Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Wellington

18/03/2019 - 20/03/2019

NZ Fringe Festival 2019

Production Details

TANT PIS (French for ‘too bad’) is a play ABOUT theatre. Part Murder Mystery, part backstage farce and tipping its hat to Oscar Wilde, Agatha Christie and Shakespeare, the play tells the story of a young director, a rubber chicken and a dead TV Arts Interviewer (or is she?!!).

The play is written by ex-pat Roger Gimblett who began his career with the Fortune Theatre in Dunedin and has subsequently twice won the Australian National One Act Playwriting Competition. We are delighted to be bringing the Sydney cast of 5 over for the Wellington performances.

At around 60 minutes of hilarity this is “an hour well spent” [Crikey Theatre Reviews].

Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee St, Wellington
18, 19 and 20 March 2019
Admission $22.00
Fringe Addict $15.00
Group 6+$18.00

THE WOMAN: Elizabeth Macgregor
THE DIRECTOR: Tristan Black
THE YOUNG ACTOR: Lachlan Edmonds-Munro
HAROLD: Mark Langham
THE ACTRESS: Lib Campbell

Theatre ,

1 hr

All manner of puns, wit, puzzles and confusions

Review by Tim Stevenson 19th Mar 2019

There’s a distinctly bitter-sweet quality to Tant Pis, now on at the Gryphon. The play presents as an absurdist piece, mixing farce, satire and commentary about contemporary Australasian theatre. 

The strongest threads, though, are made up of nostalgia – for older theatrical conventions and manners, for the well-made play, actors with faux BBC / Stratford on Avon accents, Agatha Christie-style whodunnits – tangled up with the seductive allure acting holds for some people. Nowadays, one of the actors says, if you want to cast a Hamlet, you go looking for someone who sounds like they work at the checkout counter at Countdown in Gore (actually, that does sound interesting…) and he means it to sting (in the immortal words of PG Wodehouse).

That’s not to imply that Tant Pis is stuck in the past. There are plenty of bang up-to-date references – Web publishing, cycleways, email banking scams run out of Uganda – in what is effectively an extended shaggy dog story loosely constructed around lost family ties, a very short unfinished play script, a murder (or is it?) and a few other odds and ends. This story forms the platform from which writer/director Roger Gimblett can throw out all manner of puns, comments – satirical, witty and even serious – puzzles and confusions.

We’re not expected to take the plot particularly seriously; despite this, there is a noticeably heavy load of exposition which tends to slow the pace at some points. 

One of the play’s more agreeable aspects is the freedom with which it plays with theatrical conventions around ‘realism’: the actors know they are characters in a play (sometimes), they know that they are caricatures (sometimes), they step in and out of role, they implicate the audience in the action. This is fun, and it also keeps the audience on their toes.

The play’s script gets a solid delivery from a competent cast (The Director: Tristan Black; The Woman; Elizabeth MacGregor; The Young Actor; Lachlan Edmonds-Munro; Harold: Mark Langham; The Actress: Lib Campbell). The stand-out for me, on opening night, is Langham in the role of Harold; full credit to Langham for this but he is assisted by the fact that his role is easily the most rounded of the five on stage. Harold is also the only one who is actually given a personal name.

When he first arrives, the temptation is to dismiss Harold as a facile caricature of the suave, ageing, camp actor who’s a hair’s breadth away from has-been status. There is a bit of that, but Harold also gets a lot of the good lines; for example, he’s the chief spokesperson for the nostalgia / allure threads I mentioned earlier.

The enigma of the night for me is the character of The Actress. She is young, attractive – of course? – and weird, coming across as an escapee from some limbo where old melodramas go to brood over their sins. Campbell plays the part at full ham acting volume, all the time; I don’t notice her dropping out of weirdness mode once, although I might have blinked and missed it. Campbell’s performance is admirable for its pitch, timing, consistency and commitment, but I’m inclined to query the character’s success as a comic conception in the first place.

Tant Pis opened to a thin but appreciative audience last night; you want to wish the team bigger houses for their remaining performances but it’s possible they’ve been unlucky with the show’s timing. Roger Gimblett rightly warned us before the play began that it contains depictions of shooting and deaths on stage. These appear in a comic context, but they still aren’t necessarily what some people will want to see at this dark moment in New Zealand history.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council
Waiematā Local Board logo