Te Auaha, Tapere Iti, 65 Dixon St, Wellington

28/02/2020 - 02/03/2020

BATS Theatre, The Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

09/10/2020 - 09/10/2020

NZ Fringe Festival 2020

NZ Improv Festival 2020: Close To Home

Production Details

Everyone ‘knows’ Edgar Allen Poe died mysteriously in Baltimore in 1849. But recently a trunk of mysterious papers was discovered by the same researchers who previously discovered the Lovecrafted archive (revealed during the 2019 Fringe).

Did the forty year old Poe fake his death, flee to a remote island nation and live out the rest of his life writing epically gothically tragically romantic stories shaped by the myths and realities of life among the phlegmatic people of the farthest flung corner of the British Empire??

Find out as each night a different narrator channels the tortured author to bring an original improvised tale to life.

Te Auaha – Tapere Iti, 65 Dixon Street, Te Aro
Friday 28 February – Monday 2 March 2020
8:00pm Fri & Sat
7:00pm Sun & Mon
Price General Admission $17.00 Concession $12.00 Fringe Addict $12.00
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Wheelchair access available

NZ Improv Fest 2020: Close To Home

BATS Theatre, The Dome
9 October 2020
Full Price $20
Group 6+ $18
Concession Price $15

NZ Improv Fest: Close To Home takes place at BATS Theatre
Performance programme 6-10 October 2020
Workshops 3, 4, 10 October 2020
Learn more at www.improvfest.nz and don’t miss a moment!

Theatre , Improv ,

55 mins

Highly entertaining and satisfying narrative improvisation

Review by Neil Miller 10th Oct 2020

Poe’d is a Gothic tale with Scottish influences told by Wellington Improvisation Troupe (WIT), a community group teaching and performing together since 2003. 

Narrator (Lyndon Hood) channels the tortured author Edgar Allen Poe. He sits stage-right, quill in hand, whilst cellist (Sebastian Morgan-Lynch) plays stage-left. Our narrator begins by way of explanation, “Your presence distracts me from the workings of my mind. That’s why I keep this cellist for the sound.” 

Word collector (Isabelle Collins) has gleaned words from the audience and four hooded phantoms each pick one word which is used to end a stanza of poetry. From the word ‘dough’ we go to a wheat field where Mother (Ali Little) and Father (Brenton Hodgson) attempt an arranged marriage for their son Oliver (Tristram Domican). Oliver is banished by his parents for his decision to go to university. Oliver is phlegmatic, remarking, “It went better than expected” and sets out on his epic journey.

En route Oliver removes his scarf which becomes a sack as the Narrator directs the movements of a man possessed by phantoms. This interplay between the two is a comedic delight. Hood’s under-stated, yet crisp narration directs desperate manoeuvres from Domican, replete with groans and heavy breathing.

Oliver is a man possessed and Uncle Bartholomew (Brenton Hodgson with a limp) instructs him to “Trust the sack.” As the tale unfolds, we meet Oliver’s roommate (Todd Rangiwhetu) who indulges in a pointless gambling game of throwing paper at passers-by beneath his window and snobbish university lecturer (Matt Jayden Carroll). Oliver dispatches them in turn under the influence of the evil Uncle Bartholomew.

We return to the fields where Mother and Father prepare a feast to greet their prodigal son.  The tale concludes with matricide and patricide. Uncle Bartholomew is resurrected. Poor hapless Oliver realises, “Perhaps I didn’t have to kill mother after all.” He screams, screams, screams and screams again. Domican’s gift for tragicomedy is to the fore. I defy anyone to watch him perform without laughing out loud.

We end as we began with an epic poem and the cello. Morgan-Lynch is the unspoken star of the show. Mary Little on lights adds to the mood music.  The whole cast are to be commended for a highly entertaining and satisfying narrative improvisation. The one thing they could do more of is to take themselves more seriously, in a funny kind of a way. 


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Macabre made mischievous, whimsical and often hilarious

Review by Jonathan Kingston-Smith 29th Feb 2020

Edgar Allan Poe was a gaunt and gothic figure of the literary world. Forever swathed in shadows and controversy. For many of his forty years he was blighted, benighted and teeming with demons. Wracked by many griefs (including the death of his wife, Virginia, who he is reputed to have wed when she was just thirteen).

His work reveals a man so mired in angst that his name has become synonymous with it (or at least that’s what ‘poe’d up’ means according to Urban Dictionary). During his largely penniless and oft-intoxicated years he spun a multitude of engrossing, enthralling and appalling tales. In so doing, Poe popularised the short story as an artistic medium. He is also regarded as having invented the detective fiction genre with ‘The Murders in Rue Morgue’.

His narratives are full of macabre and exquisite archetypes. His characters risk bisection by swinging blades. Others suffer being bricked up inside walls. Sometimes they lie interred beneath floorboards with only the impossible beating of their dead hearts to reveal the narrator’s crimes. Death himself comes knocking, gowned in crimson and masked. Poe’s poems and tales are gravened with guilt and laden with longing. They have lived on long after the author’s own demise.

And what a strange and perplexing death it was. Poe was found delirious and distressed on October 7th, 1849. He was dressed in a stranger’s clothes and repeatedly proclaimed the unknown name “Reynolds”. He succumbed several days later, without having gained enough coherence to report how he came to such a diabolical end.

Or did he?

Now, there is some evidence that Edgar Allan Poe did not perish upon that fateful day in October. Instead, it seems the writer wilfully disappeared into the murk of history. He fled America and crossed many seas until he came at last to the farthest-flung country he could find. Perhaps he imagined that he could outrun his sorrows. Whatever his intentions, it would seem that he continued to write…

The literary crate-diggers at Wellington Improvisation Troupe (WIT) have unearthed another mysterious box of unpublished manuscripts (perhaps they were stored near the trunk that contained the H P Lovecraft writings they uncovered last year). These texts would appear to be the work of that great master of the gloomy and profound – Edgar Allan Poe. And tonight they will unveil one for us.

We enter through a side door and are ushered into a dark passageway. A melancholy piano melody guides us through the gloom. At the behest of a shadow-shrouded figure we take up a quill (actually a permanent marker) and inscribe a single word upon a piece of card. One word each. We are told to make them ‘Poe-ish’. We then enter the intimate chamber of Tapere Iti. A hooded figure is seated before a curtain bearing the silhouette of a raven cast upon the moon. She reads from a book (although, since this is the universe of Poe, it is perhaps a ‘tome’ – albeit a slim one).

Presently she becomes aware of the audience. She brushes back her hood and regards us. We are phantoms to her – most likely ghosts condemned to limbo – or perhaps we are demons plucked from the fever of her imaginings. Either way, she has a tale to tell… of the revelations that compelled her to this state, those terrible events that unfolded when she was a girl of sixteen. She conjures the players from the curtains and they emerge, garbed in period clothing and speaking in rhymes that incorporate our offered words.  

This madwoman is to be our narrator for the evening, her words – and ours – will guide the other players. Together they spin the audience an entirely-improvised narrative. And such a tale it is – a melodrama of madness and mystery. We meet a nettle-fixated nanny with an enigmatic past. We encounter an irresistible (and very tall) young doctor. We are fascinated by a Geometry professor drawn to unnatural ideas. And we are menaced by a malevolent, Mephistophelian tempter. We bear witness to arcane rituals, self-inflicted eye-gouging, and the diabolical lure of non-Euclidian Geometry.

It is all very silly.

As with last year’s Fringe show, Lovecrafted, the structure of the performance is effective. The narrator sketches out the parameters of each scene, as well as offering up brief character endowments for the players to develop further. The performers then add their own offers and thus extend the yarn. If a scene rambles or lags (as a few do), the narrator deftly transitions to another, or throws in a thorny suggestion. Other players are also quick to leap into various scenes, spicing and spiking the storyline and sending it off in more fruitful directions.

WIT has a long history and a wealth of experience which shows in the chemistry between the team. Simply put, they work well together. All the performers are adroit at defining and fleshing-out their own characters as well as teasingly endowing the players they share scenes with. The interplay between them is engaging, playful and entertaining. They have the process of ‘yes and’ down impeccably. Even when one player falters or hesitates, they do so with an easy charm and in a manner that befits the scene and character depiction (or serves as fodder for the other players). Though the troublemaker in me does hanker for a little more pimping.

The lighting is superb. The operator is intuitive and responsive – rapidly adjusting to suit the shifts in emotional tone. It is impressive, nuanced and evocative work.

The musician must also be praised. Performing entirely on keyboard, every sequence is well-realised and every action enhanced by the accompaniment.  

Edgar Allan Poe was a troubled man and his tales were rife with macabre musings, laced with bitterness, and grimed with grief. WIT take inspiration from his writings and create something mischievous, whimsical and often hilarious. It is a compelling ploy and (as with Lovecrafted) they have done their research. Their performance feels curiously respectful of Poe’s contributions to literature – they just choose to honour him whilst wearing a gleeful, merry-making smirk.


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