Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

07/12/2016 - 22/12/2016

Production Details

Each night a celebrity guest actor will find out just how big they are in Levin, as they improvise their way through the show and try their best to outshine the local talent. From the writers who brought the hit comedy “Camping” to Basement’s stage earlier this year, Tom Sainsbury returns along with Kura Forrester, Brynley Stent and Byron Coll, as well as a revolving guest cast of famous faces from stage and screen. 


Amanda Billing, Olivia Tennet, Madeleine Sami, Nic Sampson, Laura Daniel, Jackie van Beek, Fasitua Amosa, Harry McNaughton, Morgana O’Reilly, Jarod Rawiri, Kimberley Crossman, Dave Fane, Jaquie Brown, Robbie Magasiva, Perlina Lau, James Roque, Claire Chitham, Louise Wallace, David Farrier, Jennifer Ward-Lealand and more yet to be announced. 

The Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland CBD
Wednesday 7 – 22 December 2016
7:00pm and 9.30pm
$30 – $50
Book Now

Theatre , Improv , Comedy ,

Levin la Vida Loca

Review by Tim George 09th Dec 2016

Shadows of the North Pole is one of the worst shows I’ve ever seen. Written and directed by Rosa-Lynne Martin Shanks (Kura Forrester), it features a cast of amateurs less convincing than that time your little sister forced you and the rest of your family to watch her one-woman show about — oh, who cares, you get what I mean.

Rosa is the director of the annual Levin Christmas show. Having had her own Road to Damascus in our ‘cultural capitol’ Wellington, Rosa has returned home with big plans for revamping the old standby. Out goes the songs and the fart jokes, and pretty much everything involving Christmas. In comes adultery, drugs and an agit-pop skit about striking elves. [More]


Make a comment

A feel-good festive feast well worth experiencing

Review by Leigh Sykes 08th Dec 2016

Reading ‘A Christmas Message’ in the programme, I discover that I have been a resident of Auckland for about as long as The Basement has been producing an annual Christmas Show. Somehow, this is the first of those shows that I have managed to see, and on the strength of this one, I have been missing out – a lot. 

Director Sam Sneddon calls the show ‘a love letter to all those … shows’ produced by amateur dramatic societies that so many of those in the audience will have experienced. It is obvious very early on that the writers and performers have captured the singular charms and quirks of all of those shows with affection and great accuracy, and it is just as obvious that the audience recognises those shows and situations too. 

The Levin Players are just about to start rehearsals for their annual Christmas show, with Russell Bush (played with irrepressible energy by Byron Coll) due to reprise his role as Santa. Joining him in her first role for the Players is Brynley Stent’s sharply observed Sheree Mudge, a small town girl looking for something a bit different, while both of them are ably supported by Stage Manager Glenn Innes, played with pitch-perfect attention to detail by Thomas Sainsbury.

Just as the cast and crew get ready to start their usual rehearsal process, director Rosa-Lynne Martin Shanks (played with comedic exuberance and dexterity by Kura Forrester) throws a spanner in the works by announcing that she has written a new Christmas show. Having been exposed to the bright lights of Wellington, and in particular the World of Wearable Arts, she is yearning to create an ‘avant-grand’ show that will put Levin on the theatrical map. 

While paying homage to the sometimes not terribly good shows seen in some amateur dramatics societies, the show is spot on in poking fun at many different targets (Auckland especially) through the in-jokes and sometimes fraught relationships that many of those in the audience appear to recognise.

There are many laugh-out-loud moments, but these laughs are never malicious. They come from the situations that we recognise, or the deftly drawn characters presented to us. When Rosa-Lynne’s new show requires some unusual rehearsal techniques that her cast find somewhat confronting and her Stage Manager finds dangerous, we in the audience find them hilarious.

It is to the cast’s eternal credit that we come to care for these characters as we see them navigate the new theatrical landscape Rosa-Lynne has created. There is particular sympathy for Sainsbury’s put-upon Stage Manager Glenn, support for Stent’s somewhat damaged Sheree, compassion for Coll’s unlucky in love Russell and delight at Forrester’s directorial machinations.

There is some low-level audience interaction (don’t panic – nothing uncomfortable!) and lots of goodwill towards the plucky cast fighting to stage this new show. Just when things are looking precarious, the special guest from Auckland arrives to save the day, and the show is able to go on. 

The second half of the show is the performance of the Levin Players’ Christmas Show, Shadows of the North Pole, which makes great use of the guest star’s abilities to improvise, and on this particular evening – the guest being Olivia (Mia Blonde) Tennet – dance. Forrester as the narrator is particularly delightful, giving us a range of facial expressions and movements that provoke hearty laughter.

I am curious to know whether the improvisations required each night play to the guest star’s strengths, as this certainly seems to be the case on the night I attend. Tennet gamely dives into all of the situations presented to her, and we are delighted with the outcome. The programme tells us that “the guest actor … has had no rehearsal and no information about the show”, and of course this means that the core cast also has to be ready for anything. While there are some moments where they almost crack into giggles due to some unexpected yet extremely funny response, they pull together to give us a warm, funny and overall satisfying comic experience.

Important contributions to that experience are provided by the set and lighting (designed by Rachel Marlow and Brad Gledhill, who seem to have had too much fun with some of the posters on the walls) which perfectly evoke the small-town rehearsal room and theatre; the wonderfully (in)appropriate costumes (designed by Sarah Burren) and the apt and attractive sound (composed/designed by Jason Smith).

All of these elements support and enhance the performances and give us a fully-realised festive package that makes we want to see the show again to see what happens with another guest star.

This is a feel-good festive feast that is well worth experiencing, and I urge you to see it. Perhaps even more than once!


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council