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

18/03/2018 - 21/03/2018

NZ Fringe Festival 2018 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Production Details

Ramshackle is an old school detective – a veteran who does what needs to be done to get the right man behind bars. Kitsch is new on the team – a wide-eyed hipster who is as equally excited about the job as being distracted by puppies wearing shiny collars.

The lovechild of Starsky & Hutch and The Mighty Boosh, Ramshackle & Kitsch is a manic comedy based on audience suggestions and the finest of buddy cop traditions.

Nominated for Best Comedy at Fringe World 2017 (Perth, Australia). 

From the teams that bring you multi award nominated The Ballad of Frank Allen and The Man and The Moon, and perennial Australian impro comedy favourites The Big HOO-HAA!, this New Zealand Fringe Festival, come see their crime thriller exploits unfold as Ramshackle & Kitsch work to keep this town safe from whatever capers are threatening us that night. 

The Creative Team
Variegated Productions make shows. Rooted in contemporary theatre, they branch out into other forms and collaborate with other artists to grow their work. Variegated Productions aims to bring theatre makers and concept breakers together to work with people and ideas that scare or excite them. Their aim is to play with new friends and to make up games as they go. They are based in Perth, Western Australia.

BATS Theatre, The Heyday Dome
18 – 21 March at 9pm
Full Price $20 | Concession Price $15
Fringe Addict Cardholder $14 

*Access to The Heyday Dome is via stairs, so please contact the BATS Box Office at least 24 hours in advance if you have accessibility requirements so that appropriate arrangements can be made. Read more about accessibility at BATS.

Theatre , Improv ,

1 hr

A bit of a muddle, this time

Review by John Smythe 19th Mar 2018

For an improv show there is something odd about the way Ramshackle and Kitsch is set-up, pre show. Shane Adamczak slips into the Heyday Dome space and chats quietly to selected couples. Seated centrally I try to eavesdrop then ask the chosen to confirm what he has asked-for and written in slips of paper:
Somewhere good to retire: The South of France
An unconventional crime: Voting for Trump
An interesting object: A crystal ball.

Shane then leaves and – apart from musician Liam Kelly and lighting operator Darryn Woods who are already in place – it’s some time before he returns with the rest of the Variegated Productions troupe from Western Australia: St John Cowcher, Libby Klysz and Brianna Williams – plus locally-sourced guest performer Jennifer O’Sullivan.

In a single spotlight, redolent of early James Bond opening credits, to a lively rendition of the Mission Impossible theme, each troupe member poses a trope of the genre, mostly involving gun-toting. This suggests a spy thriller is in the offing, although Ramshackle and Kitch has been pitched as “The lovechild of Starsky & Hutch and The Mighty Boosh”: a buddy detective series and a surreal comedy series, respectively.

The opening scene sets up Klyz as Detective Ramshackle in retirement – and she takes a folded piece of paper from her pocket to discover she’s in the South of France. The crime of voting for Trump and the crystal ball are similarly discovered mid-scenes.

Now I know the audience needs to trust improvisers not to cheat – because why would they: they’re improvisers – but not including the whole audience in the ask-for process and not ensuring we see those folded bits of paper remain in the room then handed to the arriving players and slipped into their pockets with no-one peeking, robs the audience of a crucial entertainment factor.

It becomes apparent the casting, key characterisations and plot structure are predetermined. Fair enough. Ramshackle is an old-school Cockney cop and bored in retirement; her broad-Australian ex-boss (Brianna Williams) calls her back into service to solve the crime; she is highly resentful of being teamed up with rookie cop Kitch (Jennifer O’Sullivan); St John Cowcher and Shane Adamczak are assigned the criminal roles – and everyone pitches in with bit-parts as and when required.  

For some reason, despite the crime, they set the story in Wellington, I’m guessing because they have decided in advance to crack jokes about NZ being governed from a Beehive. They do acknowledge it is odd that a US Elections voting scam has been master-minded in New Zealand but rather than validate the offered premise in terms of topical global politics they decide the evil plan to install the Great Orange in the Whitehouse has been the work of The Feline Gambling Ring. This is the surreal Mighty Boosh dimension, I guess. (In the TV series each episode invariably starts and ends in a dilapidated zoo, the ‘Zooniverse’, so I’m guessing they are committed to referencing that regardless of the crime-de-jour.)

Thus we get gambling scenes, missing boxes of votes and a memorable interrogation of Sean Squirrel (Adamczak), where R & K call in the unseen but nevertheless formidable Boris (voiced on mic by Williams). She has also played the Boss on mic, suggesting that too is predetermined.

Quite how the crystal ball’s furry interior helps to bring the perpetrators to justice is unclear. Indeed the showdown scenes at Auckland’s Sky City Casino seems fudge in favour of emphasising Ramshackle’s acceptance of Kitch as a valuable partner and the reward of cocaine – resolving a plot thread that suggests Ramshackle was retired because of a cocaine habit and/or the Force routinely uses confiscated cocaine to reward good service. I suspect this too is a predetermined element because it has not seemed to evolve naturally through the improv process.

From an audience perspective I feel that, despite the good characterisations and odd flash of inspired performance, we have witnessed a bit of a muddle where spontaneity has not been able to gain traction and flow freely. This may be because pre-conceived elements have constrained them and/or they haven’t quite come to grips with this particular asked-for crime in a way that makes its solving the major focus of the action, thereby producing an audience-pleasing climax and resolution.

That said, it is clear that everyone is a skilled performer and improv artist so there is every reason to suppose that the next three episodes of Ramshackle and Kitch will fly. 


Maria Williams March 21st, 2018

I just wanted to comment because I saw this show last night and it was absolutely brilliant!!

Firstly, what a bunch of good improvisors! I was very impressed by the skill, teamwork, humour and characterisations. There were great call-backs with reincorporated gags and info and the audience loved it all. 

Secondly, the form was great - so slick and professional they all have done it enough to know exactly what and how they can tell the story (whatever it ends up being about) clearly and fully. It allowed for a lot of joyful absurdity (e.g. the French character with the lisp with the third arm and horns coming out of her head) but the story always progressed and we could always follow what's happening (although I believe in improv it can still be good and you can still enjoy it without following exactly what's happening, it's made up of joyful moments). They have obviously worked together and done this show for years and you can tell with the professionalism and craft. 

The way they set up other teammates (e.g. being like 'Ah yes, what other impersonations can you do', forcing the fellow player to try and impersonate Broadway stars) was extremely funny and you can tell they all trust each other and know each other's skills. 

I highly recommend this show as a fun, funny, professional, great example of long-form improv. 

A few notes about improv: 

Improvisors don't have to ask everyone to contribute to the ask-fors, although it certainly makes it more fun for the audience if everyone knows the ask-fors. I'm sure it wasn't being purposefully hidden from anyone. Last night the player did ask the whole crowd and it went down a treat!

Regarding the form and preparation, Improvisors have to prepare the form for long-form improvisation so everyone playing knows what's happening. The story changes based on the suggestions so obviously they're improvising but to make the whole story fit into an hour the rest must be well-planned and structured. Not that they've made up what is going to happen, just that they know for example 'by 45 minutes the case needs to be about to be solved'. 

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