Public Service Announcements: WHO DUNNE IT?

BATS Theatre, The Heyday Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

12/05/2015 - 16/05/2015

NZ International Comedy Festival 2015

Production Details

The mysterious disappearance of Peter Dunne threatens to plunge the National government into chaos! Who’s responsible? Who will step forward in the inevitable Ohariu by-election? Why won’t Winston stop laughing?

Wellington’s premier source of political satire, Public Service Announcements, returns with all your beloved politicians to shake up The Beehive.

Tue 12 – Sat 16 May, 9pm

The Dome at BATS Theatre, Wellington


Adults $20.00
Conc. $15.00
Groups 6+ $14.00* service fees may apply


BATS Theatre


Peter Dunne - Hayden Frost                                                               


Andrew Little - Louis Tait

Parker - Thom Adams

Grant - Aidan Weekes

Jacinda - Anya T-M


John Key - Simon Haren

Bill English - Thom Adams 

Nikki - Isobel MacKinnon


Russel - Aiden Weekes

Metiria - Anya Tate-Manning

Gareth - Isobel MacKinnon

Julie Anne - Hayden Frost


Allan Henry


David Seymour - Hayden Frost


Te Ururoa Flavel -  Dan Shenton

HONE HARAWIRA - James Nokise

Comedy ,

1 hour

The stage of representatives

Review by Maraea Rakuraku 14th May 2015

It feels like the coolest reunion ever, going to PSA, Who Dunne it. The whole gang is back. Taihoa, that’s right, there’s been an election since the PSA: Election Special, so that isn’t true. No more Tariana, no more Hone. But then PSA is our insight into the New Zealand political scene and it ain’t really over, ever, once you’ve entered politics. Because 35 minutes in and he’s baaaack, by the grace of James Nokise (both character and actor uncredited in the programme so I won’t say more here).

There’s a mystery to be solved in Who Dunne it? – and who better than a coalition of politicians to do it?  As usual there are 17 characters spread amongst nine actors. Even though I’ve seen it before, there are some real beauties. Anya Tate Mannings impression of Metiria Turei makes me wonder if the politician says “mmmm” as much as she does. She does!

There is an Andrew Little (Louis Tait) who wonderfully, stirringly portrays the Labour party leader. So much so, I’m a little disappointed by the real thing when I see him this morning. He plays against John Key (Simon Haren) tormented by a ponytailed Nikki Kaye (Isobel MacKinnon) who also does double duty as Gareth Hughes. The physicality alone of her performance is brilliant.

That is only matched by Aidan Weekes as Russel Norman and Grant Robertson. Te Ururoa Flavell (Dan Shenton) is the only one who seems slightly out of place within the ensemble and as per classic (the surprise character mentioned above), he is called out on it.

WTF? Julie Anne Genter (Hayden Frost) spurred on by Jacinda Ahern (Anya Tate Manning) elicits this on more than a number of occasions from the audience (ok it was me): “Who-t-f is Julie Anne Genter?” 

Then of course there’s Winston Peters (Alan Henry) who, as he does in real life eclipses, all around him. He enters to the theme and lighting truly befitting of the ‘King of the North’.

Thom Adams serves triple glory as a desperado John Campbell bummed about his show ratings, an overlooked David Parker and a capable /over-enabling Bill English. In this production he’s also the writer. Respect. 

But it is Hayden Frost as a simpering David Seymour and the focus of this piece as, the coiffed crusader, Peter Dunne who is spectacular. 

Having been to a number of these shows I must ask again; why isn’t this on television? It is so deserving of a larger audience. It’s current and has the pace to maintain interest. It’s not as frenetic as some past productions and sure it could do with some tightening but this is by far more interesting and relevant, than the number of politico TV programmes crowding screens on Sunday mornings.

It’s also very funny. It’s more than commentary. And it shouldn’t be dismissed as light-hearted fun.  There is enough truth spluttered out for it to elicit a couple of knowing cringes in the audience (e.g. “Whale rider”).

Even the butchering of Māori names is on point and the prevailing tokenism of tikanga Māori that underlies it. Yes it pisses me off. Delivered like this so honestly, it’s hilarious. Even so, you fellas need to expand that net out and recruit Māori actors before Hone gets all, well, Hone on it.

This production seems a little more laboured than usual and requires more concentration (on my part) to catch the lines because the real magic of PSA is the dialogue. But absolute respect to the actors who run around like maniacs, manage multiple characters and onstage costume changes, all while looking like they know what they’re doing. Even so, given the antics of some of our politicians (tug, tug), I’d say it’s representative of the actual reality.

There are nods to crap reality TV, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and enough antics by politicians to make you wonder: really? There’s even a musical number. I loved it and I look forward to their next show.


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All parties lampooned on an equal opportunity basis

Review by John Smythe 13th May 2015

The lampooning of politicians has been a favourite sport on Wellington stages since the late 19th century* and occasionally it has risen to the level of satire. 

Lampoons get by on ridicule; on pricking pretentions and bringing the powerful down to size. Satire, I’d suggest, aims to go deeper by exposing what its creators believe is the truth that festers beneath spin-doctored politics, policies and politicians.  

The most satirical barb fired off this year, in Public Service Annoucements: Who Dunne It?, is the idea that today’s politicians are self-involved, caring more about their political survival than anything else.

Written solely by Thom Adams this time (he co-wrote last year’s PSA: Election Special with James Nokise and Simon Leary) and co-directed by Anya Tate-Manning and Simon Leary, the inciting incident is the sudden disappearance – right before our very eyes – of the United Future member for Ohariu, Peter Dunne.

The quest to discover who stole Peter Dunne and why – a classic whodunit – drives the narrative, along with the looming spectre of a by-election. The high-stakes questions of who will stand for each party and the very real possibility the minority-governing National Party could lose the majority it only enjoys through the deals it has done with the Māori Party, ACT and United Future – thanks to Winston Peters’ NZ First win in the Northland by-election (just six and a half weeks ago) – bring dynamic energy to the comedy.

As usual the hectic logistics of having nine actors play 16 politicians plus John Campbell – twisting different coloured ties to their fronts and juggling wigs, etc – overwhelms and undermines the substantive story and potential for satire at times, especially on opening night. Sure it adds to the fun (one actor’s calling for prompts becomes a running gag), but given the work that’s gone into the script, I’d like more matter and less fart-arsing around. Doubtless things will improve.

Only Simon Haren, Louis Tait and Allan Henry get to play single roles. The dwindling confidence of Haren’s John Key is nicely offset with compulsive perving on ponytails. Tait plays Andrew Little as Batman in a scarlet cape, to great effect. Henry’s ever-popular whisky-wielding Winston Peters has lots to gloat about and he does it with customary style.

With Colin Craig (who?) no longer required, Hayden Frost’s deliciously naïve David Seymour and would-be detective Julie Anne Genter are ‘book-ended’ by his comically coiffed Peter Dunne. While Thom Adams’ Bill English is rather non-descript, he has refined his David Parker to a minimalist work of art, and his John Campbell, so earnestly seeking ratings, is another high point.  

Isobel MacKinnon’s Nikki Kaye runs rings round John Key while her Gareth Hughes side-tracks himself with a Rubik’s Cube. Anya Tate-Manning is all teeth and curtailed ambition as Jacinda Ardern and oddly frumpy as Meteria Turei (maybe it’s a mousey wig).

Dan Shenton’s Te Ururoa Flavell maintains a watching brief on the increasingly manic proceedings … and I can’t say I remember where his Tracy Martin comes into the action. Aidan Weeks finds good distinction between the resigned Russel Norman and ever-active Grant Robertson.

Without committing a spoiler, I have to add that James Nokise returns from his show at VKs to deliver a brilliant cameo, as the quest for Ohariu candidates continues. And the running gag around different characters’ attempts to pronounce Ohariu correctly is a good one.  

My least favourite scene is the ridiculing of David Parker by Robertson and Ardern. I know such loathsome behaviour is common in parliament but not with those two (is it?). It is very much a John Key trait, however, that could do with greater public exposure.  

The use of a single rose as Key builds up to deciding whether to bestow electoral privilege on ACT or the Māori Party is splendid touch. Dunne’s revelation of the secret of his political immortality is also an excellent visual gag. And it wouldn’t be a PSA show if Winston didn’t flash his sword.

All in all, PSA: Who Dunne It? delivers an entertaining hour which successfully lampoons all parties on an equal opportunity basis. Maybe that’s what stops it achieving the status of really potent political satire.
 – – – – – – – – – – –
*Wellington Operatic Society’s The Monarch of Utopia by H B Bridge (my great grandfather) opened at The Opera House in 1893; in the 1950s and 60s Unity Theatre and Wellington Repertory revues written by the likes of Bruce Mason, Peter Harcourt, David Tinkham, Bruce Mason and Bill Sheat always included political sketches; Roger Hall cut his comedic teeth writing and performing in Victoria University revues, notable in the role of prime minister Keith Holyoake – and ‘Holysmoke’ and others were regular targets in Vic’s ‘Extravaganza’ capping revues.


John Smythe May 14th, 2015

You're absolutely right, Robbie. Now corrected with all due enbarrassment. Thank you.

Robbie Ellis May 14th, 2015

"late last century" would imply the 1990s, not the 1890s, yes?

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