BATS Theatre, The Propeller Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

10/10/2015 - 10/10/2015

NZ Improv Festival 2015

Production Details

It’s visiting hour at BATS Theatre with improv on the inside! Inspired by hit TV show Orange is the New Black, the Body in Space Improv Troupe will invent three female prisoners based on audience suggestions.

Who will you end up rooting for in this dog-eat-dog world? 

BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington 
Saturday 10 October
$18 Full / $14 Concession / $13 Groups 6+ /
Two show pass: $30 Full / $25 Concession 
Book online at bats.co.nz 

Theatre , Improv ,

1 hr

Dave’s fave

Review by Jo Blick 11th Oct 2015

A women’s prison has always been fertile ground for dramatic shenanigans. ‘Queen’ Bea and Lizzie Birdsworth were just some of the lady lags who kept us glued to Prisoner back in the day and Orange Is the New Black and the Prisoner re-imagining Wentworth prove there’s still mileage in the formula. 

Nelson’s Body in Space Theatre Company knows a meaty format when it sees one and its improv show Jailbirds spills over with opportunities for interesting scenes and great ideas waiting to be explored. 

The show opens with the arrival of Associate Professor Bruce Sanford (Doug Brooks). He is the lecturer for Criminology 302 and we students are very lucky indeed that at today’s lecture, we will be able to view the goings-on at the Mount Vic Corrections Facility, via a live CCTV link. We are introduced very shortly afterwards to Warden Badger, Officer Cardamom (Glenn Cousins) and three unrepentant female crims Blues (Nikkie Karki), Toaster* and Hammer (Judeane Edgar). Yes, these names have indeed been chosen by the audience. 

The three inmates tell us their stories (shades of Chicago’s Cellblock Tango) and from there we travel around the prison, exploring the relationships between the inmates and the authorities, all ably orchestrated by Professor Bruce and his remote control. 

Moments of comedy – “My Mum was a freak – a literal freak. She was the bearded lady at the circus” – are counterpointed by some very black humour.  Blue’s crime of setting kittens on fire to keep them warm is a case in point, as is Warden Badger’s exclamation “I love it when you clench” as he casually gropes the inmates. 

The cast shows great commitment to creating a strong story arc and the applause when the villainous Warden is killed by a cackling Hammer is just reward for a satisfying conclusion. 

There is a lot to enjoy about this show but I feelt the storytelling lacks fluency and pace in places. Certainly the end is a lot punchier than the middle sections. There are a few wandering accents as well.

I think however, I should leave the last word on Jailbirds to my friend David, who was an improv virgin until I dragged him along to four shows in the space of four days. “That was my favourite of the lot. I liked the gimmicks, I liked the story and it came to a credible end.”

*Names were not made available this time and this was not discovered. 


Daniel Allan October 12th, 2015

Body in Space would like to make an apology regarding our improvised choices on the night of this particular show of Jailbirds.

This review mentions our 'meaty format' but does not observe that many people in the audience left the show, upset by the content on display, and that many of those who stayed were left shaken. As a company, we would like to unreservedly apologise. Sexual abuse happens, and it was a brave (foolhardy?) option for the improvisors to show it as part of the story in the prison that night. Thereafter, it was not okay that in some scenes sexual abuse was made light of. We made some poor choices and we are really concerned that we upset people.

We are determined to learn from this and strategise how our improvisation can keep exploring challenging areas without being offensive and, if our content is potentially dark, we will make sure this is spelt out to our audience before the show.

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