PlayShop LIVE: Autumn Season 2016

BATS Theatre, Studio, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

22/04/2016 - 22/04/2016

Production Details

New Season, New Director, Same Amount of Awesome 

The weather may be starting to cool (in theory) but things are just heating up at BATS Theatre. Following another madcap, successful Fringe Festival, BATS will once again be host to the weekly improv comedy show PlayShop LIVE! Lovers of late night laughs and spontaneous theatre rejoice – PlayShop’s finest are back in the saddle with a new LIVE director, Jonny Paul, leading the charge.

The recipe for success seems simple; four improvisors, one muso, one MC, and an audience excited to be complicit in the making of mischief. Songs, stories, and sagas will unfold every week performed by players with four years of impressive impromptu theatre under their belt.

“We started LIVE in 2013 and we’re so delighted to be still going strong,” says Paul. “I love PlayShop LIVE! because it’s the perfect way finish the work week. I get to spend an hour with my friends (old and new) and have a blast.” Paul has performed with PlayShop since 2014, most recently seen in Fringe’s Admen, Suddenly! A Musical, and last year’s award winning show 10 Things I Hate About Us (Best Improv NZ Fringe 2015). PlayShop LIVE! is his first directorship, and PlayShop is excited to see where that ship sails to!

Some nice things people have said about PlayShop and LIVE:

“This was a fun, fun night of entertainment and I can’t wait to go again.”


“… an absolutely heartening and enjoyably energetic 60 minutes.”

PlayShop is a Wellington-based performance company that aims to create spontaneous, thrilling theatre. We create opportunities for people to experience the joy of playful interaction through theatre, storytelling, education, and improvisation.

PlayShop LIVE: Autumn Season 2016

The Studio at BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace
Fridays from 18 March – 22 April, 9pm 
(Note: Easter Weekend performance will be Thursday 24 March)
Tickets:  $15 Full, $13 Group (6+)
Book now at or visit the BATS Box Office  

Theatre , Improv ,

Fridays only

Support and challenge in good balance

Review by James McKinnon 23rd Apr 2016

Over the last few years, PlayShop has emerged as Wellington’s most innovative improvisation company and one of its most important (albeit in an unofficial sense) performance training centres. And for all the risk implied by making up theatre on the spot, PlayShop also consistently delivers excellent value for your entertainment dollars on any given night in Wellington.

While the company is increasingly renowned for its serial, themed experiments, such as Ad Men, Riddiford Street and Suddenly! A Musical, this week we stop in for a regular check-up of their base model, PlayShop Live, and found them in good form.

MC Jennifer O’Sullivan choses the games and provocations based on the theme ‘Today in History’, while the audience choses such particulars as the Kennedy assassination, Oprah Winfrey and Olympic penny-farthing races. Performers Rosie Cann, Jonny Paul, Matt Powell and Jed Davies do the rest, with outstanding support from musical accompanist Liam Kelly and stager manager Catherine Hart.

The charismatic O’Sullivan exploits the intimacy of the tiny 3rd floor studio at BATS. Playing both MC and hype woman, her job is to make the assembled strangers feel and act like participants in a shared experience. O’Sullivan has no problem explaining the framework (a large number of spectators reported no prior experience of improvised theatre), pumping up the crowd, and making the event feel more like a party than a gathering of random strangers.

As MC, she chooses games with varying degrees of difficulty, allowing the performers to find a groove while still taking interesting risks. The challenge level is relatively high on this Friday: the ‘warm up’ game, ‘Beastie Boys’, compelled the performers to take turns rapping lines that both matched the beat and ended on a rhyme with a word chosen by the audience.

PlayShop Live involves different permutations and combinations of performers every week, which makes the chemistry between the performers that much more impressive – even moreso if you know, as I do [and as she revealed on Facebook], that Cann was hospitalized in Auckland only a few days prior to the performance.

Improvisation shares as many features with sports as with theatre, and one of these is that is demands both collaboration and competition between the players. If players don’t co-operate (by agreeing to play by the rules, for example), the game falls apart, but if they don’t compete (by putting constant pressure on each other), the game becomes boring.

The four performers mostly sustain a good balance of supporting and challenging each other. Not every game is amazing, but the joy of short-form improv is that the moment something isn’t working you can end the game and do something else.

The final game on Friday is also the best (O’Sullivan knows to quit while you’re ahead!). Revealing that this day in history would be Catherine Hart’s final appearance before moving to the UK, O’Sullivan challenges the performers and musician to compose and sing a tribute to her on the spot. The resulting song is musically and lyrically coherent and very funny but also touching. One can hardly imagine a more appropriate send-off for a long-time PlayShopper.


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