Opera House, Wellington

13/03/2020 - 15/03/2020

New Zealand Festival of the Arts 2020

Production Details

Flying violins! Speed skating ballerinos! Astonishing musical buffoonery!

SLÄPSTICK is an ode to the timeless comedy of Charlie Chaplin, the Marx Brothers, Spike Jones, and Laurel and Hardy. Described as “clowning glory in [a] mix of music and comedy” (Daily Mail), this production promises the whole family an evening of laughs rooted in the slapstick tradition but with a very modern twist.  

Based in the Netherlands, this company of five world-class performers SLÄPSTICK was founded in 1997 and toured Netherlands’ music venues, festivals and theatres before performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2017 where they won the Spirit of the Fringe Award and were met with five-star reviews, Scottish TV appearances and full halls. Since 2018, Släpstick has been touring worldwide.

A perfect blend of virtuosic musicianship, lung-bursting physical comedy and heartfelt nostalgia in the true “slapstick” tradition, SLÄPSTICK have mastered more than 100 instruments between them to present “a feast for the eyes as well as the ears” (Fest Magazine).

Creative Director Marnie Karmelita:
“This is a piece for 8-year-olds and 80-year-olds and everyone in between. “In a style reminiscent of Bret’s own sense of fun in his work, this slapstick routine will get you up out of your armchair and into the theatre with the whole family.” 

Opera House, Wellington
Fri 13 – Sat 14 Mar, 7pm
Sat 14 – Sun 15 Mar, 2pm  
$19 – $79 (excluding booking fees).  

SLÄPSTICK was founded in 1997 when Ro Krauss, Willem van Baarsen, Rogier Bosman and Sanne van Delft met during their conservatory studies and decided to start a band. The core of the SLÄPSTICK was born and is still intact to this day, with the addition of Jon Bittman.

A budding friendship, combined with the communal quest for new and strange musical instruments and a shared need for laughter led to fresh and interesting ideas. Although they happily plundered music from the existing wells of many genres, they began writing more and more of their own compositions and song texts.

From 1997 onwards SLÄPSTICK performed at various music venues and festivals and in 2005 they made the inevitable leap to the theatre stage. The guys deftly switched between trumpets, violins and musical saws the way a juggler might play catch with a bowling ball, a flaming torch, and, well… a musical saw. A SLÄPSTICK show is a carousel of instruments, always ready to spin off its axis and into a humorous situation, a musical delight, or a touching scene. 

In August 2017 SLÄPSTICK performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where their show ‘Släpstick’ was met with 5-star reviews, Scottish TV appearances, and full halls. This proved the stepping stone for their international success. Since 2018 SLÄPSTICK have been playing across Europe and around the globe.

Theatre , Physical , Comedy , Clown ,

Charming, uproarious and skilful

Review by Lindsey Rusling 21st Mar 2020

Slapstick is a homage to times gone by and the intelligent, hilarious and intricate physicality of comedians such as Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and the Marx Brothers.

A form of physical comedy that involves exaggerated movement and accidental or intentional violence usually due to the inept use of props, Slapstick originated hundreds of years ago as part of the Italian Commedia dell’arte and requires an ability to seamlessly perform complex stunts and uninhibited acrobatics and mime with meticulous timing. [More


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Pure escapism in a time of uncertainty

Review by Jo Hodgson 15th Mar 2020

The tinkle of infectious vaudeville piano greets us as we enter The Opera House for an evening of comedy from the Netherlands group Släpstick. The performers are already tuning up and with classic clowning hilarity, interacting with the audience.

The Släpstick Troupe – Sanne van Delft, Willem van Baarsen, Jon Bittman, Rogier Bosman, Ro Krauss, directed by Stanley Burleson – are a highly skilled quintet of physical theatre practitioners who are proficient in over 100 instruments from Tuba to Ocarina. There are many surprising alterations to the traditional way of playing them and it’s fun hearing what my 7 year old notices and questions about how things are happening throughout the show when they all seem so real. (Disclaimer? No actors and actual instruments are hurt during this performance – I hope)

With a mixed media presentation referencing timeless slapstick greats like Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers and Charlie Chaplin, we are taken through a riotous romp of hilarious skits showcasing this group’s skill and dexterity in this medium. To be able to play instruments out of time and out of tune purposely when one is an accomplished musician is a feat in itself.

The audience particularly enjoys the late 20s ‘comedian harmoni’ barbershop-style quintet with songs like ‘Raindrops are Falling on my Head’ – but in German, ‘Regentropfen Fallen auf meinem Kopf’ – or ‘Uptown Funk’ by Bruno Mars. Once the gag is set up, the collective anticipation of how each singer will be dispatched following their number, and the way it happens, gets the greatest laughs.  

The show is exuberantly anarchic with snatches of poignancy amongst the brilliantly choreographed chaos. Particularly beautiful is the skit of an old man with dementia singingNat King Cole’s Unforgettable. The job of humour is to laugh away the blues but it can also give pause for reflection.

All in all, this is a night of pure escapism in a time of uncertainty by exceptional performers bringing flawless joy to young and old alike.


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