BATS Theatre, Wellington

09/05/2012 - 12/05/2012

NZ International Comedy Festival 2012

Production Details


“Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it”. Niels Bohr

Wednesday 9th of May sees BATS Theatre go Quantum with one of the most original live animated comedy shows since 1981’s Woolly Valley. Bringing together stand up comedy, music and animation live on stage, Quantum Sheep and the Animal Orchestra features some of the best musical, comedy and animation talent in New Zealand, including Jemaine Clement, Riki Gooch, Joe Callwood and Mike Nyland.

In a mix of traditional stop motion claymation and computer animation Guy brings his orchestra to life in front of a theatre audience.  Interviewing both animals and aliens, Guy discovers how they view quantum mechanics, both in their own lives and within our shared universe.  Meet a pelican that channels the fish it ate in a parallel universe, a quantum sheep who’s freaking out about the expanding universe, and an elderly alien who runs solar system knitting workshops for wealthy businessmen! Guy then joins each guest in a special musical performance.

Guy Capper has been creating and performing his unique blend of animation and stand-up comedy for the past 14 years. In 1999 he co created the youtube sensation Robert and Sheepy with Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords). Guy has performed his live interviews with claymation characters to audiences in New York, Australia and New Zealand.

Guy has collaborated with Jemaine Clement and Joe Callwood (Little Bushman) on his last seven interactive comedy shows. The last three years has seen the addition of Riki Gooch (Trinity Roots, Erudangerspiel) and Mike Nyland (Sons of Midas) to the team.

“If Salvador Dali was to try his hand at stand up comedy Guy Capper would definitely be it“– The Dominion Post

Using interactive computer animation and stand-up lines, Guy Capper has created a completely whacky, off-beat show around the supposed interconnections between animals, aliens and vegetables” – John Mcbeath  Adelaide  The Advertiser

Guy Capper put’s his heart and soul into his performance” – The Evening Post

As part of the NZ International Comedy Festival 2012

Dates: Weds 9 – Sat 12 May, 9:30pm
Venue: BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Tce, CBD

Tickets:  Adults $20, Conc.$14, groups 6+ $15
Bookings: 04 802 4175  www.bats.co.nz
Duration: 50 min

For a full line up of performances, booking details & more information, visit www.comedyfestival.co.nz

Guy Capper
Jemaine Clement
Joe Callwood
Riki Gooch
Mike Nyland


Undisciplined and aimless

Review by Jonathan Price 21st May 2012

Guy Capper’s latest show presents us with his trademark blend of stand-up, animation and music. The theme this time round—“What is string theory?”—is mulled over by our host and pitched to a number of animated interviewees, but never quite solved. The routine progresses like a surreal television talk show, with Capper introducing his lineup of claymation guests to address the audience from outer space via a projected “internet feed” (read: prerecorded video).

The conceit is an interesting one, and the show starts promisingly with an animated prologue, featuring an amusing zen-alien- guru figure who propounds hopelessly vague philosophies on the beginning of the universe. Then Capper takes the stage, and here on in the show is a mess. Capper’s performance is undisciplined and aimless. He anchors himself to a small spot on the left-hand side of the stage and lets forth a stream-of-consciousness monologue which sounds like Spike Milligan trying his hand at Beckett. Except it’s not funny. Nor does it sound rehearsed. Nor does it look like Capper is really trying very hard.

He sometimes elicits giggles when his rants reach a feverous pitch of absurdity, but these moments are few, and virtually disappear by the second half. It is a shame; Capper’s breakneck pace (when he’s feeling up to it) and unflinching leaps of absurd logic could provide the kernel of a truly exciting and surreal comic experience. But his lack of structure, presence, purpose, and effort squanders the production. Those that laughed were often laughing at him. The rest, I think, were stoned.

The animated interviews are evidently the mainstay of the routine, and Capper introduces a number of the characters like old-time favourites (clearly they have appeared in previous shows). The less said about these the better. The interviews
are prerecorded, but it seems Capper’s collaborators (including Jemaine Clement) suffer from the same lack of focus and, well, jokes as he does.

Capper often got lost in the interviews, and the guests answered different questions to the ones he asked. The creatures rely on a Flight-of- Conchords-style awkward, self-deprecating humour, but the muddy, jerky animation prevents the human empathy required to make it work.

The question of string theory is neglected, revealing the show’s premise for what it is: an excuse to do more of the same, tired routine. It is telling that the prerecorded component of Capper’s show is just as uninspired as the live one. Here is a comedian with very few ideas, and no inkling of how to present them.

Quantum Sheep and the Animal Orchestra reveals that there are greater mysteries in the universe than string theory. Guy Capper is one. His ticket prices could do with some scientific analysis too. 

With soundtrack contributions by Joe Callwood, Jemaine Clement, Riki Gooch, Rosco Jones, Mike Nyland and Daniel O’Brien. 


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Space junk

Review by John Smythe 10th May 2012

That so much trust and good faith can be so poorly rewarded …  .

The title and publicity pitches are promising. The introductory screen image of a sitar-playing Alien (voiced with panache by Jemaine Clement, I think; once more there is no programme) suggests a quality show to come, as it orientates us to the Big Bang 13.5 billion years ago, Quarks, String Theory – Aha! This is why we have found a loop of string on out seats on arrival! – and the Fourth Dimension.

“Mr Dewey Cracker” is announced and Guy Capper shambles on in a tangle of string. Yup: a visual joke right there. He is in weird mode straight away, murmuring into the mic that John Key is his mum, mums can be fun, weirdness doesn’t matter … 

From a table mostly adorned with strange soft toys and the odd vegetable, he selects a toy car: “Who’d like a car?” Feeling awkward at the lack of audience response – already alienated, which Capper may argue is bang on theme – I offer to take it. Hey, we’re in set-up time; these things will be paid off down the track …

But they are not. There is no further mention of John Key, the car is forgotten; a random mention of Paul Holmes, an execrable Björk impression and something about his feminist mother (not JK; his real one, I suppose) go the same way, like space junk, flaring briefly as it vaporises but junk nevertheless.

“I’m not stoned,” he keeps on saying, but he gives a convincing impression of being so. Why? The odd moment of straightness indicates it’s all an act, which only makes it all the more bewildering. Doesn’t he know how boring stoned people can be at parties when they are deeply within their own heads and incapable of coherence let alone conversation?

The ‘lives crosses’ to various (pre-recorded) aliens, voiced by guest collaborators and computer-animated by Capper, who interviews them from the stage, are welcome breaks from his nonsensical rambles. Initially it seems we are to be treated to some clever humour arising from the notions of quarks, string theory, parallel universes, etc … but these sequences also deteriorate into incomprehensible blather, alleviated by some relatively interesting visuals.  

I become increasingly bored as the hour wears on. So what am I missing? When such luminaries as Jemaine Clement, Riki Gooch, Joe Callwood and Mike Nyland lend their vocal and musical skills to the enterprise in good faith, I have to assume they saw something in there worth backing.

Reviewing him in the 2000 Laugh Festival, I wrote: “Guy Capper’s post-modern Comediation, for all his talent as an animator and language-mangler, finally adds up to less than the some of its parts for me.”

But later that year he joined Duncan Sarkies, Jemaine Clement, Taika Cohen, Bret McKenzie, Ben Fransham, Gabe McDonnell, Jo Randerson and Carey Smith in the Bats/Stab production AAARGH! –The Live Movies, and during each performance he manipulated and shot (with a video camera) a claymation kumera, building a data-bank of images which came into its own for Attack of the Giant Kumera, a King-Kong-style disaster epic set against the Beehive and Parliament Buildings.

Of his contribution to the 2001 Laugh Festival – the same week Flight of The Conchords launched themselves with Folk the World – I wrote: “Totally anarchic to the point of complete incomprehensibility sometimes is Guy Capper in Plasticine Gets Stranger (Bats). An accomplished claymation expert, he links such pre-recorded mini-features as The Galaxy Game, The Pen (two sheep in a bar) and an interview with Helen Clark on the Arts Package, with semi-improvised stand-up riffs that are invariably more weird than wonderful. Outer space – ‘We’re there now’ – is almost a linking element. A musing on James K Baxter meeting Janet Frame in space is hugely promising but the night I went, I think he took our riveted silence for boredom and he ditched it. Damn.”

Later that year he offered Plasticine Gets EVEN Stranger, and I lost faith that “the nonsense raves that nevertheless had the tone, rhythm and shape of coherent communications could be the basis for some seriously ‘post Dada’ entertainment.” However, “If you have no need of meaning,” I wrote, “if you don’t need to trust there to be method in the madness – or if you are happy to project your own form of order onto the mad-Capper’s chaos – this may well prove to be your cup of the proverbial. I can’t say it’s mine.”

“Without doubt,” I wrote of the reprised pre-taped animations, “there is real skill in those hands, an extraordinarily active brain in that shaggy-locked head, and a mouth and tongue that can almost keep up with it. But the imagined meeting of James K Baxter and Janet Frame in outer space, that I saw such promise in back in May, has degenerated into a manic mumble-fest. And in the end the whole show is just random chunks of muddled matter spinning out into space.

“All those ‘free associating’ raves, which Capper seems to enjoy enormously, are finally oppressive to us when we’re offered no place in the conversation … I’m still old fashioned enough to believe some sort of exchange of – or engagement with – thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations, insights and/or experience has to occur before theatre can be said to have happened.

“Or maybe I’ve missed the point. Maybe I am the stranger of the title and Capper’s plasticine has just got even with me.”

Still hoping to crack the code, then, I approached his 2007 show Interviews with the Universe with positive anticipation, only to conclude nothing of value happened (click the link to read the review). Yet I still hoped this year’s show would see his potential realised at last.

It gives me no pleasure to say I feel insulted that he thinks the ‘space junk’ he’s messing about with now as part of the highly contested Comedy Festival is worth anybody’s time and money.  


Evans June 3rd, 2012

Good on you Guy! I had fun at your show no matter what some of these people have said.John Smythe has always been old school and does not represent all the people who saw this show and that has to be said after reading the above review.As for Michael Wrays “harsh” Blanket man comment how sorry are you really.Were you trying to use this post as an oppotunity to practice your shi**y wit.And im not sorry that’s harsh Michael after being informed that you are the Chair Of the Theatreview Trust and the Treasurer of the Downstage Theatre Society.Your comment on Blanket man is both crass and poor judgement in my opinion.

Michael Wray May 22nd, 2012

We attended the penultimate night. And it was a bit of a shambles. No link between the animation and the live performance. Apart from the animations, the rest of the show appeared to be made up on the spot, but with none of the skill or inventiveness that an improv performer would bring. The live side of the 'conversations' with the animation were a sad combination of inaudible and incoherence. Incoherent summed up the whole show. Every now and then, it looked like something clever might happen but no. Whether Guy Capper had just given up on our night or whether it was performed as written is impossible to say, but there was very little enjoyment evident from the sparse audience. Shellshocked was how we were described by a friend we met after. I wish I'd read the review before going - it sounds like opening night was an accurate depiction of the penultimate night. The comments suggest the show was somehow rescued by final night. Perhaps that was the night the show was performed as written. What we saw was more like an impression of blanket man given a microphone and a television screen. I'm sorry if that's harsh, but not as sorry as I am that we went to this show.

Editor May 21st, 2012

The Salient review: http://salient.org.nz/arts/quantum-sheep-animal-orchestra 

EELMAN RECORDS New Zealand May 21st, 2012

I went to opening night. I was lucky to receive x2 free tickets. Thanks a good start to the universe. Puzzled picked up the string placed on my seat and sat up not sure I was ready to expect.

I have come to know Guy Capper by participating in one of his weekend 2 day stop motion claymation and computer animation courses from which I gained an educated insight into clay modeling for animation, application of those technical skills to music and ideas. Luckily I got a, one on one, two day session, which meant I spent quality time with Guy and as a consequence gained an insight into his way of thinking; It's different, it's challenging, engaging, intellectual, left of field, chaotic at times, educational, speedy, hectic, emotional. Guy is crammed with ideas and there isn’t enough time in the Universe to S-Q–U-E-E-Z-E them out. Guy, you should work on your preference for reincarnation? Having said that, there is a thread, a string that ties all of his consciousness together.

Initially I was uncertain what to expect of the show. I was under the impression that Guy would have Jemaine Clement, Riki Gooch, Joe Callwood and Mike Nyland on stage, [“Bringing together stand up comedy, music and animation live on stage”] but it became apparent that theirs was one of a contribution in terms of pre production, sound tracks and voice overs. Clever, to combine a series of talented individuals together in this way. I have to say at this point, the compositions were engaging, with the stand out finale for me ‘Sky Bones’, I think it was called.

The show opened and out came Guy with pieces of string, a placenta attaching his onstage character to our world from his/the universe. I enjoyed the symbolism throughout the show. The John Key jokes, I didn't get, the lebanese bread one left me on the wall, the joke that had a sexual reference, BUT these were teasers as he built a feel for the audience on a cold night.  I glossed over things I couldn’t get, I’m no genius and moved on to the interaction, looking to the screen in anticipation being absorbed into the characters, the dialogue with "Mr Dewey Cracker" and I got involved in the interviewing of both animals and aliens, their view on quantum mechanics in their own lives and within our shared universe.

Based on my education in the world of art practice, I understand Guy as a Performance Artist. His genre is linked in many ways to an Art World and in my opinion he has settled into the world of Comedy on the Fringe. His ideas of humour are an entertainment of the intellect, tweeting ideas into my subconscious. That does not mean he is not funny, there were hilarious moments for everyone in this show in many different ways. The Pelican. The sheep.

I enjoyed the journey, the audience participation, I wanted to make more sounds, meeeeeeeeeeeeoooooooooooooooowwww, dog noises. I found myself wanting to belt out noises, but not being used to this kind of environment and audience participation I was a little apprehensive. I loved all the animated characters, i know how to make them, animate them, talk to them, the Pelican was a stand out amongst a cast of wonderful immaginative others, and the last rousing chorus from the digital band had everyone singing along and I jumped up out of my seat. The bones of the show are well and truly developed. I was for that brief moment in time, one hour, a mere 'ism' in the endlessness of time, lost and entertained.

A bigger screen for the animated characters would have been more engaging. The sound could have been louder. The table with the props could be placed vertical to the stage not as a horizontal barrier to the audience and in my opinion, work the space more. YOu have the personality. Take your opera to the center of the stage and engage all of the space. You need a techie on the bottom row to push the computer cues, not up the back out of sight. Get bigger toys. Go big, go for it.

For me, Upside, free tickets, yes! :-). Downside, cold night, a challenge to get me off the couch away from my Poodle, Louie and my Chihuahua, Julio [I have real animated characters at home], the heater, television, it appeared slightly challenging, but worth the effort once I got to Bats.

Next time I will attend and am prepared to pay to see the Final Night Performance.

It will be worth it.

lisa Hayes May 19th, 2012

John Smythe your reviewing a Guy Capper show is like a Grandma reviewing The Ren and Stimpy show. I attended opening night with 2 girls and one dude and your review is a negative and narrow outlook, and John you sound bitter. You say John no audience particpation ?? Why were we all singing with a sheep then ? The string we had on our seats was used with a green alien but you dont say that not just that you make out that it was not even utilised? I think that yes John you are old fashioned but that is no excuse .And yes old Fashioned can be a good thing so let's be clear on that. However You review this show like we were supposed to meet Stephen Hawking and understand the entire cosmos. After seeing Capper in a Bar bodega gig several years ago, I knew he would improvise a lot so when I read your review I thought what a twit. You dont discuss all the animals in the show who talked to him? You Don't even mention all the singing and howling of the opening night audience ? And No mention of the Pelican at the end ? All you have done is explain that this is not your kind of show and you have a classical theatre chip on your shoulder. And except for my drunk friend the whole audience was singing with his sheep and howling with a dog with falling bones. So lack of audience particpation comment is not true at all .I was at the same show you were John and it just shows how we all experience events differently. Maybe you were on LSD John ? or pot which made you go all inside yourself LOL

Nicky Brick May 19th, 2012

Dan, there is no R in Jemaine. There is no S in Clement. Don't make him angry, you wouldn't like it when he's angry.

John Smythe May 19th, 2012

Again, I am glad you and the rest were entertained, Dan.  On opening night, however, a well disposed audience laughed less and less because no real connection was being made. Capper seemed alone in his own head. Had we been more engaged, I'm sure we'd have been more attuned to the live/pre-recorded interviews.

Yes of course I know how much work has gone into the animations. Actors work hard to learn their lines, too. But we don't go to the theatre to admire hard work.  

I think I have seen the opening nights of every show Capper has done in Wellington, except for the ones he cancelled at the last minute. Next time, however, I'm inclined to be my own bouncer and bar myself from entering The Capper Club. I'll send someone else.   

dan wilkinson May 18th, 2012

I agree Hobbs, i was at the last night... and yes it was rather entertaining. Not sure what show you saw John, but the one me and my partner saw, kept us intrigued & one of the most satisfying parts was the crowd involvement, which had a number of the audience howling away, the occasion meow, in between good solid laughter. In fact there was someone in the same row, who was laughing so hard during the show, the seats were constantly vibrating. I suspose its easy to criticise what doesnt work, and yes at times Guy is some one who does go left field & on random tangents. But this is Guy, and after seeing some of the previous shows, most recently the one at garden bar last year, this is what he is, a unique comedian, that can certainly have moments of brilliance.

For me one of the most humorous and well done parts of his show, was the interviews, which you didnt really delve into. The incredible skill that goes in to the creation of these characters, including backgrounds, is probably why they have made an apperance on TV 3 (Robert & sheepy) 'Radiradirah' that used to screen on friday nights. The one that had me in fits, was the apologetic pelican, trying to ask for forgiveness from the fish he once ate. The awkwardness of this scenario & subtle effects of each characters way of being, was priceless. Like Jermaine Clements said to me in the pitt bar after, its great to see how seemless the interviews have become since this live process first began in the early 2000's. 

Well done Guy, i enjoy your creativity.... may it long flourish & take you to places that surprise 

John Smythe May 15th, 2012

I am delighted, Hobbs, if the final night was a great improvement on the opening night. Having not yet mastered the art of time-travel, I cannot, however, see myself as ever being capable of reviewing an opening night in the light of its final night.   

hobbs May 15th, 2012

I dissagree with you John. I attended the last night and had a great time.If only more reviewers could have seen this multimedia show maybe a different perspective could have been given. And you say Space Junk?  A limited sense of originality seems to accompany Johns opinions as throughout the show the audience was singing along with him and having fun being sheep and howling dogs.Maybe John your evening was not the best, however your review does not do justice to what at times was a realy funny show.

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