Hamilton Gardens, Medici Court, Hamilton

15/02/2013 - 22/02/2013

Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival 2013

Production Details


Booom! The scam of ’87. Big shoulders – big hair – big con.  

October 1987 – Rogernomics is working! The sharemarket is shooting up and nobody wants to miss the high. The New Zealand economy is booming – even Hamilton is feeling the trickle-down. But where there’s easy money, there’s easy pickings for a couple of clever con artists…

Chastity and Sachs are the best  scammers in Hamilton, two pros of the con. For credibility they have rented offices in the middle of Hamilton right over the top of the BNZ. They are not particular about who they scam or how. Over the course of a day they assume many guises – stockbroker, clairvoyant, dietitian, PR consultant, antique expert, property developer, Swedish exchange student, image consultant, ghost, gold trader – all tricks to make more money. But of course each ruse also makes the situation more complicated. It’s a race to see what collapses first – the economy or the scam.


Booom! is a modernisation loosely based on Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist (first performed in 1610). The Alchemist is Jonson’s most popular play and has been performed on stage frequently right up to the present day. It is structured as a farce with witty dialogue and accelerating plot structure that forces the con artists to keep on their toes right until the very end.

The devising process means the actors have all been able to put their own spin on the characters they portray. Sources for the characters and situations have come from many sources including Youtube, old HCC council records, oral history and the decrepit memories of some of the older cast members.

The adapting and devising process is not totally unknown to the company. In 2010 Fullhouse successfully adapted Moliere’s The Miser into The Miser of Mystery Creek.


Insider trading laws were not introduced in New Zealand until 1988.
In 1987 GST was 10%.
In 1987 the interest rate on an average New Zealand mortgage was 20.5%.
‘Kiore’ is the Maori word for rat.


This production of Booom! is the world première.

Hamilton Gardens, Medici Court         (Piazza if wet)

Friday 15 Feb at 6pm
Saturday 16 Feb at 5pm
Thursday 21 Feb at 6pm
Friday 22 Feb at 6pm

DURATION:  85 minutes (no interval)

BOOK at DASH TICKETS (booking fee applies)
$35 Adult | $29 Small Group (3+) | $25 Concession

Booom! is presented by Fullhouse Productions – a Hamilton-based theatre company focusing on presenting dynamic high-quality theatre in the Waikato. We started in 2008 and have been getting bigger and better ever since. We currently undertake about 10 shows each year, four of them major productions.


We’re offering you a special school only concession price of – $15 PER PERSON. (Normally $35 adult and $25 student)

FREE DEVISINGWORKSHOP (conditions apply)

Kick-start the year with a devising workshop! We’ll come to your school and give your students a taster of the methodologies used by the cast to devise the show. Your students will be shown how to create ‘the soup’ and how to cook up a satisfying show from it.

Workshops are 1 hour long and cost $150+gst.

But wait it gets better! Book more than 50 students to see the show and get your devising workshop – ABSOLUTELY FREE. (Not including travel costs)

All school performances are followed by a Q&A session where your students can ask questions about the show of the cast and crew.

Fullhouse Productions’ Facebook page is available for students to post any questions they have regarding the show that they were unable to ask during this session.

All schools can download a jam-packed Education Pack, filled with useful information about devising, costume design, director’s notes, writer’s notes and more.


Years 9 – 13 (Best for senior school)

The Piazza, Hamilton Gardens.

Monday 18 Feb – Wednesday 20 Feb at 10am

85 minutes (no interval)

$15 per person
150 per workshop
FREE workshop if you book 50+ tickets!

No nudity, some mild swearing, some mild sexual innuendo, some advanced economics terms. Full payment required by Mon 11 February. No refunds.

Amanda Wallace
m: 022 618 0688

Chastity - Kirsten Romano
Sachs - Carl Watkins
Spencer-Fitting - Michael Switzer
Downer - Conor Maxwell
Astrid - Jenna Hudson
Falconer - Will Collin
Pastor Tamakiore - Marlon Fitzpatrick
Mrs Ascot - Julia Watkins

Director - Stuart Devenie
Writer - Michael Switzer
Production Manager - Michael Switzer
Stage Manager - Katey Good
Production Assistant - Amanda Wallace
Set - Marcus MacDonell
Sound - Marcus MacDonell
Props - Katey Good and Amanda Wallace
Hair and Make Up - Jane Spenceley 
Costumes - Sally Switzer

See below for Schools Performances

Fraudsters and fools in financial scams

Review by Mark Houlahan 17th Feb 2013

Two summers ago Full House adapted Moliere’s The Miser as The Miser of Mystery Creek. This year they have returned to the classics, updating Ben Jonson’s famous satire The Alchemist.

They have tossed out Jonson’s language, which is intricate, difficult and completely different from Shakespeare’s. Jonson’s core set ups have been retained and relocated to downtown Hamilton on the verge of the great stock market crash of 1987.

In Jonson’s play, a trio of fraudsters take over an abandoned house in the middle of London. There they pretend to be practising alchemy: bring us your goods and we will turn them into gold. The Full House scenario, devised in workshops and then scripted by Michael Switzer, has two con artists working in a sordid office somewhere in the CBD: bring them cash and they will buy you shares.

They never do, of course, stashing any real money in the safe, and tricking their dupes into bringing more and more. Eventually, as in Jonson, the con artists depart, and strive to defraud each other. 

It’s a very simple premise, and allows the invention of outrageous versions of 1980s types. There’s a sad widow, desperate to contact her husband on the other side. A fake gypsy accent is enough to convince her she is dealing with a real medium. There’s a desperate actress and her stupid, angry rich brother. All their cash is swallowed up. There’s a sleazy councillor and his earnest sidekick and, perhaps most relevant, a dodgy minister who wants to found his own church.

Each fool requires a different con, and so the fraudsters – as in Jonson – adopt new roles for each victim.

Carl Watkins and Kirsten Romano, as Sachs and Chastity, move nimbly in and out of roles and costumes, to keep their scheme going. The parade of fools is gaudily sketched in, with Jenna Hudson a comic version of a naive and truly dreadful actress.

The first night of this concoction was warmly received by an audience fed up on champagne and basil/tomato bruschetta. However the script is clearly still in development, and though the evening was amusing, it did not seem quite up to Full House’s best work.

Jonson’s satire was razor sharp in its time, aimed directly at contemporary folly. People fall prey to such scams every day, so I felt opportunities were lost for a truly up-to-date comedy. The 1980s references and tunes were great fun: big hair, big suits and even bigger phones. But the time period lets us off the hook. Nobody would be that foolish now, would they?

Jonson’s script, in turn, is celebrated for the tightness of its plotting. The layers of fraud are built up and then unravel exquisitely. Here the set ups for the characters are droll, but the payoff feels underpowered. Whether the piece could be worked for further plotting the scenario, or it just needs pacing up to exhilarate the audience, is hard to tell.

Finally, the set is unconvincing. You would need some kind of shonky office, but that could just be a computer or, possibly, nothing visible, gesturing to somewhere offstage. Instead we have a sofa, a wardrobe, a desk, a rug and a set of doors up back. The production seems at war with the setting in the Medici Court, a simulation of an eighteen century theatre façade.

A huge part of the success of the festival is the ambience of the specific gardens; they are always part of the entertainment, especially on the gorgeous hot nights we are having. It puzzles me that Full House, who have performed many shows for adults and children at the Hamilton Festival, should present something that looks like it is longing for a proscenium arch to hide behind. In contrast the visiting Nelson production of Earnest seems right at home in its room with a view.


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