BATS Theatre, The Random Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

08/10/2020 - 08/10/2020

NZ Improv Festival 2020: Close To Home

Production Details

One ticket, two shows – our Festival Double Headers give you twice the improv and twice the awesome!

Gang of Happy

Every character’s move in this short improvised play is driven by a secret – one you give us!
Each player knows only their own secret, letting it haunt/delight their every move, while being totally oblivious to the secret you gave the others. Watch these bold-but-grounded characters slowly get tangled up in the big and little lies they tell in service of their secrets. Will you root for them to untangle and win the day? Or cheer as they languish in a demise of their own making? Either way, it should be fun, and fascinating.

This is the debut performance of veteran players known collectively as Gang of Happy – Anna MacLean, Malcom Morrison, Mary Little, and Ben Zolno. Gang of Happy have worked in multiple genres and companies for ages. In this formation, we’re leaning into the fundamentals – finding humour in high-energy, grounded, theatre-style scenes filled with genuine, hilariously-flawed characters, one step at a time.

Tara McEntee & Matt Powell

Get ready to ride the rollercoaster that is a Spanish telenovela: big emotions, high energy, and melodrama! You’re invited to the live taping of the season finale of Preguntas del Corazón – of course, you’ve followed the show as dedicated fans and now you’re ready to watch the exciting climax.

Who will live? Who will be in love? Who will have drinks thrown in their face?

Wellington improvisors Tara McEntee and Matt Powell (Scared Scriptless, PlayShop, Soap Factory) return with their winning format that headlined Late Night Knife Fight in February 2020. Whatever twists and turns the story takes, you’re in for a wild ride!

BATS Theatre, The Random Stage
8 October 2020
Full Price $20
Group 6+ $18
Concession Price $15

The Random Stage is fully wheelchair accessible; please contact the BATS Box Office by 4.30pm on the show day if you have accessibility requirements so that the appropriate arrangements can be made. Read more about accessibility at BATS.

NZ Improv Fest: Close To Home takes place at BATS Theatre
Performance programme 6-10 October 2020
Workshops 3, 4, 10 October 2020
Learn more at and don’t miss a moment!

Theatre , Improv ,

1 hr

Delicious knowingness and Latin Lover hilarity

Review by Margaret Austin 09th Oct 2020


I’m having trouble reading the audience-facing whiteboard set up centre stage at BATS Random and have to ask my neighbour what the Gang of Happy are taking turns to scribble on it.  There are four of these improvisors – and each scribble consists of something they need to disguise or keep secret from the others.  

Here’s the list: one has a nose picking habit, another voted too early, a third is a vegan who loves steak and the fourth loves her mum more than her dad.

In the action that follows, the accompanying back and forth between players holds the usual deliciousness of the audience being in the know, while hapless improvisers struggle to make sense of each other while forwarding the action.

The added pleasure here is that we’ve got two New Zealanders plus two Americans – and it’s not just the mixture of accents that provide vocal variety but also the mixture of two cultures. Players exploit these differences to the full, making this performance relevant as well as fun.

We’ve got mention of vegan American cuisine, an interest in watching footy on television being more absorbing than voting, and an awkward New Zealand male trying to deal with an American style hug from another male.

There’s a culminating party scene where all is forgiven – and the audience would love to join in.  


Admittedly I’m somewhat easily bemused, so that’s my only excuse for my reaction to the second half of this double header. I miss the reference to it being part of a season but I’m probably the only one in the audience to do so.

(Checking later on the production page, I am reminded it is a “Spanish telenovela: big emotions, high energy, and melodrama! You’re invited to the live taping of the season finale of Preguntas del Corazón – of course, you’ve followed the show as dedicated fans and now you’re ready to watch the exciting climax.”)

I’m relieved when our charmingly confident Latin host announces that he and his partner-in-improvisation want to connect with us. Whew! Incidentally, this is the third time I spot Matt Powell in a festival show. The first was as MC in the opening showcase – bespectacled and scarlet sneaker clad. The next night he appears as an egotistical cricket captain. And now he’s so convincing as an elegantly dressed Spanish lover that I don’t recognise him!

There’s not only further bemusement to follow, but also a huge amount to enjoy. It’s difficult to keep track of the action – laughter is a great preventative. Ramon (Matt Powell) and Carla (Tara McEntee) are our two protagonists – lovers with more than the usual baggage, all the more entertaining because there are no holds barred.

“The two most difficult things an actor has to do – cry on cue and do a New Zealand accent,” declares Ramon. He accuses Carla with, “Your acting is so good, like when you pretend to love me.” And “Am I not your stallion?” asked with a combination of male arrogance and pleading that’s hard to resist.

As well as an intriguing story, we get audience participation.  A guy from the front row is hustled backstage – to reappear in a wheelchair and armed with three cue cards.  They’re in Spanish but we recognise “Si” and “Non”. These he uses to excellent and always appropriate effect in response to rapid fire questions from Ramon.

These performers – accompanied by musician Jose – let loose the kind of mayhem that leaves me with the indelible impression that love Latin style is a rich source for improvisational hilarity.


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