improvisers for always committing to nailing that ending though, as this can be the most difficult thing about a scene.

In saying all this, I’ve studied and performed improv; I know it’s one of the most difficult things to do under the pressure of having no real idea what will happen. It’s absolutely terrifying as anyone who has attempted it, and more than once failed, will know. So I applaud these Wellingtonians for taking themselves to the stage to be scrutinized and more importantly, in my eyes, glorified.

Improv is one letter away from improve. And that is all too true: in this game, all anyone can do is hope for better next time, even if it was close to perfect. So with that being said, bring on the next heat!   

And well done to Jenefarious, the deserved winning team of this evening. The final ice cream skit was textbook improv.   

I should know. I got a B+.


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