BATS Theatre, Wellington

04/10/2016 - 04/10/2016

NZ Improv Festival 2016

Production Details

You’re the jury in the trial of the century. Meet three eyewitnesses, and the police who examined the crime scene. Listen to their testimonies and hear closing arguments. Then it’s up to you to deliver your verdict: guilty or not guilty.

Peter Nordstrand (Gothenburg, Sweden) is an improviser, actor, and producer with a focus on improvisational theatre. He is chairman and artistic director of Göteborgs improfestival, co-owner of Improbootcamp, founder of Improskolan, and has worked as a teacher and course director at Improverket in Gothenburg. This is his first New Zealand Improv Festival. 

Directed by Peter Nordstrand (Gothenburg, Sweden) and starring a cast gathered together from festival participants. Part of our Spontaneous Showcase, featuring six seasoned directors bringing their work to life with a brand new cast gathered just days before. Across this year’s New Zealand Improv Festival every cast, crew, and production will come together in unique combinations, creating spontaneous comedy and theatre every single night.

BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace, Wellington
Tuesday, October 4, 2016



Theatre ,

1 hr

A joy to be a part of

Review by Patrick Davies 05th Oct 2016

Nothing But The Truth is a one-off show based upon a long improv format from Sweden directed by Peter Nordstrand. A murder has been committed, someone is accused and we, the jury, will hear the evidence of the court case and decide the defendant’s fate.

Tonight’s cast has been selected from participants of a workshop taken by Nordstrand earlier this day, so they are familiar with the concept and structure. But as with any improv, show it’s how they deal with the facts that are created during the performance they haven’t rehearsed of a crime whose details are yet to be discovered that matter.  

With the aid of the audience Nordstrand chooses the victim (Israel’s Ronen Zilberman) who is named as Patrick Barrow and the accused (Wellington’s Deanna Elvins) who it turns out is called Tristram Fancy. There is some delight in Nordstrand’s difficulty with some Kiwi pronunciation, (and even more later with an heroically doggerel French accent), which will occur here and there later in the evening, adding to our enjoyment.

Frankly anyone who can improvise in another language is pretty much a genius in my book. To also deal with our accent with nary a worry just makes him all that more adorable. He is our Judge and Inquisitor and is resplendent in a suit that makes him quite a silver fox. He will conduct the case interviewing the witnesses while the Defendant, her lawyer and the prosecutor watch.  

Melbourne’s Jaklene Vukasinovic is our first witness, Kate, who it turns out is the girlfriend of the deceased. Each player will take an oath and provide witness to various events, altercations and history for either the defence or prosecution. The story, history and relationships are all created wonderfully on the spot with each player fleshing out aspects of the case, under the guided questioning of the Inquisitor.

What starts as the witness giving testimony in the chair is the grounds to start an open scene which unfolds before our eyes. One moment Vukasinovic is talking of their life together, the next she is onstage describing in elaborate and evocative detail the house she and he lived together in. He’s a painter, she works in computing. Suddenly we are back in time and Patrick Barrow walks in, and we see a beautiful scene of their love.

Zilberman and Vukasinovic work together like they’ve been an onstage couple all their life, each listening intently and building on what the other has offered so that, almost as if it’s been scripted in a brilliantly written play, she presents him with a gift which are air tickets so that he can study at the Sorbonne in Paris. Hilariously another player refers to it as the Seine which seems to be a genuine mistake. This is where Barrow meets fellow artist Tristram Fancy. We find out more of the story and what begins to turn into a triangle.

Another witness turns out to be Fancy’s sister and we see the story played out from Fancy’s point of view, with some of the same scenes repeated. We’ve met her as the devil incarnate and now we see a young naïve country girl suddenly thrust into Paris and her dream of painting at the Sorbonne. She meets a marvellous painter (Barrow) and his nasty patron and partner (Kate, the girlfriend). It’s a marvellous twist that redefines actions and motivations, showing the audience how deft these players are. It also speaks to what and who you might believe – and the game of being the Jury has taken an unexpected and very engaging turn.

Throughout, these recollections are guided by Nordstrand who is quick to remonstrate if the scenes do not answer the questions he’s posed. Not only does this remind us that these scenes are created in front of our eyes, which is easy to forget because these players who have met this day are indeed that good, but it also keeps those players to task.

At the end the Prosecutor and then the Defence gets to sum up. I’m not quite convinced of this part of the structure – both men (sorry guys, I fail to get the names later in the evening; because these are day-to-day scratch teams programmes are of little use) have had the entire time to form their two minute speech and I think could have more fun so both pale against what we have just seen.

Then the audience gets to vote for Guilty or Not Guilty. Some elect to close their eyes so that it will be a surprise when the murder is played out for us.

Zilberman and Vukasinovic are pretty flawless in their playing during this evening’s case, but I have to say Vukasinovic is an extraordinary player. She deftly weaves narrative, enfolding offers in the blink of an eye and developing them into intuitive leaps in story that in retrospect seem obvious. Her stage presence is fully open and honest. Whether she is portraying the heart-broken girlfriend or switching to the patron-with-benefits, both are fully rounded characters.

The whole team makes this a joy to be a part of. I would love this to be an ongoing show as it’s a great night’s entertainment, but with the players at this level whatever format they play you know it’s going to be good. Get out and get your tickets now!


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