Idiots: Back 2 School

BATS Theatre, Wellington

17/05/2011 - 21/05/2011

Production Details

St Peter’s college, one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious public schools, has seen a fair amount of decline in recent years. The grounds are overgrown, the library is full of possums, and the 1st XV hasn’t won a Fraser Shield title in over 20 years. The new principal is trying her best to get St Peter’s back on track, but it’s complicated when your rugby captain is in love with you. Oh and you’re also being haunted by the misogynistic ghost of a former principal.

Opening Tuesday 17th May, Idiots: Back 2 School is an irreverent cross-section of an ordinary day at an ordinary college full of ordinary weirdos. 13 of Wellington’s most attractive actors tackle a series of inter-connected vignettes about stoners, rugby heads, music nerds, feuding teachers, love-triangles, jealousies, betrayals, ghosts, and a couple of seagulls. It’s high school. Just like you remember it. * 

*Your high school experience may have differed significantly. 

Nic Sampson is an experienced comedy writer currently working for television’s The Jono Project. He has written and starred in two comedy festival shows at BATS: Tim and Andy: An Adventure, and The Burn, where he played an optimistic angel on work exchange in hell.

His latest endeavour Idiots: Back 2 School enjoyed a packed-out season in Auckland last year and starred some of the city’s top actors including Keisha Castle-Hughes, Morgana O’Reilly, Ari Boyland, and Gareth Williams, as well as direction from Thomas Sainsbury, Peter Salmon, and Dena Kennedy. Nic is stoked to be bringing Idiots to BATS theatre with a whole new cast of Wellington actors and directors adding their own talent to the madness. 

Have a sneaky peek here:  

Dates: 17 May – 21 May, 8pm
 BATS Theatre, Kent Tce, Wellington
 Adults $18, Conc. $14
Bookings: 04 802 4176,  

St Peters’ School Song       Music and lyrics by Gareth Hobbs

Mr Watson                             Mike Fowler
Directed by                           Anya Tate-Manning

Changing Room
Jarred                                    James Winter
Casey                                    Hayley Brown
Directed by                           Robin Kerr

Music Department
Sally                                       Melissa Reeve
Brian                                      Jack Shadbolt
Directed by                           Eleanor Bishop

Principals’ Office
Ms Henderson                      Jessica Robinson
Mr Fredric                             Martyn Wood
Directed by                           Kate McGill

Seagull 1                               Bryony Skillington
Seagull 2                               Simon Haren
Directed by                           Uther Dean

Behind the School Hall
Cam                                      Hayden Frost
James                                   Nick Zwart
Directed by                           Uther Dean

Teachers’ Lounge
Mr Frew                                 Aidan Weekes
Mr Andrews                          Ed Watson
Directed by                           Robin Kerr

The Formal
Directed by                           Anya Tate-Manning

Original Music & Sound Design by Gareth Hobbs
Lighting Design & technical operation by Rachel Marlow
Set & Costume Design by Hannah Smith
Production & Stage Manager Hannah Nielsen-Jones
Produced by Rose Guise & Eleanor Bishop 


Quality comedy

Review by John Smythe 18th May 2011

Set in and around the same high school, a series of nine inter-related sketches written by Nic Sampson, produced by Rose Guise and Eleanor Bishop, and performed by 13 actors working with five directors, coalesce into an extremely entertaining hour of character-based comedy.

Sampson has a sharp eye and ear for what makes people tick and insightfully probes their pretentions, dreams and vulnerabilities to deliver the blueprint for unerringly good performances in this Wellington production of Idiots: Back 2 School, which premiered last year in Auckland (a spin-off, of sorts, from the Sampson’s earlier and more random sketch show Idiots).

A massed choir kicks things off with a rousing rendition of the school song, ‘How I Love St Peters’ (since 1893), the excellent music and lyrics by Gareth Hobbs.

In class, a Mr Watson (Mike Fowler) introduces himself as the substitute for a teacher who has suffered a personal trauma. Oh how we laugh at her loss. But when he reveals his is the big brother of an asthmatic boy in the class, we become more aware that he is a sadistic bastard and have to retune our antennae as to what’s funny and what’s not. Directed by Anya Tate-Manning, this scene hooks our attention at all the right levels.

What red-blooded rugby player would not be delighted to find his girlfriend has snuck into the boys’ changing room? But Jarred (James Winter) has to lead the First XIV’s challenge for the elusive Fraser Shield tonight – at a time that just happens to clash with the School Formal. Casey (Hayley Brown) is expecting they’ll go to the Formal together but not even her new tattoo will turn his head. There’s a surprise twist here as to what is now going down / coming up for Jarred. Suffice to say his whole value system has changed. Director Robin Kerr crafts the scene well.

In the Music Room, the aforementioned asthmatic, Brian (Jack Shadbolt) is preparing to practise his clarinet alongside a saxophone, to be played by Sally (Melissa Reeve). A piquant and poignant scene (directed by Eleanor Bishop), we soon see through the overlay of largely inconsequential chit-chat to their unexpressed feelings and missed opportunities.

The ever-stressed principal Ms Henderson (Jessica Robinson) retreats to her office and secret creature comforts only to find herself haunted by the restless spirit of the school’s first principal, Mr Fredric (Martyn Wood). While his red velvet smoking jacket and suave demeanour suggest he is an aesthete, his quest turns out to be to redirect her emphasis on academic excellence back to regaining that wretched Rugby shield.

Abetted by Rachel Marlow’s well-place and operated lighting, director Kate McGill makes full use of Bats’ back wall portals for Fredric’s manifestations. And his ability to make Henderson do things involuntarily makes for some brilliant physical comedy. This scenario is returned to later, adding Jarred and more tattoos to the mix to even greater comic effect.

Meanwhile, having engaged with the supernatural, we move on to a supra-human scene (‘supra’ in the sense that Seagulls are often above us, physically at least), directed by Uther Dean. The gulls’ main concern is the quality of chips they’ve been able to scavenge. But one (a twitchy, manic and screechy Bryony Skillington) has found a ‘plastic chip’ (a.k.a. a cellphone) which she shows off to her companion (a comparatively serene Simon Haren). She has been receiving texts about the Formal and has been texting back …

This links through to a scene (also directed by Dean) set in a supposedly private spot behind the school hall. James (Nick Zwart) is indulging in self-gratification unaware he is being observed by Cam (Hayden Frost). Typical adolescent male conversation ensues, interrupted by a text from guess who to Cam, and somewhat fuelled by questionable herbal substances.

In the Teachers’ Lounge (directed by Kerr), the emotional maturity of Phys Ed teacher Peter “to get the ball rolling” Frew (Aidan Weekes) comes into question amid his fractious interaction with superior Science teacher Mr “Marlene is with me now” Andrews (Ed Watson).

This leads into the second Principal’s Office scene, where the clash between the Rugby game and the Formal, between responsibility-cum-duty and love-cum-lust, come to a dramatic head.  

The finale (directed by
Anya Tate-Manning) evokes the Formal, wherein random dancing formalises into a sequence, suggesting that their behaviour and ours are not that far apart.  

Don’t be put off by the title. Idiots: Back 2 School is quality comedy.
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