Alpha Gallery, 55 Abel Smith Street, Wellington

01/03/2016 - 05/03/2016

NZ Fringe Festival 2016 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Production Details

This is your fantasy adventure, following you, the Hero on a magical quest. You will get to choose the Hero’s decisions. You can and will die multiple times – It’s not easy! Choose your path, will you face the Dragon, or run?

Alpha Gallery, 55 Abel Smith St, Te Aro, Wellington
1-5 Mar
7pm (60 min)
TICKETS: $14/$10/$10

Theatre ,

Multiple choices set demands

Review by Shannon Friday 03rd Mar 2016

My worst fear for The Sword, The Staff or The Bow? was that it would be a play about people playing a tabletop role playing game.  My best hope was that it would be Proficiency Test with a fantasy skin.  It winds up being somewhere in between.

After making our way through a mystical room full of David The Gnome Toadstools, we descend to the somewhat grotty art room at Alpha Gallery.  There awaits our host/ actor/ game master, Ken Gaffney.  He’s going to give us, the audience, three choices, and our story will depend on the outcome of those choices.  We choose by shouting out our preference.

The first two choices – what is our weapon, and how did we get it? – determines our character.  We are Bob the Barbarian and very quickly we find ourselves in a dungeon, with our pretty cool sword courtesy of props maker Luke Scott.  Very shortly we find ourselves out of the dungeon, meeting lots of new people (all portrayed by Gaffney and mostly male, more girl characters please!) and then on a quest, in the style of all great fantasy epics. 

The show feels like one of the less action-heavy quests in Skyrim or Mass Effect.  Mostly we’re given conversation choices: who do we speak to and do we insult them in true Barbarian fashion?  But the whole room perks up when offered action choices.  For example, when given a choice to be a responsible drinker or drown ourselves in ale, we immediately forget all the PSAs and get completely blotto. 

Part of the reason why this choice is so attractive is that it is fun to watch Gaffney downing pint after pint, rebounding bleary-eyed and swaying, until we are transported to a drunken dream world. 

There’s room to push the action choices much further, and even to play with the interplay of action and waiting for the choices.  For example, what about fighting and freezing in a wired twisted posture until a choice is made?  I mean, it’s fun to watch Gaffney switch voices and postures, but the physical challenges really grab my attention.  I want more of them. 

I need to acknowledge here that writing a ‘choose your own adventure’ show is a huge load on an actor.  We’re offered over 30 choices, and while a few might overlap, that is still a massive tonne of text to place in your mental Bag of Holding.  And then there’s the sprawling cast of characters, who all need their distinct voices and physicality. 

However, there are a number of memory lapses, which damage the pace of the show and undermine the value of our choices.  If the performer can’t remember the choices, that would imply the options aren’t super important.  These moments are handled cleverly, but I wish there were fewer of them.


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