BATS Theatre, The Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington
16/10/2021 - 16/10/2021
An improvised show that’s out of this world. The rag-tag crew of Peregrine V journey through space. Their travels are fraught with danger. What is it that brought them together? Will something tear them apart? This improvised sci-fi comedy-drama will leave you breathless.
The NZ Improv Festival returns with its annual celebration of improvised theatre in all its forms. From comedy to drama, musicals to mystery, and plenty of mischief, there’s something for everyone. Eighteen unique shows over five days at the wonderful BATS Theatre – don’t miss a moment!
BATS Theatre, The Dome
16 October 2021
The Difference $40
Full Price $20
Group 6+ $18
Concession Price $15
The NZ Improv Fest takes place at BATS Theatre
Performance programme 12-16 October 2021
Workshops 8-16 October 2021
Learn more at www.improvfest.nz.
Theatre , Improv ,
A particularly memorable voyage with an exceptional cast
Review by Anna Persson 17th Oct 2021
I’m appreciative when care is taken by directors and designers to cement the audience into the world of the performance before we even have a chance to know entirely where we’re headed. Peregrine V succeeds in this, with sound effects of a low, alien pulsation heard as we file in and take to our seats, facing a large projected departure board featuring far-flung, otherworldly destinations like Cygnus Vm, Blaxlon, Lantosian Settlement and Caltos III whose flights are departing shortly.
As the rest of the audience trickles in, I spy a clothes rack with bright kimonos, space helmets and shiny fabrics, leading to intrigue as we are immersed further still into the world with the aid of airport-esque overhead announcements: “Good afternoon passengers, a reminder to please keep your tentacles off the seats” and “For the safety of other passengers, spontaneous combustion is not permitted in this space point.” These announcements and the overall vibe of the pre-show experience not only give me a surreal sensation of wanderlust but have me so ready to go wherever the Peregrine V will take me!
By the time the valiant crew enter The Dome, clad head to toe in black, (they’re literally wearing balaclavas), I too, have left the everyday realities of Earth and am ready to join this ragtag gang of misfits and miscreants on an unknown, improvised galactic adventure.
With a Star Wars credits trope opening, our improvisers are silhouetted against a projected starscape whilst dramatic music builds to them individually stepping forward to be assigned rank and race on tonight’s journey, then returning in costume to announce their chosen names and introduce themselves.
Directed and audio-visually led by Jonathan Briden, with Bethany Miller as tech operator on the night, it’s a small cast and crew, but a strong and memorable one! Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, Matt Carroll is unable to lend their musicality to the night, but this doesn’t affect the overall quality of the show.
Liz Butler plays the Alien Amphibian, Trogador, the Mercenary of the ship, dressed in a tight green frog-like morph suit, complete with gun holster, green and red steampunk glasses, blue lipstick, and a dedication to character that remains throughout the entire flight. From their costuming choices alone, Liz gets immediate laughs and they commit to the frog-like nature of the slightly seedy but relatively harmless Trogador, tongue askew even whilst off-stage.
Emma Maguire, a Shapeshifter, steps into the role of Captain T’a’ra with a powerful and rousing speech about her nature as the hardass leader of the ship, claiming, “We’re the best in the Universe because we work for it.” Emma is a strong performer whose Captain remains grounded as they slowly lose control of their ship and command and she does so with an excellent dry wit and sarcasm.
Malcolm Morrison, an AI Hologram known as Barry Sparkles, is assigned the rank of Entertainer – a perfect role for him. He shows an ease and comfort on stage that is nothing short of professional and lands several one-liners and jokes throughout the night with their cheeky, naive, bubbly character who navigates scenes beautifully, albeit with the mere five emotions they have been programmed with.
Jerome Cousins is cast as Todd, a Human and Engineer, clad too, in steampunk glasses. He instantly pulls on the audience’s heartstrings as he tells us of his father, former engineer of the Peregrine V who died, leaving him to step into the role. The only human on board, he has never left the ship and with a deliberately awkward and bumbling character performance, has us already doubting the sturdiness of the vessel.
Gabrielle Raz-Liebman is the Dignitary, Zeobla, who unbeknownst to her fellow amphibian crewmates is secretly from the avian race. She declares her mission to ensure freedom for her people, and does so with a grounded performance, slowly uncovering more of the narrative and aiding other players in advancing the story.
Stepping on board with a bucket full of emotions is Melt, a Mutant and Therapist of the Peregrine V, played by Brendon Bennets who brings an incredibly well-rounded, believable and hilarious character, nailing several one-liners and bringing zest and laughs to all scenes they’re in. He displays a real knack for using the entire space and excellent physicality as a performer.
The story follows a chaotic, unfolding plot that at times I lose minute details of, but really don’t mind as the cast of characters is so fun to watch. So much so, that when the show comes to a close, I feel I could genuinely follow the further adventures of this rag-tag crew across the galaxy – ideally, in a reality TV-style drama featuring talking head character confessionals and appropriate amounts of petty scandal.
On our hour-long voyage, we follow Captain T’a’ra’s gradual disintegration, learning about her individual relationships with the crew, drunk and hilariously losing control of any sense of order her ship may have had in the final scenes. Emma brings a real human and vulnerable edge to this character and, as a Shapeshifter, emerges scene after scene with costuming additions – cat ears, wings sprouting from her elbows, tarantula legs at the neck – to great effect.
One of the main revelations in our story is that Zeobla is in fact, not an amphibian as her crew may believe, but an undercover avian Dignitary, determined to bring freedom and justice for her people.
It is here I must comment on the relationship with the character (and I’ll call it a character) of the Computer. A projected control panel with a sassy, Alexa-style voice, this character manages to bring several laughs and aids in developing the story. Gabrielle’s strongest scenes are delivering her confession to the Computer of her true identity (only to be overheard by Todd) and later navigating the premonition of her death.
A particular highlight is the unfolding relationship between Trogador and Todd. Played excellently by Jerome, he has a knack for wide-eyed naivety, awkwardness and excellent comic timing as he sneaks his way into several scenes under the premise of doing ‘maintenance’ on the ship. It is through this behaviour that he witnesses Zeobla’s confession of her true identity, as well as the hilarious, Trogador canoodling with his late father’s ashes under a grate of the ship.
The character of Trogador is one of the most memorable characters I’ve seen in recent times, created by Liz, an exceptional character improviser who commits fully and heavily assists in furthering the story as well as creating fascinating subplots and character backstories.
A particular highlight is their requesting the Computer to store a memory, namely, the steamy night that they and ‘Todd’s Dad’ ate beans and made tender love with a rose-breasted hawk. The line, “Todd’s Dad” receives a multitude of laughs as the lights dim, and a spotlight is drawn to Trogador, sprawling across the floor.
Bethany Miller on lights and Jonathan Briden on sound effects do a fantastic job, aiding and responding to the tone and mood of the story and, at points, assisting in developing the plot further and getting laughs. As Trogador places their gun in their holster, Jonathan responds with a quick sound effect and it’s clear that Trogador has accidentally zapped themselves. This is very clever, and the characters and lighting/sound techs flow well together.
Melt, our Therapist, played by Brendon acts as an important character in weaving the plot together, being the point of confession and vulnerability for the crew (“I smell emotions”), using this knowledge to create hilarious interactions. Ear to the floor, following the story, a clever highlight is when he’s showing Zeobla (who he does not yet know is an avian) the buffet, pointing to the tables laden with avian food and amphibian food, insisting that she would much rather have the slimy offerings of the latter. Gabrielle responds well to this, and it’s a very funny scene.
Brendon brings a real presence to his character, delivering several memorable one-liners like, “I’m a bucket full of emotions and there’s no hyper toilet to flush them away with.” After Zeobla’s admission of her deathly fate and confession – “I’m afraid of death” – he responds with a hilarious, “You should be! It sounds terrrrible.”
Brendon and Malcolm also deliver a great physical comedy scene where they’re playing space tennis, and the two have great on-stage chemistry, playing best friends.
Malcolm shines as Sparkles, the Entertainer of the ship, delivering several terrible (but great) jokes and maintaining a likable, naive character for the majority of the show. They’re so invested and I’m so committed to this character and their charm, that by the time they discover that Zeobla isn’t who they say they are and maniacally shoots them in the head, I am shocked.
Malcolm brings a real edge to a 2-dimensional character (they’re literally playing an AI hologram) and shows a knack for building character arcs.
The show ends with Todd, having slowly figured out who their father was and who they are – why their skin is, in fact, green and sparkly and really not that human after all – in a heart-to-heart moment with Trogador who confesses that they’re actually his parent and are ready to do a better job. They trade guns, as is ritual, and lights fade, credits rolling on a particularly memorable voyage and exceptional cast of the Peregrine V that I’d gladly binge watch.
As far as characters go, the cast has nailed memorable ones that change and evolve, and with the addition of Jonathan and Bethany on lights, sound and tech – the show is a success!
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