Te Auaha, Tapere Nui, 65 Dixon Street, Te Aro, Wellington

12/03/2021 - 20/03/2021

NZ Fringe Festival 2021

Production Details

The freshest and funniest variety show featuring Aotearoa’s finest! Hosted by the one and only, unabashed, olive fueled, award winning comedy circus power trio that is “Laser Kiwi.”

Expect top notch circus, comedy, drag, music and more and expect to have a whale of a time.

Te Auaha, Tapere Nui, 65 Dixon St, Te Aro, Wellington
12 & 13, 19 & 20 March 2021

Fraser Hooper
Emma Phillips
MOTTE - Anita Clark
Sharn Te Pou
Sowmya Hiremath
Jack Shewell
Sophia O'Connor
Zane Jarvie
Imogen Stone
Degge Jarvie 

Crew: Sound/Lights Dean Haldaway 

Variety , Theatre , Circus ,

1 hr 30 min; Fri & Sat only

Personable and immediately likeable for an audience of all ages

Review by Emilie Hope 14th Mar 2021

We have talented people in this country. They go off and do weird and wonderful things. Through IDIOM 002 by Lazer Kiwi, we get to see the wonders of our own talent and I am so grateful.  

IDIOM 002, playing at Te Auaha, is a variety show filled with talent, including the hosts, and is overall a slick and well-produced show.

I make the unfortunate decision to drive into the central city and go on the mission to find a suitable park. Because of this, I am late so I walk into Kanye’s ‘Black Skinhead’ playing and Sharn Te Pou twisting his body in all sorts of ways as he dances. Emma Phillips comes on and spins a silk blanket on her hand. I’m not sure what kind of line up the crew at Lazer Kiwi have put together for this one, but I am thoroughly intrigued.

The first act is comedian Sowmya Hiremath with a stand-up comedy routine which includes the housing crisis, ghost buses and the likelihood of finding a husband anytime soon. Hiremath seems surprised at times by the audience’s laughter, not knowing what to do or say when interrupted by us. She often repeats sentences to regain her train of thought after the interruption of laughter, and I’m sure this will occur less and less once she gets comfortable with the fact that she is funny and the audience will need time to react to her. And do not be fooled by Hiremath’s sweet-seeming demeanour, she’s looking to tickle your funny bone and by goodness, does she ever.

The next act is hoop aerialist Sophia O’Connor. Her set is simply incredible. I’ve not seen a lot of hoop aerialist shows, but I’ve seen enough to know O’Connor is trying some pretty jaw-droppingly advanced moves, which she successfully manages, bar a couple of snags here and there. Going straight from comedy to something a bit more cabaret, the audience is slow to clap or show their appreciation when O’Connor does an amazing feat, but they soon cotton on, and by the end of her set, the audience is quick and loud with their applause.

Phillips returns to the stage and begins speaking in Mandarin. The audience is at a total loss and so some people laugh. It’s not until she indicates behind her, and a light reveals a watermelon on a black barrel that we begin to understand what the next act will be.

Resident chef Jack Shewell appears on stage with Imogen Stone as his assistant, holding a tray with three very sharp knives. Jack then proceeds to cut each of the items – watermelon, tomato, and grape – in one swoop. It’s a bit weird and random, but the Lazer Kiwi team come back with this theme later in the show as well, making the randomness intentional and funny.

Te Pou returns with a dance – on roller-skates! That’s right, get jealous. What this person can do on wheels shouldn’t be humanly possible – skating backwards, doing splits, jumps, or twirls almost at the speed of an Olympic ice-skater – but Te Pou manages it all. While it is fun to watch him do his thing, I would have liked to see Te Pou play with the audience a bit more, in the sense of getting us to clap out a beat or something similar towards the end of the dance. It also seems he is having too much fun during the dance to have a punchy finish, the music ending before his final pose is struck. Nevertheless, his talent is undeniable and I would thoroughly enjoy watching his liquid limbs manoeuvre around the laws of physics again. 

Frazer Hooper is one of the clowns of the evening, dressed in baggy 1940s clothing, but is somewhat divisive. He’s (literally) quick on his feet and loves to draw out gags, making us wait. I can appreciate this, as at times it feels as though we’ve lost the ability to be patient. He tests an audience member’s patience when he calls him up, only to have him return to his seat several times. This is funny the first few times, but then I notice the audience is no longer on Hooper’s side. An interesting shift in the unwritten and unspoken contract of theatre.

While often light-hearted, as clowns are, there are still a few moments during his rather long set which make me uncomfortable. The first is after he has called up four men to help him with a gag, and he calls up a woman by taking her hand, leading her around the stage and almost through the curtain to off stage, as he pulls a cheeky sultry smile. While this gets some laughs, this makes me extremely uncomfortable as I also see the woman pull away from his hand once she understands his intention as they get closer to the black curtain. I feel this is a gag made in poor taste as it demonstrates a man in a position of power (in this case, within the structures of the show as the performer) abusing it to make sexual advancement jokes on an unsuspecting member of the audience. He doesn’t do this to the men, so I don’t believe he should do this to the one woman audience member he pulls up either.

Another moment which makes me uncomfortable is around consent of the audience members he has brought up during a boxing match. When the audience member has his glasses removed and they face off once another, staring deep into one another’s eyes, Hooper suddenly kisses his opponent lightly on the lips – again for a laugh, which he does get from the audience. Not only is this consent dubious, it’s also not best practise when it comes to COVID-19.

Hooper has some funny moments, but I do think he needs to think a bit more about his role as a performer to keep his audience safe, physically and emotionally.

After a ten-minute break, we’re back for the second half. The stage is serious, with blue/purple LED lights standing upright behind a sound mixing desk. MOTTE (Anita Clarke) plays her violin and loops it through the music. She sings in a hauntingly siren-like pitch and uses glasses filled to different levels with a red liquid to join the soundscape as well. At first I think we will be listening to a track building, music coming together, but it’s more as though she is playing a song of hers. This is fine to do, but it takes me a moment to shift my expectations as to what her set is doing. Her set is not exactly funny, although some laughs escape the audience.

Multi-talented Te Pou returns towards the end of this set to join in some vocals. MOTTE is well placed in the show as a palette cleanser, although I may say it is also a bit of a tonal shift for the show.

The second clown of the evening is Stone, one of the hosts and members of Lazer Kiwi. With a slight smile and wide eyes, she manages to open a bottle of wine and pour it into two glasses without using a table or the floor. It seems simple, but the way the manoeuvres her arms around this puzzle is exquisitely simple, clever and dexterous. She then proceeds to light candles in the most unusual and probably not COVID-19 friendly way, again asking for audience participation. She manages to strike a match using only mouths and later only using her feet while she balances on her hands. This truly extraordinary feat is something I have never seen before and my word, is it impressive. As a clown, Stone is friendly and funny while still expressing boundaries and what she needs from her volunteer.

The final act is Phillips, to do foot juggling. Yes, you read that correctly. Using her feet, Phillips juggles Chinese parasols, a small wooden table … Now her speaking fluent Mandarin earlier in the show makes sense; she must have spent some time living in China while she acquired these items. Again, this is something I have never seen before in my life, that I would never have even thought was possible let alone something I would see in a variety show. Phillips has the presence of someone who has plenty of experience performing in cabaret shows, knowing when to give the audience a pause to refocus and knowing what will impress us.

Another star of IDIOM 002 is the Lazer Kiwi team itself – Zane Jarvie, Degge Jarvie and Imogen Stone. They host us, making us feel welcome and warmed up for the guest performers. They break up the show with fun and interesting games like Pictionary. Degge Jarvie is drawing something and we have to guess what it is but they are very specific about their wording. Opening night’s picture was a ballunicornonthecobb – a balloon unicorn with a corn cobb as it’s horn. The audience goes to a website with their phone to type their answers in, which is then displayed on a smaller monitor. The prize for guessing this correctly is a free drink at the bar and tickets to the next IDIOM in August.

Another moment is when Degge Jarvie juggles three cucumbers while Zane Jarvie is above him and slashes at them with one of the sharpest knives in Wellington. The audience cheers extremely loudly, partly because they have completed the task, partly because they did so without causing injury to one another.

Towards the end of the show, they call chef Shewell back to the stage to create a desert which one member of the audience will be able to eat during the final act. Using the spontaneous communitas of the theatre against us, it becomes a question of deserving. The team asks us: who wants desert? Do you deserve desert? Stand up if you deserve desert, look at your peers and stay standing if you still deserve the desert. Why do you deserve the desert? Someone says because they haven’t eaten all day – yikes! Another says because she’s an pensioner. Another, easily the crowd favourite, who is almost missed because she’s a small human, a child called Eleanor, says rather simply, “Because I like desert.” The stage is filled with the smell of burning brandy as the alcohol burns away, the flames impressive although not caring for the time limit the show must keep to.

It’s these varying and tangible moments on stage which keeps up the tone of IDIOM 002 and the energy of the crowd during this two hour show. I do believe they should work on their collective character to avoid talking over one another or cutting someone off while talking. However, I can’t fault the technicalities of the show – all the transitions are smooth, the lighting is crisp and interesting, and the technology they bring on stage felt like something that has strong financial backing (whether it does or not, I’m not sure), which makes the show itself feel polished and slick.

I would love to have this show receive funding to tour across New Zealand. I believe we deserve to see the talent that’s in our own back yard.

Overall, the Lazer Kiwi team are personable and immediately likeable for an audience of all ages. I would love to see the team continue putting on these professional shows not only in Wellington, but over New Zealand. If you get a chance to catch IDIOM 002 this Fringe season, you won’t be disappointed.


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