Bandoliers Hall, end of Lawson Place, Mount Victoria, Wellington

26/02/2015 - 27/02/2015

NZ Fringe Festival 2015 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Production Details

ONLY BONES is a solo performance of multi-spendous physical buffoonery performed by Thomas Monckton and designed by Gemma Tweedie. Using body manipulation, circus and clowning Only Bones strips the stage down to one light and one performer and opens up a world where anything is possible.

CHAMELEON is a physical theatre show bringing to life vibrant visual images in a bombardment of short sketches. Chameleon blends a camouflage aesthetic with physicality and absurd humour to form a show that is both conceptually rich and surreptitiously chucklesome.

Chameleon is a world premiere cross-disciplinary experimental collaboration between visual artist Gemma Tweedie and clown Thomas Monckton. 

CHAMELEON COMPANY is an experimental performance company set up by Gemma Tweedie and Thomas Monckton.

Gemma Tweedie is a recent graduate of Le Laboratoire d’Etude du Mouvement (the Laboratory of Movement Studies) at the school of Jacques Lecoq in Paris and has a background in visual art working with performance, video art, sculpture, text, watercolour and photography.

Thomas is a New Zealander from Patea, South Taranaki. He now lives in Paris and works as a freelancer creating cross-genre contemporary theatre and circus as well as touring a number of international solo and ensemble shows. 

Venue: Bandoliers Hall, end of Lawson Place, Mount Victoria, Wellington
26-27 Feb 2015
at 8pm

Theatre , Physical , Clown ,

Unbridled delight

Review by John Smythe 27th Feb 2015

What a privilege to witness the birth of the cross-disciplinary Chameleon Company – set up by visual artist Gemma Tweedie and clown Thomas Monckton – and to see the world premiere of their new experimental work, preceded by Monckton’s new solo piece; both billed as ‘in development’. 

Only Bones starts with Monckton’s astonishingly nimble hands illuminated by a low-hanging light, its large dome-shaped lampshade hovering above a circle taped on the floor. The small children in front of me are instantly transfixed and delighted, as are we all as the antic proceed. I swear I am watching exotic creatures in an aquarium at one point …

Nail polish references red-nose clowning as the delicate exercise goes to pieces. The lampshade rises to illuminate more of his body, every part of which he is able to move in isolation. Joints, limbs, head, torso, diaphragm, a kneecap, his Adam’s apple … It’s as if each part has a mind of its own

As for his face: he moulds it like clay. You may have seen Claymation films that create the illusion of instant shape-shifting. Well this is real and happening right in front of our unblinking eyes. A simple trick, possibly, yet stunning in its execution.

Only Bones delivers 25 minutes of extraordinary inventiveness created by a limitless imagination inextricably connected to a body so fit, trim and lithe it can respond to whatever madcap idea Monckton comes up with. Who needs technology when you have this?

We step outside for fresh air and lemonade while the Chameleon team reconfigures the space for Chameleon. There’s a special charm about seeing these works at the Bandoliers Hall – at the lower edge of the Mount Vic greenbelt, between the end of Lawson Place (off the top of Majoribanks Street, where there is limited parking) and the Vic Bowling Club (approached from the top of Pirie Street). Presumably this is where they have been developing the works. Given the amount of floor-level action involved, however, we can only look forward to seeing the next iteration on either a raised stage or from raked seating.  

The premise of Chameleon is that the two performers – Gemma Tweedie and clown Thomas Monckton – morph into the objects they encounter. It starts with a banana (Tweedie) and lemon (Monckton). Oh but when she produces a lemon squeezer … More surprises follow when she unzips her yellow jumpsuit and he peels an actual banana …  

The picture of a horse’s head provokes the antics of art gallery aficionados, dressage and horse racing. Monckton’s routine with a potted tree doesn’t quite to it for me, I suppose because random destruction to no purpose leaves me cold. Or are we to link this to the laying of a lawn: a luxuriant oblong of healthy blades lovingly fashioned by Tweedie – who now appears in a grass-green skirt and top, to be inexorably drawn to become one with the lawn …  

Somehow when Monckton dons earmuffs to mow the lawn we know he is going to prove blind too. The means by which the mower chews her up and spits her out is wondrous to behold – and we get to see it over and over, at ever-increasing speeds, until …

Wonderfully inventive in concept and superbly executed, Chameleon remains an act in search of an ending. We get one of sorts but it seems tokenistic, as if it’s a place-holder until they invent something better. As I am sure they will.

An hour of unbridled delight, it is only on once more tonight, at 8pm, and seating is limited. Book here:


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