The Pumphouse / Lake Pupuke, Auckland

23/05/2017 - 27/05/2017

Production Details

Nigel is at home preparing for the biggest date of his life. A quiet evening, a beautiful meal and a candle-lit setting is all he needs…. What could possibly go wrong?

But this is his shared flat and tonight, of all nights, he’s about to be visited by more than just his date…

Enter the camp neighbour, the snarky flat mate and her drop-kick boyfriend, the needy ex-girlfriend, his happy go lucky parents, the whacky delivery guy, the pregnant lady, the singing telegram, the telemarketer, the cop, and did we mention the needy ex–girlfriend!

Will his date even show?

Come find out in this fast paced 90’s setting, if you don’t laugh at least two dozen times you might want to check your pulse!

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Cast includes special guest Suzanne Paul!

Theatre , Comedy ,

90s Nostalgia

Review by Lauren Sanderson 30th May 2017

TV script writer Kate McDermott’s 90’s slapstick play Nigel is brought to life at the Pumphouse Theatre by ex Shortland Street star Blair Strang in his directorial debut. Transported back to the booming 90s we follow Nigel, a young man whose attempts for a romantic evening at home don’t go to the plan.

Ben Van Lier portrays dorky front-man Nigel with confidence, nervously preparing for the ideal first date, his need for a sleek evening is repeatedly interrupted by a series of unwanted yet hilarious commotions.

In walks the camp neighbour, the Bogan flat mate and her pain in the ass boyfriend, the obsessive ex, his over-dramatic parents, a pregnant lady, a delivery guy, a cop – and who could forget the singing telegram! [More


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Great script, overcooked performance, overlooked designers and crew

Review by Nik Smythe 24th May 2017

Legend has it that in 1996 Kate McDermott penned a hilarious local living-room farce for the Laugh Festival.  Twenty one years later Nigel has come of age. Under the inaugural directorship of accomplished New Zealand television drama actor Blair Strang, it revisits the seminal work of a woman who has since gone on to write for many of New Zealand’s foremost television dramas. 

There are two essential elements to farce as I see it, the first being character.  To this end the cast is wholly very well appointed, beginning with the excellent work of Ben Van Lier as the titular central straight-man, Nigel.  Preparing for a highly anticipated first date in the form of a home cooked meal in his Grey Lynn flat, his desire for a smooth-running quiet evening of intimate conversation is inevitably and repeatedly thwarted by a succession of unwelcome interruptions, even before his date turns up. 

For the most part, the rest of the dramatis personae are exaggerated caricatures, portrayed with profuse relish by a more than able cast, albeit a tad more shouty than necessary. 

Romy Hooper wallows in obnoxiousness as Nigel’s unpleasant bogan flatmate Gail, and revels in histrionic enthusiasm as his loving mum Pat.  Stephen Brunton personifies the stereotypical beer and league loving Kiwi bloke as Gail’s equally unpleasant boyfriend Ringo, and fully nails the brash, overbearing husband and father, Lester. 

Esmee Myers cuts a formidably psychotic figure in her unnervingly expert turn as Nigel’s obsessively clingy ex-girlfriend Helena, who has chosen tonight of all nights to attempt a reconnection more than a year since they broke up. Marwin Silerio enjoys a broad spectrum, from camp upbeat party-loving neighbour Travis to the commendably serious constable, as well as my personal favourite, Jandal the deadpan Chinese food delivery man. 

Jacqui Nauman skilfully portrays a similarly diverse selection of incidental roles as an anonymous pregnant woman, an overeager market researcher with poor listening skills and Gail’s detested South African work colleague, Tracey. 

The remainder of the cast are cameos from the playwright and directors’ kids Steel Strang and Jaime McDermott as perky singing telegrammers Sam and Sam, plus a pseudo-surprise cameo from a massive 90s celebrity phenomenon essentially providing the play’s punchline.  There seems to be a slight conflict of interest between advertising said celebrity’s appearance as a drawcard, while ideally their appearance would work better in entertainment terms as an actual surprise. 

The second crucial factor of farce in my opinion is timing. Obviously vital in any comedy, farce places such an acute focus on the comic beats within the action, as relentless, exasperating and often predictable bombshells continually drop, that it’s all the more noticeable when a gag falls flat.  By and large the opening night performance has more hits than misses in this regard, however there is a related issue about the way the action builds.  The energy is high and frenetic from the outset so by the end of the 80 minute odyssey we are rather more exhausted by it all than we would be were it to begin in a more relaxed overall tone, with each successive turn of events incrementally ramping up the intensity. 

Whereas back in 1996 Nigel would have been a contemporary farce, this fresh production is advertised as an all-out retro celebration.  There are obvious obligatory nods to mainstream classic TV shows of the era and a hilarious brick cellphone and so on, but it feels like there are so many more cringeworthy trends of the era that could have been added in to match the indulgent skewering the press copy implies.

Besides the above reservations about what is otherwise a sufficiently entertaining production, my main bugbear is with the programme.  Sporting glossy photos and bios of ‘playwright and screenwriter’ McDermott, ‘Actor and director’ Strang and the cast, plus full-page ads from the main sponsors and a handful of special thanks on the back cover, there is no mention anywhere of production designers, operators or even a stage manager. 

There’s only one lighting state admittedly, and the minimal but definitive musical selections are probably determined in the script, but the appositely appointed living room set and eye-popping and/or gouging costumes are certainly worthy of acknowledgement.  It’s feasible it was achieved by the company but without clarification it gives the impression of a pretentious vanity project, as does the absence of names of any unseen technical personnel. 


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