BATS Theatre (Out-Of-Site) Understudy Bar, Wellington

31/10/2014 - 31/10/2014

NZ Improv Festival 2014

Production Details

NZIF Halloween Special – Come in costume! Spot prizes!

An evening of music, dance, story, and spectacle, as the sinister Sylvestro (last seen in 2014 Fringe hit Sketch-ual Healing) assembles a motley assortment of festival favourites and local talent.

Performers include Wellington burlesque sensation Miss Fanciforia Foxglove, musical mad scientist Robbie Ellis, Christchurch cabaret nightmare Gary Starlight, and festival queen Jennifer O’Sullivan, who by this point may be an actual zombie. Grab something dark at the bar and settle in for a Hallowe’en to remember.

Matt Powell is an experienced improvisor, director, and actor with Christchurch’s Court Jesters, and has developed several show formats including Loose Cannons (NZIF 2013) and Space Patrol 5 (NZIF 2014).

Friday 31 October 2014 11:00pm

Part of The New Zealand Improv Festival
28 October – 1 November at BATS (Out of Site)
3 show passes available! Contact the Box Office for more information – 

Bawdiness, tawdriness, mayhem and madness – in the library

Review by Jonathan Kingston-Smith 01st Nov 2014

On a crisp All Hallow’s Eve, beneath a star-scarred sky and beyond the throngs of drunk young folks in Hallowe’en costumes, something wicked comes to the library

It first appears in the form of our leering and malevolent guide, Sylvestro: lank of hair, gravel-choked of voice and chunky of calf. He opens this performance with a spirited and startlingly accurate rendition of Tom Waits’ ‘Reeperbahn’. He also reveals that virtually any sentence can be followed by the phrase “…in the library” with consistently amusing results. 

From there on in we are treated to a group-told tale of vanity, misfortune and woe – involving both shattered mirrors and ill-advisedly placed ladders (kudos to the improvisers for running with both audience suggestions despite Sylvestro’s protestations). It is a cleverly-crafted piece with a nicely existential final twist.

Then one audience ‘volunteer’ (okay, so I suspect that a lot of these people are plants) is treated to a personal, hand-crafted nightmare in a shrewdly-rendered game that I’ve never seen played in an improv evening before.  

Sylvestro lovingly introduces each act as they take the stage, and what a banquet of bitter delicacies we have set before us. There are musical numbers such as the vampire couple, Vance (apologies if I have any names wrong – there is no cast list) and Penny Dreadful, who have decided to sire themselves an heir, setting their fangs upon an alarmingly chipper young dude from Nelson, called Isaac. He has even brought his own cloak. This duet is a lovely number in the genre of ‘spookshow reggae’ (?!). Though the minor chords combined with knee-bending rhythms are initially effective, as Vance correctly points out, it soon veers into cabaret, forcing him to take matters into his own hands/voice to restore the groove.

Dreadful is a highlight of the evening. A striking figure with her colossal red wig and sailor’s vocabulary, she is bawdy, brash and bitter. We are then graced by the spectral presence of a resurrected Gary Starlight (a singular figure kitted out in a silver-swept wig and a natty suit) who sings to us of his addiction to peanut butter and how it cost him his life. In the library. 

The show also features a couple of burlesque strip-teases by Miss Fancifora Foxglove. The first depicts a naive and bookish young woman as she succumbs to lustful urges after suffering the bite of a vampire; the second is an audience ‘lucky dip’ affair. Both are expertly performed, but jar slightly with the overall tone of the show – their fairly conventional titillation sits uneasily next to quips about anal bleaching, mutual douching in rivers and the general sense of swivel-eyed, sexually-ambiguous glee. 

It culminates in a deliciously perverted game of musical chairs wherein the women of the cast – and Matt Powell(tergeist), who reveals a finely-toned pair of legs in a Frank N Furter-inspired outfit – fight for possession of a quartet of male laps. In the library.

The full cast conclude the performance with a vigorous and blackly-hued song about the psychologically-healing properties of ice-cream. “I scream, I scream, I scream for ice cream” they belt as the audience chants along. It is an almost absurd amount of fun.

All the performers do a fantastic job and maintain a high level of energy and commitment throughout. They work together precisely and well. Special credit must be given for not always going for easy laughs (some of the skit-pieces are actually more macabre or clever than overtly funny). Sylvestro is a compelling and engaging presence throughout.

Once again, I have to praise the instrumental talents of Mr Robbie Ellis, who provides atmospheric musical accompaniment throughout – with the odd sting here and there – thus conjuring a fine haunted house atmosphere for the show. In an inspired touch he is also accompanied by musical saw.

Darryn Woods does a superb job of the lighting. He employs an exaggerated and lurid palette, playing to the campy, horror show vibe. Great costumes and make-up too. 

Yup, it is an excellent hour of bawdiness, tawdriness, mayhem, madness and all the other things that make life grand. Sylvestro’s Spooky Cabaret Burlesque is a thoroughly entertaining way to spend the night on Hallowe’en. In the library.


Jennifer O'Sullivan November 2nd, 2014

So glad you had a good time :) I would just like to state for the record that absolutely no audience plants were used in this show (or any other NZIF show). While it was the case that a fair number of the audience were improv practitioners, we prepared no one for their participation. 

Our entire ethos is spontaneity and collaboration in the moment. We have absolutely no desire to rob ourselves or the audience of those moments of surprise and delight. 

Edit: Penny Dreadful wore no wig. Her hair is that magnificent. 

Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council