BIG J : A New Legacy

Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

18/01/2023 - 28/01/2023

Production Details

By Jacob Dombroski
DIRECTOR: Rose Kirkup
DESIGNER: Rowan Pierce

COMPANY: Everybody Cool Lives Here

Following his rise to prime time celebrity status on Shortland Street, Jacob returns to the stage with his revolutionised award-winning solo.

Opening up his life and heart, Jacob Dombroski invites you to step inside his whare, champion those around you, and rewrite your destiny to share the love.

This is a story about strength, whānau and dreams.

“Jacob bursts onstage… with bodyrolling dance moves that would put Magic Mike to shame.” — Monika Barton

“see an artist testing, trying-out and more importantly putting his whole soul, heart and body into his work.” — Maraea Rakuraku

Circa One
18 – 28 Jan – TEN SHOWS ONLY!
Tues – Thurs 6.30pm, Fri – Sat 8pm, Sun 4pm
$15 – $55
$35 tickets – Sun 22 Jan/Friends of Circa/Groups 6+
$30 tickets – Under 30s/Groups 20+
Book Now!

Physical , Theatre , Solo ,

55 mins

A heartfelt vision of the humanity we all might share

Review by Dave Smith 21st Jan 2023

Let’s begin at the end (a very good place to start). We are in Circa One and Jacob Dombroski’s 50 minute performance is coming to its end. He’s onstage wearing mainly Bermuda shorts and is hugging the punters in an unselfconscious scrum of affection; punters who, just a few moments ago, were sitting bolt upright in serried ranks assembled are going for it.

There’s an adorable atmosphere of togetherness and removal of social fences and contrived space. (One that we geriatrics might, perhaps, recall from the heady days of the rock musical Hair; where we all leapt up and gyrated with barely-to-unclad cast members pounding out Let the Sunshine In.)

So where did all this happiness come from?  When Jacob was born his natural dad opted for the horizon. (That was his adoptive dad beaming and smiling with pride and fatherly affection in the second row.) His non-defining syndrome is something he wants to share unflinchingly with us.

Jacob’s onstage story is no rambling saga. Rather, it is the laying down of a few important dots that require little connecting. Attitudes and feelings are the key factors, not when, how or where. (A person with a profound experience being always the equal of a person with a clever argument.)

His simple tale sits in an impressive stage setting – a credit to designer Rowan Pierce. Imagine, if you will, a multi-planed light source emanating from a TV sized screen that in turn creates a sharp but outgoing light shaft. We are drawn into a narrowing tunnel around which dry ice clouds curl. For me, it is as though we are moving through the birth canal that once delivered Jacob into a less-than-friendly world.

Jacob moves both around and in front of this dramatic light source while the central TV screen also allows him to star in real videos. These were filmed (a) at home when he was small and (b) when he was on TV1’s slickly-produced Shortland Street, appearing in a very self-possessed cameo role some time ago.

The legendary Peter Brook once spoke about ‘theatre in the raw’. Jacob provides us with some. In it there are no smooth or well-worked transitions. The points he makes just come at us like verbal hammer blows. Jacob relates the times he was made less than human and pounded with ultra-violence in school. He thrashes around on the ground; relentlessly and in an alarming torment. You pray for it to stop. His life outside home seems to be an ongoing nightmare. This is a bold, loud and hard retelling/re-enactment – but by no means a rant.

Then we move to the tender moments and the flashes of rare insight. Using only an upturned pail to sit on and puppet to relate to, Jacob steers us gently to the moments of love and salvation in his life. He cradles a gorgeously designed puppet (thank you Anne Geus) that’s a cross between Tigger and Basil Brush. He talks with it, displaying an impressive puppeteering and comedic skill. It’s a dramatic surrogate for his deeply cared for siblings.

Tongue in cheek, Jacob recounts what it meant for his new dad to introduce him to the wondrous world of the (drumroll, wait for it …) barbecue!!! We hear, in a very Billy Connolly sort way, of the visceral delights of operating a barbecue. We get a clever mixture of mechanical sounds and movements, spoof awe and some well observed flicks of the wrist.

There is much light irony but no smartass cracks or coruscating put-downs of the unenlightened.  Jacob sits nestling the family tiger with their back to the audience sharing moments of quiet family intimacy wherein the line between man and boy evaporates. We both sense and feel the internal energy forces that might take a minute or two to flower into roughly hewn words or physical pivots in the action.

We are offered a heartfelt vision of the humanity we all might share (if we try) and the warm response that is available to anyone of any race who offers their time and caring to someone like Jacob. Life’s kicks in the face are instinctually responded to with pure unvarnished aroha. Violence isn’t met with violence but with constant renewals of hope. That final act enables the theatre patrons to share that pure optimism.  Come down here and you can share your DNA inheritance with me.

Much thought has gone into this production in order to enable Jacob to hit all those powerful notes. Director Rosmarie Kirkup and Producer Nic Lane have pitched it spot on. Jacob has been given a very well-considered platform on which to make his unique stand.  He unabashedly seeks and offers human camaraderie. It’s an offer audiences would be foolish to refuse.



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