SKYDUCK: A CHINESE SPY COMEDY
14/03/2023 - 18/03/2023
18/05/2023 - 27/05/2023
Written & Performed by Sam Wang
Directed by Aileen Huynh
Producers: Sums Selvarajan & Sam Wang
Top Gun meets 007 with a J-Pop backing track!
1993. China launches Operation Skyduck. Captain Yan and Agent Chang are sent to steal America’s most prized flight simulation software, when they find themselves trapped by hotshot NSA agent, Commander Kendrick. His plan? To destroy China’s military ambition once and for all… by infiltrating their dreams!
Skyduck is a bilingual solo show written by and starring Sam Wang, who plays seven hilarious characters in a rollicking tale of international espionage – and half the story is in Mandarin (with English surtitles).
Blending lo-fi with high-tech and utilising projection, puppets, musical numbers, and handmade gadgets, Skyduck deploys all the charm of rough theatre alongside a truly impressive use of technology. Prepare for lift-off.
Suitable for ages 13+
Contains occasional strong language, strobe lighting and smoke/haze effects
★★★★1/2 “A hilarious and nostalgic thrill ride through time and pop culture.” — ArtsHub
★★★★1/2 “A multimedia marvel.” — State of the Arts
“Delightfully funny… I can guarantee you won’t have seen anything else quite like it.” — Audrey Journal
Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre
Tue 14 – Sun 18 March 2023
Tue – Sat, 7:30pm
Sat & Sun, 2pm
$34 – $49
18-27 May 2023
Tue-Wed 6.30pm, Thu-Sat 8pm
BOOKING DETAILS: https://nz.patronbase.com/_Circa/Productions/2315/Performances
Skyduck has received development support from Crack Festival, National Theatre of Parramatta, 25A at Belvoir St Theatre and Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School
Co-Producer: Alyssa Medel
Lighting Design: Kelsey Lee
AV Design: Aileen Huynh & Sam Wang
Sound design: Tauese Tofa
Production Manager D. Andrew Potvin
Publicity & Marketing: Alyssa Medel
Operator: Janis Cheng
Stage Manager & Subtitles: Amanda Grace Leo
Technical Systems: Sam Mence
Graphic Design: Allen Medel & Alyssa Medel
Poster Photography: John Rata
Photography: Lyndon Katene
Theatre , Comedy , Solo ,
A consummate comedian with an unashamedly unique performance brings pure joy
Review by Bette Cosgrove 24th May 2023
With only a few nights left to experience this comedy show in Wellington, I encourage you to find your way to see Sam Wang’s unique, high octane story telling at Circa Theatre.
This rare combination of theatre making is something you have likely never experienced before. If you go to the theatre for pure enjoyment, and want to be baffled, joyous, delighted, confused and definitely surprised, then this is the comedy show for you.
Sam Wang is a mild mannered young Chinese Australian man by day and crazy funny physical comedian by night. You can feel the audience going along on Sam’s fantastical ride, laughing out loud yet experiencing a constant anticipation: what on earth is coming next? As it should be with any spy story.
Wang’s performance offers us a glimpse into his stream-of-consciousness mind in this unique style of physical comedy. As a person he’s as cool as a humble duck swimming along a smooth pond, yet as a performer he is paddling furiously and wildly to get you to where he wants you to go.
With sophisticated audio visual displays, incredible hand crafted props and a matching sound scape, he single-handedly fills the Circa One stage and does all his own character and set changes.
One of the quirkiest elements is that almost half of Sam’s show is in Mandarin, thanks to his two buffoon-like Chinese spy characters. Reading the witty subtitles of these two agents’ dialogue, as they interact, adds another crazy dimension to this fire-cracker show.
When these unlikely anti-heroes go rogue and steal a US air-force simulation game, Wang has the opportunity to show off his considerable character shifting skills.
This show is a high-speed on-stage battle to return the military hardware in the style of every action, military dog-fight or spy thriller we ever loved.
Wang works hard on his articulation to bring us an unlikeable US Agent and an equally iconic Aussie leader of an aerobatic team, among a collection of random characters involved in sub-plots and subterfuge.
One of the most surprising is his ‘skyfalling’ lover – played by a roundly stuffed cushion.
The plot is an unlikely zig-zag through so many elements of stage play, that you genuinely cannot predict any of his next moves. Just like every great spy thriller should be.
He exposes all his passions for spy thriller action movies, anime characters, creative prop making, puppetry and even adds a touch of fight choreo and dubious singing.
There’s a great story behind Wang’s show. It has metamorphosed from his original 20 minute solo work when studying at Te Kura Toi Whakaari NZ Drama School. Everyone in the audience 13 years ago was just as delighted as the audience is now.
Wang had a classic spy action story in his head, a love for K-Pop, 90s musical themes and spy thriller movies. He has now well and truly graduated from the set tunnel basement of Te Whaea all those years ago.
As a young Australian Chinese student, he was banging scrap pieces of wood together to produce unstable looking Mission Impossible style props for his mini puppets to crawl over.
This latest ‘grown up’ version of SkyDuck even references, at one point, Wang’s dreams of becoming an artist because he really wanted to give up studying law and accounting. He made a leap in 2010 to cross the Tasman to study acting, and is now reaping the benefits of never giving up on his artistic dream.
SkyDuck has had many developments and iterations, with help along the way from Director Aileen Huynh, lighting designer Kelsey Lee, production manager Andrew Potvin, subtitle operator Amanda Grace Hsu Hsien Leo and supported by his original tech operator from his first solo Janis Cheng, who back in the operators’ booth for this Circa season.
It received critical acclaim in Sydney and had to meet the challenge being programmed in last year’s Auckland Arts Festival only to be Covid-cancelled before taking flight at last in this year’s Festival (see Renee Liang’s review.
Since it was first hatched over a decade ago, Skyduck has grown along with his performer’s voice. To see Wang’s transformation into a consummate comedian with an unashamedly unique performance is a pure joy. The audience shares that joy by witnessing this work.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
A fun chance to watch a talented performer challenge himself to hit every mark at top speed
Review by Renee Liang 15th Mar 2023
Real-life Chinese spy stories don’t tend to be very funny these days, but Sam Wang’s utterly bonkers one-hander spoof of Chinese and Western action movies gives welcome release to the stress of the news cycle and has the audience rolling in their seats on opening night.
In Skyduck, Sam Wang brings not only his impressive physical comedy skills, but a mad professor-like energy as he unveils an increasingly complex series of machines, hand-built and home-designed. This is combined with digital projection, soft toy surprises and a soundtrack crammed with 90s pop references, as Wang cycles through seven hilariously stereotyped characters that most of us will recognise from blockbuster movies. The script is half performed in Mandarin (Wang is bilingual) but subtitles help the audience keep up.
The plot is simple: two Chinese spies steal a US air force simulation game after posing as noodle karaoke machine salesmen, sparking a Cold war-esque battle between US and Chinese agents. Along the way they are interrupted and/or abetted by a particularly potty-mouthed Australian air commander, a J-Pop star (the first of many instances where Wang unabashedly reveals that he can’t sing) and a love interest mainly played by a cushion.
Throughout, Wang pays affectionate homage to iconic movie moments such as the barrel roll from the Top Gun dogfight, or Neo’s backwards lean in the Matrix movies. Did I say the plot was simple? Wang seems to challenge himself to rip larger and larger plot holes in his script, patching them with increasingly ludicrous devices including the well-worn ‘it’s all a dream’ from Inception and ‘we are all data’ from the Matrix. Every now and then he drops in a bit of meta, acknowledging he’s asking the audience to accept crazy plot twists – but charmingly, assuming we’ll go with them. It’s all part of the fun and maybe some sleight-of-hand from Wang as a writer.
Some time must be devoted to the theatrical machines. These are original set pieces designed and built by Wang, and they are not at all makeshift. Incorporating sophisticated tech elements such as rotating cameras and screens and large pieces that move with the performer, they function (almost) flawlessly on opening night. This is paired with an equally wacky, out-there, innovative and deliberately badly cut digital background – think 90s retro memes.
If I have one criticism it would be that Wang’s character transitions could be tighter, but that may be opening night nerves. Wang has opted for minimalistic costume changes – a wise choice given the complexity of everything else he has to pull off. Anyway, these characters are not meant to be three dimensional: they’re spoofs of archetypes, so even the odd malfunctioning line (smoothly handled by Wang) is comedy gold.
Wang developed the original concept for the show as his graduation solo from Toi Whakaari NZ Drama School, but since then the show has developed through many iterations, working with a talented team including Australian director Aileen Huynh. Skyduck garnered critical praise on its debut in Sydney in 2019. Wang has been waiting a long time (through the pandemic) to bring the show ‘home’ – the show was programmed for last year’s Auckland Arts Festival but fell victim to travel restrictions and then lockdown. Wang, Huynh and lighting designer Kelsey Lee are joined by the local team, production manager Andrew Potvin, tech operator Sam Mence and subtitle operator Amanda Grace Hsu Hsien Leo for the NZ season.Skyduck is a fun night out and a chance to watch a talented performer sweat and challenge himself to hit every mark at top speed. If you grew up in the 90’s, it’s a sweet bit of nostalgia, too. Take a friend and don’t think too hard – enjoy the ride.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer