Get Cuffed!

BATS Theatre, Wellington

28/02/2008 - 01/03/2008

NZ Fringe Festival 2008

Production Details

Get Cuffed! Warning: May contain explicit material and bad taste – if you’re lucky! 

"Lights come up slowly to reveal a scantily clad woman tied to bed with handcuffs and other unmentionables! She is totally still for the first few minutes, then with this pause in place, spits out the Draddle stuffed firmly into her mouth and begins to sing…"

Get Cuffed is a light hearted look at one woman’s romantic history.  Tied to a bed, Esther looks back over a string of affairs and broken dreams, performing 13 songs that range from hilarious to heartbreaking with a spanking of anecdotes and reflections throughout.

Written, devised and performed by Bryony Skillington (who has recently recorded another of her solo shows Northern Glow: After Party for Radio New Zealand) Get Cuffed has been designed as a showcase for her multiple talents as she graduates from Toi Whakaari, and enters the professional arena. She is joined by her accompanist  "Gimpy".

This fifty minute cabaret began life in Sydney, where it was developed as part of Bryony’s Toi Whakaari secondment.  In a two month intensive process, Bryony worked closely with director/teacher Adrian Barnes and musical director Pat Wilson to script and develop the piece.

The show has undergone further developments and will be directed under the skilled eye of actor/director Irene Skillington, making Get Cuffed the product of a unique mother/daughter collaboration. Irene and Bryony moved to New Zealand in 2001. Back in the UK Irene Skillington had a substantial career in Television and theatre having appeared on soaps such as Coronation Street and starred in many theatre productions.

Irene aims now to kick off her career again in collaboration with her daughter Bryony who is eagerly following in mothers footsteps after changing her career path from dreams of becoming a forensic scientist to an all round performer.

Apart from a work in progress showing in Sydney, Get Cuffed has yet to be performed, making its season in the Fringe a world premiere.  This is a new, New Zealand work, with a distinctly international flavor, and features music (both well known and new) from the USA, England, Australia and New Zealand.  

Performance dates and times: 
Four night season from Wednesday 27 February- Saturday 1 March
9:45pm start approx 50 mins.
Booking at BATS theatre  (04) 802-4175  or email: 

50 min, no interval

Full-on, dynamic, power-house performance

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 01st Mar 2008

The late night show currently playing at BATS is a cabaret act par excellence that doesn’t purport to be anything other than a rollicking good piece of entertainment. 

Raw, raunchy over-the-top Esther (Bryony Skillington) – a cross between Liza Minnelli and Elaine Stritch – lies spread eagle on a bed, chained by feet and hands and surround by an array of dildos, large and small. 

With her silent partner Gimpy (Byron Coll) on piano, she regales the audience in comic dialogue and belts out approriate songs with style and panache, revealing how she ended up being tied to the bed. 

From her opening number, ‘Please Release Me’, to her finale, ‘Nobody Does It Like Me’, Skillington gives a full-on, dynamic, power-house performance that is confident and electrifying and which is a must-see this Festival.


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Leaves me untouched

Review by John Smythe 01st Mar 2008

Esther is more than a bit tied up when we meet her. She is fluffy-cuffed at the wrists and ankles and chained to a bed, wearing D-Vice corsetry and a sexy feather-trimmed gown. Her boudoir is strewn with anatomically correct dildos, a cowboy-hatted pianist dozes at his upright and once she has spat the dummy (I think it’s known in the trade as a butt plug), Esther sings – what else? – ‘Please Release Me …!’ full bore.

I’m tempted to say ‘bore’ becomes the operative word because it takes 50 minutes to be treated to more belted out songs linked by snippets of information that finally lead to some objective understanding of how she comes to be in this situation. The device could work if the songs were sung to mine different moods and emotions and/or the linking story was more interesting.

A New York American, Esther – played with attitude and a well-centred presence by Bryony Skillington, who I think is of Irish descent -claims to be a "reformed Jew" who still fantasises about being Jewish yet has dabbled in Catholicism after developing a thing about nuns before giving acting a go. An audition for a stage show goes badly so she seeks her fortune in films and, would you believe it, she’s fallen for some porn-merchant’s line that this is the way in.

Her thump-along pianist, Bryon Coll, is her timid Gimpy (sex slave) – cue a harshly sung variation on ‘A Quiet Thing’: ‘A Quiet Gimp’ – and when he comes out from behind the piano his attire gives proceedings a bit of a lift, but little more is made of the character or their relationship.

Skillington can sing all right. She can eyeball her audience and, in role, play covertly bullying status games. But despite having sung ‘Whatever Esther Wants Esther Gets’, something strange happens around the possibility of audience participation. She asks for it but when people are tentative she neither encourages nor insists. Maybe her "come hither – fuck off" persona is part of the act but the outcome is more awkward than entertaining.

I expect the songs are chosen to support the story (or vice versa): ‘Stuff Like That There’; ‘Someone Else’s Story’ from Chess; ‘Let Me Go, Lover’ sung very loud; ‘I’m Not That Girl’ from Wicked; ‘Listen to my Heart’; ‘Dance Ten Looks Three’, title song of the musical, promotion "tits and ass’; ‘There’s a Fine, Fine Line’ (between love and a waste of time’; (If there’s a wrong way to do it) ‘Nobody Does it Like Me’ … but they don’t.

Her apparent predicament is not well exploited for drama or comedy and merely telling us what happened when there’s nothing much at stake to interest us in the outcome produces little pay-off for our 50-minute investment.

For all its potential to engage through comic insights, pathos and poignancy, Get Cuffed leaves me untouched.  


Steve Evans March 1st, 2008

Seeing Get Cuffed was a pretty annoying experience. If it were viewed as in progress being workshopped it might not be toooooo terrible, but as a supposedly finished article - at least that's how I take it from the propaganda accompanying the production - it's not very good. It was given a rave reception on Saturday March 1 and that made it that much worse to me. The script teeters dangerously on the edge of anti-Semitism if it does not actually cross into that dark territory. Even were the author/protagonist Jewish (and John Smythe suggests she is not) it would be in questionable taste. Does the protagonist's Jewishness really do anything for the story apart from suggest numerous unpleasant things about Jews? Were she Irish, or of no identified ethnicity, would it matter? Could it be better? It would be nice to be charitable and think maybe this was the result of naivte on the part of the author and overlooked by an equally naive audience. But if true that still doesn't seem to me to be an excuse. Really - this was pretty sad*. Otherwise the script was weak, with far from enough really good smutty one-liners. Happy filth could have bounded through that production with the gusto implied in the promos, but it wasn't to be. As to the singing, staging, etc, one is reminded of the Fred Astaire joke - "can't sing, can't act, can dance a little". The lead's voice/phrasing etc has promise, but isn't really good enough yet; the acting was ok, but nothing startling: there were a lot of repetitive movements and gestures. The pianist was excellent, but the frolicking with the cross-dressing could have been either more developed, or more extreme, or both. The relationship between the pianist and the singer yearns to be developed and made the story - or at least its vehicle - and if all concerned put their minds to it, could lead to a really first rate piece. As it is they want to take it on tour! * No I am not Jewish

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