BATS Theatre-hosted online livestream, Global

27/03/2020 - 27/03/2020

COVID-19 Lockdown Festival 2020

Production Details

The “doom” is cancelling next week’s in-person show.

The “bloom” is we’re using the time to put on a fundraiser for BATS Theatre Community, online, and watching is FREE!

Here’s how the donation bit works: If you can afford to support BATS now, just buy a ticket to our show. 100% of the proceeds go to BATS.

If you can’t afford it, still RSVP here, and we’ll send you a link the day before the show, because we want to support you as well – the BATS community!

“Delightful… Makes its mark by being entertaining and relevant.” – Theatreview

Show will have three interweaving parts:
1. Live Doom & Bloom style improv (as always)
2. Rehearsal pieces that have never been released
3. Q&A Session – Improv scene requests, as well answers to your questions about our approach & show.

Can’t wait to see you there, to support you, and to help support the amazing BATS Theatre!

BATS Theatre Livestream
27 March at 7pm
“Pay What You Can” $5
“Pay What You Can” $25
“Pay What You Can” $20
“Pay What You Can” $15
“Pay What You Can” $10

This is the link to the Doom and Bloom livestream 

[You will have to join a different pay window so I suggest you sort it out in advance. – JS]


Theatre , Live stream , Improv , Comedy ,

1 hr

Delightfully absurd, ingenious, gripping, delicious, bizarre, poignant ...

Review by John Smythe 29th Mar 2020

A week after the final performance of Princess Boy Wonder became a livestream event (because public gatherings were no longer possible due to the COVID 19 pandemic) the whole of New Zealand is in lock-down. Doom is in the air but Bloom follows fast on its heels with existential improv duo Brendan ‘Monty’ West and Ben Zolno determined to present their Doom & Bloom show (which had been scheduled for Friday evening at BATS Theatre) as a Facebook livestream fundraiser, interacting from their respective isolation habitats. And BATS comes to the party with a virtual Lumen Bar Happy Hour (and a half) via Zoom.

Despite some technical difficulties with booking in, all bodes well as we Zoom in from our respective abodes to chat, raise our glasses, catch up with acquaintances and meet new people. Thanks to our hostess, Reb (Rebekah Bakker), with the familiar bar shelves as her background, we may choose to meet in smaller groups at a designated ‘room’ of BATS. I choose the leaner below the TV screen in the foyer to chat one-on-one with a new acquaintance and rather expect to see our backgrounds change too but that just proves how techno-ignorant I am.

It is, of course, brilliant that people are stepping up to find new ways of delivering performing arts entertainment to the public – potentially a wider public than could fit into a live venue. But as we find our way into this new sharing-while-apart domain, technical issues are inevitable and on the night the first 15 minutes or so of this show is somewhat mangled. From our perspective (not necessarily the same for everyone else) we get audio repeated a few seconds later so it’s very hard to comprehend what’s being said let alone tune into the developing story. It does come right eventually.

We can therefore rest assured that live-in-the-same-room theatre events – where we share an experience with performers who are the same size as us (give or take), all breathing the same air and variously responding together – will not die. We will undoubtedly welcome their return.

Meanwhile, I am sent a link some 20 hours later that briefly lets me view the recorded show better. By next morning it has expired – and now there is a new link that may work for you here.

Before my partner and I logged in to Happy Hour the others had apparently been asked “What is the hardest (or hottest?) thing you would take into isolation?” When we connect up to the D&B live feed, Ben (from the USA) and Brendan (NZ), both living somewhere in Wellington, reveal they have chosen “Sweet treats in my cupboard” and “Anything with an expiration date” then combined them as: “Sweet snacks in my cupboard that are about to expire.”

There is still a frisson to be felt in knowing that the conversations Brendan and Ben are having are entirely improvised, in the moment. Their skill in trading open-ended offers – as to what exactly is in the cupboard, how it’s behaving and what they should do about it, for example – is exemplary.  

Their utter belief in the truth of what is evolving, no matter how absurd it becomes, and the relaxed, natural tone they bring to their exchanges proves they are masters of this art form. This two-frame ‘talking heads’ format, as opposed to more action-based improv, is very well suited to creatively evolving conversations that engage our imaginations too. Ben especially does, however, find opportunities to become relatively active.

In the opening scene Ben refers to Brendan as ‘Honey’. The question arises as to whether Honey’s habit of staying up late to watch horror movies has affected their perception of what’s moving about in the cupboard – which turns out to be a baby alligator (the sweet thing) whose mother is dead and who might expire if they don’t feed it something appropriate. An ingenious response to the provocation.

A swift scene break (at about the 9:35 mark) kicks of a new scenario that makes a virtue of the intra-screen communication and, over a number of exchanges, creates Brendan as a Boss on an office block’s 14th floor, somewhat amused to find himself talking to a Cleaner (Ben) on the first floor. The subtle blackmail and moral dilemma themes that evolve – whereby the Boss offers the Cleaner a promotion if, on becoming a manager, he agrees to fire all the other cleaners so that a whole new team can be hired at lower wages – is gripping.

As they’ve explained at the beginning, while they don’t rehearse (hey, it’s improv) they have practiced together (back when that was allowed) and they audio-recorded the results, so this show is punctuated with a couple of their favourites.  The first is called ‘Should have Watered the Plants’ and a title graphic displays as we listen.

The game is to develop a scenario in which the phrase occurs in the natural flow of conversation. It turns out they first met in 1974 and last saw each other in 1994 which may have been the last time the plants got watered. Their relationship faltered because Brendan became depressed when he was writing book (as always happens: an occupational hazard) which led to Ben pursuing other men.

The next live-on-screen segment is an Interview where Ben, wearing specs, interviews Dr Furballs (Feyböll?) about his long-term study of food expiration – ‘Monster in the Cupboard’ – happily referring back to the original audience ask-for. Both adopt credible well-educated English accents for this. It turns out some foodstuffs, like a 5 year-old Christmas cake, experience emotions which can be transferred to those who consume them. Who knew? Delicious.

They introduce the next recorded practice segment as featuring white dudes struggling to be woke, and revealing the real conversations that happen in Hollywood. The title graphic is ‘My Night with ScarJo’.  

Brendan visits Ben to announce, “They sent it back”. Scarlett Johansson has turned down their proposal, because she’s having another baby or something, so they can’t have her in their film but they are allowed to keep ‘ScarJo’ in the title. The existential angst of ‘Waiting for Scarjo’ is considered briefly but that would look like yet another example of women being marginalised in their own films. Maybe they should agree to put the baby in the film too, to show she’s a mother and also has a right to pursue her profession. Fee levels come into it, of course, and names of others who need to be cast to capture the interest of different demographics. And finally then inevitably venal producers ask Debbie, a casting director, to sign off on the decisions they’ve already made. Bizarre yet strangely credible.

And so to the penultimate on-screen scene. Brendan’s request to Ben to step a little closer to the screen leads to Ben revealing he’s been a bit down because he has a question he’s been wanting to ask … Brendan is upbeat-receptive until Ben asks, “Am I a good father to you?” It emerges that “Asshole Father” is living in the USA while Son-with-unresolved-issues is in NZ where he has had “several ‘Dads’ to share the load.” Now he feels like he is the ‘adult in the room’, and any question of Father visiting NZ to reunite with his son reconciliation, and meet his grandchild, depends on his accepting five house rules.

Father is keen to oblige but sidesteps the question of whether he’s still gambling by overcoming another barrier to at last tell his Son he loves him. It’s not yet possible for Son to reciprocate but maybe if Father obeys the five rules, plus #6: no more gambling, things will work out. Insightful, poignant and moving – thanks to the total belief the improvisers bring to the situation and their roles.

The final scene takes us back to the first. Ben apologises for feeding their friend Larry – who cheats at canasta – to the hungry alligator, ‘Honey’ frets at not having had a more visceral reaction, Ben reiterates his belief that watching horror movies has desensitised ‘Honey’, ‘Honey’ fears he (it has now transpired they are husband and husband) is desensitised to friendship … and the absurdist scenario plays out to a logical, if soon-to-be-deadly, conclusion.

There is no doubt Doom (Brendan) and Bloom (Ben) love what they do and are very good at it – and the good news is they’ve committed to doing it again on Friday 3 April. The Facebook event page is: 


For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


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