ConArtists in Sex, Lies & Improvise

The Drake, Freeman's Bay, Auckland

04/05/2011 - 21/05/2011

NZ International Comedy Festival 2011

Production Details


ConArtists has a hit on its hands. Four years ago they launched Sex, Lies and Improvise, a then new show format for the International Comedy Festival, to display their expert comedy acting skills. It was instantly a huge hit and, by dedicated fans request – they have threatened violent tickling if we don’t it returns to ConArtists home base, The Drake, for the International Comedy Festival 2011.

What do the critics say?
“Whose Line is it Anyway meets an uncensored CarryOn film.” Theatreview

From unbridled lust to blind dates and all the other sexy games people play, ConArtists are getting sticky with it. And, although the stories are from the audience, ConArtists are offering protection. The audience fill out their story suggestions BEFORE the show and all are kept faceless – like some people’s sex lives.

The ConArtists company has new faces alongside the quick witted and wicked senior members of one of the longest and most experienced group of entertainers in New Zealand.

SLI tells stories of hook ups, break ups, bust ups and much more. Last year the, sold out to bursting houses, show saw audience members happily supplying many interesting and surprising personal stories of love and lust. There’s good old fashioned formats as well.

See actors desperately trying to work out, in a morningafter scenario, what famous person they slept with last night. What excuse will they have offered to slip away and the cocktail that contributed to the tryst and the hangover?

“There’s a fine line between offensive smut and witty smut” says Clare Kelso, senior member and Creative Director of ConArtists “and I think we walk the tightrope well with the occasional crashing fall”.

Sex, Lies and Improvise
Dates: May 4th/5th/6th/7th – 11th/12th/13th/14 – 18th/19th/20th/21st
Venue: The Drake, Corner of Wellesley/Drake Street
Tickets: Adults $20 / Conc. $18 / Groups 6+ $18

Cast includes:
Penny Ashton, Geoffrey Dolan, Lori Dungey, Aaron Ward, Allan Roberts, Lindsay Brown, Moody Hikmet, Greg Cooper, Nigel Burrows, Robert Mignault, Simon Cameron, TM Bishop, Chris Neels, Eli Mathewson, Paul Paice, Hannah McQuilkan, Gillian Berry and Clare Kelso. 

1 hour, Wed-Sat

Sauce in pyjamas

Review by Nik Smythe 05th May 2011

In the cosy upper Function Room of the Drake, seating a modest fifty or so, ConArtists’ purportedly risqué Sex, Lies and Improvise returns ‘by popular demand for its 4th naughty year!’  The quietly anticipating opening night audience is all seated pretty much on time but the show still takes its time starting, kicking off a fashionable almost ten minutes late. 

The energy the ‘contestants’ brings on stage, mingled with the eager anticipation of the ready-for-anything audience, combines to make a promising sort of anything-can-happen space in which to create great, fleeting works of a lascivious bent. The audience is duly warmed up with some preliminary orgasms, and we’re away…

Working under her pornstar name* Sparky Lane to avoid legal action, compère Claire Kelso coaches a mixed bag of five performers with varying levels of age and experience: Dixon Brown, Sooty Wood, Fish Hudson, Tipsy Paddington and the only other female performer, Ginger … something; apologies to Lori Dungey whose seasoned expertise and focussed energy frequently carry the cast through numerous sticky spots, so to speak.

In the first game – an alternately narrated story concerning a lion tamer and an array of sexual aids (including blu tak and a violinist) – we are encouraged not simply too boo the failing contestants away but rather resoundingly demand that they ‘Fuck Off!’  This in itself has some of the crowd giggling uncontrollably with joy at having the opportunity, and their execution thereof is clearly cathartic.

There are salacious takes on old favourites, like the one with pieces of paper on the ground containing lines, picked up and spoken randomly throughout the sketch.  The lines are all porn clichés such as ‘oops I dropped the soap’ and ‘you’ve been a very naughty boy!” (which turns out to be Justin Bieber’s epitaph).

The most excruciating round was where the cast has to help young Dixon Brown guess a name (Humphrey Bogart), a cocktail (Fingers Maldives) and an excuse to rapidly exit a regrettable one night stand (I have to take my mother in law to a cactus meeting).  The first issue was that he didn’t know who Humphrey Bogart was – how is this possible!?  The rest proved equally if not more difficult and I suspect that Ms Lane may have dropped one or two other games as this one stretched out for more than quarter of an hour.

The trouble with producing an x-rated improv show is that there are not many levels any standard type of Theatresports show wouldn’t be prepared to stoop to as it is.  Sure, they’re performing in their pyjamas and the sketches invariably involve some saucy element, but with little else to distinguish it, design or otherwise, it’s essentially Theatresports as usual.

I don’t mean to suggest that they particularly need to up the ante in the obscenity stakes; that wouldn’t necessarily change much anyway.  A more sensual, burlesque type approach might get more traction but really, such deconstructive analysis is secondary to how much laughter is generated, however that is achieved. 

Although there are usually magic moments to surprise and impress in any given improv show, this isn’t art, it’s comedy.  One advantage of the format is that when one gag fails or falls flat, the next can just as easily pick up it all up again.  Comedy-wise, opening night was adequate – a fair amount of cringing, many quiet chuckles and a handful of moments of gut-busting brilliance. 

It’s different every night of course, but in the hands of such foundation Theatresports veterans as Dungey and Kelso (apologies again for not knowing any other performers’ real names), it’s a safe bet you’ll get some good escapist laughs and perhaps a few raunchy ideas for later…
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* The well-known combination of one’s first pet and street names 
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