BATS Theatre, Wellington

16/05/2012 - 19/05/2012

NZ International Comedy Festival 2012

Production Details


Time for another round of satire with the award nominated Public Service Announcements.

After a sold out season at the 2011 New Zealand International Comedy Festival, and a now legendary run at BATS Theatre during the Rugby World Cup, the No Fefe Collective return to the scene of their crimes with an All New Show!

It’s Budget time at the Beehive, but can Bill English get the changes he wants past John and Steven? Whose side will the Maori Party end up on? Is Peter Dunne the Kingmaker he thinks he is? How are Greens coping with an increase in power? And what is Winston up to? Meanwhile, Labour waits and plots…

Hair of the dog Productions and No Fefe Collective bring together, again, an outrageous and talented cast of misfits for some fantastic late-night fun at BATS in the final week of the New Zealand International Comedy Festival. There may be fighting, there may be dancing, there may be muppets!

A fantastic show for anyone interested in what happened to their vote, with an extra treat for the members of the public service, or simply those wishing to have a good laugh at our inglorious leaders.

Public Service Announcements is guaranteed to be the comedy event of the third week of the festival… it’s that good!

WITH: An all star cast including Allan Henry as Winston Peters
WHEN: Wed 16 May – Sat 19 May, 9:30pm
WHERE:NZ Intl Comedy Festival 2012
BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace, Wellington
Adults $18, Conc. $14, groups of 6+ $15 

Bryony Skillington
Salesi Le'ota
David Lawrence
Alex Grieg
Simon Leary
Allan Henry
Kate McGill
Aiden Weekes
Anya Tate-Manning
Andrew Paterson
Thom Adams

Ashlyn Smith
Mary Laine
James Nokise
Rachel Henry
Emily Sheffield 


Much-needed gap-filler

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 21st May 2012

Public Service Announcements, returns to Bats for the fifth time, this time based around the coming budget.  

All the parliamentarians from before are there, played by some regulars plus new actors.  

Allan Henry does an excellent job at reprising his role of Winston Peters; he wants to outdo Helen Clark by becoming Secretary General of the UN and also saves the day in the finale. 

Simon Leary and Andrew Paterson do a good job as David Shearer and Grant Robertson; a type of Batman and Robin team with Paterson doing a wonderful tap routine in bright red tights. They are joined by Anya Tate-Manning as Jacinda Ahern and Thom Adams as David Parker, Tate-Manning’s Ahern as lively as Adam’s Parker is insipid.

The lead up to the budget is causing David Lawrence’s John Key and Alex Greig’s Bill English lots of grief, not helped by Thom Adam’s Steven Joyce, a sort of samurai warrior calling the shots.

Bryony Skillington and Salesi Le’ota re-create their wonderful characters of Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples wanting a big hike in tobacco tax, Le’ota is also a very creditable busty Hekia Parata. The Greens are also there with Aidan Weekes as aussie Russell Norman and Anya Tate-Manning as Metiria Turei needing more money as all their funding has gone into organic food.

But the star of the show must be Kate McGill’s brilliant and spot on impersonation of the Mayor, Celia Wade-Brown, continually floating back and forth across the stage, lost and bewildered not knowing what to do till she gets instructions from Fran Wilde.

As with any show of this nature, with its multitude of impersonations and numerous short sketches, some work better than others and a good 15 minutes could be cut from the show.  But given that both NZ theatre and television are currently devoid of good political satire, this much-needed show fills gap in this type of entertainment and is well worth going to see.


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See Winston save the world!

Review by John Smythe 17th May 2012

This is the first anniversary and fifth iteration of James Nokise’s political satire brand: Public Service Announcements. It kicked off a year go, set portentously on Election Day (26 November 2011), then returned in September-October during Rugby World Cup season, with three four-night late-night weekend versions over six weeks.  

This version is sub-titled The Budget Show and may well have to be even faster on its feet, as pre-Budget announcements are released daily.

The now familiar Campbell Live theme and voice-over device introduces the show again and kicks back in later to up the ante with an international crisis that causes a seismic shift in the local political power structure.

Nokise’s astute observations and jibes allow the politically literate – of which there are many on opening night – to have a ball while there is plenty of broad comedy to keep the ‘average person in the street’ happy.

Simon Leary has metamorphosed from last year’s Phil Goff into Labour’s new leader David Shearer, anxiously trying to gain opposition party traction with an intractable Winston Peters, reprised nicely by Allan Henry, although he needs to flash his teeth when smiling, not least to avoid looking spookily like Rob Muldoon.

David Lawrence and Alex Greig return as John Key and Bill English, the latter tense-shouldered as he focuses seriously on high-level budget figures and complex concepts while Key takes the “No-one cares!” line. Asset sales and xenophobia get a good airing too. But this time I have to say it’s a great shame that Lawrence’s manic delivery detracts from a script that cries out to be spoken with a hyper-casual, smarmy self-satisfaction.

The John Banks puppet is a visual gem (although he drops his jaw on opening night and never recovers). Again, because John Key is manipulating and voicing him, I fear there are elements of satire that are lost in the poorly modulated delivery, although the blame game he plays with the puppet does get the big laugh it deserves. Lawrence also reprises the black-hooded Don Brash and once more I can’t understand why Brash’s compulsive “to be frank” verbal tick continues to be ignored. 

The ‘good cop / bad cop’ double-act of primed-bomb Tariana Turia and calming influence Pita Sharples remains an audience favourite in the performances of Bryony Skillington and Salesi Le’ota, as they try to assay the relative political weightings of land issues and Big Tobacco.  

Skillington brings back her wonderfully balletic Rodney Hyde while Le’ota adds a sublime ‘Princess’ Hekia Parata to his political quiver.

Wrestling with their funding issues, given their less-than-affluent constituencies, the Greens team sees Aidan Weeks new to the role of Russell Norman while Anya Tate-Manning revives her Meitiria Turei: busy, astute and more relaxed now in her elevated role – except in the memorable Koru Lounge scene between Hekia, Meitiria and Tariana, where she has the lowest status and Hekia holds her own while Tariana plays the kuia card. Classic!  

I think it’s a weakness to take the soft Greenie line with Russell when he is arguably making the running as the de facto leader of the opposition in articulating economic arguments that counter what comes from the Treasury benches. But his attempts to court the unwinnable Winston are spot-on.

Another newcomer to the team is Thom Adams, whose strong and focused comic sensibility makes each satirical point neatly with his ruthless Steven Joyce and hysterically emotionless David Parker. 

Andrew Paterson (also new) breaks out the tap-dancing shoes as our Wellington Central MP and Labour’s deputy leader, Grant Robertson. His manifestation as ‘Boy Wonder’ to the enigmatic Shearer is delightful.

Completing the Labour team is our favourite Tate-Manning character, Jacinda Ardern, contributing – among other moments – to a well-turned commentary of a low voter turnout. 

Paterson also plays a law draftsman from the Parliamentary Counsel Office (PCO) who finds himself in the Koru Lounge with Murray McCully – played with admirable lipless terseness by Kate McGill. This scene purports to tell a story that is as true as the others are false.

McGill’s shining achievement, however, is her red-haired lost soul adrift in the Beehive … Her minimalism, stillness and astute use of silence makes this a comic gem.

Completing the cast of 12, Tola Newbery delivers a cameo speech from aloft as Hone Harawira. And all is directed with an energetic flow by Tate-Manning and Rachel Henry. I suppose it is the necessarily short rehearsal period and constant modifications to script that mitigate against the modulation and subtextual subtleties I sometimes feel the script deserves; a script that sometimes seems to aspire to the insights and complexities of a Kiwi West Wing.

I won’t give the show away concerning the turning point that ramps up the drama to global dimensions but it’s an inspired touch, not least for its efficacy in bringing Winston Peters’ true ambitions to the surface.

You’ll also have to see the show to discover who Winston has on speed-dial; why the UN might be moving to Wellington; what excesses of ecstasy John and Bill are driven to; what Helen Clark (Rachel Henry) has to say on the phone, and to whom; how Winston saves the world and what the deal-clincher is for Barack Obama.

A rousing chorus of ‘The Muppet Show’ song underlines the fun-and-games dimension (in case anyone feels motivated to sue?), bringing the 80-odd minutes to a fitting finale.

In the aftermath I inveigle myself into a huddle of politicians and ex-politicians. They assure me certain apparent excesses of behaviour in some characters, quite different from their public personae, are very true to life. Only someone with excellent contacts and an astute understanding of the parliamentary system could know such things – so kudos to James Nokise for that too.  

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.


Corus May 19th, 2012

So John Smythe writes for posterity?  Oh, dear. I fear that posterity will be just as irritated and unimpressed at these synopses-masquerading-as-reviews, and just like us would far prefer more unselfconscious insight and analysis.

Sarah Harpur May 18th, 2012

I just want to say I can not speak highly enough of this show.  Just brilliant.  What I find the most staggering is how politically neutral it is, whilst still being heavily satirical.  James, you and the team should be so proud.  Pure class.

James Nokise May 17th, 2012

Much appreciation. Let it beknown to the world: JOHN SMYTHE IS A FAIR AND REASONABLE MAN. .... I'm sure that won't come back to haunt me.

John Smythe May 17th, 2012

OK James – thanks for the emailed details. I have edited some but not all. My concern is to represent the nature of the work for potential audiences and for the historical record. When someone writes up the history of political theatre in NZ – or your biography even – they might be irritated to find reviews that are so enigmatic they record very little of substance. 

James Nokise May 17th, 2012

[shakes fist] SMMYYTTHHEEEE!!! - stop giving away so many of my physical gags! You're killing me on the whole "pull back and reveal" thing. The shock is part of the gag. Otherwise I'm going to end up with people laughing a little lighter, then looking at each other and going "I heard about that". It's not as much fun all round, and fun's what our show is bout. Also the thing with the mayor was a Simpsons homage. But thank you sir, glad we entertained you. Please please please please re-edit to not reveal so much, if only for the next three days. I shall be eternally gratefull.. at least until we end up having another dispute / debate.

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