NEIL THORNTON Circus of Shame

Cavern Club, 22 Allen St, Te Aro, Wellington

11/05/2021 - 15/05/2021

NZ International Comedy Festival 2021

Production Details

Neil D'Bear Thornton

Comedian and local gay icon Neil D’Bear Thornton (seen on The Project and After Hours) invites you to a ring-side seat at the circus of his psyche.

For your amusement and delight, he’ll dive head first into the shallow pools of shame, both personal and cultural, swing on the flying trapeze of embarrassment, and walk the tightrope of self-revelation, all without a net. Expect death-defying feats of brutal honesty.

“Thornton is just a master of the craft of comedy.” – Theatreview

“A bold performer with intelligent material. Constantly amusing and thought-provoking.” – Ruminator

“I laughed until I cried and nearly got thrown out for snorting into my beer.” – The Residents

Winner – Best Comedian 2020, Wellington Comedy Awards
Winner – Best Male Comedian 2020, Cartel Comedy Awards
Winner – Best Industry Helper 2018, 2019, & 2020, Wellington Comedy Awards

Cavern Club
11 – 15 May 2021
Tue – Thu:  $20
Fri & Sat:  $25
*service fee may apply

Wheelchair access on request
Frequent coarse language
Adult themes
Strictly R18 venue

Theatre , Stand-up comedy ,

1 hr

An evening of high octane hilarity

Review by Brett Adam 13th May 2021

Finally! After the hours and hours of selfless working for the good of the comedy community, countless MC-ing gigs introducing us to the best and brightest of new and upcoming comedians, and the generous commitment to his students at his comedy school, Neil Thornton takes to the stage in a solo show. And he does not disappoint!

The name Circus of Shame was intended for a show (thankfully) no longer relevant, about the horror that was America under Trump. Thornton has repurposed the work for a much more personal examination of his own various self-identified hang ups and individual sense of shame. However this is no pity fest. The title is obviously ironic as Thornton, in his characteristic angry, shouty American persona, lays bare many of the feeling of inadequacies and self-doubt that most of us share.

Beginning with a tour of his various school reports, and those of his impossibly perfect sister, he takes us through a whirlwind of mortifying and humiliating experiences including a gay cruise, a stand-up routine in front of a gay nudist gathering and his diagnosis of ADHD. Rather than inducing feelings of condolence or pity in the audience, Thornton turns these stories on their head and gifts us with comedy gold. Despite what you may think, there is not a shred of self-loathing or resentment.

His familiar, rapid-fire, shouty delivery belies an infectious enthusiasm and sense of celebration. In the hands of a lesser comedian this approach can run the risk of alienating the audience. Often used by (typically male) performers, it can be a defence mechanism to keep us at arm’s length. In Thornton’s more than capable hands however this high decibel delivery serves to excite and energise us and keep the show driving forward.

An unashamedly gay man performing for (from what I can tell) a mostly straight audience, he is unapologetic in his sexuality but it also never becomes the focus. Sometimes in a similar setting, gay performers can, deliberately or unwittingly, reduce themselves to freaks to be laughed at. I have seen Thornton perform a number of times in a variety of contexts and for audiences of all persuasions. He always pitches his material perfectly. He has a truly professional talent for reading the room and speaks to everyone.

His writing is tight and he understands the rhythms and musicality of his material intimately. He always allows the perfect amount of time for audience reactions, never steps on the laughs, crafts the stories and lands the punchlines with finesse.

Part of the appeal of this show is the tension between his self-effacement and his obvious joy in, and love of, performing. In Thorton’s Circus of Shame he is the ringmaster, clown, and high wire acrobat rolled into one bearish body. His authentic generosity and talent makes this an evening of high octane hilarity that will make you realise that your own inner voices and self-doubts are in very good company. 


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