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

07/10/2020 - 07/10/2020

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!


Neil Miller, Brendan West, Brenton Hodgson, Ali Little, Nina Hogg

Come and put your topical questions to our unbalanced political panel before casting Your Vote 2020. Featuring the ubiquitous Minister for Everything and other non-expert panelists engaging in a battle of wits. This promises to be an hilarious, irreverent, and utterly irrelevant show. No stone will be left unturned nor personality defect hidden in the unrelenting pursuit of their truth.

We are a disparate group of five Wellington improvisers coming together for this one-off special.


Brendan “Monty” West & Ben Zolno

What happens when two experienced improvisors known for their precision and tight formats throw every safety rail into the bin, every improv “rule” out the window, leaving them with only each other, a desire to make sense, and a profound attempt at improv masochism? Find out in this show – and this show only – where absolutely anything goes.

Ben Zolno and Brendan “Monty” West aren’t afraid of the Terrifying Formless Rollercoaster, whether it means thirty minutes of increasingly deep, introspective dive into character, or Broadway song, alternate universes, and disassembly and revelation.

All they can promise is will be unexpected. Join them for magic in the making.

Doom & Bloom have each been performing improv for a decade or two, and performing as a duet for nearly two years.

The Random Stage at BATS Theatre1 Kent Terrace, Wellington (map)
Wednesday October 7 2020

NZ Improv Fest invites lovers of improvised theatre everywhere to join us in celebrating the art form we all know and love this 3-11 October, from wherever you are and wherever you’re at. Join us in Wellington, or connect with us online, in a celebration of world class, local talent!

NZ Improv Fest: Close To Home takes place at BATS Theatre
Performance programme 6-10 October 2020
Workshops 3, 4, 10 October 2020

Don’t miss a moment!

Theatre , Improv ,

Two well-paced shows

Review by Malcolm Morrison 08th Oct 2020

Question Time with The Minister For Everything is an improvised comedy show within the New Zealand Improv Festival, styled as a political debate between the “minor-minor parties” of this election. Each member of the cast is a local improviser who takes on the role of a parody or caricature from the political realm.

From the Grey Party is the self-styled Minister of Everything (Neil Miller), a wonderfully evasive and ambiguous politician who only speaks in non-committal rhetoric. The New Preservative Party’s Chastity (Nina Hogg), represents the interests of cults – although she would never use that word. She espouses extremist Christian views and includes many references to Gloriavale to the audiences’ delight.

The Violet Party’s Violet (Ali Little) is a “progressive traditionalist” who panders to the audience with no concrete stance. Finally, there is the Shadow Cabinet’s Redacted (Brenton Hodgson), a conspiracy-theory-touting hooded figure.

All of this is aided by the evening’s following show’s Brendan “Monty” West and Ben Zolno as the no-nonsense host and stage manager respectively. The show is presented as a live recording of a debate and is centred on the interactions between these eccentric characters, the audience, and each other.

We first encounter the cast in the foyer of BATS Theatre as they hand out fliers for their parties and gather questions that the audience wish to have answered during the show. The show then proceeds, alternating between a randomly selected question being asked and the panel of politicians discussing, with the wit of the improvisers’ exaggerated views (or non-views) driving the show. This is punctuated with ad breaks, where we see the all-smiles facade coming down and the characters’ real opinions of each other coming out.

The dynamic of all these elements coming together is a delight to watch. The cast are clearly very witty, which leads to some hilarious interactions, especially with the audiences’ somewhat absurd questions. Of particular note is the chemistry between Miller and Hogg as their characters slowly become more and more antagonistic. The Minister of Everything is dismayed at the age of Chastity, and Chastity flinches every time the minister mentions “technology” or the like, culminating in Hogg battering Miller with a bible during an ad break.

Additionally, West performs the host role wonderfully and constantly pushes the cast to commit to answers. This is especially amusing with the non-committal Minister of Everything who answers one question with, “Let me be absolutely clear: Yes-No.”

Overall the show has great pacing and progresses with nice momentum. The audience is kept engaged throughout. It ends strongly with a shouting match and all of the cast being kicked out by the host. I would have enjoyed more interaction between all of the characters. Redacted (Hodgson) is very amusing as he presents his conspiracy theory scribbles that he has made throughout the show. However, it often leeaves them outside of the conversation. Additionally, Violet (Little) seems to take it upon themself to pander to the audience, containing many improvisers, and to deliver the message “go vote”. While an important message, I feel their character concept of a progressive traditionalist is lost.

I look forward to seeing any future version of this show. 

Doom & Bloom’s Terrifying Rollercoaster is the show the improv scene’s regular duo Doom (Brendan “Monty” West) & Bloom (Ben Zolno) put on for the New Zealand Improv Festival. They open the show telling the audience that they are dropping their normal, well-structured style of show and are just going to improvise, seeing where it takes them.

Continuing with this theme, they get a single piece of inspiration for the show from the audience, asking for “a time in your life when you felt unsure”. An already warmed-up audience member suggests that they recently had a dilemma between “sitting on the beach or climbing a mountain”. What follows is a romp of non-discrete scenes thematically exploring marital relationships, the pressure of having children and the difficulty of communication. Comedy is clearly not the goal but the show is still very funny with absolutely touching moments between a set of believable characters.

The duo form a complementary pair and appear to find joy in that synergy. West is wonderfully skilled with words and thinks a-mile-a-minute. Zolno has very strong emotional reactions, adding weight to West’s wit. It’s always impressive watching two skilled improvisors who have been working together for a time and have such chemistry. The pace of the scenes are akin to scripted theatre and no line is superfluous. Overall, the pacing of the show is kept interesting, going from deep emotional conversation to songs within surreal dreams and amusing physical comedy.

One thing I find both impressive and interesting is Doom & Bloom’s treatment of gender. Being two men, it is almost inevitable they will play other genders at some point. However, there are never any tells or stereotypical behaviours in their characters. We, in the audience, often only find out what gender a character is only if it becomes relevant to the story. I find I stop making any assumptions about this too.

In one scene we see two characters lying in bed together and there is no thought about gender of either character. Additionally, with the exploration of whether or not to have children being a core theme, it is less about sex or role in society and more about one finding one’s personal truth. Take what I have said with a grain of salt, as I am a man with my own personal lens, but I find it to be very respectful.

The show culminates with two of the earlier characters changing a light bulb while reminiscing on the journey they have been on. A disagreement occurs, demonstrating how the characters have grown over the course of the show, and on the final beat, the light bulb is smashed with the theatre’s lights changing accordingly.

It’s here I would like to highlight the amazing work of the often-forgotten improvisors: the lighting operators. For this show (and a number of others in the festival) this role is assumed by Darryn Woods who performs spectacularly for this show, clearly changing the lighting state on the fly to show (or inspire?) when we are in a dream sequence, at a new place, or to enhance the mood.

Doom & Bloom’s Terrifying Rollercoaster is a highly polished show with touching moments and raucous laughs. I, for one, am glad they are a part of Wellington’s improv community.  


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