Te Auaha, Tapere Iti, 65 Dixon St, Wellington

12/03/2020 - 14/03/2020

NZ Fringe Festival 2020

Production Details

Award-winning performer Andi Snelling is in the fight of her life.
Little does she know, she is about to be rescued in the most profound way…

Happy-Go-Wrong is an award-winning solo odyssey about fate, mortality and resilience, created and performed by Melbourne-based physical powerhouse Andi Snelling. Blending clowning, storytelling and physical theatre with a twist, Happy-Go-Wrong celebrates our extraordinary capacity to survive, and even thrive, in the face of major adversity.

Based on Snelling’s own real-life ‘wrong turn’ after a fateful tick bite on a New Zealand holiday changed her life forever, this rollercoaster show aligns the personal with the universal and makes visible the invisible, with unflinching honesty, life-saving comedy and roller skates.

Following sold-out premiere and encore seasons at Melbourne Fringe 2019 (where it won the SA Tour Ready Award), this marks a poignant New Zealand debut for Snelling, the country where her sickness saga began.

Praise for Happy-Go-Wrong:
“Captivating, provocative, heart-wrenching” ★★★★★ – Theatrepeople
“The audience is putty in her hands” ★★★★ – Beat
“A sublimely talented performer dealt a serious blow by fate. If it doesn’t take a larger stage at some point it’s our lack of support for the arts that’s sick” – The Age
“A love of life might not have been better depicted on stage. [It] deserves to be seen by a wider audience and on the main stages” – Witness Performance
“A powerfully personal story. Snelling was born to be on the stage” – My Melbourne Arts
“Astounding… It almost feels like it shouldn’t be possible” – WeekendNotes
“One, big theatrical hit… Raw, brave and confronting” – The Plus Ones

Te Auaha – Tapere Iti, 65 Dixon Street, Te Aro
Thursday 12 March – Saturday 14 March 2020
Price General Admission $20.00 Concession $15.00 Fringe Addict $14.00 Group 6+ $13.00
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Wheelchair access available

Theatre , Physical , Clown ,

1 hr

Challenging and charming; confronting, confounding and captivating

Review by Jonathan Kingston-Smith 13th Mar 2020

Sometimes huge, life-altering events turn on a single, tiny point. Something happens – an occurrence so small that it may even evade observation. But it stirs mysterious mechanisms into motion. And then, everything changes.

While on a New Zealand holiday, Melbourne-based performer Andi Snelling was bitten by a tick. One nip from a blood-hungry bug, that’s all it was.

I cannot speak for Snelling’s experience but the injury itself is apparently painless. Perhaps followed by a brief, bright ember of irritation, an itch and redness. Then – for a while at least – nothing. But a curd of bacteria transfers from mandible to flesh. The symptoms (as listed on Wikipedia) read like a catalogue of miseries. A rash forms, often in the shape of a target. This is followed by headaches, body pains, fever and chills. And for Snelling, worse. There were complications…

An Internet search reveals that the condition is commonly referred to as post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome. The term sounds blandly medical for so devastating a diagnosis. Here is a tale that could have slipped so quickly into the tragic. A skilled performer robbed of her own physicality. Wracked with an invisible illness. Her body hobbled with muscle weakness, aching joints and crashing fatigue. Her condition chronic, possibly fatal.

But, Andi Snelling’s story is not a tragedy.

It begins with the sound of a distant wind blowing. The tinkling of a music box. A pattern of lights sweep across the stage like an ethereal discotheque.

Screenwriter Bruce Robinson alleged that Dostoevsky described Hell as nothing more than a room with a chair in it. The black box of Tapere Iti now boasts a single chair. However, it is not clear that this is Snelling’s personal Hell, not as such. Although we do witness struggle and pain here. Suffering, even. But the otherworldly forces that gaze upon and govern this realm are more celestial than diabolical. 

A needle of torchlight pierces the black curtains and a roller-skating angel emerges.

Yes. Within this show, Snelling’s performative counterpart – Andi – has an angel watching over her. The angel’s name is Lucky (and is also played by Snelling). She is French, possibly because it speaks to her fascination with mortality and her Sartre-esque observations that life is only lived at its fullest when closest to death. Or maybe it’s just so Snelling can unleash her fake French accent upon an unsuspecting audience. Either way, the angel is hilarious and truly delightful. 

Lucky acts as guardian and guide, Greek chorus, collaborator and conspirator.

In addition to the solitary chair, Snelling conjures Andi’s universe from screeds of crumpled packing-paper. It is unraveled and scrunched, strewn and bundled. She flings it, runs upon it, crawls through it, fights against it and is ultimately engulfed. The sound of crumpling paper is very like the roar of a hungry sea. And Andi is drowning. It also proves visually compelling as its wrinkles and twists evoke fallen autumn leaves, or sheaves of sloughed skin. Both these interpretations are indicative of transformation.

However, Andi Snelling’s primary story-telling tool is Andi Snelling herself. Through virtuosic physicality, dance, singing, mime, clown and her extraordinarily expressive face, she conveys every narrative knot and gnarl; portrays all those phosphorescent moments of emotional toil and sudden epiphany. There are even instances where she commands attention simply by moving her eyes.

Her physical performance constantly astonishes. The impish countenance and playful manner of Lucky’s freewheeling clowning are set in striking contrast against Andi’s convulsing kinaesthetics, mutinous limbs and the hurt etched upon her visage.

The near-wordless sequence set to Joanna Newsom’s song ‘The Sprout & the Bean’ is a revelation. This scene is wrenching, torturous and exquisitely beautiful all at once. The choreography perfectly conveys the emotional, psychological and physical impact of Andi’s condition.

Elsewhere, we witness Andi transform into a jittering, gyrating Sia-esque clockwork doll that mechanically recites a cut-and-paste patois of the well-meaning but vacuous phrases that confront the invisibly ill. This culminates in some extremely clever word-games and serves as yet another example of Snelling’s staggering command of movement. 

Her singing (delivered acapella) is emotive, expressive and excellent.

Ultimately, Andi lays herself bare – stripping away all artifice. But what she does is never merely for the sake of confrontation. Snelling demonstrates responsibility to the audience even during her performance’s most intimate moments. Her final message is one of hope and rapture. Of happiness squeezed out of hardship. Andi accomplishes the triumph of simply living.

This work has some acid-tongued criticisms of the healthcare industry. These are conveyed by the satirical ‘helpline’ voice-overs – which are darkly witty and incisive. Later, she touches upon the difficulties of living with a condition that isn’t even properly recognized by medical services (after all, the Ministry of Health website still asserts that, in this country, ticks are not known vectors of Lyme disease).

The sound-design and lighting are both vital to this production. The music combines sampled choirs, pounding bass beats, shivering harp, warm washes of organ and much more besides, always perfectly-matched to the scene it underpins. The lighting design is sensitive and well-judged – moody and dreamlike.

This is a raw-boned, muscular and visceral production – an intimate evocation of one person’s battle against on-going illness. Snelling determines not to shroud herself in despair and instead seeks to find the joy within her circumstances. ‘Happy-Go-Wrong’ is not just about overcoming adversity, but transcending it.

This work expands its themes from the private and personal, rendering them into universal forms. This performance takes that which is often invisible and casts it openly before us in all its naked vulnerability. It captures pain and passion, struggle and song. Snelling burns with an incandescent love of life. Her work is challenging and charming; confronting, confounding and captivating. 

This production has already received sold-out seasons, encore performances, standing ovations, awards and an abundance of rave reviews. Happy-Go-Wrong is an essential theatrical experience.


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