BATS Theatre (Out-Of-Site) Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington

11/12/2013 - 14/12/2013

Production Details

PlayShop are thrilled to present our early Christmas gift to Wellington, our first ever scripted sketch comedy show. Come wrap up the year and celebrate the festive season with Wellington’s newest improv troupe as we decorate the tree, mill under the mistletoe, and rediscover our true meaning of Christmas.

Witnessour cast of fourdive into sketch comedy as they present an exciting collection of short-form, quick fire jokes, stories and snippets based around Christmas. Sketch Up explores what really stops us from enjoying Christmas. If the endless commercials are getting you down, or you’re struggling to decide what to get that special someone, or even if you don’t know how long you can stand Christmas lunch with Aunty Jen, Sketch Up is the perfect Christmas show for you.

Sketch Up is the ideal present for the naughty and nice of Wellington. So plug in the pine air fresheners, stock up on milk and cookies, and head to BATS Theatre where our merry cast will remind you that Christmas can be a beautiful, serene, joyous holiday, as long as we only do it once a year!

PlayShop constitutes a new generation of Wellington improvisers, drawing from a pool of Toi Whakaari, Long Cloud Youth Theatre and Victoria University grads and students, all with an invested interest in theatre. PlayShop is characterised by intelligence, energy, solid stagecraft, theatricality and emotional honesty. We believe the skills and philosophies of improv can be used to create exciting, risky, accessible theatre of all types.

Wednesday 11th – Saturday 14th December, 6:30pm
BATS Theatre (Out of Site), Corner of Cuba and Dixon
Tickets: $18/14
Bookings: 802 4175 or 
Run Time: 60 mins 

Sketch Up features Will Robertson, Brynley Stent, Johanna Cosgrove, Tom Clarke. Understudy: Simon Haren.

Set & Costume designer: Jasmine Shadbolt.
Lighting designer: Rowan McShane 
Composed by Amand Gerbault-Gaylor
Sound Design by Oliver Devlon

Theatre , Sketch ,

An eclectic range of often bizarre yet always recognisable characters

Review by John Smythe 12th Dec 2013

To add to our Christmas cheer, PlayShop has stepped out of their improvising comfort zone to present a sketch comedy show: Sketch Up. Written by James Cain and directed by Sam Phillips (with Simon Haren), it captures many aspects of a secular and materialistic Christmas with more than one reference to snow and none to summer weather (which I find very odd).

The festive tone is set from the get-go by sfx maestro Oliver Devlin and composer /keyboard player Amand Gerbault-Gaylor, who keep busy throughout, enhancing the mood – ranging from sublime through panicked to scary – and backing the nicely-crafted songs.

Will Robertson, Brynley Stent, Johanna Cosgrove and Tom Clarke play to their strengths – which are many – with an eclectic range of often bizarre yet always recognisable characters. The opening sequence captures the childlike wonder and joy of Christmas – but don’t be fooled: fear and loathing are never far away.

One splendidly played recurring scenario multi-characterises an extended family gathering, irrevocably infected by inappropriate Aunty Joan and a toxic relationship between a couple that put the kids in differing defensive modes. Surprises abound in each visitation. 

Another involves the simple ritual of gift-giving and cleverly brings an audience member into the loop to help capture the excruciating embarrassment of … (you’ll have to go to get it – or not). The titular crackers with their lame ‘jokes’ come into their own here too.  

Cast(e) as the inmates of an old folks home we get hyper motivation to have fun. Two very different Santas vie for their share of the ‘market’. A problematic Son runs expletive-added rings around his attempting to be PC Mother while Dad is absent in Abu Dhabi and Uncle Pete radiates his influence from another place.

Pathos comes with a Santa-hatted dog reliving the joys of Christmas as trust humans … do as they feel they must. And punctuating the sketches are ‘personal’ stories from each of the cast which each give rise to a song.

Cain’s scripts are strong in characterisation, dramatic subtext and conflict – which all four performers exploit to the hilt as the sure directorial hands of Phillips and Haren modulate the flow to pleasing effect.

Jasmine Shadbolt’s set of huge and smaller gift-wrapped parcels facilitates swift re-settings for different scenes, her costume elements sketch in just enough for each character and Rowan McShane’s lighting abets the whole entertaining enterprise. 

Sketch comedy, delivered in revues, used to be a mainstay of the Wellington theatre scene, giving many scriptwriters – e.g. Roger Hall – a place to play around and find their playwright voice. TV comedy took to it for a while and an Auckland style has emerged … But in recent decades, sketch-wise – aside from the specifically political satire of James Nokise’s Public Service Announcements – improv formats have tended to fill the contemporary satire gap in Wellington theatres. PlayShop’s Sketch Up is therefore a very welcome rediscovery of live social satire.


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