Matchbox Studios, 166 Cuba Street, Wellington

05/03/2015 - 07/03/2015

NZ Fringe Festival 2015 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Production Details

“I’ve always felt as if there were several versions of me, stretching out into the past like a trans-dimensional version of one of those Newton Cradle toys. All crammed together and vibrating – all connected across my life. This show is about that feeling. That feeling… as if you’re the smallest figure in a babushka doll.

“I’m going to be talking about why I love poached eggs so much, how I felt when my girlfriend broke up with me, the time I went swimming with no swimming trunks on and – if I’m brave enough – one of the darkest moments of my life. I might supplement it with some traditional theatre sketches that I have cobbled together over the years. Hopefully, it will be funny.” – Andrew Clarke talking about his upcoming Fringe show.

Black Holes and Paper Chains is presented by one of the founding members of the Making Friends Collective. Past work of the Making Friends Collective has secured a nomination as “Best Newcomers” to the New Zealand Fringe in 2013 and has received positive reviews, describing their latest play, Euthermia /Hyperpyrexia, as “a well-oiled ensemble creating lots of energy and pace to keep the play moving and holding the audience’s attention to the very end which is what Fringe Festival plays are all about.”

Andrew is also a Masters student at Victoria University, completing a thesis investigating the works of Harold Pinter. His thesis has been described as “good” but notes that he should really pay more attention to his deadlines. 

MatchBox Studios – 166 Cuba St, Te Aro, Wellington
5th-7thof March.
7:30pm |  (04) 381 3451
Koha/Donation performance 

Theatre , Stand-up comedy ,


Solid, ironically self-critical and enjoyable until …

Review by Shannon Friday 06th Mar 2015

Andrew Clarke is an over-thinker.  He debates how to introduce healthy conflict into relationships, whether he is in fact the villain of his own story, and just how much he should lean on that bar to appear sexy. 

His show, Black Holes and Paper Chains, is the result of all this self-examination.  As a result, the show itself is a deliberately self-aware, often ironic, comedy.

There are two acting areas, each with its own purpose and the audience is strung between them.  On the one side, Clarke shares a series of self-confessional stories about his relationships and dating history.  The whole thing is very much reminiscent of stand-up comedian Mike Birbiglia, if Birbiglia talked faster and let the audience pick the pseudonyms for people in his stories. 

Clarke’s stand-up persona is remarkably personable, and it is a testament to his budding skill that even the most tightly scripted lines feel fresh and off-the-cuff.  There’s a delightful Tristram Shandy quality to the stand-up, with Clark backtracking and sidetracking constantly before even being able to begin the story itself.  Like Shandy, the digressions and amplifications allow for lots of witty expostulating on the nature of things like poached eggs, Christmas gifts, and why some of his stand-up stories don’t really have endings.  Clarke’s brisk commentary, both on his behaviour in the stories and his ability to tell the stories, is, as he puts it, “meta”.

The other acting area houses Clarke the hipster /artist, complete with Irish cap, philosophies about death /the universe, and lots of contemplating Big Ideas by using Big Words.  The contrast in pacing is refreshing, as is Clarke’s low-pitched satire of himself as an artist.  He is always reacting both against his previous work and against his critics, first hunting for a response, and then over-reacting to it.  It’s so recognisable to anyone who has every made anything and shown it to someone else. 

My one quibble with the artist bit is the sound design.  The chosen sound is too short and doesn’t loop properly, meaning there are audible gaps before it starts up.  Having Clarke operate the sound wastes time without adding to the parody.

The show feels solid, ironically self-critical and enjoyable until about the last five minutes.  Clarke uses this time to tell a story that reveals some pretty borderline behaviour on his part, and his nervousness about revealing this behaviour means this story lacks the lightness of the rest of the show.  It is basically a big reveal, with the commentary directed outwards and unfinished.  The ending story also much more sincere than the rest of the show, and the tone shift is rather sudden and uncomfortable.  

Still, I don’t find this a black hole that sucks in my enjoyment, maybe just a weak ring on the otherwise colourful and enjoyable paper chain.


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