The Many Other Lives Of Maria Madness

Wellington Performing Arts Centre, Wellington

14/02/2009 - 22/02/2009

NZ Fringe Festival 2009

Production Details



It’s the question on the lips of a whole city – just who is Maria Madness?
The only way to find out is come along and see for yourself.

The world premiere of a devised comedy by the Soupietwist Theatre Collective explodes in to the world and on to the stage for two weekends only (the 14th and 15th, 21st and 22nd) at the Wellington Performing Arts Centre as a part of the 2009 New Zealand Fringe Festival.

This hour-long journey through the life of the elusive Maria is sure to entertain audiences  with hilarious physical comedy and biting wit that should appeal to all audiences twelve and up.

"We have no real agenda except, that is, to entertain." says Uther Dean, the writer. "We want to have fun. Not preach or preen or opine. The theatre can so easily turn into a soap box expounding to the converted. We just want to give the audience a funny, fun, joyous little hour."

The Many Other Lives Of Maria Madness is playing as part of a double bill with The Pragmatic by Grubstreet Theatre which goes on at 8pm on the same dates. The Pragmatic‘s low key word play and razor sharp satire serves as perfect complement and counterpoint to Maria‘s dizzy silliness. Tickets for both shows are $15 or $10 for Fringe Addict Card holders.

Soupietwist Theatre Collective is a newly minted collection of Victoria University theatre students coming out of their second year of study. But, involvement in past shows – like the 2007 Fringe’s surprise hit Volcanoes Are Awesome! and the critically lauded, sell out 2007 comedy festival sensation The Hunting of the Snark – means that they know what it takes to give an audience a rollicking good time.

"We just wanted to eschew the theory and just put something on," says Laura Balmforth, the director. "There is only so much you can learn from writing essays, so, we decided to just do something. Show the world our chops and a good time."

Feb 14th, 15th, 21st & 22nd 2009. 6.30pm
Wellington Performing Arts Centre, 36 Vivian Street
Tickets: Waged $10 / Unwaged $8 / Fringe Addict $6
TO BOOK ph. (04) 801 6946 / www.downstage.co.nz/book
website – www.myspace.com/whoismariamadness   


Jeremy Keene (choreographer, co-producer)
Becky Wilson (head designer)
Sam Woodward (performer)
Patrick Keenan (performer)
Melissa Demasi (performer)
Gin Mabey (performer)
Chelsea Thorn (performer, co-cherographer)
Bailey McCormack (contributor to the devising process)
Kelly Irvine (music)



Fun with no real depth

Review by Michael Wray 15th Feb 2009

It’s a common belief that when you die, your life flashes in front of your eyes. Memories that have lain dormant and untapped for years are randomly played, providing some last minute entertainment to see you out.

In The Many Other Lives of Maria Madness, we are the audience for Maria’s final moments. Five scenes from Maria’s life are replayed in reverse chronological order. The "other" in the title is there to allow the scenes to represent potential Marias and not just the real Maria. At least, I think that was the gist of the narrator’s introduction.

As the narrator, Dan Brown is our MC for the evening. He introduces the scenes and even provides a post-show summation of what we have just learnt. In a role that is divided from the drama, Brown is given licence to indulge in stand-up comedy. He evidently enjoys himself, though the audience response is occasionally divided.

The five flashbacks are book-ended by a short dance piece to represent death and conception, respectively. With the memories being presented in reverse chronological order, Maria’s experiences start with the most recent.

Maria has evidently managed to get through to old age in better shape than some of her peers, though not well enough to outlive them. We see Old Folks Maria (Becky Wilson) taking on a leadership role amongst the rest home inmates.  Office Maria (Melissa Demasi) is less of a controller, struggling with unrequited feelings for a boss with eyes elsewhere. Going back to her 20s or 30s, Speed Dating Maria (Samantha Woodward) has to deal with some surreal candidates. Then Careers Maria (Patrick Keenan) presents some creative choices to a careers advisor who would not have been out of place amongst the dating candidates. Finally, Childhood Maria (Chelsea Thorn) gets her first taste of playground politics.

I assume the otherness of Maria’s lives allows us to experience the memories as present-day dramas, rather than historic occurrences. Taking now as a starting point, Office Maria would have been from the 1970s, Speed Dating Maria the 1960s or 1970s and Careers Maria the 1950s. Instead of being called a PA, Office Maria would have been a secretary, Speed Dating would not have yet been invented and Careers Maria would not have had her NCEA choices referenced. It is also unlikely that a Childhood Maria in the 1940s would have had a kindergarten friend pretending to be a robot, let alone one who mentions the recession.

Rather than this being a single piece it is really five standalone short plays. There is no story arc that passes between the scenes and each is completely separate from the other. The only thing they have in common is an identically named character. The lack of discernable sameness in the character of each Maria supports the theory that we are indeed seeing an array of others.

When they’re not being Maria, most of the cast play supporting characters in the other scenes. While the play has no real depth and is clearly a student production, it does manage to convey a sense of fun. The best thing to do while watching is not to think too hard about it and simply enjoy the entertainment.

It’s unfortunate that the sound system emitted a constant hum throughout. When sound effects or music were played it was unnoticeable, but at all other times it was a distraction. Hopefully this was an opening night technical hitch that can be resolved for the remainder of the run.

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