The Man, The Pie and The Taxi Guy

BATS Theatre, Wellington

05/02/2008 - 10/02/2008

NZ Fringe Festival 2008

Production Details

Rip-snorter comedy bursts into Fringe 08

Three hilarious shows packaged into one hour of rip-snorter comedy, The Man, The Pie and The Taxi Guy premieres at BATS Theatre on 5 February – 10 February as part of Fringe 08.

All three sketches debuted as solo shows at the Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School’s Go Solo Season and are back by popular demand. Legendary New Zealand actress Pat Evison says, "Just don’t miss this performance – these were the highlights for me of the Go Solo Season and are especially inventive, funny and challenging. Laugh your head off!"

The Man is a modern-day parable about Dave, an office worker chosen by God to be the decider of the world’s fate. The Dominion Post called it a "hilarious, pythonesque sketch".

The Pie is a funny and touching coming of age tale.  Pie Boy must escape his opera-mad father’s expectations to pursue the love of one of his pie shop regulars, described by reviewer Thomas LaHood as "a simple story told with flair".

The Taxi Guy is a madcap sprint through the morning of a cabbie, performed in full breakneck slap stick mime and described by reviewer Thomas LaHood as "Buster Keaton on speed with a script by Charlie Kaufmann". LaHood says "The audience were screaming with laughter in the stands the night I saw this".

All three actors Matt Whelan, Asa Tofete and Byron Coll were last seen in Angels in America at Downstage and are recent graduates of Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School.

The Man, The Pie and The Taxi Guy is a showcase of three hilarious new works by three up and coming New Zealand performers. If you’re looking for a night of non-stop laughs and comedy at its very best this is the show to see in Fringe 08.

The Man, The Pie and The Taxi Guy 
5-10 February (no show 6 February Waitangi Day)
8pm every night plus 9.30pm on Thursday 7 and Friday 8 February
Bookings: or 04 8024175    

1 hr, no interval

Wanted: more chances for these talents to shine

Review by Lynn Freeman 13th Feb 2008

Three solo works from last year’s Toi Whakaari graduates make up a very enjoyable mini trilogy. 

Matt Whelan brings the house down with The Man, his encapsulated history of mankind and Jesus’ attempt to avoid Armageddon.  Instead of all out death and destruction, Jesus inhabits the coffee cup of office worker John and persuades him to turn off the porn site on his computer.  It’s a lot funnier on stage than any description could achieve, Whelan is charisma central out there. 

Less successful but still charming is Asalemo Tofete’s The Pie, where what starts out as the story of the lovelorn Pie Boy who’s being made to take singing lessons in the hope he’ll become the next Jonathan Lemalu, becomes the story of the lad’s father who’s represented as a growling dog.  Tofete gets lots of audience feedback, especially for a rather nifty pie making dance sequence, but the whole thing doesn’t quite come off.

Finally, the powerhouse Byron Coll is an actor of few words in The Taxi Guy, but who needs them when you can express as much with your body as this guy.  His wake-up sequence alone is, if not entirely original (there is a Mr Bean routine along similar lines) brilliantly executed.   The last section with the road chase is funny but the ending needs a rethink.

As always with such talented Drama School grads, you just have to hope there will be more opportunities for them to shine. 


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Madcap soloists a sharp blast

Review by Simon Sweetman 07th Feb 2008

Presented as a "one hour triple bill" The Man The Pie And The Taxi Guy consists of three separate 20-minute solo shows, beginning with Matt Whelan’s The Man, moving through Asalemo Tofete’s The Pie and concluding with Byron Coll’s The Taxi Guy.

All three solos consist of mad-cap ideas presented with musicality and very physical performances.

The Man sees a bored and boring office worker, John, being emailed by Jesus. John, it seems, has been chosen by God to help decide the fate of the world. Whelan leaps (literally) in and out of character, moving through John and Jesus, embodying the voice of God and using a step-ladder as his own prop and stage-setting.

Charmingly off-kilter, this is a solo piece that relies heavily on movement but sees comedy in some of the lines as well. Bizarre and so thoroughly Fringe Festival-worthy in its endearing madness, Whelan certainly puts The Man in manic.

The Pie is the most complete of the solo shows and deserves its place in the middle – literally the meat, the tasty filling. Tofete plays a hapless man working in his father’s pie shop. He switches to represent his barking (literally) father.

In both roles Tofete showcases not only a flair for physical comedy and soft, dramatic moments but also genuine acting skill, outside of relying on laughs. His singing voice and strong dramatic presence help to fill out The Pie, as it were.

The Taxi Guy starts off brilliantly and Coll’s ability to mimic, to create sound effects and to punctuate his mad-dash slapstick with a free-flowing vocalese is impressive. But mid-way through the surreal meanderings of the taxi guy’s recreated morning an over-reliance on the gimmicks makes this the least successful of the three solos.

But, packaged as a show, as a comedy vehicle for three very talented actor/performers The Man The Pie And The Taxi Guy is a short, sharp – and ultimately worthwhile – blast of performance-art as entertainment. 


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Exceptional skills

Review by John Smythe 06th Feb 2008

Rather than stretch each of their 20-minute Go Solo 07 pieces into longer shows that may outstay their welcomes, these three Toi Whakaari graduates have wisely decided to combine as The Man the Pie and the Taxi Guy. Matt Whelan, Asalemo Tofete and Byron Coll were each in different groups last year, so this combo adds value by comparing and contrasting three takes on the masculine imperative. And their show launches the Fringe 08 Comedy programme.

Matt Whelan’s The Man appears aloft to evoke, in sonorous tones, the evolving relationship between Man, God and his man-form Jesus. Once down to earth (i.e. the stage), a small step ladder (serendipitously branded Gorilla) is his only prop, ingeniously utilised as he brings Homo Erectus through to the technological age.

A mega-fit God, working out gym-style as he contemplates the fate of Man, wants his more languid son to bring on Armageddon but Jesus prefers the softly softly approach. Enter office worker John, with his irritating greeting rituals and his smiley-face coffee cup. Jesus, once famous for walking on water, now surfs the net to contact John just when the mesmerising demon technology brings unsolicited porn to John’s computer screen.

The choice is simple: "Porn or not." To help him decide, Jesus – hiding in the coffee cup – takes John on a journey through time which includes a splendidly performed regression to ape … and at this point I get a bit lost, when it comes to following the story’s pursuit of its moral quest.

Stylistically Whelan combines the comedic precision of Rowan Atkinson and the surreal, discursive meanderings-on-speed of Eddie Izzard, with his own idiosyncratically articulated angular physicality and vocal dexterity. In the absence of a compelling conclusion, these are the qualities that abide beyond the blackout.  

Large, round, centred and essentially gentle with a surprisingly light touch at times are the qualities Asalemo Tofete brings to The Pie guy. With a long counter and apron as props, he plays out the tale of ‘Pie Boy’, tied to his opera-obsessed father’s pie shop and expected to meet his ambitions for him as an opera singer. But ‘Pie Boy’ is excruciatingly in love with regular customer Cheryl …

Dad barks his overbearing authority, and pounds and rolls the pastry with a vengeance as his beloved opera plays. ‘Pie Boy’ is more into hip hop, flipping and twisting … His plaintive, "I’m not Ben Makisi!" falls on deaf ears.

The plot allows both beautifully rendered characters to overcome personal obstacles. ‘Pie Boy’ finally manages to ask Cheryl out, but has to sacrifice competing in the local talent quest, which means his Dad must take his place – with remarkable results. The only weakness, script-wise, is that we have invested much more in ‘Pie Boy’ than his Dad and he disappears from the story.

The diminutive and physically trim Bryon Coll, in a flesh-coloured gymnast’s body suit, also brings an impressive physicality to his Taxi Guy. Booked for an early pick up, he sleeps in and a day that starts badly gets worse.

His showering, laundering, breakfasting and dressing routine is memorable, generating big laughs from simple changes in pace. Non-stop physical and vocal transitions – we get many radio frequencies – become the object of the exercise, especially given Coll’s decision to overdo this aspect, e.g. when playing the driver and passenger, instead of simply turning left or right and having his hands on the steering wheel or not, he unbuckles his seat belt, opens the ‘car door’, leaps put of his seat, closes the ‘door’, runs round the ‘car’, opens the ‘car door’, leaps back in, closes the ‘door’ and buckles his other self in. It makes no sense but it’s entertaining.

Things get bizarre in a magic realism way when the passenger turns out to be himself. Then a couple on a motorbike – stunningly manifested with a stool and a crash helmet – become his paranoid nightmare, with their chase escalating to the point of mutual destruction.

While it could be argued that Taxi Guy makes a point about the destructive forces of paranoia and panic, I have a feeling the scenario’s climax is a convenient way of finishing something that has run away with its creator. But the journey itself is a ripper.

That the show is billed as Comedy rather than Theatre in the Fringe programme may relieve it of the basic requirement for the component parts of each work to add up to more than their sum. Even so, attention to that aspect would improve them.  

Meanwhile all three performers exhibit exceptional acting skills with physical, vocal and imagineering dimensions that could only have become so perfected with three years full time at drama school. How splendid it would be if more mainstream theatre was ready, willing and able to embrace such skills and utilise their great entertainment potentials.


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