Old Boy’s Theatre, Christ’s College, Christchurch

11/01/2019 - 20/01/2019

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

11/03/2019 - 15/03/2019

NZ Fringe Festival 2019

World Buskers Festival 2019 | BREAD & CIRCUS

Production Details

Theatre is Dying. Garry is our only hope. 

Disgraced actor Garry Starr defies his critics by performing every genre of theatre possible, thus saving the performing arts from its inevitable extinction. 

Starr tears through styles with little regard for personal safety and even less regard for art, proving his talents to himself, his adoring fans and those who dare question his ability.

Old Boys’ Theatre – Christ’s College 
11 – 20 Jan 2019
Tickets from $30

Warnings: Nudity, Occasional coarse language  

BATS Theatre, The Random Stage
11 – 15 March 2019
at 6:30pm
Full Price $22
Concession Price $16
Group 6+ $15

Theatre , Solo ,

1 hr

A highly skilled comedic performer

Review by John Smythe 12th Mar 2019

Garry Starr, the alter-ego of Australian performer Damien Warren-Smith, is a charming exhibitionist. His mission this night is to save the live performing arts from inevitable extinction by exhibiting his prowess in every genre – not to mention every inch of himself.  

Entering to an epic intro, Afro-coiffed and black-bearded Garry – clad in an Elizabethan ruff, black leather jacket, white tights and black-leather ankle boots – ‘hits the wall’ with a mime gag then treats us to some pulsating ‘physical theatre’ before declaring his mission. His goal is to “perspire” us to see more theatre; his malapropisms are an early indicator that, in true clown style, his Starr is a few twinkles short of a blaze.

Ignoring the source of theatre-as-we-know-it (Greek tragedy – unless his comical hubris is a nod to it) and eschewing the Royal Shakespeare Company’s reverence for The Bard, Garry romps though Hamlet’s “rogue and peasant slave” speech, switches to Burlesque complete with twerking – and distributes grapes to people in the audience in order to display an astonishing skill that is its own thing, yet to be encapsulated in a genre.

While purporting to showcase melodrama, Garry ventures into Pinter’s The Lover, which is not of that genre. Nor does Ballet involve twerking except when Garry does it. Moving on from arse to Farce turns out to be more Comedy-of-Manners albeit performed in a black mini-dress and white gloves.

His Japanese Dance segment (cue clever ‘Noh’ gags) gives an audience member a chance to bang a bongo for Bhutto – and here we see some impressive physicality. Then Slapstick brings more audience members into the fray before we get serious about the “resolutionising” of European theatre by the likes of Chekhov and Ibsen, whose works are now, apparently, celebrated by ensembles named for sports and movie stars.

Using a plate of spaghetti to demonstrate Romantic Comedy seems like a very odd choice until its efficacy in scoring a kiss or two becomes apparent. But lips prove toxic in Garry’s audience-assisted manifestation of Tragedy.

Mask has two faces as Garry plays it. His classical Japanese woman is beautifully rendered until other moods are manifested. But the contemporary Keith Johnstone ‘Transformational Mask’ (aka Trance Mask), called Barry, is the genre that strips Garry bare and sees him cavort like a crazy man – shocking even himself when he tears himself away from Barry. (The power such masks have to ‘possess’ a performer is real and to use them initially without a minder is like high-wire walking without a safety net.)  

The smallest mask – the red nose – brings us to the final genre: New Circus. Here gravity is “defined” on a bar … and we are left in no doubt that Damien Warren-Smith is a highly skilled comedic performer.


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A master of theatre, comedy, acting – and circus!

Review by Tony Ryan 13th Jan 2019

Garry Starr is simply a must-see!  

Bearing in mind (or should I say “baring in mind”) that it’s R18+, you have to see this!  

Garry Starr (Australian, Damien Warren-Smith) Performs Everything goes to the top of my list so far. OK, I know it’s only day two of this year’s Buskers Festival, but it really is no wonder that this show has won and been nominated for so many awards. And I know that I’ve raved about everything I’ve reviewed so far, but this one really is award-winning stuff. 

This one-man comic masterclass in acting and theatre has the entire audience laughing uproariously from its first moments. A disgraced outcast from the Royal Shakespeare Company (yeah, right!), Garry Starr is on a mission to rescue theatre from oblivion. From Shakespeare to Pinter, Euro-theatre to Japanese Butoh, romantic comedy to classical ballet and much more, Starr takes us on a rollercoaster ride of theatre styles, taking the respectability and pretension out of them as he goes.

Starr has no inhibitions and expects us to leave ours behind as well. His Dying Swan reduces Saint-Saëns’ music to rubble as his performance also reduces the last remnants of our own sense of decency to ruins; we find ourselves laughing uncontrollably at a performance that’s so outrageous that we’re afraid to look anyone else in the eye. And just in case we miss anything, he sustains the episode to its farthest limits. And why not? The audience laughter is, if anything, increasing rather than diminishing.

But before this, Garry Starr has engaged us with such a captivating personality and rapport that we are on his side no matter what. And the audience is so willing to go wherever he takes us that we feel part of the show whether or not we end up on stage with him – as several do. If, like many who attend Buskers Festival events, you’re always looking for the seat that’s least accessible to the performer, don’t worry, participation in this show feels strangely natural and it’s all quite harmless – and anyway, Starr shows that no seat is out of his reach, although he does seem to have a sense of who’s willing and who’s not. 

As I’ve already implied, Starr’s ability to communicate directly and personally with the audience rather than just perform to us, is a key factor in his particular brand of comedy. We are part of his masterclass as any audience at such events usually is. We are his students and he is teaching us about the essence of theatrical styles by reducing them to their ‘barest’ essentials and making us see the inherent comedy in them, however serious their intent. 

As the show reaches its finale, although Starr has demonstrated that he is a master of theatre, comedy and acting, he manages to surprise us with a few relevant circus skills as well. Then, as we leave the venue, although no further donation is required at these ticketed events, Starr is there to shake our hands and thank us because, after all, we have become very intimate indeed with him over the course of this truly memorable hour. 

And Wellington – look out for this show in March. It’s coming your way!


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