Public Service Announcements #2

BATS Theatre, Wellington

02/09/2011 - 17/09/2011

Production Details

Politics just got even Sketchier! 

After a sold out season at The NZ International Comedy Festival, Public Service Announcements returns to BATS Theatre with 3 brand new up-to-date political satire comedy shows.

Come see your favourite (and not so favourite) politicians as they creep closer and closer to the impending November election. Three brand new shows performed over 6 weekends, every Friday and Saturday night, will bring you all the latest in parliamentary news and political shenanigans.

Working with up to the minute scripts, the show will change every two weeks and this all star Wellington cast will deliver an outrageous and enlightening night of political satire. While politicians are busy opening bus shelters, and cycleways; lobbying against evil sunbeds; and the Prime Minister is at coastlands – the World Cup looms.

Our first instalment sees Phil Goff preparing for the leaders debate, Murray McCully hunting for the best world cup ever, and Hone Harawira’s search for inner peace.

Featuring – David Lawrence, Simon Leary, Gavin Rutherford, Bryony Skillington, Salesi Le’ota, Alex Greig, Richard Osborne, Anya Tate-Manning, and James Tito

appearing as – John Key, Phil Goff, Russel Norman, Annette King, Pita Sharples, Bill English, Murray McCully, Jacinda Ardern, Hone Harawira

With cameos from Master Thesbian Ray Henwood, and Allan Henry as Winston Peters, and the voice of John Campbell and Mark Sainsbury, and Rachel Henry as the voice of Helen Clark.

"As David McPhail did Sir Robert Muldoon, so Henry does Peters.” (The Dominion Post).

Directed by Chapman Tripp winner Rachel Henry and written by New Zealand’s favourite Welsh/Samoan comedian and Chapman Tripp nominated Playwrite James Nokise.

BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

SHOW ONE: Friday 2, Saturday 3, Friday 9, Saturday 10 September
SHOW TWO: Friday 16, Saturday 17, Friday 23, Saturday 24 September
SHOW THREE: Friday 30, Saturday 1, Friday 7, Saturday 8 October 

 Actors: Anya Tate-Manning, Salesi Leota, Alex Greig, David Lawrence, Bryony Skillington, Simon Leary, Richard Osborne 

Produced by Mary Laine
Operated by Ashley Smith


Borax poked effectively

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 23rd Sep 2011

It’s election year and time to revive (or should that be disinter?) the late-night satirical revue. James Nokise and Rachel Henry have come up with a 40 minute revue that contains quick-fire sketches that were once the staple diet of TV comedy.

There is one difference though; Public Service Announcements has a smidgin of a plot. John Key (David Lawrence) and Phil Gough (Simon Leary) are preparing for a leader’s debate in which they hope to deliver a knock-out blow.

On the way to the surprising ending there are numerous interruptions from a zonked out Bill English (Alex Greig), a funny, feisty, know-it-all, outraged Annette King (Bryony Skillington) who rants about Newtown while sporting boxing shorts and a white frizzy wig, and an even more outraged Hone Harawira (James Tito) who spars with Pita Sharples (Salesi Le’ota).

Russell Norman (Gavin Rutherford), Jacinda Ardren (Anya Tate-Manning), Don Brash (David Lawrence) and Murray McCully (Richard Osborne)with a rugby ball all make appearances, while Ray Henwood and Allan Henry appear briefly on video as Peter Dunne and Winston Peters respectively, and Rachel Henry does an excellent job as Helen Clark on the phone from the UN putting some spine into Phil Gough for the debate.

There’s a programme note suggesting that our political scene is pretty boring particularly as Tariana and Rodney are not in the news at the moment – there’s a request that they raise their game to liven things up – but the show somehow keeps poking the borax pretty effectively with the best line going to Trevor Mallard (Alex Greig) who claims that he can do the impossible because he copes everyday with an electorate that includes both Eastbourne and Wainuiomata.

The show runs every Friday and Saturday until 8 October with new material so long as the politicians play ball and provide the fodder; they will, no doubt about it, oblige.  
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


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Political targets well hit

Review by John Smythe 17th Sep 2011

Show Two of the second season of James Nokise’s Public Service Announcements was greeted enthusiastically by a politically savvy and mostly young audience last night. Being old enough to remember the political revues at Vic Memorial Theatre which led to late night revues at Downstage (with Roger Hall writing and performing Prime Minister Keith Holyoake), I am delighted to see the genre taking hold in this election year.

Much is made, this time, of the distraction the Rugby World Cup allows when it comes to ramming through unpopular policies. Indeed the through-line premise for this one is that the leaders’ debate on television is timed to coincide with the NZ v France match at Eden Park on Sat 24 September.* And the overall climax concerning the fate of the All Blacks by virtue (if that’s the word) 0f the Auckland rail system and the effect of a Goff-led recovery on Key’s TV exposure brings 50-odd minutes of a satire to an entertaining conclusion.

Meanwhile in Paris, Helen Clark (Rachel Henry, who also directs the show) meets with heavily disguised fugitive Colonel Gadaffi (James Nikose) in a series of very droll scenes. My favourites.  

A verbally abusive-by-default Hone Harawira (James Tito), who has gone AWOL from the Beehive, discusses strategy at home with his wife Hilda (Salesi Le’ota).

Scenes between a strangely manic John Key (David Lawrence) and a pie-munching Paula Bennett (Johanna Cosgrove) reiterate how out of touch Key is and allow for penetrating topical quips about such travesties as Bill English’s brother getting a lucrative Ministry of Health contract, unadvertised and uncontested, while hundreds of public servants face the chop.

Phil Goff (Simon Leary) fancies himself as ‘The Goffinator’, abetted by Annette King (Fraser McLeod), whose menopausal hormones have made her facially hirsute and who talks about herself in the third person. Our Wellington Central member Grant Robertson gets a positive mention for liking theatre and being cuddly and his associate Labour spokesperson for the arts, the bright-eyed Jacinda Ahern (Anya Tate-Manning) cracks a good gag about having that gig. 

Tate-Manning also plays an earnest Metiria Turei to Nick Dunbar’s very Aussie mung bean munching, joss stick burning Russell Norman, whose visitation by Winston Peters (Allan Henry) brings home some pragmatic political realities which are sobering in inverse proportion to quantity of Scotch consumed in the process.

Murray McCully (Richard Osborne, who goes to more trouble than anyone else to impersonate his target) and Trevor Mallard (Leary) make like commentary box broadcasters in bringing the themes of politics and the RWC together.

The hooded Darth Vaderesque Don Brash (Lawrence) does battle with Pita Sharples (Le’ota); the Greens’ Gareth Hughes gets a mention but it is the resigned Darren Hughes (Mcleod) who turns up in Harawira’s camp; McLeod also turns up as Transport Minister Steven Joyce. 

While the quality of impersonation varies widely the political targets are well hit, although it all plays out more like scenes in a soap opera that as discrete incisive skits with punch lines of their own. The aforementioned climax puts a dynamic end on it all and the audience leaves happy.

*Given the final show of this iteration will play minutes after the NZ v France fixture, I cannot help but wonder how the ending will work – or be changed – that night. It could be worth returning to find out.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


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unchallenging, bawdy entertainment

Review by Robbie Ellis 03rd Sep 2011

I’m going to start this review with a similar caveat to most improv theatre write-ups: any given performance may be different to the last (for reasons that I expand upon below).

This season of Public Service Announcements is completely rewritten, a brand new show to its first outing at the New Zealand International Comedy Festival (see John Smythe’s review here). I won’t dwell on comparing the two, but the main similarity is in its skit-based send-ups and caricatures of political figures; and the main difference is that the current season doesn’t have the through-line of an extended conversation between Winston Peters and the ghost of David Lange to reflect on how New Zealand has changed in the last few decades. 

James Nokise and his team have moved away from grander historical perspectives this time round, losing a lot of structure in the process: PSA Mark II is 40 minutes of straight skits and send-ups about the here and now, pitching strongly to an alcohol-soaked late-night Friday & Saturday crowd. 

Simon Leary plays a vacillating, insecure Phil Goff – he brings the manner across with aplomb, the ‘straight man’ to the larger-than-life characters around him. Bryony Skillington reprises her shouty, angry voice to play Annette King (last season she did the same for Tariana Turia and Rodney Hide). While this characterisation doesn’t really fit with Annette King’s public persona, it gives the Goff-King double act a bawdy pace which plays well to the crowd.

The best character in the show is Jacinda Ardern, Labour’s candidate for Auckland Central and a rising star in the party, played by Anya Tate-Manning. Jacinda’s hyper-caffeinated, barely disguised ambition had the audience in stitches – a particularly rollicking scene with her and Goff has her making a play for a higher position on the party list. 

On the right (stage right and political right): David Lawrence’s John Key is a bit of an empty vessel, never quite filled by those around him. Alex Greig’s Bill English is amusing as a zombie asleep at the wheel, and Richard Osborne in his brief appearances as Murray McCully bears a remarkable resemblance, if a little slimmer!

The closest thing to insightful political commentary are the scenes between John Key and a Beehive office cleaner called Juice (played by Anya Tate-Manning). Showing Key as fundamentally nice and kind but out of touch with the struggles of less well-off New Zealanders is the strongest element and the one that has stayed with me the longest. 

Minor parties are represented too with broader caricatures: Gavin Rutherford as Russell Norman inhabits the send-up of a sandal-wearing, mung bean-eating hippie in a most satisfying way; Don Brash (David Lawrence under a cloak) tries to tempt right-leaning politicians to the dark side but could have hyped up the theatricality far more; James Tito vigorously plays Hone Harawira the angry, radical loose cannon and Salesi Le’ota is Pita Sharples, a foil to Harawira and an equally clichéd rendering of Māori political leadership.

The show ends with John Key and Phil Goff ready to square off in a leaders’ debate, although nothing in the previous scenes had set this up as a high-stakes event and there is no payoff to be had. In fact, there is no a plot at all. Some would argue the format doesn’t need it: I was entertained, the rest of the crowd was entertained … but surely a narrative through-line to a payoff would have sent the audience away with a more memorable impression of the show. 

That said, BATS Theatre wants James Nokise and his team to completely re-write the show every two weeks, so who knows what will turn up in the new versions debuting on 16 and 30 September.

Public Service Announcements of 2 September was an undemanding 40 minutes of skits, variable in quality, with plenty of belly-laugh moments and even some that hit upon the truth. Worth going to if you want some unchallenging, bawdy entertainment late at night on your weekend. 
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


Robbie Ellis September 4th, 2011

Talking to James Nokise after the show, I mentioned I was disappointed that the season wouldn't be running into the election campaign proper, i.e. after the end of the Rugby World Cup. PSA obviously has to fit within BATS' schedule (and around the STAB season), but James says he plans to make the most of the timing as is: there's likely to be sneaky legislating and political manoeuvring while the public's eye is off the ball, so to speak, and he hopes to reflect that in further rewrites.

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