Five Go Mad on Improv

The Drake, Freeman's Bay, Auckland

11/05/2011 - 21/05/2011

Meteor Theatre, 1 Victoria Street, Hamilton

28/06/2012 - 29/06/2012

NZ International Comedy Festival 2011

FUEL Festival 2012

Production Details


Hoorah! Grab lashings of Ginger Beer and prepare for Timmy to get Licky. Those Jolly Hockeysticks ConArtists, are back to improvise through a spiffing escapade in the style of beloved children’s author Enid Blyton. The Thrusting Three, The Silly Six or perhaps The Frisky Four will solve epic adventures involving pesky adults with the help of their good solid English Values and immensely sensible shoes. Oh, and they’ll probably eat some scones too.

Warning: May contain grown men in shorts.

After the smash hit sellout success of Austen Found: The Undiscovered Musicals of Jane Austen and Sex, Lies and Improvise, we suggest you should be prepared (like Baden Powell) and book early. 

“A marvellous time is had by all. Jane Austen would turn in her grave with delight! … Rollicking fun!” Austen Found, Rip It Up Adelaide February 2010. 

“As the tale unfolds it becomes obvious what consummate professionals they are…” Bite Me, May 2010

“an engaging entertainment full of fun and frivolity.” Austen Found: The Undiscovered Musicals of Jane Austen, NZ Herald, October 2010. 

“…it is clear that the ConArtists are the professional, seasoned variety of improv artists. They don’t miss a beat.” Theatreview, Sex, Lies and Improvise July 2010. 

ConArtists have been entertaining Aucklanders since 1987 and show no signs of slowing down. The company members have performed improv all over the world, have represented their country with Theatresports™ and also extensively toured New Zealand. They boast some of the most experienced and hilarious improvisers in the country, so you should really see what all the fuss is about.

It really is awfully exciting.

Dates: 11th – 14th and 18th – 21st May
Venue: The Drake, Drake St, Freeman
s Bay
Tickets: Adults $20, Concession $18, Groups 10+ $18

Meteor Theatre 
Thu 28-Fro 29, 7pm


Lashings of hilarity, drollery and double entendres

Review by Gail Pittaway 29th Jun 2012

Theatre Sports meets Enid Blyton, with a dash of rabid patriotism and a dollop of uranium in this jolly old lark from the ConArtists, a theatre group based in Auckland.

As expected, Five Go Mad is an improvised play which the audience gets to interact with the cast to develop the plot and setting by calling out suggestions. Tonight we choose Nottingham Forest as the setting, matches as the everyday useful item that will be significant and fear of the dark as a childhood terror, all to be features of our show.

First of all, Hockey Prefect of Ceremonies, Penny Ashton, warms us up winningly with a survey of facts and fiction about Enid Blyton’s life showing equal irreverence for truth or politeness.

Having knocked us into shape with her wit and energy, she then commences training us all in calling resounding hoorahs and loud clapping then gets us to find out our Blyton names – using a granny/ grandpapa’s first name, then a surname made up of the name of an English town hyphenated with Forbes or Smythe.  I could have revealed my Blyton name but thought the process might be a more useful life skill to share with any reader, in case of finding oneself imprisoned in a Blyton story. 

Starring Jane (Ashton), Tarquin her brother and Jeremy her cousin, and of course, Buster the toy Labrador, the children are once again left alone by their distracted parents with only a cook for company. After much jostling, sibling rivalry and even more gender rivalry, Jane changes her name to Robert, to further complicate matters, because boys have much more fun.

Soon the not quite yet famous four, the Jolly Dandies, are launched into an adventure investigating mysterious fires in Nottingham forest, in the dark, then retrieving matches stolen by enemy German spies, all aided by much spitting and many racist expletives from both sides. As it was a one off plot I can happily reveal that top-notch British decency wins though and the whole of England is saved from immolation by the plucky children. 

Lori Dungey is hilarious as a slow drawling copper, surprisingly called Plod, and also as a grimacing spy called Hans. Clare Kelso is particularly droll and manages to eclipse even Penny Aston’s double entendres with talk of smuggled sausages, back passages and other delights, while manly rivalry between the boys is even funnier when they are men in shorts, long socks and sensible shoes. 

It would have been good to have more audience interaction – we were doing very well after the warm ups and waiting to participate further and the play loses its way in some deep holes in the ground. However the Blyton enthusiasts and iconoclasts alike chuckle at some of the core components of a good adventure: lashings of ginger beer, cream, pies, chicken, whole hams, Spotted Dick and evil grown-ups, all delivered with a dressing of accents foreign and British. 


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Another Blytonian adventure – Hoorah!

Review by Richard Howard 12th May 2011

Oh what jolly romp we have here!  

The essence of Enid Blyton’s adventure stories for children is performed (and ridiculed) through total improvisation, with the themes and various objects suggested by the audience and a turn of a rumpty tombola. 

Hoorah! We the audience have our drinks in hand, we sit back and – whizz bang – we are quickly off on another jolly hockey sticks adventure with the Conartists, on an unlikely journey, laced with campery and innuendo, to absolutely nowhere. 

Although totally made up on the spot, in the very second it is performed, the plot convincingly comes together with a start, a middle and a satisfying conclusion, in which the whole British Empire is once again saved from the forces of Evil by a band of upper middle case dorky children – evoked by this particular group of Conartists in cardies.

There is no point in telling you any more of the story as each performance is totally unique, nothing is written down and the story will never be performed again on this planet. This is the very basis of true adventure where no-one, neither the audience nor even the performers themselves, actually knows what is going to happen next. I will say however that there was a lot of focus on some missing coconuts and a special yoyo; which is always fun and we were compelled to be engaged with the nonsense.

Enid Blyton, a London writer of the 30’s and 40’s with more than 800 books for Children to her name, wrote quintessentially English characters, caricatures really, who have bizarre experiences, usually in countryside settings.

There were always, villains and plots, maps and clues and secret tunnels and tree houses and encounters with mysterious or suspicious types. The child heroes of her books were always empowered with English upper class pluck and resolve to save the day and they always had a clever dog as there companion. 

So too were the performers of last night’s show suitably empowered with significant improvisation skills and obvious experience to play and interplay with one another to move the story forward and to shape it into a plausible tale in true Blytonian style, which they did as sure as Spotted Dick is an English pudding.

When one could see the performer’s minds ticking over in character, reaching within to follow the evolving logic of the tale and the next part of the story, it only added to the fun and the audience loved each performer’s breakthrough for its cleverness and achievement – Hoorah! 

If I wanted any more from the show it would be that each performer adds a little more ‘fruitiness’ to their characters, to better reveal the girly-swat prats that contemporary interpreters of the stories demand that they should be. Let us also have even more individual eccentricity and the hot and bothered earnestness that only children can bring to a valiant cause.

All in all a jolly good, enjoyable show which deserves its outing at the Drake Pub over the next couple of weeks. 
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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