Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

02/03/2021 - 13/03/2021

BATS Theatre, The Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

18/02/2021 - 26/02/2021

Auckland Fringe 2021

NZ Fringe Festival 2021

Production Details


Award-winning performance makers Karin McCracken and Meg Rollandi, with Arlo Gibson and Julia Croft present Standard Acts, coming to BATS Theatre in Wellington. After two seasons had to be cancelled due to COVID in 2020, the work will have its premiere in the NZ Fringe 2021.

Standard Acts explores how power manifests in our relationships by watching two performers test dominance, competition and submission in an electric and comedic dissection of power in partnership. Smashing together wrestling matches, stand-up comedy and throwback tunes on a tape-deck, Standard Acts considers how power shows up in the spaces we inhabit and the ideologies we rely on.

Co-creators Meg and Karin call the work fast, fun and physical, with an experimental bent; “if you’re into wrestling, live art, or LCD soundsystem, this one is for you.”

Karin McCracken is an actor and theatre-maker whose work is focussed on gender, consent and violence. Meg Rollandi is a performance designer, researcher and artist working in live-art, installation, video, theatre and dance. Both artists have created innovative and award-winning contemporary performance works in the last few years including Working On My Night Moves (Total Theatre Awards 2019), Yes Yes Yes (Theatre for Social Change, Wellington Theatre Awards 2019), Body Double (Production of the Year, Wellington Theatre Awards 2017).

Karin and Meg will be joined by award-winning theatre-makers Arlo Gibson (Owls Do Cry, This Fragile Planet) as performer and deviser, Julia Croft (Power Ballad, Working On My Night Moves) as director, Oliver Devlin (Binge Culture, Hans Pucket) as sound designer and Elekis Poblete-Tierney as lighting designer.

The team are looking forward to finally opening the work. “After white knuckling a couple of last-minute season cancellations due to COVID in 2020, we are thrilled to finally be premiering in our hometown. Come through Wellington!”

BATS Theatre, The Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington
18th-26th February 2021
The Difference $40
Full Price $25
Group 6+ $22
Concession Price $20
Addict Cardholder $18

The show will then tour to Auckland for the Auckland Fringe, being performed at
the Basement Theatre between the 2nd-13th March.
Tickets are between $18-$38 and can be purchased from

Performed by Karin McCracken and Arlo Gibson

Performance Designer: Meg Rollandi
Sound Designer: Oliver Devlin
Lighting Designer: Elekis Poblete-Tierney

Theatre , Physical ,

1 hr

Classic Drama with Bubbles

Review by Dr Mark James Hamilton 22nd Mar 2021

Classic Drama with Bubbles

Karin and Arlo are friends, says the show promo. Karin McCracken and Arlo Gibson are extraordinary performers, says this reviewer. We get just what is promised: wrestling matches, stand-up comedy and throwback tunes on a tape-deck. But we get so much more.

We witness a competition. The rules are never stated and the complicity is high. Like the best of show wrestling, there is feeling that everything has been agreed. Yet, each time Arlo looks about to throw Karin, the floor’s hardness, the concrete walls and the delicate hostess trolley nearby all make the potential for damage seem very near at hand. Either side of the wrestling floor is a mic on a stand.

Between bouts, each performer delivers repartee that digs deep into the sex and violence that is the meat of Greek myth. They give us informed and eloquent no-holds-barred explorations of the cruelty and passions embedded in the worlds of Medea and Minos. Each time the wrestling recommences, the patina of the ancient world rubs up against the more familiar sphere of pop. The performers grapple to cassette recordings of dancing tunes. There are battles occurring: he against she; Arcadia with MTV; care versus risk. Overall, the gender conflict came most to view for me. Not just because the performers are from each sex, but also because the Greek world of vengeful couples taking retribution is the core of the stand-up competition: who can best champion their myth’s importance. Beyond this understanding, maybe too simple, there is also a delicate dance of fragility and resilience.

The performers both take care of each other as well as both making sure the danger edge is ever there in each act. This is rendered vivid when they swig champagne then play a game with their glass flutes that promises shattering sharp shards everywhere. If I could speak to the direction, my note would be to ensure systematic creation of live art such as this is followed by complex montaging of the actions discovered. I’d like to see the facets all again, not in their methodical progression, but in a more kaleidoscopic order.


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For Women to wrestle with…

Review by Jess Macdonald 15th Mar 2021

There’s a large black square mat in front of us. A small table sits behind it, with a bottle of champagne, two glasses, and a tape deck on top.

Karin McCracken and Arlo Gibson enter the sparsely designed space, both donned in workout gear and knee-pads, and we wait for someone to speak. The anticipation builds while they utilise the deck to play the 70s banger ‘Come and Get your Love’.

Shoulder shimmies turn into full-scale dad-dancing and I feel a smile spread across my face: here is Director Julia Croft’s signature style, redolent of her 2019 production Working On My Night Moves – carefully curated standout tracks and choreographed movements coax the audience to happiness, movement and enjoyment. [More]


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Striking, tightly focused, ambitious but not dense

Review by Mallory Stevenson 21st Feb 2021

Standard Acts is a devised piece by a team of artistic kindred spirits. The four artists credited with creating it – Julia Croft, Meg Rollandi, Karin McCracken, and Arlo Gibson – have all been been making ambitious experimental works over the past decade or so.

McCracken and Croft have previously collaborated on 2017’s Body Double, Rollandi (with Isobel MacKinnon) on 2018’s Actual Fact, Rollandi and Croft on 2019’s Power Ballad: Working On My Night Moves, McCracken (with Eleanor Bishop) on 2019’s YES YES YES. They’ve all tended to focus on similar themes: feminism, sexuality, a bit of applied metaphysics.

It’s the most natural of partnerships. What they’ve created now is a striking, tightly focused play, ambitious but not dense. It portrays a single dynamic between characters named Karin and Arlo, expressed primarily through a repeated game of wrestling. They play literally hundreds of matches, and [spoiler alert] Arlo wins every time.

Arlo is full of desperately nervous enthusiasm, while Karin is cool and calm, responding to each defeat with a genuinely relaxed smile. Is she admirably determined, or just stupid? She seems smart. Arlo’s motivations are just as enigmatic – he seems constantly insecure in his own victory, even when it’s assured. On the surface, all we can see is a couple of friends playing a game.

This dynamic, however memorable, can only achieve so much nuance in such a limited situation. This is mitigated by the commentary of a few spoken sections. These are delivered in very typical BATS-ish forms: stand-up routines and energetic song covers (“Hey” by the Pixies). The former, delivered with great charisma by both performers, have the characters taking turns to recount the myths of King Minos and Medea. This gives fuller expression to their individual personalities, as well as adding some cultural tension.

Arlo misremembers the stories, and if there’s any theme to his alterations, it’s that they make the male characters more helpless. When Karin tells them correctly, the female characters are restored to their origins as monsters of the misogynistic imagination. The song is a big, convoluted howl of lust, full of vague mentions of ‘whores’. These patriarchal dynamics offer some rewarding parallels to the central relationship, however broad.  

McCracken and Gibsons’ performances are defined by an appropriate sort of assured, professional vigour. The fight choreography must have taken an enormous amount of rehearsal, and it shows in the dancer-like mix of control and abandon that both maintain throughout, however much they sweat. Their characterisation through gesture when not speaking, bleeding seamlessly into their delivery of the monologues, is equally impressive.  

They’re ably supported by Rollandi’s straightforward production design, centred around a small props trolley and a wrestling mat, and by Oliver Devlin’s precisely synchronised mix of 80s songs, original music, and added tape machine hiss. The sparse lighting is deftly handled by Elekis Poblete-Tierney, while the clarity with which everything comes off is testament to Croft’s work as director.


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Rivets our attention and stimulates our senses, emotions and faculties

Review by John Smythe 20th Feb 2021

In viewing abiding truths about male-female relationships through a contemporary lens, Standard Acts juxtaposes actual physical wrestling with retellings of ancient Greek myths. (Some elements may also hold true within non-binary primary relationships but here the man/woman conflict is to the fore.)

Why this title? Well, tracing the primal urge actions of men and women through millennia suggests some things are standard behaviour. Not that there is anything sexual in the highly physical wrestling bouts Karin McCracken and Arlo Gibson engage in, although it could be said some of the contortions they become twisted into could give The Karma Sutra a run for its money.  

It soon becomes clear the purpose of the wrestling is to get your opponent’s back flat to the mat. So Standard Acts could relate to the quest for “standing upright here” both literally and metaphorically, in terms of status, integrity and self-esteem.

Karin and Arlo – who adopt no fictional personae in this work – give no quarter to each other in the six wresting bouts. No prizes for guessing who keeps ‘winning’ yet each bout is approached with fresh and total commitment. Yet rather than become predictable, the tension of audience engagement increases as we hope, and eventually barrack aloud, for a different outcome.

Between each bout either Arlo or Karin take to their mic (they have one each) to regale us with alternative versions of how the Minotaur came to be conceived and born, and what Medea and Jason did that led to such a tragic outcome. You don’t need to know these stories in advance, the way they are told is entertaining and vivid, with exquisite send-ups of emotional over-indulgence to alert us to think about what we feel.

Each telling subliminally informs the way we may view the next wrestling bout. There is plenty of time to contemplate the implications – again both in immediate reality and metaphorically. It’s not stage combat as most of us know it, but with prat-fall exponent extraordinaire Julia Croft at the helm as director, we can trust the actors are safe.

(Skip this paragraph if you’re going and want to come at it untainted by my interpretations.) My thoughts include:  Is the repeated outcome inevitable or is it the rules of the game that prescribe it – if so, decided by whom; when and why? Is this a form of social insanity, doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result?  What if it was Aikido, for example, where the opponent’s attacking energy is turned against them – would that produce a different outcome?

After the final bout both grab their mics to belt out the Alt-rock band Pixies number, ‘Hey (been trying to meet you)’ which suggests we are chained to attitudes and behaviours that impede the capacity of men and women to meet on common ground.

Then comes a wonderful twist which I won’t reveal here. Suffice to say ‘standing upright’ is not necessarily the way to ‘win’. There are ways of ending up flat on your back which denote spectacular achievement at a level that surpasses brute strength.

Meg Rollandi’s production design includes a chrome trolly containing items that enhance our sense of anticipation as we await the start of the show. Likewise the business of unrolling and securing the wrestling mat adds to the intrigue as a sense of trust and togetherness enfolds us all.

Oliver Devlin’s sound design and Elekis Poblete-Tierney’s lighting design, operated by Haami Hawkins, complete the comprehensively evolved aesthetic that ensures we are drawn into the theatrical conceit in ways that rivet our attention and stimulate our senses, emotions and faculties.  

As a contribution to our abiding quest to resolve the conundrum of primary relationships, Standard Acts stands proudly alongside Barbarian Productions’ SOFT N HARD (2016) and Brynley Stent and Eli Matthewson’s EXES (2020). While very different in their approaches, they complement each other beautifully. 


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