Fun Shy

As Is Performance Space, 377 Princes St, Dunedin

09/12/2010 - 11/12/2010

Production Details


Dunedin’s newest theatrespace ‘As Is’ celebrates its first ever production with a premiere of a new New Zealand play.

Fun Shy is written and directed by playwright Paul Rothwell, and tells the story of Matthias, a religious zealot with visions of the apocalypse who is brought ‘back to earth’ by an outgoing and fun-loving stranger and his circle of friends. Matthias gradually becomes accustomed to the ways of the world and the lifestyle of his newfound buddies, but a powerful force has followed him and taken up residence in the inner-city apartment. When world views inevitably collide, it will unleash itself on everyone.

As Is theatre plans to fill a need in Dunedin of a versatile venue for experimental performance. It has been set up by Dunedin local Jimmy Currin. He also appears in Fun Shy as Kendall, a desperately lonely birthday boy who befriends the powerful force in his apartment, mistaking it for a moth.

Other new shows have been planned at As Is for the upcoming Dunedin Fringe Festival next year.

Paul Rothwell is currently in residence at the Robert Lord writer’s cottage. Fun Shy is his first experience of directing his own writing.

The other performers in Fun Shy are Trubie-Dylan Smith, Alex Wilson, Ben Blakely, Samuel Irwin and Jennifer Aitken.

What: Fun Shy
Where: As Is Theatre, 377 Princes St, Dunedin
When: 9th – 11th December at 9.00 pm
Cost: Pay what you think it’s worth after the performance.

Jem – Trubie-Dylan Smith 
Matthias – Alex Wilson 
Kendall – Jimmy Currin 
Ryder – Ben Blakely 
Divaan – Sam Irwin 
Cuteness – Jennifer Aitken 

Lighting designed and operated by the company.

Vividly unusual and brutally beautiful verbal imagery

Review by Thom Adams 10th Dec 2010

Before I get stuck into reviewing Fun Shy, I should talk a little about the theatre space ‘As Is’. The space has a lot of potential for enabling artists in Dunedin to extend themselves into new territories, largely because it acts as a blank canvas. There’s a delightful roughness to the place which gives it an intimacy that can be lost in some theatres.

It also presents its own challenges. It sits next to a busy road, meaning that performances will need to either embrace the noise or be captivating enough that the outside world isn’t able to sneak in. I’m looking forward to seeing how it is used in the future, and I think Fun Shy was the kind of piece that really suited it. 

One of the main aspects of Fun Shy that makes me appreciate Paul Rothwell’s work is that around halfway through the performance I realised that I was feeling uncomfortable, but couldn’t pick exactly when that had started.

Fun Shy starts out giving you the impression that it’s a witty romp about a group of gay friends who take a homeless street preacher under their wing and liberate his own fabulous sexuality. Then, slowly, and rather gently, it starts to undermine itself like water undermining a riverbank.

The collapse into chaos is sudden and unexpected. You connect to the characters easily, which makes it that much harder when everything goes to hell.

Fun Shy is a great showcase of Rothwell’s writing style. His imagery is vividly unusual and brutally beautiful. Imagery is nothing without delivery though, and the actors – Trubie-Dylan Smith, Alex Wilson, Jimmy Currin, Ben Blakely, Sam Irwin and Jennifer Aitkencertainly don’t let the text down.

Overall, the performances are excellent, but every now and then I had a sense that they were disconnecting a little from the text. This showed mostly in their physicality, which sometimes didn’t seem as natural as their speech. When they were fully engaged, however, their performances truly did feel real.

There’s a great sense of unity between all of the actors and their commitment to the piece says a lot about Rothwell as a writer and director. I’m particularly impressed with his ability to bypass cliché. I can normally predict when a stock-standard phrase is about to rear its ugly head, and I’m glad to say that I was wrong every time in this case.

I do feel that even though Fun Shy clearly intends to be totally chaotic, the last ten minutes or so are confusing to the point where it’s difficult to appreciate what’s actually going on. On the other hand, David Lynch has proven that closure isn’t necessary to make a great story.

Fun Shy still has a lot more to offer. It’s a challenging and moving piece with a talented cast who have clearly put a great deal of thought and emotion into their performances.
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