Syn Bar, 14 Bond Street, Wellington

08/02/2008 - 12/02/2008

NZ Fringe Festival 2008

Production Details

If it feels good, it’s probably right.
Blood. Guts. Physical combat. Sex. Hilarity. What more could you ask for?

Broken Cat brings you an original work that explores the most primal instincts of the human being… in a hilarious dark comedy.  

Craig and Nikki’s relationship has hit a lull. One night, a series of incidents leads to their committing a crime fatal to a stranger in the flat. Passion, power, love, hate, life, death, lust all converge in a frenzy of emotion and before they realise the enormity of the crime, Craig and Nikki discover it was just what they needed to reignite the feelings there once were between them.  

Now Craig feels that the only way he can keep Nikki interested in him, is to recreate that moment, when all that mattered was each other. "It’s alternative couples therapy," says Chris Neels, co-director.  

Sex+Murder=Play questions the human need to recreate a moment, in order to experience the same feeling, exploring the power of the human mind in its ability to justify what would normally be unthinkable. Through Craig, the audience experiences the relationship between body, mind and emotion as he is driven by his deepest feeling: love, and primitive desire: sex.


Broken Cat is a new theatre cooperative, set up for young people to showcase their talents and build their skills by creating their own works. As well as working in professional and semi-professional theatre in Wellington and Auckland, the actors/ directors/ technicians/ producers have collaborated together in community funded groups, such as Joe Improv, SGCNZ Young Shakespeare Company and the Young and Hungry programmes. They have formed Broken Cat together to create their own opportunities in the theatre industry.

Sex+Murder = Play has been devised collectively by Broken Cat, from a concept and storyline spun by co-directors, Chris Neels (The Taming of the Shrew, ATC 2008; Nuclear Zephyr, BATS 2007) and Fiona McNamara (Hail to the Thief, BATS 2008; The Hunting of the Snark, BATS 2007).

"Throughout the process we’ve emphasized the importance of using comedy to portray the darker themes. Ultimately we aim to entertain the audience," says Fiona.

8-12 February, 6pm
Syn Bar, 14 Bond Street, Wellington
Tickets: Full Price $15 Concession $12 Fringe Addict $10
Bookings:, or 04 472 9160 

Chelsea Adams - LX design
Max Hardy - Actor
Fiona McNamara - Co-Director, Co-Producer, Publicist
Michael Mercer - Actor, Co-Producer
Joseph Moore - Actor
Chris Neels - Co-Director
Chris Tse - FX designer/ composer
Romy Webster - Stage Manager
Laura Velvin - Actor
Tylah Pratt - Actor, Set constructor   

1 hr, no interval


Review by John Smythe 10th Feb 2008

Murder as an aphrodisiac: a good premise for black comedy.

Unemployed Craig (Max Hardy) and young lawyer Nikki (Laura Velvin) move into a new apartment. He wants to christen it with intimacy; she wants to check all the sockets are working. What’s happened to the passion?

Craig pops out, Dustin the Courier delivers a CD player, Nikki realises he’s rifled her wallet, Craig returns to the confrontation and when he proves a reluctant fighter, Nikki resorts to a cricket bat. Her blow is lethal – and bingo! Over Dustin’s dead body, she’s suddenly horny! What’s more, afterwards (they do take it off stage), she’s keen to make Craig an omelette!

No wonder, then, that when passion evaporates once more – when he has gone 36 days without sex – egged on by his well-meaning drinking mate Dan (Tyler Pratt), Craig resolves to repeat the recipe to recapture the moment … And so it goes: John the bringer of (Christian) good news; Bruce McKay the Sky guy; Uncle Murray, whom we saw at the start about to take off on another exotic trip abroad, now returned …

A bath (also off stage), a hacksaw and a multitude of packing cases come in handy for hiding the evidence but their removal is never mentioned and questions of smell and flies never arise. (It is possible I missed something in the thrust-space setting, given a noisy bar next door and many gabbled or mumbled lines.)  

Hardy and Velvin work hard to find moments of truth in the thin script. Joseph Moore plays all the victims with necessarily broad distinctions, doing OK except for his excruciating attempt to seem middle-aged as Uncle Murray.

Co-director Christopher Neels and producer Michael Mercer play Detectives Nelson and Walker respectively, investigating the mysterious disappearances. It’s their chats at the bar that introduce the psychological concept of cognitive dissonance, whereby when a bad action is repeated enough times it begins to seem normal.

The cops close in, the game appears to be up but no – there’s a twist, which I won’t reveal here. And the packed audience (in a fairly small space) shares a collective awkward grin: aw yeah, good one. Yeah.

What lets the show down is that the ill-researched script feels contrived, the performances look like acting and the staging looks, well, staged. Fiona McNamara is credited as the co-director and co-producer but there no playwright credited and that’s what the reasonably promising material sorely needs: someone to add depth, credibility and the all-important essence of truth.

A subplot would help too, to avoid making it look as if the characters’ sole purposes in life are to play out this one scenario. Something to do with goals in life, perhaps, that this murder business either helps or impedes. Much greater attention to detail is also required in production and performance to compel our willing suspension of disbelief.

While Sex + Murder = Play is the sort of effort we should routinely expect to see in the Fringe, it has become relatively rare to see something so undercooked. At least it helps us to appreciate anew the hidden skills and values we so often and too easily take for granted.


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