The Magic Chicken

Concert Chamber - Town Hall, THE EDGE, Auckland

09/07/2012 - 14/07/2012

Te Papa: Soundings, Wellington

11/03/2013 - 16/03/2013

Theatre Royal, 78 Rutherford Street, Nelson

29/07/2012 - 30/07/2012

Capital E National Arts Festival

Production Details

The Magic Chicken delivers egg-centric fun for all ages this July! 

Monday 9 – Saturday 14 July, 11am & 1.30pm, the Concert Chamber, Auckland Town Hall

Time Out Theatre has Theatre Beating cooking up a pastiche of hilarity when their theatrical delight The Magic Chicken hits the Concert Chamber at Auckland Town Hall for one week only these July School holidays.

All of the performers are exceptional in this elegant, slapstick clown show, which bounces from moment to moment like a well-choreographed dance. – Express Magazine

Mixing magic, mime, puppetry, slapstick, soup, breakdancing and live music together in a big theatrical cauldron The Magic Chicken produces a potion sure to knock the socks off both kids and adults alike. Watch out for flying kitchen tools, airborne food and slow-mo chase scenes as Toot & Collins, two half-baked chefs, try to save Ethel Heihei – the magic golden-egg laying chicken – from Evil Eric.

Like Shrek, Monsters Inc and Finding Nemo, The Magic Chicken appeals to both children and adults with plenty to delight both audiences. – NZ Herald

It looks like another quiet day in the Seussian kitchen, until the arrival of an unexpected feathery visitor. This clucky young lady has soon has the besotted Toot wrapped around her wing tip, but a customer with rather malicious taste buds soon stirs the situation up into a casserole of confusion… the orders are coming thick and fast, but can the dumb waiters stop the caper from turning to custard?

The Magic Chicken is a delightful concoction that serves up equal portions of fable, surreal cartoon, slapstick and silent movie. – Metro

Created in 2004, and performed until 2006, The Magic Chicken received rave reviews as it toured New Zealand and now these theatrical favourites are back and hotter than ever. Six years later the team has come together again to take The Magic Chicken to the world.

Under the production stewardship of Arthur Meek, Theatre Beating restages, redesigns, and perfects The Magic Chicken for local and international audiences. Performed by Trygve Wakenshaw, Barnie Duncan, Jonny Brugh, Mark Clare and directed by Geoff Pinfield, Auckland’s award-winning Theatre Beating are hitting the road throughout July from Auckland to Kerikeri to Westport.

Bronwyn Bent, Time Out Theatre producer, is very excited about the calibre and experience each member brings to the production “This is an amazing group of award-winning performers producers writers and directors who bring national and international experience to produce a fantastically funny show, and we are lucky enough to have them perform at the Concert Chamber. This show really is one not to miss”.

I enjoyed The Magic Chicken for the same reasons that I still enjoy the Muppets: great music, wonderfully stupid slap-stick humour and the notion that no matter how many times our hero gets shoved in the oven, everything will be alright in the end. – Craccum

Accompanied by live music, this hilarious mix of magic, mime and music with slapstick humour, break dancing and puppetry is a riot for both kids and adults alike. Don’t miss thisgastroCOMIQUE delight!

The Magic Chicken, created especially for 7 – 12 year olds, will be performed at:
The Concert Chamber, Auckland Town Hall
from Monday 9 – Saturday 14 July
at 11am & 1.30pm.
All tickets are $15 (plus service fees) and available from the Aotea Centre Box Office or 0800 BUYTICKETS or

The Magic Chicken  

2012 National Tour 

1 July 2012, 10am and 2pm
Clarence Street Theatre
59 Clarence Street, Hamilton West 3204

3 July 2012, 1pm and 4pm
Hawke’s Bay Opera House

101 Hastings Street, South Hastings 4122

5 July 2012, 10am and 1pm
Theatre Royal
92 – 100 Devon St West, New Plymouth

9 – 14 July 2012, 11am and 1.30pm
The Concert Chamber at the Auckland Town Hall
303 Queen St, Auckland

18 July 2012, 11am and 6pm
Turner Centre Kerikeri

43 Cobham Rd, Kerikeri

20 July 2012, 11am and 6pm
Forum North Whangarei

Rust Avenue, Whangarei

22 July 2012, 2pm
Dargaville Town Hall

37 Hokianga Rd, Dargaville

25 July 2012, 6.30pm
Ashburton Trust Events Centre

211 Wills Street, Ashburton 7700

27 July 2012, 6.30pm
NSB Westport Theatre

105 Palmerston Street. Westport

29 July 2012, 6pm
30 July 2012, 11am and 6.30pm
Theatre Royal Nelson

78 Rutherford Street Nelson 7010 


Education Dates: Mon 11 – Fri 15 March
Public Show: 11.45am Sat 16 March
Venue: Soundings Theatre
 7 – 14 years
 50 minutes

Barnie Duncan - Actor, Co-Creator
Trygve Wakenshaw – Actor, Co-creator
Jonny Brugh – Actor
Mark Clare – Actor. 

Brad Knewstubb – Designer
Andrew McMillan - Sound Design/Composer

Geoff Pinfield – Director, Co-Creator and Co-Producer
Arthur Meek – Storyliner, Co-Producer
Bronwyn Bent – Time Out Theatre producer  

50 mins

Meticulously timed brilliance

Review by John Smythe 13th Mar 2013

The question that always arises with a slapstick clowning show is, is it about something more that showing off slapstick clowning skills? The answer regarding The Magic Chicken is a resounding “Yes, there’s more!” 

Given I see it on the same day the petition opposing asset sales is delivered to parliament, it seems obvious that it is about the foolishness of selling off good income-earning assets for short-term gain.

The titular chicken, which happens by this restaurant on yet another quiet day, lays golden eggs in good-old folk-tale fashion. But when a customer turns up, and Chicken is there on the menu and that’s what he chooses, what are the Chefs supposed to do?

If Toot (Barnie Duncan) is the short order chef then Collins (Trygve Wakenshaw) takes on the tall orders. But the charming Chicken (a hand puppet animated by black-clad Jonny Brugh, whose presence is quickly forgotten) prefers taking food from Toot, possibly because Collins was reckless with the first-laid egg.

Panic and mayhem ensue when Evil Eric (Mark Clare) arrives and despite being distracted with a fine wine and the pizza option, it’s chicken he wants. The full range of human emotions is traversed as mishaps, chases, disasters, miraculous saves and victories are played out – sometimes in splendid slo-mo – with meticulously timed brilliance.  

A live cartoon soundtrack, composed by Andrew McMillan, is provided by John Bell and Jeff Henderson. And it all plays out on Brad Knewstubb’s splendid storybook set with multiple doors – including two into the ever-consuming oven. 

This, by the way, is the third Capital E National Arts Festival show to spray its young audience with water, much to their boisterous pleasure. Was it a thematic prerequisite, I wonder, or is it some sort of harmonic – or rather aquatic – convergence?

Unlike The Man The Sea Saw, there is no need to coax applause and cheering from this audience. Their appreciation is genuine, loud, excited and heart-felt.

The Magic Chicken is playing two schools shows per day during the week and there is just one chance for the wider public to see it: Saturday 16 March, 11.45am.

Treat yourselves. 


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Delicious clowning, miming and puppeteering

Review by Gail Tresidder 30th Jul 2012

Two hopeless characters where cooking is concerned, very likely the worst chefs in the world, Toot (Trygve Wakenshaw) and Collins (Barnie Duncan) own an unsuccessful short-service bistro. Its menu is pizza, chicken and sweeties. 

Times are tough – understandable with their lack of culinary prowess – and they have one customer, the dastardly Evil Eric, played by Mark Clare, who waits, hopefully for something to eat. On to the scene comes a chicken, just in the nick of time to save the day, and not just any old chicken but none other than Ethel Hei-hei, a special bird that can lay golden eggs. 

As Evil Eric waits to be served, while all manner of pandemonium breaks out in the adjacent kitchen, he reads of Ethel’s circus escape and the reward for her recovery.  He sets out to catch her, Barnie wants to cook her and Collins, who is smitten, wants to make her a bed in the colander.  

My eight year old review adviser, Ethan, joined Collins in falling in love with this cute, enchanting yellow and pink chicken.  Anthropomorphism rules because for us both, and though not even a real flesh and blood bird, she is the star of the show.  Her nimble and creative puppet-master, Johny Brugh, masked as a ninja in top to toe black, imbues Ethel with the sweetest personality as she keeps tags on the doings in this disaster of a restaurant kitchen.  She is enchanting as, all perky, she looks from Toot to Collins as they discuss whether or not to put her in the pot. 

There is also a marvellous “waiter, there’s a fly in my soup” scenario when, after many ineffectual attempts by the humans in the kitchen to kill it off with fly spray, Ethel, with a few good pecks and much clucking and squawking, finishes the job. This scene is hysterical and the audience love it.

Mime would lack zip without its accompanying sounds and music.  Even before the start of the show, Jeff Henderson and John Bell, on clarinet and percussion, set the scene with what could loosely be called improv – a vague version of an old standard – with tons of zip and bounce.  They are the cement throughout, their timing immaculate, producing just the right sound from a variety of unusual instruments for every movement and close to perfect synchronisation with the actors.

The set (designed by Brad Knewstubb) is elaborate with a life-of-its-own fiery oven that opens and shuts intermittently, belching flame.  Props include an electrocuting toaster, fire-extinguisher and a bottle of blisteringly hot sauce, all used in side-splittingly funny ways. 

Wakenshaw and Duncan are clowns and mime artists of split second timing and there are many delicious moments.  The first big laugh comes when Toot, reminiscent of Marcel Marceau’s white-faced Bip the Clown, dips his huge chef’s hat to go through the door. There is crazy business with chairs, and setting the table becomes a major challenge for both Toot and Collins. Silly nonsense with a rose, super baddy Evil Eric in and out of the refrigerator, Collins in and out of the oven, an unusual tango between Collins and the chook, the mandatory flour, rice and water throwing, a classic chase around the auditorium … All of it is much to everyone’s delight.

As with Marcel Marceau, Charlie Chaplin and his little tramp left a wonderful legacy of clowning and miming.  The quality cast of The Magic Chicken are worthy inheritors of this great tradition. 


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Brilliantly contrived madcappery

Review by Lexie Matheson ONZM 10th Jul 2012

The Magic Chicken is an exceptionally fine theatre work and should be seen by anyone who adores great theatre and who is between the ages of three and one hundred and three! Don’t be put off if you saw it the first time around, it’s even better now!

The Magic Chicken takes us on an extraordinary journey into a rarely seen realm, the world of high quality, traditional European devised theatre. It combines classic mime with slapstick, slow-mo, puppetry, the time-honoured art of clowning and every tiny skerrick of it is astounding. Add to the mix an integrated purity of design and an exceptional physicality and you have work that is quite simply breathtaking.

The set is wide, cartoon-like, in red, white and black and divided asymmetrically into three parts. The smaller area consists of a down-at-heel, one table café at stage left which can be accessed from the back corner via a door to the outside world. The door has a hanging sign on it which says ‘open’ and ‘closed’.

A larger space, stage right, contains the cafe kitchen replete with every piece of Masterchef-like cooking paraphernalia you can imagine but most importantly a fiery oven, a walk-in refrigerator, a workbench down-stage centre and a pair of saloon-style, batwing doors that lead through to the aforementioned café and swing both ways. The latter are used, as can be imagined, to considerable effect. 

On entering the performance space – seats in rows for the big people, a carpet at the front for the unsuspecting littlies – we are welcomed warmly by a two-piece orchestra featuring, as entr’acte, percussion and clarinet playing (mostly) recognizable nursery tunes. These two white-faced, tuxedo-clad gentleman play throughout the entire performance and are an integral – and beautifully integrated – component of it, playing, to accompany the action, a range of percussive, wind and stringed instruments including such all-time favourites as the electric guitar, the kazoo, the harmonica, the swanee whistle and an extraordinary array of eccentric gadgets all of which make magnificent and singularly appropriate but unconventional sounds. They create a texture that is at times sublimely funny, at others strangely moving and, according to the credits at the end of the show, are called The Beat Roots. The show itself has no discernible linguistic text beyond a few grunts and burps and the orchestra fills the language gap – if there is one – superbly. 

The plot is simple.

Toot & Collins, a couple of bungling chefs, aren’t having any luck attracting diners to their café until the arrival Ethel Heihei, a magic, golden egg-laying chicken. Now, you might think that a chicken that strays into a kitchen is bound to come to come to a sad and unhappy end particularly when the only diner happens to be an individual called Evil Eric. But no, the men in white – and in particular Toot – come to the rescue and all ends happily for Ethel. But not for Evil Eric. 

To some extent the story is irrelevant because the show is more a series of magnificent, knock-about vignettes than anything else. It’s classic clown, it’s Keystone Cops, it’s highly polished slapstick, it’s fine miming, dancing, story-telling and stunt work. There are times when the techniques used are reminiscent of a very good 1930’s movie and everything works seamlessly as the performers slip from one genre to the next with effortless ease. Perhaps the best of all the devices on display are the magical slow-mo sequences and the dazzling ways that this team have invented to defy the laws of gravity and to seemingly make time stand still. 

At the heart of all good performance art is trust and Theatre Beating have totally nailed it. There’s enormous trust evident between the actors, the musicians, the crew, the material and the audience and the result is a harmony that is quite rare. When it happens, it’s magic – and The Magic Chicken is … well, magical. 

It’s hardly surprising when you consider the impressive credentials of Trygve Wakenshaw and Barnie Duncan, the co-creators of the show. 

Wakenshaw trained at Ecole Philippe Gaulier, has participated in workshops run by the most accomplished Gaulier school alumni, Complicité,and is developing a fast growing reputation throughout Europe. 

Duncan has also worked internationally and has a reputation for quality performances on stage, in television and in film with his work winning critical acclaim at this year’s Edinburgh Festival. Duncan is a specialist in circo arts, acro-balance and physical comedy and he brings all of his exceptional knowledge and skill to The Magic Chicken party.

There are wonderful set pieces, too. Some of the best include an attempt to put an unwilling chicken into a cooking pot – the kid’s especially loved this one. There is a wine tasting scene that will tickle the ribs of the grumpiest audience member and a divine sequence where Toots – a misplaced, shaggy mop-head in place of his hat – is ardently wooed by Evil Eric. The comic preparation of food is a guaranteed winner but by far my favourite sequence is the ‘death by toaster’ vignette. It is stunning both conceptually and in its execution.

There are chaotic chases, furious fights, an archetypal ninja sequence – my young guest’s favourite part – and as much water as possible is sprayed and flour flung in this excellent hour-long entertainment.

There’s more, heaps more, but I’ve told you enough.

The Magic Chicken is on tour and will be in a town near you sometime soon. Give the kids a special winter treat at a great price and go and see it. You’ll be thoroughly delighted too because these Theatre Beating dudes are the real deal. 

In conclusion, for Auckland theatre aficionados, a special word about the Concert Chamber. It’s not always my favourite venue but for this show it’s simply great. The Town Hall staff were friendly and helpful, the layout was terrific which always a bonus and being welcomed with a smile by the show’s publicist was a special treat. My young guest said he had ‘the best time ever’ and he’s now a real Theatre Beating fan. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then his ninja chicken impersonation says it all! 

As an exercise in brilliantly contrived madcappery you won’t see anything better anywhere. See it soon.


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