BATS Theatre, The Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

04/03/2022 - 06/03/2022

NZ Fringe Festival 2022

Production Details

Written and Performed by Jack McGee
Performed also by Felipe MacDonald-Cuevas
Directed by Ben Kelly
Musical Direction by Phoebe Caldeiro
Scenography by Finlay Langelaan and Jacob Banks
Production and stage management by Anna Barker
Publicity by Abby Lyons

Presented by Squash Co Arts Collective

When our writer / performer Robert (Jack) McGee was nineteen, he walked up the highway, from Wellington to Auckland.

Armed with a pedal-powered-treadmill and beautiful live music, this show captures the highs and lows of that adventure. Initially, it’s a funny, personal, and uniquely New Zealand adventure story. But in its second half, the show drastically changes tone, moving into the surreal.

“The way Jack has shaped this into a coming of age play about adolescent masculinity is an adept and satisfying theatricalising of his personal experience.” Ken Duncam

We all view our lives as stories. We work retroactively to fit key details into our narrative, so we can view ourselves as the protagonist. This show is about when that order flips, and narrative takes over.

This show is about how Robert manufactured his own coming of age story, the complex issues of identity and masculinity that went into it, and the consequences that came out.

Squash Co Arts Collective is an emerging theatre company composed of recent VUW graduates. Coming back with a hiss and a roar, the training wheels are off this fringe!

BATS Dome, I Kent Tce
Friday 4 – Sunday 6 March 2022
Full: $20
Group 6+: $18
Addict Cardholder: $16
Concession: $15
The Difference: $40

Theatre , Musical ,

1 hr

A journey of grief, delight, fear and courage

Review by Ronia Ibrahim 07th Mar 2022

Music Sounds Better Out Here is the story of Robert (Jack) McGee’s wondrous journey on foot from Wellington to Auckland. The first thing that strikes me is the set – designed by Finlay Langelaan and Jacob Banks. In particular, the backdrop of two screens which feature a video pixel-style running animation of a New Zealand roadside. As Robert tells his story while walking on a pedal-powered treadmill, the backdrop animation, designed by Jacob Banks, morphs night, day and location, suffusing with the lights too. It’s a friendly, video game aesthetic, but one thing’s for sure, Robert is no NPC*.

Written and performed by McGee himself, this story is what he describes as a “hero’s journey”, referencing epics and classic stories. Travelling to Auckland by foot is certainly an epic feat, but perhaps not exactly like the Classics. There are no beasts, only cows. No floods, only Pump water bottles and artificial turf. But this is what makes Robert’s particular journey all the more entertaining: half coming of age saga, half epic travel vlog.

Robert describes his struggle to want to “tell a story right,” with what he refers to as “getting to a point.” He addresses a once close friend, but speaks to the audience: “This is the story I wanted to tell you on your 21st birthday party.” A particularly personal experience for me, watching this the night before my 21st birthday party; I am able to be conveniently absorbed into this premise.

But really, it’s Robert’s script that pulls me. It’s genuinely funny, smart and unapologetically silly at times (“Hello cows!” is definitely my favourite line). I appreciate how inviting Robert is with his performance, taking us for a wholesome yet tumultuous adventure through NZ highways, holiday parks and terrain.

Supporting performances are equally superb, showcasing the exciting Squash Co Arts Collective, a theatre company I’ll have my eyes on. Felipe Macdonald-Cuevas is charmingly versatile, playing a range of incidental characters, including a policeman and a doctor. While Ben Kelly’s portrayal of a rural NZ bartender/farmer is spot-on, he also doubles as an excellent piano and guitar accompaniment. Phoebe Caldeiro is fantastic on keys, strings, a kazoo, and a brief maternal bar-owner. It’s clear that this collective is full of talent and versatility.  

From its title, one might assume that this show will be a musical, and while its musical accompaniments are excellent, it’s the storytelling that shines through. Varied, visually interesting and heartfelt, the masterful elements of music, performance and set design highlight a well-crafted script and a fantastic crew. 

We have all experienced the regret and frustration that comes with “what I didn’t get to tell you.” In Music Sounds Better Out Here, Robert unravels the journey of grief, delight, fear and courage that comes with honest storytelling. Some might say the act of self-heroism or centring one’s story is delusional or narcissistic, but what I find most special about this show is the incredible value of narrativising life. To make sense of chaos and struggle – blisters and all – can also bring invaluable joy and empowerment for both audiences and artists. In the most cliche sense, “It’s about the journey, not the destination.”

Whether Robert succeeded in “getting to a point” – be that Auckland or self-acceptance – ultimately doesn’t matter, as the gift of honest art outweighs that.
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*NPC, derived from ‘non-player character’ in a video game, refers to a person who does not think for themselves or make their own decisions. 


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