Te Auaha - Tapere Iti, 65 Dixon St, Wellington

23/05/2023 - 27/05/2023

NZ International Comedy Festival 2023

Production Details

Neil ‘D’Bear’ Thornton

Award-winning comedian and self-appointed gay icon, Neil ‘D’Bear’ Thornton dons roller skates and florescent legwarmers to wheel you through his lifelong love of all things trashy and kitschy – and to show why camp and queer culture mean so much to him.  

Expect a silly, messy and melodramatic, multi-media comedy with a disco beat. 

“A master of the craft of comedy” – Theatreview

“His authentic generosity and talent makes this an evening of high octane hilarity.” – Theatreview

Winner – 2022 Best MC, Wellington Comedy Awards
Winner – 2020 Best Comedian, Wellington Comedy Awards
Winner – 2018-2020 Best Industry Helper, Wellington Comedy Awards

Te Auaha – Tapere Iti
Tue 23 – Sat 27 May 2023
$23 – $28
*service fee may apply

Wheelchair accessible
Content advisory for flashing lights. Show may be filmed.

Comedy , Theatre , LGBTQIA+ ,

1 hr

A true gift to the queer community and all lovers of pop culture

Review by Wesley Hollis 24th May 2023

How well do you know your queer history? Can you define the word ‘camp’ and dance along to a disco number? The best way to answer these questions is to come along to Neil Thornton’s New Zealand International Comedy Festival show, Hot Mess on Wheels. Hosted at Te Auaha, this show offers a hilarious night that explores everything kitschy, camp and queer with a local legend of comedy.

Neil stuns the audience the minute he enters as he rollers onto the stage in pink roller skates, clad in a rainbow unicorn onesie and sparkly undershirt, sporting a pink mohawk, and wearing glittering make-up. He rolls around the stage for a minute soaking up applause, proving he is the kind of performer who can hold an audience’s attention without even speaking. During the night there is also a costume change, into sparkly silver boots and a shimmering silver jacket.

Neil has a brilliant, infectious energy, pulling you into each punchline so you can’t help but laugh along. He’s loud and dramatic, angry, occasionally filthy and in the case of this show, educational. There are fewer punchlines in Hot Mess on Wheels than I’ve come to expect from Neil. Instead, the focus here is on the story Neil tells about his own life and the history of pop culture and queer icons. Don’t get me wrong, there are still many laughs throughout, and fans of Neil will be delighted to discover that much of the show is new material. 

For anybody who is queer, or a fan of queer history, there is a lot to love here. This show is a deep dive into cultural heritage, with Neil exploring everything from campy movies like Flash Gordon, to teaching the audience to dance along to a disco number, to discussing the Stonewall riots. We’re taught a few positive messages from Neil’s childhood (along with some messages that haven’t aged too well) and learn how to define the word camp.

The show is supported throughout by music and a projector screen. There are clips from movies, photographs, disco tracks, and more references to classics than you could hope for. Everybody who comes to see this show, especially members of younger generations, will learn a thing or two about history.

There is a lot of Neil’s personal history in the show as well. We learn what it was like growing up in Schenectady in New York, and what life was like in the seventies and eighties, through to the nineties and now. We also learn how queer and camp culture has shaped Neil’s life and why it means so much to him. This isn’t so much of a coming out story, such as I’ve seen in many other queer shows, but a story of coming to terms with one’s sexuality. Neil’s show ends with a message of positivity; how he has loved his life as a gay man and surrounded himself with a wonderful and loving community. 

This show is a true gift to the queer community and all lovers of pop culture. You’ll find it’s impossible not to laugh, learn, and grow to love Neil and everything he has to teach us in this delightful show. And you don’t have to be queer to enjoy what Hot Mess on Wheels has to offer.

The showruns until 27 May so it’s not too late to grab tickets. And for those who are fans of Neil (and trust me, after this show, you will be) he can always be found performing around Wellington and beyond. In particular, check out the queer comedy night he runs at Ivy Bar, called Campground, and his work teaching up and coming comedians through the New Zealand Comedy School.


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