The Pear Tree, Kerikeri

24/04/2015 - 24/04/2015

No.1 Parnell Gallery,

25/04/2015 - 25/04/2015

Circa Two, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

31/01/2015 - 21/02/2015

The Famous Spiegeltent, 100 Devon Street East, New Plymouth

16/08/2015 - 16/08/2015



Production Details

Fresh from performances in the New Zealand Festival, Auckland Writers Festival, Tauranga Arts Festival and Nelson Arts Festival, The Demolition of the Century sees author/performer Duncan Sarkies (Two Little Boys/Scarfies/Flight of the Conchords) stage a humorous and sometimes heartbreaking look at families, memories and the fragility of the human mind. 

The Demolition of the Century is an atmospheric stage adaptation of Sarkies’ own novel, accompanied with live music by Joe Blossom. The result is a performance that is an exciting hybrid of theatre, musical performance and spoken word.

The Demolition of the Century performs a short three week season at Circa Theatre from 31 January, before the production heads to London for ‘This Way Up’ – the Australia and New Zealand Festival of Literature and Arts. “The reception we’ve had around New Zealand has been fantastic,” says Sarkies. “It’s so good to be able to bring the show home to Wellington for an extended season before we take it abroad!”

With ticket prices starting from $20, do not miss this exciting piece of theatre from local legends Duncan Sarkies and Joe Blossom.

“The very successful and hugely entertaining transition of Demolition from book to stage is achieved through a series of brilliant vignettes, delivered in an inspired cabaret-style reading by the multi-talented Sarkies, and outstanding musician Joe Blossom (aka Sean O’Brien)… Demolition is a fast-paced, darkly captivating cabaret- comedy, which leaves us fully entertained and tantalizingly close to solving a puzzle.” – Bay of Plenty Times

Circa Two, 1 Taranaki St, Wellington
31 January – 21 February 2015
7.30pm Tues-Sat
4.30pm Sun
To book tickets, go to or call 801 7992

Upsurge 2015 

Venue: The Pear Tree, Kerikeri
Date: Fri 24 April 8.30pm

Venue: No.1 Parnell Gallery, Rawene
Date: Sat 25 April 6.30pm

Theatre , Musical ,

Flamboyant, laconic, witty, wry, dark, bleak, rich

Review by Ngaire Riley 17th Aug 2015

The chance to see Duncan Sarkies perform his own The Demolition of the Century at the Taranaki International Arts Festival is irresistible. Somehow I’ve missed all of Duncan Sarkies previous work, even Scarfies. Thank goodness for the opportunity to see so many great performances close to home. 

A slight man in a brown suit and fedora hat enters, looking rather Jewish New York and quaintly timeless.  He introduces himself as Duncan Sarkies and explains that he will be reading extracts from his novel called The Demolition of the Century.  He’s older than I thought he would be.

So, this show is a collection of first person narrations or, as Sarkies says, “Pieces of a puzzle,” as he flashes the book.  Presumably we can buy it afterwards.  

The narrations are flamboyantly presented with quirky flourishes by Sarkies and superb accompaniment by Joe Blossom.  Although characterisation for the different voices and characters is not sustained, which causes some confusion to begin with, the stories and anecdotes are intriguing and compellingly told.

We begin with a laconic account by an insurance investigator discussing the life of a stud horse and his deductions about its suspicious death. There’s a version of a counselling session and the sharing of a plot by William McGinty, kept against his will in a retirement home. Then there’s an account from the horse, and others.

The stories are linked by songs from Joe Blossom, which he supports on guitar or piano. His diction is crystal clear. Songs such as ‘You’ll Have to Wait til Yesterday’s Here’, and ‘All Tore Up’ develop and enrich the personalities, problems and universalities. 

The tone of the piece moves from witty, wry observation to darker, bleaker emotional landscapes. Although there are some links between characters and points of view, the illuminations feel like moments where someone is caught in a sweep of light, they talk to us until the page is finished and tossed, the music takes over and the light sweeps on.

It’s a rich 60 minutes, and yes, I buy the book afterwards.


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Cabaret-style enhances the reading

Review by Alan Scott 25th Apr 2015

I am not sure if it is serendipity or deliberate intention on the part of the artistic director of the Bay of Islands Arts Festival, but there is something marvellously ironic about the staging of Duncan Sarkies’ Demolition of the Century: a show comprising the reading of extracts from his novel of the same name, accompanied by music and songs from Joe Blossom. For the venue is the Pear Tree Restaurant, outside of which still blooms New Zealand’s oldest pear tree, and just across the way is Kerikeri’s historic Stone Store, the oldest surviving stone building in the country. 

Inside the Pear Tree, by way of contrast, Sarkies, in the guise of Spud, a central character in the readings, is regaling us with the destruction of The Century Cinema, one of the great cinema palaces built of brick in in the early part of the nineteenth century. Spud is a man in love with his wrecking ball, the aptly named T-Rex; a man whose marriage is falling down as surely as the cinema. 

Demolition of the Century is a hard show to categorise. On the one hand it is vignettes of moments in the lives of four central characters presented through readings from the pages of the novel; pages which are nonchalantly tossed on to the floor of the stage as they are finished. On the other, it is a theatrical presentation where the readings are enlivened by Sarkies’ actor-like approach to text and magically enhanced by Blossom’s evocative singing and playing. Both approaches do bring out the fine and distinct quality of Sarkies writing. 

This fusion of two different presentation styles is both a strength and a weakness of the show. Sarkies’ skill at reading brings the pieces vividly to life. His voice is rich and varied in tone. He knows just when to hold a pause and how to phrase a line, and how to mine the text to bring the emotion of the piece to the surface. He holds the audience’s attention wonderfully but then his eyes slip away to the lectern to look for the words on the page. Or he fills his wine glass at the end of a piece and wets his vocal chords for the next extract. 

Joe Blossom, who performs the music and songs that Sarkies was listening to when he wrote the novel, is more than the mere accompanist to the readings. His music and singing both heighten and amplify the text. His refined work helps lift the reading to the point where its theatre begins. Yet, at times, you wish he would engage more with the audience and the words of the songs in a more theatrical manner. 

It is a cabaret style of presentation, I guess, which means, for me, the whole never quite reaches the sum of its parts. At the same time, it was good festival fare where quality New Zealand work is presented in a distinctly creative manner.


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Sarkies goes for dark and funny

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 03rd Feb 2015

The Circa 2 stage appears to have been turned into a small and neatly arranged recording studio for its current show which is a book reading of extracts from a novel by New Zealand writer, film maker, playwright, short story writer, and stand-up comedian, Duncan Sarkies.

The novel, published in 2013, is The Demolition of the Century, which is, apparently, not at all apocalyptic as the title suggests. The Century is an old theatre, which Spud, a demolition contractor with an ancient wrecking machine appropriately nicknamed T-Rex, reduces to rubble.

The central character is Tom, an insurance investigator who seems to have lost his job, his ex-wife, his socks and his 10 year-old son. There is a film noir feeling to the cover of the novel (on display on stage as well as post show) and to the cover of the theatre programme with a Sarkies looking very much like a down-at-heel investigator whose life is a mess.

The film noir-ish feeling is also evident in the author’s dry, sardonic and often humorous style. It is further heightened by the author’s decision not to cover the whole story but to present vignettes that are “slices of lives, self-contained…that will take you on an emotional journey that will give a few laughs, the odd tear, a pinch of pathos…” In other words, a ninety minute trailer.

The extracts are dramatically supported, enhanced and enlivened with the excellent performance of musician Joe Blossom whose music was often played when Sarkies was writing his novel. Three of the songs performed are by him and the other six he performs are by the likes of Nina Simone, Gene Vincent and John Fahey.

Though sometimes it is hard to pick out the lyrics (Circa 2 is a very small space for so much amplification) the music, particularly during the vignette about a nightmarish journey through the deserted theatre, is impressive and in tune with the writing, as is Jason Morphett’s murky lighting throughout the performance. 


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A tantalising taste of subjective human experience

Review by John Smythe 01st Feb 2015

The way Duncan Sarkies illuminates the human condition in The Demolition of the Century is somewhat redolent of the Beat Poets and fiction writers like Raymond Chandler; he writes Kiwi noir. His onstage persona suggests a Kiwi cousin once removed of Leonard Cohen. Sarkies is the better singer, though.  

Not that he’s here to sing. That primary role is assigned to vocally versatile Joe Blossom (aka Sean O’Brien): as slickly pristine in his presentation as Sarkies is shambling. The composer of three of the show’s nine songs, Blossom employs an electronic keyboard, electric and acoustic guitars and a row of effects and loop pedals to represent the music Sarkies was listening to while writing his idiosyncratic novel (published in 2013).  

This stage presentation – Sarkies at a stand-up mic, reading excerpts, littering the stage with pages as he discards them; atmospheric noir lighting designed by Jason Morphett – offers a taste of four key characters and their off-centre lives. Subtle changes involving a fedora, a jacket and a pair or spectacles help to distinguish the characters.

“Yes, it’s all part of a much larger jigsaw puzzle,” Sarkies advises in his programme note, “but I won’t be giving you enough pieces to work it out, so just relax and enjoy the mystery.” By way of a prologue, he reads the blurb from the back of his book.

While the novel opens with insurance investigator Tom Spotswood waking bewildered in a hotel room (the image that sparked off the whole creative journey, I believe), Sarkies takes his theatre audience straight to the paddock in which Tom rumbles a scam involving a dead stud stallion called Fire Chief. A vivid scene, it sets the disreputable tone.  

We are introduced to Spud as he suffers the trial of a marriage counselling session, in which facilitator Brenda and Spud’s wife Kimbo draw the authorial short straws. Yet we are free to empathise with their pain too. The account of Spud and Kimbo’s joy at an Alice Cooper concert is a gem.

William McGinty’s abortive attempt to escape the confines of the retirement village where, he claims, he is being kept against his will, is as poignant as it is funny. The relevance of this – of his name – to the bigger picture is lost unless or until you have read the novel.

An eerie, mysterious, possibly magic-realist tone creeps in as we discover Spud’s job – his commitment to which is a bone of marital contention – is demolition with his beloved ‘T-Rex’: specifically of The Century Cinema, the last great brick building in town. And it’s only when I find, online, Shane Gilchrist’s 2013 Otago Daily Times interview with Sarkies that I realise the town is Dunedin, where The Century Cinema was indeed demolished in 1994. Bright light, deep darkness and Spud’s mention of Tom add to the disturbing intrigue … There are unexpected links in the jigsaw.

A return to Tom in the hotel room brings his lost 10 year-old son Frank into focus. And it’s Frank’s perspective, recalling the night Tom told him a bedtime story, at 2am, about what happened to a racehorse, that brings the vignettes to a book-ended conclusion. Blossom and Sarkies in duet close the show with Nina Simone’s ‘Seems I’m Never Tired Loving You’.

The storytelling is so entrancing, and the music so evocative, I could swear I have seen the scenes and actions described. The instrumental amplification fights with the lyrics at critical moments (do they have foldback speakers on stage or are we being blasted so they can hear it?). And Sarkies could work a bit more on his dancing.

Those quibbles aside, The Demolition of the Century – as produced by Show Pony’s Adrianne Roberts with Brita McVeigh and Kate Marshall as creative and music consultants respectively – is a tantalising taste of some very real aspects of readily recognisable, yet often buried, subjective human experience.

Of course you can buy (cash only) the full text ($30), and Blossom’s 12-inch vinyl Nocturnes ($20), in the Circa Theatre foyer after the 70 minute show. And if you have already read it, you’ll get the benefit of the author’s actual voice and echoes of his musical muses.


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