Basement Theatre Studio, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

25/07/2017 - 05/08/2017

Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

09/09/2013 - 13/09/2013

Production Details

Looking at Stuff in Clouds is a tall tale about taniwhas, a foggy memory of trousers, and place where we can escape the heavens, but not our reflections. An insightful comedy, that brings a contemporary, thought provoking commentary on the human condition in the naughties. Delving into, expanding, then blowing apart stereo types; offering an experience near and far from any one of us.

With cheek pestering tongue, Looking at Stuff in Clouds reexamines the point of it all; love, success, and happiness, in a universe that sure makes you work for it.

The Basement
from the 9th until the 13th September 2013, 7pm. 


Basement Theatre Studio, Auckland
25 JUL – 5 AUG 2017
$15 – $20
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Concession prices available to: Gold Card carriers, Equity members, Students – all with valid ID


Andrew Potvin:  Light and Sound Designer, Technician

Theatre ,

1 hr

Not just Fluff

Review by Nathan Joe 31st Jul 2017

Like Toa Fraser’s classic two-hander Bare, Looking at Stuff in Clouds is a character study of a place through the lives of its inhabitants. Instead of Auckland City, though, we are relocated to small town New Zealand. Performed by co-writers Donna Brookbanks and Shoshana McCallum, it offers a humorous insight into our less metropolitan corners.

We move in a gentle, unhurried pace from the likes of neighbouring farmers, visiting cityfolk and other recognisable characters. If they’re often presented as familiar stereotypes the end results, when successful, defy easy mockery, often straddling the line between parody and character study. Even when it’s not always successful at juggling both tones, Clouds unfolds with theatrical honesty, unencumbered by excessive design elements on its mostly bare stage, and putting the spotlight on its stars. This somewhat amorphous structure to the play is fitting too, even if it can feel dramatically inert at times. [More]   


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Like a pre-show that takes place in the foyer of the greater New Zealand milieu

Review by Genevieve McClean 26th Jul 2017

Most memorable, from this show, is McCallum’s rendition of a very animated inanimate object in one of the ten vignettes that make up Looking at Stuff in Clouds.  On a purely visceral level, it has stayed with me, for her extraordinary physical investment in that inanimate object (I don’t want to spoil it for you) and the jarringly awkward interaction of the personae who inhabit those objects, which is a dialogue between two objects (to be specific). It’s very funny, in a mind-bending kind of way.

This stays with me as it was so weirdly abstract, unlike the rest of the play, that it obliges the spectator to search for meaning in the off-centre region of the play’s themes; in that part of the play’s themes where the actors inform their work as actors, not just as characters.  And in that part of what is there for interpretation in that scene, are two women vying for all the things that make all of us breathe harder and palpitate a little faster?  They spar, in the thin guise of their respective objects, for relevance, vitality, and for sexual status.  One taunts the other until finally they spit, or bite, or take the bait.  The more modern appliance wins.  But without the respective masks, this is one of the most integral moments of drama in the show. 

The other moment that stayed with me was Donna Brookbanks’ Shepherd/ Farmer, sniff-sobbing into his sleeve in a most poignant way, after suffering a sequence of upsetting events that would break any stoic Southerner’s demeanour.  I find it very moving!  But the story, like many here, has a few extra twists and turns that keep any of us from wallowing in realism for too long. 

In fact the pacing is great. With an ease of professional timing, these two comfortably leave you, at the end of the show, to piece the stories together with a “what the/ but hang on” on your lips. 

There is something of the world of stand up here translated into a more theatrical show that presents a challenge. Losing the audience’s relationship with the performer that a stand-up show gives, means that the responsibility for the humour shifts to some extent from performer to character. This show, while it has a lingering strain of stand-up in its comedy, gains a more intensely portrayed series of different characters. I wonder, as the show will undoubtedly ripen in its comedy over the season, if it will be the specificity of the performers as themselves compared to when they are deeply inhabiting the characters that will do it. I suspect that embodying the characters without losing that direct comedy line with the crowd is what gives this work its “what the?” edge. 

There are several guffaws and much giggling from the crowd, but an unexpected amount of the show hints at a wistful and wry account of small town New Zealand, and the people in it who are neither fully loved nor condemned. Nor are they fully explored. This show operates like a pre-show that takes place in the foyer of the greater New Zealand milieu. Brookbanks, McCallum and Joy Woods, very talented debutantes, flick the curtains so that we may glimpse it, take pot shots at morality and immorality, and remind us of the frailty of human existence.  It’s a lot, and a funny – if bewildering – array of ourselves to take in. 

I have nothing against small ‘stages’ but I look forward with anticipation to seeing these guys get out of the ‘foyer’ and into a more fully fledged drama of their own making. They certainly have the propensity for story. 


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One way of passing time

Review by Matt Baker 10th Sep 2013

Less a play and more a series of vignettes, the fourth production by Playfight, written and performed by co-founders Shoshana McCallum and Donna Brookbanks, is a self-proclaimed thought provoking commentary on the human condition in the naughties. Said commentary is broken, however, between the nine aforementioned vignettes, and consequently offers little insight into the grander scheme of things that philosophical pareidolia can potentially afford.

While comically based, and well executed in that respect, the scenes don’t offer much other than the pleasure of watching these two actresses enjoying their own work. That isn’t to say that either the performers or scenes are indulgent in any way, only that the lack of narrative tension and release within them result in the overall production being a wholly character based work. Said lack in narrative is, however, moulded well by director Jessica Joy Wood, who clearly extracts enough dynamism from the text for the writers/actresses to work with, while keeping in the style of the material, preventing it from becoming stagnant. [More]


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Comedic study of human pretensions

Review by Nik Smythe 10th Sep 2013

There are many ironies exposed and examined within the ten short scenes that Playfight Productions’ newest original work comprises.  To begin with, what would appear to be a simple, greatly entertaining flippant sketch comedy revue is in actuality a deceptively astute study in human pretensions as written and performed by Shoshona McCallum and Donna Brookbanks.

Played throughout in dungarees and Chuck Taylors with only a handful of accessories, the twosome exploit the humorous elements of a series of different pairs of personalities, defined by their distinct vocal and physical gaits.  Jessica Joy Wood’s direction keeps the action stripped back to allow the duo’s subtle, not-so subtle and downright absurd facades of a succession of diverse roles to speak for themselves.  

Scene one hits the ground running with a couple of gratuitous, though endearing, racial stereotypes, wherein the ulterior motive of Koro’s parable is all but lost on his precocious, philosophical 11 year old grandson.  Then we meet a brace of deadpan farmers from somewhere like Eketahuna engaging in the titular pastime, awarding each other points for the shapes they identify; the more poignant and self-expressive, the higher the score.

In total contrast we next encounter two teenage girls making plans around boys and turning every tiny thing each other says into a full-scale dramatic miniseries.  And so on … A few sympathetic characters manage to balance any off-putting effect the more grating specimens may cause. 

On reflection it seems that the broader the stereotype the more recognisable, which I suppose is logical.  The most unique and conceptually intriguing of all are the would-be-eternally positive candle and the cynical, empty USB stick.

There are a few inter-scene relationships, as various characters reference acquaintances and relatives we meet in other scenes.  It’s clear the action takes place within a single community, a la Supercity, but the chief focus is more in the vein of Richard Linklater’s Slacker, not on narrative so much as a satirical inquiry into our existential nature and all stuff like that.

Given the number of different forms of pretension that get examined in Looking At Stuff In Clouds’ ten short, energetic scenes, McCallum and Brookbanks’s performances are ultimately, refreshingly and kind of weirdly unpretentious.  And (probably the actual main point of it all) really funny.


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