11/03/2021 - 13/03/2021
01/11/2022 - 05/11/2022
Written by Catriona Tipene and Ryan Cundy
Horse With No Name
From the award-winning company nominated for Outstanding Ensemble Performance and Stellar Original Content in NZ Fringe 2020, Horse With No Name brings you FAB BEASTS – a heart-warming romp through the extinctions of mythical creatures. An episodic comedy with songs, telling myths you know and love, as you’ve never witnessed them before.
Follow Vaughn and his fellow unicorns at Unicorn Property Management, as tensions and water levels rise when the heavens open – and only two of every kind are allowed to live. Then delve deep down into the murky world of Detective Ness: mother, lover and Loch Ness Monster. A modern woman/lake monster, trying to get ahead in a male dominated world. Accompany Ness as she hunts down a dirty murdering bastard, in a case that proves to be almost bigger than her.
FAB BEASTS is a playful creature that will make you roar with laughter.
Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Te Aro, Wellington 6011
11th, 12th, 13th March 2021
BOOK through the Fringe Website: https://fringe.co.nz/show/fab-beasts
BATS Theatre Stage
1 – 5 November 2022
Alexander Sparrow: John MacBride
Kate Anderson: Greta Sam
Katie Boyle: Chesney Ness
Ryan Cundy: Vaughn Friendly George Nessica
Salomé Grace Neely: Lola Hanratty
Tom Kereama: Noah Shaun O’Shaughnessy
Victoria Martin: Asher Beck
Designed by Luke Scott and David Conroy
Crew and Music
Benny Tipene: Songwriter
Joe Raea and Eddie Kerr: Band
David Conroy: Lighting and Sound Operator/Designer
Luke Scott: Props Wizard, Stage Manager, Costume Design
Fringe at the Gryphon: Front of House
Theatre , Musical ,
Review by Shauwn Keil 06th Nov 2022
I’m quite excited to see this show. It looks silly, ridiculous, right up my alley. My guest is hard pressed to keep up with my anticipation as we walk to BATS, not being so much of a theatregoer but certainly trying to ride my wave of excitement. Knowing that there are eight actors involved, I’m really buzzed at the level of focus that’s going to be required of me.
As we enter, we can see two humans (probably humans) on stage. One is in blue and one is in green. The latter dons a wee guitar (I think it’s a small guitar anyway). These, presumably, are the credited musicians, Joe Raea and Eddie Kerr, though I don’t know who is who. As the lights dim, the blue one sings and he’s got a wonderful voice, accompanied by the green one’s unfaltering rhythm on the guitar. I don’t know yet if this sets the tone, or is simply a bit of light hearted fun. I lean towards the latter, and I enjoy it. Even the weird hand thing, I don’t get it but it’s kind of quirky and engaging.
There’s a bit of pre-recorded voice a little before the show really kicks off that I can’t understand, I’m guessing it’s one of those theatre “put your mask on and enjoy the show” type of messages, but it’s unclear to my guest and me. Not too long after a bit of a sing song, we begin with the first of two stories, The Utterly Last Unicorn.
From the get go, a visual sensation! I am going to praise the heck out of these costumes. Noah (Tom Kereama) and Vaughn (Ryan Cundy) are the first faces we see, Vaughn being a yellow unicorn and Noah being a human (probably). I’ll say now so that I don’t have to repeat it, stunning and stupendous costume work. All of the unicorns look incredible and I’ll bet that they were a lot of fun to create, and the way the programme reads, I’m thinking that it’s Salomé Grace who we ought to thank for the hard work.
Not a moment in each costume is wasted. A particular highlight is Cundy’s physicality, galloping across the stage in Vaughn. The range of colours: Brendan West as John, the purple unicorn; Kate Anderson as Greta, the silver unicorn; Salomé Grace as Lola, the pink unicorn. We’re quickly filling up the stage with a rainbow; it’s like someone opened the unicorn skittles and dropped them in front of us. That’s pretty cool.
We’ve also got Asher (Victoria Martin), a hard done by tenant with a classic, relatable approach to their flatting situation. Asher makes some good arguments with John, who responds in boomer landlord fashion. The way this moment is written illustrates a clear bias in the tenancy realm, which I welcome and support.
As this story continues though, I’m finding it incredibly hard to keep up with what’s going on. The pace between the cast is breakneck. I can’t yet make up my mind on whether this is nerves or deliberate, but I am genuinely struggling to keep my mark on what’s actually happening beyond the cool things I can see. This, overall, is to the detriment of my enjoyment. I quietly ask my guest if they’re following, to which they reply “I can’t really pick up what they’re saying.” This confirms it for me, it’s rushed, and I hate that. There’s no way a show with this much effort in the stagecraft and costuming wants us to fight to keep up with the fun, but unfortunately, I can’t speak much to what I’m witnessing right now in a positive light.
Katie Boyle enters as Chesney, the green Unicorn, and at one point we get to hear the voice of God, pre-recorded by Alexander Sparrow. Even this pre-recording feels quite fast, and I’m sensing that perhaps the pacing truly is on purpose. Ihere is nothing lacking in energy, and that is something the pacing lends itself to. I just wish that I could watch without playing catch up in five minutes time when a plot point lands.
The stage is muddled, everyone is close together, I’m not sensing much tension or synchronicity between the team as each cast member barrels forward to the next fun thing, over-sharing moments with each other. There are a LOT of blackouts in this story, and I wonder if they serve to mitigate the pace (as well as… change the scene), as they do offer a brief moment to collect my thoughts.
Something lovely to add, is that there are a few excellent examples of team work in this story, in the repeated gags. A fire killed Susan, and overly sexualised rain. These are gags that do lose a few laughs with each repetition, but don’t lose a wink of commitment from the team, and even have a little more variety as they pop up again, which I can appreciate.
If only I felt I could say the same for the rest. And I hate saying that; nobody likes being a meanie, but I simply cannot make out what’s going on! That is my experience with this story tonight, unfortunately.
Personal highlights are a joke about lumens and Noah doing a very funny scream. Vaughn’s lit up unicorn horn is pretty sick too, and I think the choreo in the dancy bit is cute, not in a condescending way, just very sweet to watch. I love that sweet stuff.
The Utterly Last Unicorn kind of ends abruptly, and I can only tell when the musicians begin again. It’s not that the obvious signs of ending aren’t present (cast are gone, lighting state that sets the stage for the musicians returns), it’s more that I’m still trying to piece together what I’ve seen and find it hard to objectively take note of what’s before my eyes as I ruminate; I feel more like I have permission for a break than a request to watch and listen. But I feel that I should drop it for now and let the next story, A NESScesary Detective, refresh the critic in me.
Sam and Beck (Kate and Victoria, respectively) charm us quickly as a pair of children, in contrast to a murder before our eyes, but the culprit isn’t at the scene! The victim being Friendly George (Ryan), death by Salami. So stupid, I love it. Shaun O’Shaughnessy (Tom), Hanratty (Salomé) and MacBridge (Brendan) arrive at the scene, and foul play is a reasonable deduction.
The star of the story, Detective Ness (Katie) is wonderfully displayed as what I could only describe as a marriage of costume and set piece. Ness’ neck and head are impressively manoeuvred by Katie; impressive in that it’s clearly quite a restricting piece to be in, and yet not in any way, to my eye, a challenge to worm around in for comic effect. The body is helmed by Vixen Temple, and while the consistency of the flippers throughout the play has me wanting more, Vixen comes in clutch in some of the moments that really count for a laugh.
Blocking is a little bit more spread out this time; granted there’s a bit more space on the stage. I still find that interactions take place in each other’s faces more often than not, and it’s sucking up a bit of the air for comedy.
Let’s face it, both of these shows are absurd, they’re quite silly in tone. I’d nearly go as far as to say Children’s Theatre for Adults. There’s something special in this production by its nature, but I reckon there’s a lot more gold to be mined. A lot more laughs to be had. There are great individual moments from cast members, amazing displays of vocal control, hilarious Scottish accents, movement appropriate for the silly scenarios at hand (it’s not boring old Naturalism now, is it?), set blocking in parts of the stage, notably a scene in a car where a downstage corner is sectioned off by lighting, and unquestionable fun.
It’s team work, and maybe a bit of guidance for the team is what this production needs. I’m going to call out Brendan West in a positive light, as I recognise the constant attempts to share the moments, passing on the ball of energy, allowing space for fellow cast to eat up the goods. But it takes two to tango. Some pairs, the kids, the detectives, Ness and O’Shaughnessy, they have it happen here and there, but it isn’t always fluid.
What if we had 8 actors working together consistently rather than working to be individual stars? We’d have a masterpiece and I’m sure of it: Fab Beasts has that potential and it remains untapped. These actors are good, their skills in all the theatrics involved tell me as much, I think great is the next step, and one within reach.
My personal favourite moment of the whole show has to be MacBrides death. A giant salami poking out of him, delivering a soppy monologue to a room full of people who couldn’t give less of a ****. It’s hilarious, even if in the room tonight, I’m the only one laughing so hard. Actual comedy gold says I.
Catriona Tipene has helped craft a magnificent visual spectacle with all relevant parties. In future, I’d love to see how much more they could produce a knockout of a show with a team ready to support one another on stage. There isn’t a shadow of a doubt that the rehearsal room has been very much that environment, but I can only speak to what I see.
Despite my criticisms, I would go again. I would give this show a million chances to be the show it wants to be simply because it’s up my alley for personal taste. These things only get better with live feedback, and frankly, the unicorn costumes on their own merit a night out. The rest is for you to find.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
Fresh, original and entertaining
Review by Maryanne Cathro 12th Mar 2021
There is a type of theatre I call ‘Peak Fringe’ – it is wildly off-beat, risky, entertaining, and thrives in a Fringe Festival environment. Rather like the Fabulous mythical beasts around which this evening’s show was written, who also thrived (throve?) in a rarefied environment. And this a supreme compliment, in case anyone is wondering. When else do we get to meet unicorns running a property management company, or a Loch Ness monster police detective?
Brought to us by award winning theatre company Horse With No Name, Fab Beasts is a show of two halves, layered with musical interludes from Joe Raea and Eddie Kerr. The music is a show in itself – written by Benny Tipene the songs are funny, relevant and performed with furry fabulosity.
The first ‘play’ is set in the offices of Unicorn Property Management, a comedic opportunity to satirise the scourge of property management companies in our otherwise fair city. Five unicorns and Noah are joined by a young renter complaining of the black mould on her ceilings, a situation dealt to with about as much sympathy as you would expect. And then the rain begins.
The unicorns have the most amazing costumes!!! Credited to props wizard Luke Scott, the company’s Facebook page shows photos of the team painting the wonderfully sculpted heads late into the night. These heads are characters in their own right.
So much word play and fun – how does a hoofed unicorn type on a laptop? Mad dialogue, a plot that not so much defies logic as makes it irrelevant, and let’s face it, the whole Noah and the Ark story makes no sense anyway. Entertaining from the first entrance to the final blackout.
Another awesome original musical interlude and our next story unfolds. Sam and Beck are six and filming the News at Six. A local character dies before them and calls for Detective Ness. Yes, you guessed it. She’s a “modern woman/lake monster trying to get ahead in a male dominated world” and that’s not a spoiler because seeing really is believing!
A murder mystery worthy of a rural Taggart with accents to match, this pot boiler keeps us bewildered, laughing and engaged to the curtain call.
Absolute props to the whole ensemble – the musical team mentioned above, cast Alexander Sparrow, Kate Anderson, Katie Boyle, Ryan Cundy (also co-writer), Salomé Grace, Tom Kereama, Victoria Martin, and creative team Catriona Tipene (co-writer and director), Luke Scott (props, stage manager) and technical stuff by David Conroy. It is no surprise that HWNN won an award in the last Fringe for Ensemble work.
I found the show delightful and it left me with a sense of joy and confidence that with theatre creatives making works like this that are fresh, original and entertaining, New Zealand theatre has a great future ahead of it.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer