The Kettle of Allen and Max

The Adelaide, 114 Adelaide Rd, Newtown, Wellington

20/02/2008 - 23/02/2008

NZ Fringe Festival 2008

Production Details

Happiness machine invented, at long last

Born of a wanky discussion including the phrase ‘The Machinations of Happiness’, The Kettle of Allen and Max is an idiosyncratic black farcical comedy that deals with themes of true happiness, life-dreams, and success, as well as playing with such motifs as murder and suicide, in a cheerful, almost light-hearted way.

The Kettle can as easily be taken at face value by a casual viewer or analysed and dissected by a philosopher in search of deeper meanings. This original New Zealand play is being produced and performed for the first time by The Royal Victorian Luncheon Society at Wellington’s The Adelaide pub. 

Allen Prickson is a naive, shut-in inventor without a penny to his name, who has spent the entirety of his adult life living in single-room flat.  Desperate to make his mark on the world he knows so little about, he is determined to invent a device that will change the course of human history, and, more importantly, render his life a meaningful one. 

Allen’s latest device, a machine that creates happiness itself, grows in size and significance over the course of the play until it comes to dominate the space. The Machine serves as a catalyst for the exploration of the underlying question of the play, ‘What is true happiness, and how do we get it?’ 

Thrown into the mix is the unexpected arrival of Allen’s duplicitous childhood Max, a thieving, conniving wretch of a man – just to further complicate Allen’s pathetic life. 

Meanwhile, there’s the incessant intrusions of Allen’s alcoholic landlady Mrs. Grimace, forever searching for the rent that Allen will never pay her, and the constant enquiries of the pleasant policeman, looking for the new local thief – goes by the name of Max, apparently!

While breaking boundaries with experimental genre distortion and kooky design and promotion, the play is also a refreshingly coherent and unpretentious story.

The Royal Victorian Luncheon Society formed principally out of members of the Victoria University Improv club, and include Harry Meech (Actor/Writer/Director), Chris Butler (Actor), Nicholas Sando (Actor/Producer), Mathew Arrowsmith (Actor), and Christie Wright (stage designer). 

According to Royal convention, The RVLS has since written to Her Majesty the Queen of England, requesting permission to use the title ‘Royal’ in their name. Sadly as of the writing of this statement, no reply has been received. 

Harry Meech (Actor/Writer/Director)
Chris Butler (Actor)
Nicholas Sando (Actor/Producer)
Mathew Arrowsmith (Actor)
Christie Wright (stage designer)

Glimmers of potential

Review by Jackson Coe 21st Feb 2008

I can’t say this show was any good: it wasn’t.

Allen Prickson (Harry Meech) is struggling through life in his grotty apartment.  Constantly hounded for the rent by his over-sized landlady, Mrs Grimace (Nic Sando), Allen is surprised when his old friend, Max Thwaxley (Christopher Cree-Butler) returns from abroad. 

Allen informs Max of his secret plans to make a happiness machine, and Max promptly begins stealing parts for said machine from old ladies.  Max’s criminal tendencies soon draw the attention of the police (Matthew Arrowsmith), and then the whole show climaxes when they finally get the happiness machine working.

The script has potential, but would be suited better as a television sitcom.  At times I felt that a laugh track would have been in order.  The show is unnecessarily long, and could do with half the amount of words rather than a ten minute interval. 

Thankfully, the performers are all very confident and comfortable on the stage, which helps soften the plays weaknesses.

The show at least has a couple of redeeming features.  The cross-gender casting of Nic Sando as the landlady Mrs Grimace is one of the plays more bizarre inclusions, which I felt gave the play the quirky edge it was seeking. 

Christie Wright does well with the set design, which I felt was very nicely dressed.  The happiness machine, complete with (quasi-)pyrotechnics, was a well constructed and exciting addition.

The play shows glimmers of potential which simply fail to illuminate.  Were the team to work together again, they should focus on making their play sharper and more concise in order to enhance the comedy.   
For more production details, click on the title at the top of this review. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.   


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