New Athenaeum Theatre, 24 The Octagon, Dunedin

16/05/2018 - 20/05/2018

Circa Two, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

17/04/2018 - 05/05/2018

SIT Centrestage Theatre, Invercargill

09/11/2018 - 09/11/2018

Lake Hawea Community Centre, Wanaka

10/11/2018 - 10/11/2018


Production Details


From the creators of 2017 hit Mr and Mrs Alexander: Sideshows and Psychics… Step right up as Rollicking Entertainment celebrates seven of the most notorious stunts in carnie history. A nail-biting experience inspired by the life and times of Harry Houdini.

Escapology, chainsaw juggling, walking on broken glass and other famous feats are performed along with the stories of how… and why they exist. Exciting, terrifying and genuinely funny, roll up and join the dastardly duo of Lizzie Tollemache and David Ladderman. Come laugh, gasp and cheer – the carnival is in town!

R16 unless accompanied by a parent

“Circus Spectacular…. Unforgettable theatrical showbiz” – The Press (NZ)

“Mind boggling territory with distinctive vintage flair” – Hull Daily Mail (UK)

“Edge of your seat, breathtaking fun” – Onstage Ottawa (Canada)

Circa Two
17 April – 5 May
Tues – Sat 7.30pm. Sun 4.30pm
$25 – $39
Book Now!

New Athenaeum Theatre, 23 The Octagon, Dunedin
Wednesday 16 & Thursday 17 May 2018, 7.30pm
Friday 18 & Saturday 20 May 2018, 10pm
$25 / $30

Arts On Tour NZ (AOTNZ) Itinerary 2018

Seven Deadly Stunts  

Thursday 1 November 8pm  
Ashburton Trust Event Centre
Open Hat

Friday 2 November 7.30pm Fairlie
Mackenzie Community Theatre
Adult $20 (14+)
Book: Heartlands Fairlie

Saturday 3 November 7.30pm Twizel
Twizel Events Centre
Adult $20, $10 Student (14+)
Book:  Twizel Info Centre

Monday 5 November 7.30pm Bannockburn
Bannockburn Hall
Adults $25, SuperGold $20, Student/Child 14+ $5
All i-Sites in Central Otago

Tuesday 6 November 8pm Arrowtown 
Athenaeum Hall 
Arrowtown $25 
Book: Eventfinda

Wednesday 7 November 7pm Roxburgh 
Roxburgh Town Hall 
$20 Book: i-site and door sales 

Thursday 8 November 7pm Owaka
Memorial Community Centre
$20 Door sales only

Friday 9 November 7.30pm Invercargill
SIT Centrestage
$25 pre-purchased, $35 door sales
Book: TicketDirect 

Saturday 10 November 7pm Hawea 
Lake Hawea Community Centre
Adult $25, Children $10
Book:  Sailz, OCD Café (cash only)
Mitre 10 Wanaka and door sales 

Monday 12 November 7pm Lincoln 
The Laboratory 
$20 Book:  Over the bar or 03 3253006 

Friday 16 November 7pm Kakaramea 
Kakaramea Hall
$10 Book: or Sth Taranaki i-Site 
Door sales on the night

Saturday 17 November 1pm New Plymouth
Theatre Royal TSB Showplace
$10 (service fees apply)
Book: 0800 842 538 

Sunday 18 November 7pm Putaruru
The Plaza Theatre
Adults $15, Children $10
Book:  The Plaza and Eventfinda

Tuesday 20 November 7.30pm Hamilton
The Meteor Theatre
$17 and $22 (14+)

Wednesday 21 November 7.30pm Onewhero
OSPA, Hall Rd
$25 Book:
Or The Goodness Grocer Pukekohe (14+)

Thursday 22 November 7pm Whitianga 
Whitianga Town Hall
Adult $25, $10 Youth under 18 and 14+
Book:  Whitianga Paper Plus

Friday 23 November 7.30pm Tauranga 
The Historic Village Hall
Adult $24.90, $15 Child under 18 and 14+, Senior (65+) $22
Friends of Baycourt $20
Book: Baycourt Box Office or 

Sunday 25 November 7.30pm Gisborne
Smash Palace
$20 Book:  Under the Radar
In Cahoots with Smash Palace 

Monday 26 November 7.30pm Waipawa 
Central Hawkes Bay Theatre 
$25 GA, +$15 dinner add-on 

Wednesday 28 November 8pm Mapua 
The Playhouse Theatre
$20 Book: At venue and Eventfinda (14+)

Thursday 29 November 9pm Onekaka 
The Mussel Inn

Friday 30 November 8pm Barrytown 
Barrytown Hall 
$20 Door sales 

Saturday 1 December 8pm Hokitika 
Old Lodge Theatre 
$20 Book: Hokitika’s Regent Theatre (14+) 

Saturday 8 December SDS Christchurch
Isaac Theatre Royal  TBC 

Sunday 9 December  MMA Christchurch
Isaac Theatre Royal TBC 

Arts On Tour NZ (AOTNZ) organises tours of outstanding New Zealand performers to rural and smaller centres in New Zealand. The trust receives funding from Creative New Zealand as well as support from Central Lakes Trust, Community Trust of Southland, Interislander, Otago Community Trust, Rata Foundation and the Southern Trust. AOTNZ liaises with local arts councils, repertory theatres and community groups to bring the best of musical and theatrical talent to country districts. The AOTNZ programme is environmentally sustainable – artists travel to their audiences rather than the reverse.

Theatre ,

1 hr

Great stuff for a small community

Review by Sue Wards 11th Nov 2018

This is a show for fans of theatre, history, and the possibility of stunts going horribly wrong: that’s the promise performers Lizzie Tollemache and David Ladderman of Rollicking Entertainment make at the outset of Seven Deadly Stunts (at Lake Hawea Community Centre on Saturday evening) – and they deliver with panache.

Great carnies are commemorated in the show, which celebrates seven of the most notorious stunts in carnie history, from the travelling medicine show and the freaks of Coney Island, to Harry Houdini and Ripley’s Believe it or Not.

Lizzie and David, a remarkably engaging carnie couple themselves, maintain the illusion and tension of the circus sideshow, despite a small audience and a venue definitely not purpose-built for stunts.

Their costumes fit the bill perfectly, and they use modern and traditional music effectively. But more importantly, both Lizzie and David inspire trust while keeping the stakes high – or appearing to.

Nervous laughter and hand-to-mouth gasps are the backdrop as these experienced entertainers build the tension, then diffuse it with jokes. “You’ve paid for the ticket, now take the ride,” David tells a nervous audience member brought on stage for Russian Roulette, the first ‘deadly stunt’. “Is this a good time to suggest nobody tries this at home?” 

Later, David acknowledges the “10,000 hours of practice” required to perform the stunts, whether it’s walking on glass, swallowing an unfeasibly long balloon, or juggling a chainsaw – and while the audience knows there is illusion and psychological trickery, we’re not always sure just how much. (That element alone keeps the trio of teenagers in my party analysing and discussing the show for hours afterward.) 

This is value-for-money live theatre – great stuff for a small community like Lake Hawea, and while there was only a small (but fully engaged) crowd attending this Arts on Tour-sponsored event, if Rollicking Entertainment brings another show south, many more are sure to roll up. 


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Funny, scary, silly, saucy fun

Review by Sarah McCarthy 10th Nov 2018

I had better start out by saying I am veering wildly, gleefully into full fangirl territory at this point – that is to say I would now happily plunk down my money for anything that Rollicking Entertainment chooses to bring to the stage. If Lizzie Tollemache and David Ladderman simply sat on stage and answered their emails I would be there, grinning like a loon, in the front row. 

As it happens I am grinning like a loon in the front row for their Seven Deadly Stunts at SIT Centrestage Theatre in Invercargill. I am also cringing, I am gasping, I am at one point shouting “NO!” and, oh boy, I am squirming. There is a lot of squirming.

Of all of their offerings, this is probably the one that best befits their name – it is a rollicking good show. Not only is the modest but enthusiastic crowd treated to the eponymous seven deadly stunts, but we learn something about their genesis along the way. Far from a dusty history lesson, it reinforces the idea that we are watching two ultimate performers take their place in Carny-lore’s greasepaint and blood-spattered history books. Houdini, Wild West Shows and mystics are all given their dues. And we love it.

Tollemache and Ladderman, as ever, hold the audience in the palm of their tiny Carny hands – appearing to be just as thrilled by the unfolding process as the crowd hanging breathlessly on their every word.

Their banter and ease with the audience make the confines of the theatre blur, it is almost as if you are, instead, standing shoulder to shoulder in a hot little tent with the smell of candyfloss and horses in the air. And while I keep telling myself that these are, after all, stunts, danger is here in the room – not helped by the tension between the pair whenever they share the stage. Tollemache watches Ladderman’s every move, her face still and concerned. 

Seven stunts are rolled out for our entertainment – there’s fire, spikes, chainsaws and a straightjacket. I will never listen to Annie Lennox in the same way ever again.

At 80mins it is the perfect length – any shorter and there would be boos and hisses from the audience, any longer and I think it would be exhausting. But it is, above all, fun. It is funny. It is scary. It is silly. It is saucy. It was old-fashioned glorious entertainment dragged from the sideshow tents of history onto stages throughout the country. It is – and it bears repeating because it is simply true – a rollicking good show. 


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Performed with grace and humour

Review by Sophie Fern 17th May 2018

As the Fortune Theatre closed last month, Rollicking Entertainment’s Seven Deadly Stunts now plays at the New Athenaeum and runs until May 19th.  It invites you into the world of the carnival, the subversive sister act of the already subversive circus.

This is a show full of death defying stunts, with the stories of these same stunts weaved throughout.  It’s a celebration of those who have gone before, some of whom ‘went’ performing the very same stunts that ridiculously talented Lizzie Tollemache and David Ladderman perform.  It is also a celebration of communal experience with everyone in the room on the edge of their seats at the very same time, unable to stop looking, even if some of us are watching through our fingers.

The show starts off gently with some audience participation: a game of Upstairs/Downstairs.  I am quickly delighted not to have won, as the winner becomes involved in a game of Russian roulette that is no less terrifying for being played with staple guns rather than firearms.  Later in the show, another volunteer helps to put Tollemanche in a straitjacket for a Houdini-inspired escape.  Both performers need to be given credit for making the show a welcoming and safe place to participate in.  Nobody is not cool enough to be there. And, of course, volunteers are never put in danger.

My highlight deadly stunts include the ‘Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show’-inspired bullwhip stunt, and the final fire eating duet. The crack of the bullwhip, the end of which moves faster than the speed of sound, fills every corner of the room.  And, before the final fire eating stunt I haven’t realised that fire eating can be both beautiful and hilarious.

I spend other stunts slumped down in my seat, preferring to listen to the reaction of the audience around me than watch the stunt myself, which of course I do. One, where a roofing nail attached to a wooden board is placed in one of four paper bags and the performers slam their hands down on the bag chosen by an audience member, is prefaced by a short video clip of the many times that it has gone wrong for others. Of course it doesn’t go wrong here, but I have no idea how it doesn’t. 

These classic stunts are not new, but they are re-imagined and performed with grace and humour.  And seeing them in person, being there in the room with everyone’s reactions, makes Seven Deadly Stunts a joyful evening that left me buzzing.


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An original and creatively put-together show

Review by Ewen Coleman 21st Apr 2018

Having successfully entertained audiences last year at Circa Theatre, Rollicking Entertainment are back again this year with another original and cleverly devised show, Seven Deadly Stunts, based on entertainment genres of past years.

As the name suggests, it contains seven stunts, many very daring and deadly, that would have been seen in sideshows and fairgrounds over 100 years ago.

The pair that make up this piece of great entertainment are Lizzie Tollemache and David Ladderman and, as with last year’s show, they have done an incredible amount of research into the history of the stunts they perform. [More]


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Alternately amusing and gripping

Review by John Smythe 18th Apr 2018

Ever since people gathered in market places at the mercy of market forces, a certain sector of personage has performed for the entertainment of others in the quest of financial reward simply to survive in the capricious carnival of life. Over time, the public appetite for ever-more extraordinary feats has been met with death-defying skill and mind-boggling illusion concocted in varying measures.

Or, as our favourite ‘carnies’ David Ladderman and Lizzie Tollemache put it, “We take stupid and unnecessary risks for your entertainment.” Are we exploiting their desperate need to pull an audience, are they exploiting our gullibility, or is this a harmless game of make-believe we knowingly participate in together?

The affable charm of David and Lizzie and our tickled acceptance of the wide-eyed way they spruik up their Seven Deadly Stunts show suggests the latter, although their cleverly structured build to the climactic act does put us on an increasingly sharp moral knife-edge.  

Eschewing the loud declarations of the circus ring, they draw us in with fascinating historical commentary as to the origins of each act. Adding what happened to early exponents heightens the trepidation behind our smiles, as do the cleverly orchestrated hints that they’re not quite in control of it all.

Our willing participation is engendered by the ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ elimination game invented by snake-oil queen Violet McNeal, more than a century ago. The victor’s ability to guess heads or tails correctly turns out to be crucial to the choices they make in ‘The Gambling Game’: a variation of Russian Roulette involving six staple guns, only one of which is loaded. While it’s David who risks taking the proverbial bullet, it’s one of us who dictates his fate.

The danger Lizzie faces – literally, at the climax – in walking over, then lying on, broken glass is amplified by microphone: a crackling good stunt. The third stunt sees David accelerate the spectacle by juggling a bowling ball, apple and chain saw – having ensured we fully appreciate their very different properties.  

Lizzie adds risqué chat to the mix as her audience volunteer straps her into a straitjacket and binds her in chains for the Houdini-inspired ‘Escapology’ stunt. And she plays Calamity Jane to David’s Buffalo Bill for the whip-cracking stunt, replete with groan-worthy puns.

The aforementioned climactic act is the penultimate stunt, involving four paper bags weighted with wooden blocks, one of which holds a very real six-inch stainless steel spike. The inherent danger of this smack-down feat is proven with video footage of it going wrong, live on screen, in various parts of the world.

This time both Lizzie and David take the risks – and again it is audience members who choose their fate. Questions of individual and collective responsibility swirl invisibly in the space we share as the stunt plays out. What else can I say? You have to be there.

Playing with fire offers a fitting denouement to the alternately amusing and gripping Seven Deadly Stunts show: a splendid follow-on from last year’s Mr and Mrs Alexander: Sideshows and Psychics. Ladderman and Tollemache have gained a strong following in Wellington with their Rollicking Entertainment shows so don’t delay: there may be the odd seat left. 


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