Jon Bennett: MY DAD’s DEATHS

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

26/02/2017 - 28/02/2017

BATS Theatre, Wellington

12/04/2017 - 12/04/2017

NZ Fringe Festival 2017 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Production Details

Jon Bennett’s dad always wanted his son to be an author… like Banjo Patterson. From the creator of the internationally acclaimed Pretending Things Are a Cock comes the story of the strange relationship between a comedian and his extremely conservative father; a man who has died… more than once.

Just for Laughs Award nomination for Best Comedy (Montreal Fringe, 2013)
Selected (Just for Laughs Zoofest, 2014)
Best Comedy Award Nominee (Perth Fringe World, 2015)
Best Solo Show Award WINNER (Orlando Fringe, 2015)
Best in Venue Award WINNER (Orlando Fringe, 2015)

“Armed only with self-deprecating wit and memories, Bennett reminds us that ordinary people lead extraordinary lives. ★★★★★” – The Sunday Mail (AUS)

“Bennett is the patron saint of storytelling. ★★★★★” – Broadway Baby (UK)

“Bennett is a joy to watch. This is bold, honest, engaging and different to a lot of standard comedy on offer. ★★★★★” – Fringe Guru (UK)

“Full of heart and packed with laughter, this is how storytelling should be done. ★★★★” – The Skinny (UK)

“An example of how much comedy can achieve in terms of depth and range, that it can be belly laugh funny and emotionally powerful. ★★★★” – Chortle (UK)

“A wonderful storyteller at the top of his game. ★★★★½” – The Plains Producer (AUS)

“The audience is spellbound, laughing, gasping, allowing their emotions to be played upon.” “Gut-wrenchingly good – Bennett is a master storyteller. ★★★★” – Time Out Magazine (AUS)

“a great storyteller. ★★★★” – The Adelaide Advertiser (AUS)

“Without doubt, amongst the best, absolute funniest storytelling I’ve ever heard.” – Db Magazine

BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Tce, Mt Victoria, Wellington
26-28 Feb & 1 Mar, 2017
TICKETS: $20/$15/$12

As part of the Jon Bennett Trilogy at BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace, Wellington
11-13 April 2017, 8.30pm
My Dad’s Deaths: April 12th, 8.30pm

Theatre , Solo , Comedy ,

1 hr

He knows his craft

Review by John Smythe 13th Apr 2017

Aware of the approach of Cyclone Cook, the ever affable Jon Bennett thanks us for coming and – given the prognosis for the morrow (today) – suggests this might be the last show we’ll ever see at BATS. Premature predictions of termination turn out to central to My Dad’s Deaths (part of the Jon Bennett Trilogy which began on Tuesday with Pretending Things Are a Cock and ends tonight with Fire in the Meth Lab).

A gifted storyteller, no matter what you think of his subject matter, Jon (who offers a running gag about the missing ‘h’) starts the litany of mishaps befalling his father before he (Jon) was born; when his mother was heavily pregnant with him. As graphic as it is suspect, the first version anyway, it sets the tone for a riveting 80 minutes.  

Because Bennett’s shows are always about more than the title suggests, we are treated to classic insights to the abiding dynamics of a growing lad’s relationship with his dad. In this case, given their rural South Australian upbringing, Ray Bennett played multiple roles in Jon’s life, occupying his son’s space every day of the week and making the urge to escape inevitable.

The irony is his dad wanted Jon to be a writer, like Banjo (Waltzing Matilda’, ‘The Man from Snowy River’, ‘Clancy of the Overflow’) Paterson and, as a yarn-spinner, he shapes up just fine, albeit in performance and autobiographical mode. Quite why he rants on about Paterson’s bush poems not rhyming escapes me, because they do.*

En route the various ‘Dead Dad’ incidents are intercut with ‘Disappointing Dad’ anecdotes and a series of Facebook postings from a Christie Sullivan. And we find out why there is a child-sized bunny suit hanging on stage, and a log of wood …

The pig hunting episode on Kangaroo Island is a high point on a number of levels (that’s not as oxymoronic as it looks). And because he grows up in the course of all these experiences, Jon is not averse to offering a self-aware resolution – somewhat more profound that the moral with which his dad tags his own yarn about the crop dusting pilot and the possum (which are beloved in Australia).

Conclusion: pretty well anything Jon Bennett does is likely to be entertaining, so risk it. (Except maybe tonight … let’s see how the weather behaves.) He knows his craft – maybe he read this at an early age:

*From ‘Behind the Scenes’ by Banjo Paterson (1893)

For though the actor at his best
Is, like a poet, born not made,
He still must study with a zest
And practise hard to learn his trade.

So, whether on the actor’s form
The stately robes of Hamlet sit,
Or as Macbeth he rave and storm,
Or plays burlesque to please the pit,

‘Tis each and all a work of art,
That constant care and practice means–
The actor who creates a part
Has done his work behind the scenes. 


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Revels in celebrating differences

Review by Margaret Austin 27th Feb 2017

Our performer is wandering about BATS’ Propeller Stage before the show. “I’m out here because it’s boring backstage,” Jon Bennett informs early arriving audience. 

He has turned his obsession with his Australian pig farming father into an energetic, engaging work. “Never let facts get in the way of a good story,” might have been his watchword. Again and again he recounts events, several of which involve the apparent death of his father, only to resurrect him with a punchline. 

“Disappointing Dad” – the title of cleverly interspersed slides – seems to be a theme. The juxtaposition of a would-be comedian son and an unusually conservative father with melodramatic tendencies provides a goldmine of material – a father who’s never been out of Australia, who censures his son for swearing and who chokes on a [spoiler averted].

A Banjo Patterson bush recital is a high point – Bennett takes a stance on a log, dons a stereotypical cork trimmed hat, and then struggles to read the poem through the corks.   

He can’t resist a reference to his earlier work, Pretending Things are a Cock. By the time he mentions it, towards the end of the show, we’re primed to hear, and see, examples from his exhibition. I’m not sure if his disappointment with his father for not attending the opening is genuine, or tongue in cheek. “Everyone else is happily perusing the cocks,” he assures us.

It’s refreshing to see a show abo  ut someone’s dad, especially one that celebrates their differences.


Editor February 28th, 2017

Your judgement is accepted, Maria - thank you - and the final sentence has been duly revised.

Maria WILLIAMS February 28th, 2017

I highly recommend this show, great story telling and very, very funny!!

I think the final line about the Dad actually gives away a big spoiler to the ending show and think it should be removed from the review. 

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