Sammy J in the Forest of Dreams

Downstage Theatre, Wellington

08/05/2009 - 23/05/2009

NZ International Comedy Festival 2007-09, 2013

Production Details

Edinburgh Fringe smash hit musical with 14 puppets premieres in Wellington for the NZ International Comedy Festival

Australian comedian Sammy J stars in Sammy J in the Forest of Dreams at Downstage Theatre 

"Filthy, frenetic and gloriously funny. This joyful romp has got cult stage hit written all over it." (Chortle) After a total sell-out season to rave reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe Sammy J in the Forest of Dreams premieres at Wellington’s Downstage Theatre for the 2009 NZ International Comedy Festival from 8 – 23 May. Join Australian comedian Sammy J as he ventures into a magical forest where creatures live in harmony, picking berries for their king. But is everything really as happy as it seems? 

Take the music of Disney, the drama of Lord of the Rings, and the emotion of Les Miserables. Then blindfold them, beat them, regain their trust, beat them again, and you might end up with something resembling Sammy J in the Forest of Dreams. This stunningly hilarious tribute to the tales of our childhood features toe-tapping songs, stunning visual effects and a cast of 14 puppets. A comedy spectacular that will have you in stitches, just leave the kids at home!

Winner of The Age Critics’ Award and Barry Award Nominee in the 2008 Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the show is directed by former Wellingtonian, comedian and Australian TV star Alan Brough. 

Sammy J in the Forest of Dreams  is premiering in New Zealand at Downstage Theatre as part of the NZ International Comedy Festival for a strictly limited season from
Friday 8 May till Saturday 23 May,
Tuesday to Saturday at 9pm.  

Prices for the show range from $20 for students to $35 for a full price ticket. A season ticket for both NZ International Comedy Festival shows at Downstage, Sammy J in the Forest of Dreams and A Night with Beau Tyler, can be bought for $50 if used on the same night.

Tickets can be purchased online, by phone at (04) 801 6946 or in person at Downstage’s box office. For up-to-date information, prices and bookings visit Downstage is proudly sponsored by BNZ.

You Tube clip  

Starring Sammy J and Heath McIvor

1hr, no interval

Wild night of puppets

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 11th May 2009

Beau Tyler and Sammy J are two wildly different one-hour comedy shows but they have one thing in common: both use puppets. In A Night with Beau Tyler the manipulated audiences are the puppets while more conventional puppets (hand, shadow, and blow-up) inhabit the Forest of Dreams.

Sammy J begins with a diatribe in song against Walt Disney for misleading us all as kids and then proceeds in its wacky, hilarious and superbly inventive way to subvert stage conventions, children’s stories, Les Miserables, Rambo movies, cute animals, love stories and heroes. The simple message at the end spoken to Sammy J by a bad-tempered Tree, guardian to the portal of the forest, is that he should have learned by now to be less of a dick.

Played at terrific speed, the jokes and the characters come thick and fast as Sammy J persuades the forest’s cuddly inhabitants to revolt against their repulsive king.  You’ll be lucky if you see any thing funnier than this during the Comedy Festival as Sammy J and the unseen (for 99% of the show) Heath McIvor, whose energy, timing, and often ribald Aussie comedy, including awful puns (groaning at them only inflates Sammy’s ego), take flight.
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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Astounding skills in comic coup

Review by John Smythe 09th May 2009

This stunning send-up and celebration of phantasmagorical escapism begins with an anti-anthem to Disney. But when Sammy J, who claims to be a man now and past such childish things, is phone-threatened with disconnection due to an unpaid power bill, the compulsion to succumb to portal that sucks him into the Forest of Dreams is just too great.

Therein he encounters a cantankerous Tree, Terry the smell-sensitive squirrel, a wonderfully vulnerable little blue creature called Farlo, an emotionally abusive bird on a wire and his birdie victim, a fat orange King and his Foxy squire, a desirable damsel called Yoplait, a biscuit-loving farmer called Fish-bucket, the odd decapitatable Knight, a poxy Emu …

These fantastically simple mostly Muppet-style hand-‘n-rod puppets, plus a range of shadow puppets, are brilliantly animated and voiced by a hidden Heath McIvor and Sammy J himself, confounding us with the speed and dexterity of their changes and interchanges (i.e. both must animate the same character at different times).

As their director, expat Wellingtonian Alan Brough must share the credit for the ingenious staging, superb production values and perfectly paced presentation, which includes excellent lighting, sound, music and voice-overs (but because it is another programme-free zone, I cannot credit the designers or the tireless operator whose good timing is essential to the overall success).

There is, of course, a well-structured story from which the wickedly witty ‘adults only’ madness flows. As he gets to know the Forest inhabitants, in his post-modern ‘yes, we all know this is theatre’ style, Sammy J discovers they are obliged to pick the luscious-looking berries for the King but may not eat them themselves. A coup is clearly in order – and skinny Sammy J as a Ramboesque Ché G revolutionary is a sight to behold. The neighbourhood ‘action’ group meeting is achingly true-to-life and the attack on the castle, on a swing bridge over the moat, is truly spectacular.

Just two guys working up all that action building to mayhem? Astonishing! And the mood-swings, the emotional depth conveyed by the puppets throughout … Can we really be empathising with painted lumps of polystyrene and sponge rubber? In live performance these skills are astounding.

As for the pathos-rich ending with a cruel twist, I can say no more without giving the show away. Suffice to say the political message, as such, sits very well alongside A Night with Beau Tyler – so the cut-price offer of seeing both on the same night is well worth taking up.* And to get some idea of their humour, professionalism and dedication to connecting with the Wellington audience, check out this You Tube clip.

I have long regarded Melbourne as the Comedy Capital of Australasia, with its proud history of extremely inventive live comedy and TV sketch and series comedy, not to mention the odd feature film, dating back to the 1970s. Multi award-winning Sammy J in the Forest of Dreams must rate among the best of the best in that high quality line-up.

It’s a coup for Downstage to score this show (this is the only season scheduled in NZ) and a quantum leap from the stand-up fare so prevalent in the Comedy Festival.  Catch it if you can.
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*When you see that the top adult price for Beau Tyler is $25 and the special offer for seeing both in the same night is $50, it seems a raw deal. But the top price for Sammy J is $35 so the deal is real.
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. 


Michael Wray May 24th, 2009

Lighting and Sound Operator: Marc Edwards.

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