Public Service Announcements: ELECTION SPECIAL

BATS Theatre (Out-Of-Site) Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington

26/08/2014 - 06/09/2014

#RaucousCaucus 2014

Production Details

A star-studded Wellington cast including Sophie Hambleton, Ralph McCubbin Howell, Natano Keni, Hayden Frost, Salesi Le’Ota, Hannah Banks, Joel Baxendael, Allan Henry, Hilary Norris, Johanna Cosgrove, Louis Tait, Todd Rippon and Paul McLaughlin, bring to life our most and least favourite politicians.

Written by award winning comedian James Nokise and experienced sketch comedy writers Simon Leary and Thom Adams, this is the No Fefe Collective’s 9th script and 4th year of making political satire in Wellington and promises to be the most raucous yet; irreverent and relevant, raucous and rough, PSA promises something for everyone!

“Clever and contemporary… madcap, manic, madness” (Theatreview) 

“too much laughter” (Dominion Post)

BATS (Out of Site), cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington
August 26th – Sept 6th 7pm 

Part of #RaucousCaucus2014 – see two shows in this festival of political performance for just $30.
Email to book your two show pass.

Full of humour, energy and commitment

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 02nd Sep 2014

It is inevitable that those who having been putting together their political satire shows Public Service Announcements for the past 4 years will come up with another a month out from the election.

Currently there is much out in the political arena that provides good fodder for this type of show and writer James Nokise, along with Simon Leary and Thom Adams, have put together a witty and often accurate script about those vying for political office.

Although there is a story of sorts, the two main parties battling it out for votes with the minor parties fighting within themselves for recognition while in the background is Tony Abbot trying to orchestrate a takeover of Aoteoroa, it is the portrayal of the well known characters and how wittily they are sent up that is at the heart of the show.

Many actors from previous shows are onstage to reprise their roles such as Johanna Cosgrove’s Paula Bennett continually mothering John Key, Salesi Le’ota as Hekia Parata, Thom Adams as an insipid David Parker and Anya Tate-Manning as a feisty Jacinda Ardern and of course Allan Henry’s wonderful portrayal of Winston Peters – “I don’t door knock, I turn up in halls and summon the elderly”.

In the role of leaders, Patrick Davies as John Key, struggling with Te Reo, and Paul McLaughlin wonder about the stage being manipulated by their subordinates which include Hilary Norris’s Judith Collins, a whip welding dominatrix and Sophie Hambleton’s Nikki Kaye as Miss Auckland.

As well there are the Greens with Joel Baxendale in a green tuatara onesie being baby boy Gareth Hughes, Hannah Banks and Natano Keni trying to get it together as Laila Harre and Hone Harawhira and Todd Rippon as a massive Kim Dotcom.

Special mention must also be made of Hayden Frost who wonderfully portrays many of the minor players like Colin Craig and Peter Dunne, to make this show, although a little long and at times somewhat drawn out and over playing the point, one that is nevertheless full of humour and played with lots of energy and commitment that is very entertaining.


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Constantly smile-inducing

Review by John Smythe 27th Aug 2014

Much has been written and said about how Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics has derailed the election agenda – but spare a thought for the writers, producers, directors and performers of political satire who slaved over election-themed script development and rehearsals for many weeks in the poll-driven belief a National-led third term was a fait-accompli.

Writers James Nokise, Simon Leary and Thom Adams have shoe-horned in the odd reference to elements that have inundated the media of late but I can’t help thinking their whole approach would have been different if the Whale Oil factor had blown weeks earlier.

As it stands, the scenario involving Australia, presumably injected into this Public Service Announcements: ELECTION SPECIAL to create drama when they feared there was little to be extracted from within our shores, seems oddly removed from the substantive issues that glaze our current perceptions like an oil slick.

That said, the scenario – about which I shall be purposely oblique – does involve dirty tricks and the unlikeliness of their source combines with a cogently warped motivation to capture some sense of how complex webs of deception can get in the political area. References to the US version of House of Cards, and questions around who the Kiwi Frank Underwood may be, are salutary.

The script is full of political intelligence, which requires us to concentrate rather than sit back and laugh at cheap gags (although there are a few of those), and the wordiness does render the action quite static quite often. The focus, then, rests on the characterisations and status relationships within each faction and what plays out – at the signature rapid pace of an Anya Tate-Manning directed No Fefe collective production – is constantly smile-inducing.

The 19 actors who play 22 characters each capture an essence of their targets – and Patrick Davies, who virtually stepped off a plane from LA (think of it as Hawaii) to play a memory-challenged John Key, makes a virtue of reading his lines off prominent cue cards. Louis Tait’s Bill English is ever at his side to jog his boss along.

Hilary Norris relishes the whip-weilding role of Judith Collins (although her English accent is rather distracting). Robustly competing in the formidability stakes are Salesi Le’ota’s Hekia Parata and Johanna Cosgrove’s Paula Bennett – splendidly offset by Sophie Hambleton’s bright little Nikki Kaye, whose invisibility to her colleagues (English especially) becomes quite poignant. Steven Joyce is only mentioned in despatches which is a shame since he usually fronts as spokesman for everything.

Paul McLaughlin’s David Cunliffe is characterised as somewhat messianic in his own mind, while Grant Robertson (Jack O’Donnell) and Jacinda Adern (Anya Tate-Manning) are preoccupied with their own leadership aspirations, and David Parker (Thom Adams) remains the shrinking violent. More emphasis on their public ‘Vote Positive’ brand could liven their scenes up a bit.

The now anticipated Jacinda-Nikki face-off (both are standing for Auckland Central) brings welcome physicality to the proceedings although I feel we were hoping for more of a catfight.

Russell Norman’s Australian heritage is pivotal to Ralph McCubbin Howell’s characterisation and indeed his plot-line. Neenah Dekkers’ Metiria Turei is the driving power in the Green Party while Joel Baxendale’s Gareth Hughes is portrayed as a child-like Emo in a crocodile (tuatara?) costume.

Hayden Frost plays his four characters – Colin Craig, David Seymour, Peter Dunne and Julie Anne Genter – with admirable distinction.

The Internet-Mana Party tends to have the most dynamic presence, possibly because they are a new force to be reckoned with in the PSA fold and not least because Hannah Banks offsets her necessarily expositional dialogue with constant swipes of wall-sized screens as she mines for relevant data. Natano Keni nails Hone Harawira nicely and Todd Rippon revels in the Kim Dotcom roly-poly party-party role.

Alan Henry’s crowd-favourite Winston Peters, a legend in his own whiskey glass, has become a grey eminence and the show climaxes with a sword fight between him and Tony Abbott in gold hot-pants. You have to be there …

The opening scene around a witches’ cauldron does set up an expectation of devious machinations in pursuit of power and I suppose that is a binding, if somewhat muddy, theme throughout. It’s just that the detail of the content misses the zeitgeist of the current political scene.

In purely dramatic terms there could be more honing of the dynamic structure, script-wise and in directorial terms, in the build-up to the unmentionable climax, and more attention could be paid to each character’s response to it. I guess it was always supposed to work as a cautionary tale and it may prove more valid as the election campaign continues but right now it’s just too left field to register, plot-wise, as pertinent political satire.


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