BATS Theatre, The Propeller Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

05/10/2017 - 14/10/2017

Production Details

A play about a below average band, with above average ambitions.  

“If you’re an artist, you’re a sales person. Make no mistakes. The only person important here is the customer. Every time.”  

Satisfied Customers is the latest play written by Ben Wilson (Wellington Theatre Awards 2016, Playmarket Playwrights B425 nominee) and brought to you by Rumpus Room (Fred Is Cold, Super Clean).

Meet Satisfied Customers, a Wellington based band whose musical skill sit firmly below average. With a drummer who can’t drum, a bassist who can only play the violin, and a lead guitarist stuck in NCEA success stories, The Satisfied Customers are on their way to nowhere.

A passionate parent offers the band an opportunity: write a jingle for a new, unreleased advert and make the big time. The only problem is the Satisfied Customers have no idea what the advert is about. Fuelled by a drive for fame and glory the band comes up with a scheme; write a jingle that could sell anything… ever. And so begins the ultimate quest for fulfilment and the ultimate test of creative integrity.

Theplay is like the love child of Scott Pilgrim and This is Spinal Tap; an odd-ball comedy performed as a farce on New Zealand creative pursuits. The play features live music, band banter, and drug fuelled creative musings. Satisfied Customers is the fourth play for playwright, Ben Wilson, and with the synergy of director, Keegan Bragg (Assistant Director of Long Cloud Youth Theatre Company) and the support by a cast and crew of up and coming New Zealand talent, this play is a must see.

Satisfied Customers asks what the “New Zealand American dream” looks like. What does creative success mean to us in New Zealand?

BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace
Satisfied Customers
5-14 October
TICKETS: $15/20
BOOKINGS: | | 04 802 4175 

Theatre ,

A non-stop barrage of comic material

Review by Tim Stevenson 06th Oct 2017

Funny, fast and furious, Satisfied Customers bursts out of the gate with a hiss of dry ice and some ill-coordinated bashes on the drums, and the band is off and running. Or not exactly running, more like staggering – the eponymous band isn’t great, and the song that opens the show is worse.

It’s supposed to be like that, because that’s the play’s starting premise. Satisfied Customers isn’t much of a band, its one original song is a dog (and they don’t do covers), but the band members still aspire to something slightly more like musical success. Probably. Giving up hope is definitely an option. They all know that there are many obstacles between them and success.

The self-appointed bandleader, Marcus (Ben Ashby) is a loudmouthed, under talented egomaniac. Amy (Adeline Shaddick), the bass player, doesn’t play bass, she kind of plucks her violin instead. Jess (Ingrid Saker) can’t play the drums but is the band’s drummer. Paul (Isaac Thomas), keyboards, can actually play his instrument but is content to play the four chords required of the band’s song.

The main action of the play is triggered by a proposition put to the band by Amy’s dad, Kenneth (Matthew Staijen-Leach). Kenneth, a go-go-go insurance salesman, commissions the band to come up with a jingle for a new product which will pave the band’s way to success. The trick is, the band can’t know what the new product is. And so we have our story line, as the dysphoric, dysfunctional, possibly dystopian band struggles with Kenneth’s commission, each other, and their individual consciences and desires.

As a plot, it’ll do, although devotees of the well-made play – there’s probably two or three left alive in the lower North Island, although there don’t seem to be any breeding pairs – may not find Satisfied Customers their cup of tea. In terms of the script, what makes the play well worth a visit is the non-stop barrage of comic material. Wisecracks; putdowns; musical parodies; topical references dissing famous persons; in-jokes, out-jokes, absurd stoned ravings; wordplay; social satire … They all come tumbling one after the other, and a high volume of shots combined with a respectable hit rate make this a very funny piece to watch (the script would be well worth a read, too).

There’s more to Satisfied Customers than just a string of funny bits. For one example, there’s a lovely fantasy sequence where some of the band members imagine what it would be like to be actually, you know, quite good and playing music they like. Serious themes – artistic integrity versus the quest for success; going with the group or following your conscience – lend extra weight to the back-and-forth disputes that make up much of the play. 

A good script makes a fine starting point for success, of course, but it needs a good cast to deliver it. The play’s cast is more than good, it’s excellent. In alphabetical order, then:

Ben Ashby is more or less required by the script to play with his acting dial turned up to ‘Max noise’ throughout (“turned up to 11” in the immortal words of Spinal Tap). He has the energy and versatility to give us a performance that’s frantically funny rather than just frenetic.

Ingrid Saker makes the most of her somewhat one-dimensional character, which she plays with conviction and plenty of snarling spirit. She also manages to introduce elements of nuance and genuine emotion into her scene with the egregious Sam. 

Adeline Shaddick delivers a strong, warm, sympathetic performance as the band’s resident conscience. She shows off her comic abilities to good effect in the generally excellent stoned scene. 

Matthew Staijen-Leach gets to play three characters (Andy, Sam, Kenneth), and does so with non-stop exuberance and energy. His performance as Sam has an admirably chilly, snaky edge which cuts through the prevailing give-and-take flippancy. 

Isaac Thomas has a mostly quiet, laid-back stage persona that lays a highly effective foundation for his character’s periodic outbreaks of complaint and protest. At one point, Thomas delivers a stoned rave that deservedly earns a long, show-stopping burst of applause from the audience, including your appreciative reviewer.  

We are told that this is Keegan Bragg’s debut as a director. He’s done an outstanding job and not just as a first timer, assuming he can take a lot of responsibility for the tight ensemble work in this performance. Satisfied Customers is performed at break-neck pace throughout; there’s plenty of scope for lines to get lost, actors to end up stranded, the thread of human plausibility to break. The cast never drop a stitch, to their own and Mr Bragg’s credit.

Your reviewer is running out of adjectives, but feels he has to mention the music, credited to the multi-talented Thomas and performed by your actual band members live. Obviously in a play about a band, it helps to have suitable music, and yes, these guys can and do play – badly/well – the music so cleverly provided by Mr Thomas. 

Satisfied Customers is admirably supported by a versatile and ingenious set and effective and smoothly delivered lighting and sound (thanks to the also multi-talented Michael Trigg).


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