Fringe Bar, 26-32 Allen St, Te Aro, Wellington

24/05/2014 - 24/05/2014

Production Details

The Menagerie is a monthly variety show that has been bringing together curious, talented and entertaining individuals at The Fringe Bar for over a year.

For the 2015 Fringe Festival we are stepping it up, three nights, three shows, one fantastic MC and 24 completely different acts. That’s right, every night will be a totally new show.

There’ll be comedy, magic, burlesque, spoken word, music, weird stuff and many of the top acts in the Fringe Festival, all doing spots up to 10 minutes.

Each night will be hosted by the brilliant Jarred Fell. Jarred’s an internationally established and award winning comedian & magician from Auckland. He is witty, cheeky, skilled and trouser fillingly attractive, the perfect host.

So come on down to this special Menagerie 3-night run we look forward to putting a smile on your lovely face.

Fringe Bar

120 mins

26 – 28 Feb, 8:30pm

Theatre , Cabaret ,

120 mins

Weird, wacky and wonderful

Review by Deirdre Tarrant 01st Mar 2015

This was a late night variety show billed as ‘curious, talented and entertaining’. It was all three of these wrapped in a ‘wacky, weird and wonderful’ spectacular with Victorian scrolls and swirls and an impresario host.  

Jarred Fell took this role and added M-a-g-i-c to his introductions thus becoming one of the most entertaining acts himself. He was bold and blustery, cool and crude, disarmingly honest about his own shortcomings (few) and totally infectious about his enthusiasm for each of the acts (quite a few). Fresh from Vegas and with a sparkly curtain and scantily clad manager, Jared provided great audience participation ( top marks to the unknown Ben and Stephen who provided much of the evening’s real belly laughs), questionable social commentary, hilarious card tricks and non-stop opinions as he introduced each act and left them to it.

First up, Ladyfruit was surprisingly serious in her bid for mainstream music to reflect real lives. A slightly spurious argument but she convincingly sang as Mum to her teenage daughters and Lady Hustle on behalf of womankind.

From own song writing to own poetry as Ben Fagan read/ recited his own works . Fresh faced charm and the look of the boy- next – door but I really liked what I was listening to and one line really resonated as he concluded his look back /look forward personal experiences – one day “I’ll teach new family how to  make it up those stairs…”

Onto Frank Burkitt with a clear load of experience and nightclub savvy in his style. With strong songs and musicianship, his easy listening camaraderie lifted the evening to foot tapping entertainment with a wry sense of humour and professional patter.

Big Val was great in every way!

Atomic Ruby took the stage and her burlesque style tease and strip was an exercise in minimalism both in movement and costume. Silver coated and shiny, Atomic Ruby was ‘curious’ but her red ponytail and assurance were captivating at the same time.

After interval there were acts by Sharn (sp? there was no programme) an ex dancer turned songwriter who presented rather intensely personal songs from his CD to computer accompaniment.  Comedy Duo Sacha and Kate – from the comedy collective Discharge – broke out the tap shoes and rocked into the perennial pre-menstrual problems of being a woman. Definitely not a new topic but this was a confident and witty take on it nevertheless. There was a Puppet Company and I did not get their name* but original music played live was a highlight here – definitely different but hard to see, and their production values needed more rehearsal or development?

Standout act of the evening for me was the solo stand up comedy of Jerome Chandrahasen. He was perfect: witty and humorous with a great line in comfortable audience communication. He told stories that connected both to laugh at but also with a reality that hit home.  My favourites were the 200 grams of cheese and the Shrewsbury biscuits! You will have to go find him and hear him to maybe get it! You maybe just had to be there!

It turned out that the scantily clad in blue gorgeous manager was actually the producer of the show –  Rachel Rouge, the brain behind this Menagerie and the acts are different every night . Bravo. A great night out if you are on the search to branch out and have fun. You will definitely get something weird, wacky and wonderful into your life!

*[The UV puppets are from GDP Productions – ed]


Editor March 2nd, 2015

That's embarrassing Jerome - apologies. Fixed now.

Jerome Chandrahasen March 2nd, 2015

It's Jerome Chandrahasen, but still, thanks for the kind words!

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Up-and-coming and offbeat performers

Review by Deborah Eve Rea 28th May 2014

The Menagerie is a pick’n’mix bag of vaudeville delights. The showcase began in November and producer Rachel Rouge is now presenting it monthly due to popular demand. 

Tonight’s event is hosted by Jim Stanton whose delightful tongue-in-cheek is a perfect match to The Menagerie. Stanton is costumed beautifully to theme in a full length dress and corsetry, complete with a little dove side-kick in her hair. Stanton is, as always, a pro. She takes the audience’s side, a little bemused at the oddities of some acts, riffing and chatting with us to make us feel equally at ease as ready to revel.  

The first performer is Busty la Belle, a lone burlesque dancer in fabulous full length silver cape and feathered headpiece. She is hesitant at first but halfway into her act a great shift takes place and she bursts into flirt and tease and plays with the audience to great aplomb.

The production has not helped her here. La Belle’s performance would benefit from being in the more risqué second half of the show. She is well lit and needs some theatrical lighting to assist her, both dramatically and to provide some protection as her nerves are exposed to the audience (not helped by the operator originally playing the wrong music).

The Victory Rollers are a vintage styled singing quartet, channelling the Andrews Sisters. Their costumes are fantastic. They perform a cappella, without the assistance of microphones, filling the entire space of The Fringe Bar with ease. Their voices are both sweet and powerful and the harmonies are fantastic. They slip in and out between demure performance and goofy humour. Their choreography is a little rehearsed and awkward at times. They would benefit from letting go and allowing themselves to have more fun – of which, post-show, the same will be said for most of tonight’s acts. 

Michelle Keedwell is one of my top picks of the night. Keedwell is a relatively new storytelling-poet who I first saw in the Raw Poetry Slam finals earlier this year. Keedwell has superb comic timing and is a natural stand-up. I would have been satisfied should her act only have comprised her introduction to her poetry.

Keedwell’s poetry consists of fresh quips and jabs at life, dating and the workplace, or “confessions of a social leper” as she calls it. Keedwell has grown immensely in the short time since the Raw Poetry Slam and I’m excited to see her continue to bloom. The audience adore her and continue to sing her praises through the intermission.  

Post-intermission, we are treated to The Polly Johnson Sets, who appear as ghostly carnival clowns. Some of them move as marionettes, some even quite skilfully, although this is a convention that may have been forgotten by some band members. They perform their first song, ‘Seven Daughters’, with a neat balance of strong intensity and pirate revelry. 

Polly Johnson herself takes the microphone for the next song and performs a comic number of modern annoyances on ukulele.  Her performance, and that of her entire ‘Set’, is faultless and to be commended for staying so despite some heckling by her friends. The audience demands an encore for which she sings a ballad in honour of the Peach Teats sign (may it rest in pieces). ‘Peach Teats’ features superb harmonica by Martin Andrews and I am pleased to catch the song just for that alone. 

Another of my top picks is magician Mike Kmiec, who is beginning to be somewhat of a regular at Fringe Bar. Kmiec prefers to refer to himself as more of a charlatan or a trickster (or “liar”) than a magician. He performs mind-reading tricks with cards and cups (or bags in this case). This reviewer found herself on stage for the most part, chosen to be in the role of his assistant.

Kmiec is another who has grown greatly since I last saw (and reviewed) him. His is one of the more established acts of the night and the audience is pleased to be involved throughout.  He successfully keeps the element of danger alive while also achieving a gentle, buddy rapport with his audience. 

One of the most experienced performers, Ellie Kat, is almost old hat in the Wellington drag scene. Tonight’s performance is more subtle and demure that I have seen her before. She is classy and quite ravishing in a long gown. The production has opted to have her in quite high light, giving her no opportunity to play and flirt between shadows as I have seen her do before. Kat has the audience’s full attention and leave us wanting more after only one song. 

Joel Hansby is a new young comic whose appearance at the microphone is met by a collective “aww”, resulting in a blushing Hansby. He performs slightly-late coming-of-age humour with awkward youthful characterisation; a convention he’s quite close to mastering already in his career. This absolutely is a comic to watch.

Gracie Hart (of The Victory Rollers) performs Tom Waits’ ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’ at the microphone with a bite of burlesque. Hart is sultry, subtle, beautiful and captivating. Her nerves are evident however but the audience, for the most part, are on her side. This is another act that would greatly benefit from better use of the lighting that is available. 

No doubt the most intriguing treat on offer at this party is Suspended Intention. Suspension is the act of suspending a human body from hooks that have been put through temporary body piercings. In short, they’re going to hang a girl on hooks through her back. The Fringe Bar stage has been transformed into Dexter’s kill room, having been covered in plastic sheets (for blood, I’m told…). A man in a surgical mask and gloves enters with a beautiful woman (what could go wrong?) who is identified as Roxy. Before the crowd, he sleekly inserts large steel hooks into her bare back. Roxy silently converses with the audience; flirting, smiling and grimacing. Her partner attaches her hooks to a hanging apparatus and Roxy swings, by the hooks through her back, in the air. Roxy is then treated to the insertion of feathers, with needled ends, through her chest. She continues to swing. She does seem to be having a lot of fun.

Personally, I didn’t find the suspension beautiful, as it has been described. There is blood and there is pain. Roxy herself, however, is a joy with the crowd and if you ever need to look away, as I did, you can peruse her many beautiful tattoos. 

The Menagerie could benefit from having some vaudevillian set or stage décor to bring it to life. I also recommend the use of a lighting designer to give the acts the best opportunity for success. 

Throughout the show the backstage area is very noisy during the performances, especially on stage behind the curtain while solo performers are in front of it (Gracie Hart suffers most from this). I had flashbacks to working with a group of 5-10 year olds on their end of year play. You need to be professional and support each other, team. You’re all in the same show even when it’s variety. 

Interestingly, almost all of tonight’s performers require more embodiments of their character, choreography and physicality generally. The house is full to the brim with standing room only which may be affecting nerves.

I must mention also that throughout the show, there is incessant heckling by two audience members. They sing along loudly, drowning out the vocalists and call out punchlines to jokes they heard from the comedians’ previous sets. It becomes so overbearing that at one stage Jim Stanton had to come out to defend the young comic, Joel Hansby. All performers coped incredibly well with the heckling but it certainly affects their skill, not to mention how much fun they are able to have on stage. Audiences, I’m all for vocal participation, especially in an event like The Menagerie, but there comes a point when you start to infringe on everyone’s nice time both onstage and off. 

The Menagerie is a fantastic gain for the city and its up-and-coming and offbeat performers. Production-wise, it’s a little rough around the edges at the moment but will no doubt shine up good and pretty in no time.


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