The Scruffy Bunny Improv Theatre, 100 Courtenay Place, Wellington

06/03/2018 - 20/02/2018

NZ Fringe Festival 2018 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Production Details

Headliners vs the Headlines takes two teams of comedians and improvisers and forces them to battle it out on stage for our own twisted amusement!

Each show brings questions from a different arena, technology, politics, settling once and for all who is the ultimate champion! A title to be held by the victors and their children, and their children’s children! Until the next show.

There is also an improvised round of classic theatresports games for bonus points and then one final GOD ROUND of near impossible questions for double points!

It’s a really fun evening and you as the audience can submit questions for the next show. So come along to the hottest new venue in town, The Scruffy Bunny, and watch some of the best comedy minds in New Zealand test the limits of news based panel show entertainment!

The Scruffy Bunny Improv Theatre, 100 Courtney Place, Te Aro, Wellington
Tuesday 6 March – Tuesday 20 March 2016 (Tuesdays Only)
Concession $13 | Fringe Addict $10 | Full $16  

Theatre , Improv ,

1 hr - Tuesdays Only

More concept development required

Review by John Smythe 07th Mar 2018

The hard-to-find Scruffy Bunny Improv Theatre is in Courtenay Central, opposite the St James Theatre. Entering from Courtenay Place, head for the far right corner, just before the exit to the now flattened car park. It’s where the Post Office used to be before the earthquake that damaged so many Wellington buildings.

Was it wrong of me to think a show called Headliners vs the Headlines would deal with topical news? No: the Fringe brochure describes it as “a gargantuan battle over the latest news headlines.” The stage set-up is redolent of 7 Days: two tables for teams of three; Host’s table in the middle. Host Oliver Probert introduces the team contestants in just the way Jeremy Corbett would. So stage right we discover the Game of Groans team is Hugo Randall, Julia Burgisser and Sam Jarman; stage left, The Darth Tax Evaders are Ali Little, Craig Savage and Sanjay Parbha.

Then Probert, who is the only one with a mic, tells us the topic for this the first of three Tuesday @6.30 battles is Pop Culture. Oh well, I suppose that does feature in the headlines from time-to-time.

Three rounds will cover Dr Who, Harry Potter and Star Wars. The questions put are the sort you’d expect at a pub quiz: “What was the first country outside England to broadcast Dr Who?”; “Name the Seven Kingdoms in Game of Thrones”; “What did J K Rowling ask that all the actors be in the Harry Potter films?”

A number of problems emerge as the show progresses. After each question is asked there is a long pause while the teams go into a huddle before writing their answers down. Probert tries to fill the gaps but his chat is random and inconsequential. He needs a shaggy dog story or some sort of ongoing interaction with the audience to maintain the energy and our interest.

He does have a few exchanges with some mutterer in the front row but because he is the only one with a mic we only hear half the banter. The un-dimmable on-or-off houselights mean the rest of us are invisible to the spotlight-blinded panel, causing some of them not to pitch their voices so we can hear, especially when they indulge in side-banter.

Craig Savage does cause a sudden hush, however, by saying, “Casting a woman as Dr Who is a huge mistake.” His follow-through is a good one: “For decades all these men have been trying to sort out the universe – a woman will fix it in half an hour!”

Fortunately, despite being written off as “strange disembodied voices in the dark”, some determined people in the audience insist on audience interaction. For example, we pick up the discrepancy between saying “England” in the first question mentioned above then “Britain” when revealing the answer is New Zealand. (Presumably the other countries in the United Kingdom – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – saw Dr Who before we did.)

The biggest excitement occurs when Julia Burgisser declares there is no way she will read out the answer Hugo Randall has written down for “What did J K Rowling ask that all the actors be in the Harry Potter films?” The screwed up paper gets tossed around the auditorium and everyone who unravels it to read it shrieks and screws it up again. It ends up in Probert’s coffee cup without the contents ever being revealed. (The correct answer, btw, is “British”.)

Although it seems clear to me that The Darth Tax Evaders have scored more right answers, a ties is declared, a creative dance-off – staged behind the host – is required and Game of Groans (which includes the Host’s partner) is declared the winner.

The online promo mentions “you as the audience can submit questions for the next show” but this is not mentioned on the night. 

With two more Tuesdays to play, much more thought has to go into developing the concept to make it deliver from an audience perspective. 


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