BATS Theatre (Out-Of-Site) Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington

07/02/2014 - 11/02/2014

NZ Fringe Festival 2014

Production Details

Puppets, Willie Nelson And Anton Chekhov! 

The Marriage is an outrageously chaotic puppet comedy about the Brown family who want the best for their daughters’ wedding. They desperately want to be the envy of all their friends and ensure that their new son-in-law, a wealthy Auckland businessman, doesn’t change his mind. 

So they invite their idol, country sensation Willie Nelson, to be the guest of honour.  It looks to be the biggest event of the Wellington social calendar. Will he show up? 

BATS Theatre, on the corner of Cuba and Dixon Streets
Book online  or call (04) 8024175 
7th Feb – 11th Feb
Full Price $16.00
9.30pm Concession $ 14.00
NZ Fringe Addict $ 12.00

Theatre , Puppetry ,

Good puppets poorly manipulated and characterised

Review by Hannah Smith 08th Feb 2014

It wouldn’t be the Fringe if you didn’t see a shocker. And The Marriage, a puppet show created and performed by Auckland based company The Wooden Actors, is pretty much a doozie.

The story has been loosely adapted from a Chekhov play – transported to a New Zealand setting with, intriguingly, the addition of Willie Nelson. Will he come and sing at the wedding? Will the wedding happen at all? 

This is the crux of the narrative – we the audience are endowed as guests, and bear witness to the machinations of the bride’s parents, who have hired, as entertainer for the night, country-singing sensation Willie Nelson in an effort to boost their social standing.

The story-telling is pretty flimsy, and the nine puppet characters, voiced and manipulated by a cast of four (Kelly Gilbride, Albert Walker, Josh Booth and Irasa Siave) are drawn in broad strokes. The scripting does not have any room for subtle moments or carefully drawn characterisation, and most of the humour turns on the comic possibilities of closet homosexuality.

The script has also been given a ‘Wellington flavour’, peppered with references to Khandallah and Newtown, presumably in an attempt to lend cultural relevance, but this does not ring true. 

The puppet tale is framed with some direct address from ‘Pipo’ (Albert Walker, in a half mask), extolling his love of weddings and Willie Nelson, and trying to get some laughs out of the crowd. On opening night the audience is prepared to go along with him at the top of the show, but cools off as the evening progresses. 

The puppets themselves are interesting, with beautifully constructed faces. Unfortunately there are some basic tenets of their manipulation that need attending to.  Often the puppeteers look at each other, rather than the puppet, breaking the illusion. The choreography is messy and chaotic – and when multiple puppeteers are working together with one puppet they are not giving the puppet breath, and therefore life. 

The cast are young and energetic, and interested in exploring puppetry, a form relatively rare on a New Zealand stage. With additional training, attention to detail, and an outside eye, they may develop this work further and refine some of the problems in its current form.


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