Rose Centre Belmont, Auckland

07/03/2013 - 16/03/2013

Production Details

The hilarious comic revenge tragedy from the master of comedy

“Crude, clever and killingly funny” ~ Daily Mirror

North Shore Players presents Ben Elton’s first West End success and 2nd comedy play. The popular English-born comedian, writer and director, is well-known for his TV writing credits including The Young Ones, Blackadder and The Thin Blue Line.

Although first performed in 1991 at London’s Haymarket Theatre, Silly Cow, is still very relevant in today’s celebrity obsessed culture and will keep you either laughing or on the edge of your seat throughout.

‘I trust all editors to be dirty, duplicitous little weasels and not one has ever failed me!’ 

Phone hacking? Super injunctions? Elton focuses on actors, the price of ambition, critics and ‘journalistic liberty’ in this astutely observational ‘comic revenge tragedy’. His dry satirical view on the slick and savage world of the tabloid press portrays a protagonist, Doris Wallace, who has clawed her way to celebrity success as a merciless and vicious critic: “I’m the nasty cow who slaughters the sacred cows.”

She is on the verge of a glorious venture in TV. Moreover, she’s not going to let anything get in her way; not even the “silly cow” suing her for libel. After the case goes to court, Doris naturally believes she has won but has she? The course of events that follow is hilarious, and at times cutting, but will keep you laughing until your sides hurt.

Producer, Jonathan Callinan, also playing the role of sleazy editor ‘Sidney Skinner’ added, “The script has some hilarious set pieces, plenty of sides-plitting one-liners and five brilliant characters.”

This is the first production staged by North Shore Players and is an ideal summer’s evening of entertainment providing the very best of Elton’s comic stage work. Come along, support some local new talent and indulge in some of the funniest theatre you’ll experience this year!

Just be warned beforehand; Silly Cow contains adult-esque humour and is not suitable for young children or those offended by Carry On-style double entendres.

Silly Cow Season:
Thursday 7th – Saturday 16th March, 8pm at The Rose Centre, Belmont.
Matinee: Sunday 10th March at 2pm. (No Mon performances.)
Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for seniors and students. Group discounts for 20 or more seats are also available.
Bookings can be made by contacting The Rose Centre on (09) 445 9900
or via email and online via Eventfinda.

Sidney - Jonathan Callinan
Doris - Claire Buckley
Peggy - Claire Wingfield
Douglas - Matt MacDougall
Eduardo - Dane Dawson

Producer:  Jonathan Callinan
Stage Manager:  Paul Roukchan
Set Design:  Lynne Davis
Set Construction:  Phil Davis
Lighting Design/Operation:  Mike Clarkin
Sound Design:  Mike Clarkin
Publicity:  Jonathan Callinan
Billboards:  Sherry Ede
Programme/Designer:  Jonathan Callinan 

More is too much

Review by Adey Ramsel 09th Mar 2013

How do you review a piece of theatre that, as one its main themes, constantly makes the point that reviewers who give bad reviews simply, “didn’t understand the piece”? Unfortunately it’s the piece wherein lies the fault, though not exclusively. 

Ben Elton’s play say’s everything about Ben Elton that thankfully seems to have disappeared: the loud, brash, dominant, one-sided point of view that spits at you from the stage. Twenty-something years ago, I’m not sure of the ratio but I’d bet more people preferred what Elton had to say than who he was as the person saying it. He was the gob of his time; the megaphone against everything that wasn’t him or his mates, and no one was sacred. All came under his verbal scalpel and he shot from the mouth like a bull escaping from the abattoir gate.  

Time, thankfully, has honed his writing skills. He can wound with as much venom as ever, but he’s discovered irony, subtlety and that gorgeous idiom, ‘less is more’. 

Silly Cow is not less, it’s more. Too much more. I think Elton’s view when writing this script was, if less is more, just think how much more, more would be! 

Written for Dawn French and first produced in 1991, it revolves around Doris Wallis, a columnist who wields her vicious pen on unsuspecting celebrities. The script has French all over it and it’s hard to see past that. Written to suit the size of her mouth, figure and talent for word play, it’s more or less a one-woman stand-up tirade loosely wrapped up in a revenge plot that you can see coming from the first plot point Doris drops on the floor in scene one.  

The first Act is all set-up.  Any decent audience will quickly realise that something is going to come from all these random stories of minor celebrities she has destroyed over the years. [Spoiler alert...] In Act Two the pay-off arrives, though by now as an audience we could tell it where and when to enter. These aforementioned victims of Doris’ verbal stingrays suddenly reveal themselves as having being part of her life for months, planting the seeds of revenge which tonight, just because we are there no doubt, they decide to carry out. […ends]

It’s dated. A play can be kept in the 1990s, it can be kept in its country of origin but it feels like there are too many laughs dependant on topical references to keep the suspension of disbelief going here. Items such as ‘Wogan’, ‘RSC’, ‘the National’, ‘Alan Bleasedale’, ‘Derek Jameson’ and ‘Fergie’, do tend to lead to holes in the evening.

The cast of five do very well to keep going through the script that has huge passages of dialogue and Director Lynne Davis has done her best to keep the action and cast moving, but at the expense of character and realism at times. A well thought-out and light-friendly set delivers a great backdrop – indeed all production values in this one are seamless.

Claire Buckley as Doris has the most to do with a character that no one is going to like unless, as stated before, you are Dawn French. It’s a comedienne’s role but Buckley is able to raise laughs from the insulting wit and never falters in her energy and drive for the two hours. 

Claire Wingfield as Peggy switches between her two roles with aplomb and distinction but along with the remaining three – Jonathan Callinan, Matt MacDougall and Dane Dawson – they are nothing more than foils who fight for their time in the spotlight. Thanks to the plot, each play two roles but all seem to be more comfortable, interesting and relaxed in their second, and disappointingly much shorter, roles. When they are ‘acting’ their roles they seem to be acting too much.

Or is that the point and I “didn’t understand the piece”?


Stuart Grant March 15th, 2013

Many's the review of Cloud Nine by Caryl Churchill, for example, where the reviewer has revealed character pairings without the experience of subsequent audiences being spoiled. It's not a new thing. Goodness knows I can't agree with every review I read, but I would defend any reviewers right to write, even if their material might "leave me vomiting just a little bit in the back of my throat" (apologies to Taika).

Perhaps some people may wish to set up a Theatreviewreview site, where the intricacies, techniques and devices of reviewing performing arts could be constructively critiqued...

Editor March 11th, 2013

Despite all its apparent failings, one thing this site will not succumb to is censorship. Corrections, yes; censorship, no. The spoiler assertion does not wash with me; for me, the review indicates a dramatic structure but reveals no details of who does what to whom and why. Hopefully the play/production has much more to offer that what's mentioned above. 

That said, I know the plots of some classics very well and it does not prevent my enjoyment of a new production. 

JC2013 March 11th, 2013

Judging by the public comments made (bar the editor's input) it is clear this review will spoil it for others going to watch the show. In this respect, one hopes the editor does the right thing and has it removed immediately. A real shame that the critic has chosen to give us all far too much of the plot and insult the public by giving the twist away!!

Putting [Spoiler alert...] in front of some text does not STOP the audience reading it especially when the alert should equally be applied to the final paragraph!

JC2013 March 11th, 2013

**A response to the editor comment above**

AT NO POINT in the programme does it say each character has 2 roles - that is up to the audience to deduce for themselves, not your arrogant critic to inform them before they've even had the opportunity to watch it!
I'm pretty confident that's the point Marie was making. Again, another important point lost .. seems to be a recurring theme for people associated with this website? 

Editor March 11th, 2013

I am advised that this was in the programme for Silly Cow:

"She is ready to celebrate her victory in court when things begin to go wrong: television materials are missing, a pal she double crossed wants revenge, her accountant is about to pull a fast one and those she has defamed in her column tie her to a chair during her show and dish out the kind of humiliation she inflicts on others."

This gives much more of the show away than the review does. 

There are five people in the show. By the interval they have all been on. If her 'victims' tie her up etc etc etc in the 2nd act then it can only be those that have already been on - there is no one else.  

Marie Smith March 10th, 2013

I have no idea why any reviewer would give away the ending of the play.  Even if as he said that it was obvious.  Did he even consider it may have just been obvious to him and he has now ruined it for those of us who didn't know the story?  I seriously think you should consider reworking this review so the ending is not given away.  It seems to me to be the height of arrogance to write that you don't like it, give away the ending and ruin it for everyone.  Totally unimpressed.

Maisie March 9th, 2013

I attended the opening night of 'Silly Cow' and as an ex-pat i thoroughly enjoyed being taken back to the 90's - as a mixed group of Kiwi's, Brits, Croatians and South Africans we all left commenting on the brilliant one-liners, and great acting - many thanks to all involved it was a thoroughly enjoyable night out - that has reiginited our interest in theatre.  

JC2013 March 9th, 2013

A very average review with obvious inaccuracies. This play was set in the early 90s NOT the 80s as mentioned in the programme (This has now been amended above).  Indeed, there are many references that audience members may not recognise, given the time of the play HOWEVER the underlying theme of this play is the relationship between critics, actors and their own ambitions which is still very appropriate today!

This is a very easy play to watch, digest and enjoy as the mayhem unfolds contrary to what this review would suggest. Moreover, Ben Elton's humour within the script, whilst crass, is refreshingly witty, honest and full of imaginative dialogue. Lots of positive feedback from the first 2 shows and last nights performance had the audience clapping the cast .. 5 minutes before the end of the play such was their amusement. This is Ben Elton's funniest stage comedy and guarantees that the audience members leave with a wide smile on their face with lots of interesting and current discussion points .. an important observation omitted from this review.

More accurate information about the play can be found at

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