SAMMY J & RANDY in Ricketts Lane (Aus)

Downstage Theatre, Wellington

04/05/2010 - 08/05/2010

Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

11/05/2010 - 15/05/2010

NZ International Comedy Festival 2010

Production Details

WINNER, THE AGE CRITICS CHOICE 2008 Melbourne International Comedy Festival
NOMINEE, MOST OUSTANDING SHOW 2008 Melbourne International Comedy Festival
NOMINEE, BEST INTERNATIONAL SHOW 2009 New Zealand Comedy Festival
Oh my gosh! It’s the brand new show from the award-winning creators of the international smash-hit, Sammy J in the Forest of Dreams
Meet Sammy J (skinny man) and Randy (purple puppet), two very different housemates with very different pasts. Together they live in a house on Ricketts Lane, sharing the cooking, avoiding the cleaning, and passing the hours playing "Chebble" – an original combination of Chess and Scrabble.
Sammy’s an underpaid, overworked, shit-kicking tax lawyer. Randy hardly works at all. He’s been married, divorced, thrown from a hovercraft and seen the world from all angles. But when Sammy uncovers some financial skeletons in Randy’s closet, things are going to get awkward at the breakfast table.
Directed by Alan Brough, Ricketts Lane is a live sit-com with an HBO twist – think Tony Danza meets Tony Soprano… Basil Fawlty running the Gem Saloon in Deadwood… Betty from Hey, Dad smoking crack in the high rises of Baltimore before being felt up by Officer McNolte… you get the idea.
Sammy J and puppeteer Heath McIvor’s previous collaboration, Sammy J in the Forest of Dreams, premiered in 2008, and went on to win the hearts and minds of comedy audiences around the world, including a season in Wellington at the 2009 NZ Comedy Festival. It was nominated for numerous awards, scored 5-star reviews in Edinburgh, and played sell-out seasons in London’s West End.
In 2010, the boys are coming back to Wellington, and making their Auckland debut. So come and join Sammy J and Randy for a cuppa. Drive straight past Boringville, chuck a left on Goodtime Avenue, and you’ll find yourself in Ricketts Lane.
To coincide with the premiere of their new show, Sammy J and Heath McIvor will be releasing their live DVD of Sammy J in The Forest of Dreams, in stores from April, and available for review.
“Filthy, frenetic, and gloriously funny” –
“Sammy J and Heath McIvor are fiendishly talented writers and performers” – The Scotsman
Dates: Tues 4 – Sat 8 May, 8pm
Venue: Downstage Theatre, 12 Cambridge Tce, City
Tickets: Adults $28.50, Conc. & Groups 6+ $24
Bookings: Downstage Theatre 04 801 6946 or
Show duration: 1 hour

Dates: Tues 11 – Sat 15 May, 8.30 pm
Venue: The Basement, Lower Greys Ave, City
Tickets: Adults $28.50, Conc. & Groups 6+ $24
Bookings:  Ticketek, 0800 TICKETEK,
Show duration: 1 hour   

Madcap, ingenious and half the price of Avenue Q

Review by Adey Ramsel 13th May 2010

It’s amazing what kind of world you can create, and where you can take people, with a flimsy set, lights, an exceptional soundtrack, one man on show and one hidden (mostly) who manipulates one purple puppet. 

Throw in some excellent word-play songs and coarse adult humour – which makes giggling children of us all – and you have an hour’s entertainment that makes a change from the normal offering in this year’s comedy festival.

Immediately suspending disbelief (we are watching a purple puppet after all), we join Australian comic Sammy J as a normal day at work turns into his worst nightmare. He’s a tax lawyer, he could be onto the ‘make-or-break’ bust of his career, but in pursuing it he also has to pursue his friend, Randy for tax fraud.

As plots go, it is full of holes and flimsier than the set, but we’re not here for the drama. Faultless puppetry by Heath McIvor and a quick-fire script, which never lets up, keeps us watching for an hour and thankfully the rude jokes never tire (always a danger when you rely on the concept of a puppet being coarse). Coming from a human mouth and the gags would cease to be funny after ten minutes, but for some reason we just love inanimate objects being rude!

Clever use is made of what set there is and costume changes for both human and puppet are quick and impressive. Full credit goes to the technical guys on this one for slick production values and director Alan Brough must have ruled rehearsals with an iron fist and a stopwatch. 

Maybe cutting a few of the unrelated scenes at the start though could improve pace and bring the show just under an hour. I imagine the hilarious asides and ad-libs could well lead the show into extra time but more often than not they are the funnier moments and illustrate true comic ability.

This is no poor man’s Avenue Q. Indeed if you don’t mind watching just the one puppet, this show is equal to the much bigger Avenue Q – madcap, ingenious and half the price.
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Ha ha, that’s a swearing sock

Review by Simon Sweetman 10th May 2010

Australian comic act Sammy J and Randy is comprised of the "skinny guy", Sammy J (Sam McMillan), and "the purple one", a puppet named Randy (skilfully handled by Heath McIvor). Following up on 2008’s audacious musical Sammy J and the Forest of Dreams (which played at last year’s comedy festival), we have Ricketts Lane, somewhat stripped back considering McIvor has only one puppet to deal with this time. But Randy is, in all senses of the word, a handful.

He and Sammy J live together. The absurd premise for Ricketts Lane takes a while to build, starting off as what feels like a struggling series of skits that seem to be only loosely connected. A shaky 10 minutes edge by and the plot is in place. From there, the adventure really begins, punctuated by songs that seem to be inspired by the wordy comic gems from Tom Lehrer. Sammy J works hard with an energy that is palpable and the way the simple set is used is impressive. [More]
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Dynamic whimsy and wit

Review by John Smythe 05th May 2010

After last year’s phantasmagorical Sammy J in the Forest of Dreams, this year’s Sammy J & Randy in Ricketts Lane is altogether simpler and more domestic, yet no less entertaining. A wonderfully wrought tale of suburban and urban life, it is played out through impeccable performance, puppetry, song, light and sound.

On the surface it’s about a couple of flat-mates in Ricketts Lane, Glen Iris (a south-eastern suburb of Melbourne). Sammy J role-plays an “underpaid, overworked, shit-kicking tax lawyer”. Heath McIvor creates Randy, a purple puppet who has not been gainfully employed since he was thrown from a hovercraft, although he has “seen the world from all angles”.

Normal life involves Sammy – in interesting nightwear – watching Randy sleeping by way of avoiding loneliness (creepily poignant), baking in the kitchen according to Barrack Obama-voiced audio recipes (a special accolade for that mimic) and playing Chebble (a mind-bending blend of Chess and Scrabble). And Sammy brings his tax-return auditing work home.

So far so suburbanly normal except, perhaps, for their tendency to break into songs about unemployed losers, how great Sammy is, saying goodnight, the law … etc. But scandal and corruption lurk within the folders of Sammy’s homework … Suddenly McGinsky, the owner of the now defunct Caterpillar Club, is in a motivated Sammy’s sights.

In his office Sammy sets about picking the scab off corrupt 21st century urban society only to find himself facing a curly moral dilemma: should he be loyal to his mate or do what he has to do to keep his job, not to mention gain promotion and a better lifestyle?   

Their song of mutual verbal abuse is a standout. The court room drama is riveting, not least for revealing why Randy has never vacuumed the study. An audience member is appointed Foreperson of the Jury and gets to read out the verdict …

A segue through prison visiting hours – much meta-theatrical playfulness here – brings us to seven years later when McGinsky’s back in town and true justice can at last be done, albeit by dint of a touch of breaking-and-exiting and cross-dressed entrapment via pole-dancing and strange sexual proclivity temptations.

Then comes the twist, of course, and I’m only giving part of the ending away to say the law is proved to be a whore but at least Sammy J and Randy are back together again: cue uplifting finale song.

The script (not credited, so I assume it’s a collective effort) paints a rich picture of ordinary and extraordinary lives and director Alan Brough (our own NZ export) ensures the hour is dynamically paced in pursuit of strong plot intentions while whimsical byways are wittily explored and topical targets are sent-up en route.

The multi-talented Sammy J is a strong central presence, as in-touch with his audience as any stand-up comic whilst sustaining a credibly conflicted character. His relaxed flexibility belies an extremely focused professionalism that sets the bar high for this comedy fest.

As for the crouching dexterity of the (mostly) hidden puppeteer Heath McIvor, that is something else again as he brings Randy to extraordinary life through a full spectrum of moods and emotions. What’s more he suddenly appears upright as the roly-poly slime-ball McGinsky.

At the curtain call both acknowledge the crucial contribution of Downstage’s House Technician Marc Edwards.  

It’s only on this week before heading to Auckland (The Basement) and there is little else like it in the comedy festival so treat yourselves. You won’t be sorry.


Anna Harcourt May 6th, 2010

HILARIOUS. Quite different to any comedy shows I've seen in Wellington.  I have enormous respect for Heath McIvor, as the complexity of emotion that Randy the purple puppet displayed was astonishing, particularly in the scene where he sobs over his killing of a magpie. Also, spending an entire show crouching, kneeling or squat walking behind a puppet is quite a feat. The man must have thighs of steel.

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