Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Wellington

03/03/2015 - 07/03/2015

Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

13/02/2015 - 16/02/2015

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

17/11/2015 - 21/11/2015

Auckland Fringe 2015

NZ Fringe Festival 2015 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Production Details


This Auckland Fringe from 13-16 February, the future of cinema is at stake in this original show featuring some of Hollywood’s biggest names, with a twist; they’re all portrayed by a single actor.

Gift of the Gab is a devised show that combines film and theatre to tell the story of Gab, a young cinema worker who teams up with the legendary Sir Ian McKellen to stop Hollywood’s most deadly weapon – a film so vapid and soulless that it will melt the brain of anyone who watches it. Realising that behind this monstrosity is none other than a power-crazed Alan Rickman, they find themselves on a mission to put the heart and soul back into cinema before the entire world is “dumb-enated”. 

Homages to classic films, blood-pumping theme music and kick-ass training montages abound in this fast-paced show produced by With Our Powers Combined, a theatre co-operative created as a collaboration between Sceptre Theatre, Killer Darlings Collective and Red Scare Collective. The team are united by their love of both film and theatre, and their interest in the explosive possibilities that can come from integrating the two forms. “Gift of the Gab is a marvellous melding of two mediums,” says director Matt Loveranes. “We aim to evoke the spectacle and awe of film with the barest of components: one man, his voice, a stage, a screen and innovative use of projection.”

The story itself both draws upon stock Hollywood narratives and calls them into question. “We want to thrill the audience with action sequences and heroic monologues, but also build a critique of that genre into the storytelling,” says performer James Cain.

The inherent challenges in creating a show that is both ‘filmic’ and ‘theatrical’ are not lost on the team. “On one hand, we’re spending a lot of our rehearsal time coming up with interesting ways to create film techniques onstage, from car chases to crash zooms,” says production manager Cassandra Tse. “On the other hand, there’s something essentially theatrical about a one-man show. Watching James transform from character to character as the story unfolds is really engaging in itself.”

“Directing and devising a show with just one actor while finding varied and progressive ways to use projection is a constantly challenging yet exhilarating experience,” adds Loveranes. “That I’m embarking on this journey with good friends that share my passion for film is just the cherry on top.”

This show is part of the 2015 Auckland Fringe Festival, an open access arts festival where anything can happen. It provides a platform for practitioners and audiences to unite in the creation of form forward experiences which are championed in an ecology of artistic freedom. The 2015 programme will see work happening all over the show, pushing the boundaries of performance Auckland wide from February 11 to March 1.

Dates:  13-16 February 2015, 5.30pm
Venue:  The Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave
Tickets:  $18 adult / $15 concession
Bookings: // 0508 iTICKET (484-253)

Gift of the Gab will be performed at
Gryphon Theatre
March 3rd-7th 2015, 6.30pm
as part of the New Zealand Fringe Festival.
Tickets can be bought from Eventfinder
$18 full, $15 concession. 

BATS Theatre Propeller Stage
17 – 21 November 2015

Theatre , Solo ,

Sharp-witted, light-footed fun

Review by Lena Fransham 18th Nov 2015

James Cain has chosen two of the most delectable voices of show business on which to build his dialogue. That was all the appeal of Severus Snape: Alan Rickman languorously savouring each pompous word, periodically biting off syllables with a predatory snap: beautiful. As for Ian McKellan, who can touch him for that polyphonic richness, like truffles, like Frangelico and other posh delicacies I wish I could afford? I could listen to those two all day. 

Cain’s Alan Rickman is like an undead creature emerging from the rubble of cinematic history. As his career comes apart, he becomes enthralled to a sinister inhuman force (made clear in a sequence of references to Little Shop of Horrors, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix, etc) that uses him to wage war on quality entertainment everywhere.

Gab is an employee in the cinema. We meet him cleaning up the trash between movies.  A true lover of cinema, he fills his dreary workday with daydreams collaged out of iconic movie scenes: Star Wars light sabre combat (using a broom); Fred Astaire dance routines (also swinging a broom); Jaws attack scenes (chomping action with a pizza box); American Beauty profundity (waving a plastic bag in the air).

He’s demoralised by having to run endless showings of Chubby, the shockingly bad box office smash, starring Alan Rickman, which is taking over the world. His attempts to subvert Chubby’s chokehold (sneakily trying to run surprise screenings of Casablanca instead) result in a spittle-heavy tirade from his Gollumesque boss (“My precious profits!”). Meaningless trash is destroying cinema! How can it be stopped?

Enter Gandalf. Under his fatherly tutelage, the true-hearted protagonist becomes the unlikely hero (cue flurries of dialogic and screen allusions to Karate Kid/Star Wars/Lord of the Rings/Harry Potter) to resolve an epic conflict between good and evil.

Cain channels Ian McKellen’s voice beautifully through a series of absurd situations and at times he achieves an eerily close impersonation of a very Snapey Rickman. The brief appearances of Colin Firth are also charming in a self-deprecating Colin Firth kind of way. 

The fifty-minute solo show splices together Cain’s multi-character dialogue with Oliver Devlin’s sound design and slivers of countless movies projected onscreen. The result is a fractured mosaic of a plot. Coherence takes a dive at times. Some things blur in transition, and I find McKellan’s voice becomes occasionally difficult to distinguish from Rickman’s when the pace picks up.

The complexity of construction and demanding character shifts make clarity a challenge, but the fact that the narrative coheres as well as it does testifies to some really ingenious devising, daring direction by Matt Loveranes and Cain’s extraordinary dramatic agility.

Sharp-witted, light-footed fun.


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An astonishing theatrical creation

Review by John Smythe 04th Mar 2015

It stands to reason that when a young man – Gab, who has been a ‘true fan’ of movies for as long as he can remember – discovers his dream job in a cinema complex reduces him to cleaning up pizza, popcorn and toenail clippings no less, his fertile film-fed imagination will be his means of escape. 

Yet James Cain’s solo sortie through a memory-bank of celluloid clippings is more than mere escapism. In positing the fiction that Alan Rickman has scraped the proverbial barrel-bottom in a blockbuster film called Chubby, sending Sir Ian McKellen on a covert quest to find a ‘true fan’ of quality cinema amid the million who flock to this crap, the co-devisers – Cain, Matt Loveranes (who also directs) and Cassandra Tse (also Production Manager and Projection Assistant) – embed a timely critique of big screen values.

This core driver of dramatic conflict also emerges in the Rickman /McKellen story, which dates back to training days. Then there’s Colin Firth … Cain’s impersonations are bang-on. If they were the starting point for creating this show, they have provoked a volatile 55 minutes of intriguing entertainment which in itself plays out like a ‘save-the-world’ (or at least save cinema) action movie.

You don’t need to be a film-freak to get Gift of the Gab. I’m just your average cinema-goer and I was surprised how many of the clips (from a mash-up of 116 films!) I recognised, even from movies made before I was born.  There are dialogue tropes, too, that we know without necessarily knowing their provenance. And new footage is edited in that give us glimpses of Wellington streets, helping to bring it all home. 

The way James Cain (who also designed the projections) interacts with onscreen images and action, and recorded sound, both physically and vocally, shows he is supremely equal to the exacting task he has set himself. Usually stage actors are in control of the rhythm and flow of a show but here his syncing has to be as precise as if he too is bonded to sprocket holes that drive him inexorably through the gate at 24 frames per second. (I know, that’s not how it works in this digital age … How might we describe the digital equivalent?)

Oliver Devlin’s sound design and compositions, and Rowan McShane’s lighting design, add visceral depth and texture to what is an astonishing theatrical creation.


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Review by Matt Baker 15th Feb 2015

When a friend asked me what Gift of the Gab was about, it took more than a few run-on sentences and backtracking to explain. If you can’t describe a show in one or two sentences at the least, something is wrong with the plot. That’s not to say that the show doesn’t make sense, simply that the narrative could benefit from some addition and omission to create a more logical flow of events even within its absurd concept. 

James Cain’s Alan Rickman and Sir Ian McKellen impersonations are very good, not amazing, but enough to carry the show. His choice to portray Jennifer Lawrence, however, is an odd one, considering there is no significant placement, tonal quality, or cadence to her voice. [More]


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Illuminating the darker sides of light comedy?

Review by Dione Joseph 13th Feb 2015

James Cain does an amazing Alan Rickman impersonation. Let’s just get that out of the way and say that the show is almost worth seeing entirely for his amazing ability to pull off a number of accents but particularly, it’s his barely amused drawling tones of Severus Snape that will delight an audience. 

And the rest of the show is quite fun too. A young purply pimple-faced cinema worker named Gab sets out to redeem the souls of those who risk being dumb-enated by the somewhat Faustian Rickman, who has sold his soul to celluloid in return for love. Appropriate for Valentine’s Day? Perhaps but high aspirations seem to be running low at this time of the year.

Gab teams up with none other than Sir Ian McKellen to take on the bad guy – whom all fans know is actually a good guy with just a pretty bad shampoo. Joining him in this bid to save future lives is Jennifer Lawrence, who is now running her own to-be-shortlived talk show called J-Law (not to be confused with singer J Lo), It turns out the heroine of the Hunger Games is in cahoots with Gandalf to bring down the evil potions master. And of course the big question is, will Gab save the day? 

Riveting subject material? Not quite, in fact the storyline is probably the least developed aspect of the show. But in all fairness credit must be given to the fairly decent remix of a ton of movies. From classics such as The Labyrinth (1986) and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) to the Blues Brothers (1980) and Silence of the Lambs (1991), as well as a whole bunch of Disney – Aladdin (1992), The Little Mermaid (1989), etc – the mash up is interesting and generally quite fluid.

And of course a number of recent films from the last ten years including Garfield (2004), American Hustle (2014) and Downtown Abbey (2010), make the references easy for those who might not have a penchant for Hollywood cinema. Plus there are the compulsory Harry Potter snippets and Star Wars excerpts. Because what cinema worker, as Gabe exemplifies, would not have seen every single Star Wars film, not only in chronological order but also according to its release dates?  Such are the rewards of working in the cinema that we can, as our narrator tells us, “be close to the gods and decide if they are worth worshipping.”

The montages are interesting and James Cain is a brilliant performer with great elasticity in his varied impersonations and the stamina to rarely appear out of breath. This is impressive considering the high energy homage he pays to the blockbuster film alongside producing all his own sound effects. Both he and director Matt Loveranes are credited with devising this fun and playful romp that merges film with theatre, and while it doesn’t quite successfully interrogate the two forms (partially to do with the space and also because, irrespective of how captivating the visuals are, it’s hard to forget its being projected on a crinkled sheet) it is a successfully light and entertaining show.

Oliver Devlin’s sound design and original composition add theatricality and, alongside Rowan McShane’s lighting, Gift of the Gab might illuminate some of the darker sides of light comedy.


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