THE THINGS WE DO
BATS Theatre, The Heyday Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington
14/10/2015 - 17/10/2015
24/02/2015 - 26/02/2015
Meteor Theatre, 1 Victoria Street, Hamilton
27/10/2015 - 28/10/2015
Old Folks Association Hall, 8 Gundry St, Newton, Auckland
22/10/2015 - 24/10/2015
The Dark Room, Cnr Pitt and Church Street, Palmerston North
29/10/2015 - 01/11/2015
Artworks Theatre, Oneroa, Waiheke Island
25/10/2015 - 26/10/2015
NZ Fringe Festival 2015 [reviewing supported by WCC]
Peas, pastry, plunger coffee – two packs if it’s on special… Duck into that aisle to avoid work’s new ‘weird guy!’ sneaky deodorant testing, trolley rage and $2 scratchies… Pat-A-Cake Productions presents The Things We Do, a bright new one-woman physical comedy at BATS Theatre for the 2015 Fringe Festival.
Set in a supermarket, The Things We Do demonstrates the unspoken truth about those quirky and inexplicable things we all do when we think no one is looking. Exploring a plethora of the characters who swan in and out of a supermarket during peak hour of our day-to-day shop!
Devised and performed by comic-timing virtuoso Sarah Tuck (‘dynamic physicality, good comic timing’ – Theatreview), this show is a true Pat-A-Cake Productions experience, inviting the audience to take up the helm as a key instigator of action if they choose to!
Sarah Tuck is a Victoria University Theatre Programme graduate who just like you has already allocated accidental hours to loitering around taste-promotion tables or playing musical-wine-bottles until the ‘right’ one jumps off the shelf at her. This show is based entirely on real-life supermarket situations that Sarah and some of her friends have been subject to in Wellington. To the beat of the classic 90s supermarket playlist, it is literally the things we all do… and a few of the things we wish we could do too!
Risky and familiar, Tuck’s character-morphing, crowd-connecting charm will have you recognizing your own anxious aisle antics and cracking up next time you’re back in the checkout queue!
1 Kent Terrace
24 – 26 Feb, 7:00pm
Book online: www.bats.co.nz
or call (04) 802 4175
Wellington, Auckland, Waiheke Island, Hamilton and Palmerston North.
Featuring Finn Johansson album release tour.
WINNER: Edgiest Show Nelson Fringe Festival 2015
WINNER: Best Actor Female Nelson Fringe Festival 2015
Pat-A-Cake Productions kicks off the second half of their national tour, of the award-winning, trolley-spinning physical comedy The Things We Do at BATS Theatre this October. After a sell out season in the 2015 Fringe Festival (at BATS) and a successful South Island tour, this vivacious one-woman show continues on delighting audiences throughout the North Island.
A one-woman physical comedy about the things we do in the supermarket, this show is a physical fiasco meta-theatrically pulled off by one delightful performer, Sarah Tuck, who ‘has the audience in the palm of her hand’ (Nelson Mail). With only a basket, and an ill-behaved trolley, The Things We Do links all the likely suspects of our real supermarket-enriched lives through absurdly realistic situations. To the beat of the classic 90’s supermarket playlist, it’s the things we do and the things we wish we could too!
Sarah Tuck is a Victoria University graduate who has had extensive experience in devising with her performance company, Pat-A-Cake Productions. She has a mesmerising character-switching, crowd connecting charm that sustains ‘trolley-loads of laughs’ for the whole hour. It’s a delightful and fast-paced combination of mime, physical theatre, trolley-tactics and unforgettable moments.
“What a fantastically funny woman she is” – Nelson Mail
“Tuck is undeniably fun to watch” – Theatreview
“A really enjoyable night” – Kaikoura Star
Touring along-side Pat-A-Cake is Finn Johansson, a Wellington based musician who has been rambling around Europe for the last year and a half, hypnotising crowds in living rooms, bars and theatres alike, including a sold out tour through Germany and Denmark with Irish sensations Keeva. Johansson performs a live acoustic set from his debut album before the show at most centres before going on to operate the sound for The Things We Do (which he also designed).
“It’s a double-bill bonanza like no other, combining Finn’s album release tour with The Things We Do just made sense – One Budget, two dreams” – Says the tour’s Producer and Director, Bop Murdoch.
The two uniquely talented separate acts compliment each other keeping this show surprising, satisfying, cathartic, comedic and memorable! It will have you cracking up at your own trolley antics next time you hit the checkout queue.
North Island tour dates – 2015:
All featuring live pre-show music from Finn Johansson’s debut album
The Old Folks Association, 8 Gundry Road, Auckland
22-24 Oct, 7pm
Artworks Community Theatre, Waiheke Island
25 Oct, 7pm; 26 Oct, 2pm (Labour day)
The Meteor, Hamilton, 27-28 Oct, 7pm
The Dark Room, Cnr. Church & Pitt Street, Palmerston North
1st Nov, 2pm (Matinee)
For more details, see www.patacakeproductions.co.nz
Theatre , Solo ,
Capable and promising
Review by John C Ross 31st Oct 2015
One of the ‘things we [especially if you’re urban women] do’ is supermarket shop, amidst a craftily enticing melee of myriad consumer stuff. Given the chunks of your life you spend on it, heaps of things can happen meanwhile, outwardly and in the mind. Sarah Tuck’s solo performance throws together a dozen or more characters, customers or staff, and some readily recognisable yet increasingly quite extreme, bizarre and fantastic happenings.
The show is a double-bill and starts off with a short gig by Finn Johannson, who also has designed the sound and will operate it for Sarah Tuck. He has a pleasant tenor voice with an ability to go off towards falsetto, and is a good guitarist. For me, his songs are more enjoyable when the music is relatively quiet and the words can be picked up better but younger people clearly have less of a problem with that.
Sarah Tuck’s performance starts with expressive dancing and lip-synching to a pre-recorded rap, with admirable physical flexibility, fluidity and inventiveness. I miss the words. Much of what follows is mimed, mixed with brief bursts of speech. A few quite consistent characters emerge, including a demonstrator and hander-out of sample venison meat balls, on tooth-picks, who gets into conflict with the supervisor from the vegetarian stuff aisle, who reckons the meat-smell is putting off her own customers. She flirts with one character who scoffs far more than (presumably) his quota of meat balls.
Just what is ‘real’ and what is wish-fulfilling fantasy gets a bit challenging. A shopper in the meat aisle ‘discovers’ that touching one kind of meat evinces an appropriate animal noise, and starts playing with these noises. But then the chicken section, so it seems, gives rise to a live, escaping chook, who flaps around and squawks.
Sometimes there are both sides of a conversation. One shopper, self-introduced as Dianne, encounters a bloke who is possibly the runaway dad of her three-year-old kid Timmy. One child (is it him?) can throw a good screaming tantrum. One woman (Dianne?) is heavily pregnant and gets caught up in a sudden desperate emergency.
Upstage there’s a metal framework hung with typical supermarket notices advertising this product on special and that one at such-and-such a price. The only props are one trolley and one plastic basket, plus one plastic bag and one plastic bottle with a real chocolate milk drink, which is duly drunk. Everything else is created by miming. Sometimes the shelves with desirable stuff to be reached for are behind the front-row audience-members’ heads.
This show premiered in the 2015 Fringe Festival at BATS and has been touring around the North Island. It is not always entirely successful, in that the miming does not always convey a manifest meaning, and one sequence at least goes on a little too long. All the same, Sarah Tuck is a capable and promising actor and offers an enjoyable entertainment.
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Fluid segues from common to surreal
Review by Ross MacLeod 28th Oct 2015
As the evening was something of a double bill I’ll start by mentioning Finn Johansson and his songs. With a well-paced five song set and a light, friendly rapport with the audience, Johansson was a nice easing into to an entertaining evening. His strong, flexible voice had a whimsical quality that reminded me of James Taylor with a little less vocal twang and more stream of consciousness lyrics.
After a short intermission we launch into the physical theatre part of the play and the fact that Sarah Tuck is wearing kneepads hints at some intensive physical work at that. But despite the energetic lip-synching to start it’s a more subtle physicality that draws the audience in, distinctive characters establishing themselves through actions and only a little initial dialogue.
Set in an unnamed supermarket we are introduced to shoppers and staff, each made distinctive by only slight changes of body and expression. Tuck revels in her expressions as much as her movement with some gorgeously grotesque heightened emotions on display. Sound wise there are some tight sound cues and Tuck’s sparse dialogue further builds characters up, a highly strung manager, a toddler and escaped chicken all memorably voiced. There are some moments that I found reminiscent of early Rowan Atkinson work, especially the naive, impish joy of discovery that gave some scenes a neat Mr Bean like quality.
As the play moves forward some established characters interact and, as the kneepads suggested, things become higher energy and more frantic with increasingly creative use of the few props: a shopping basket and trolley. Scenes segue between common familiarity and surreal fantasies in a fluid manner and only once, during a set of rapid character switches, was I unable to tell exactly what was going on.
There’s a little bit of audience interaction but it’s not invasive so if you’re not a fan, don’t let it put your off. It’s a lot of fun with a full on, high energy comedic performance by Tuck.
It’s playing at The Meteor in Hamilton Wednesday 28th then The Dark Room in Palmerston North 29 Oct – 1st Nov. I highly recommend checking it out. You may never see couscous, free samples and automatic checkouts in the same light again.
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Increasingly preposterous absurdity
Review by Nik Smythe 23rd Oct 2015
The Auckland Old Folk’s Association* building is the most gloriously dingy venue since the legendary Cross Street Studio. Old wooden floors, paint peeling off the walls and ceiling, faded old framed photos dating back more than half a century, a tired old red velvet curtain on the raised stage from where the light and sound operators operate.
Somehow it seems the ideal space to present Wellington-based Pat-a-Cake Productions’ touring double bill showcase. By double bill I mean that solo devisor/performer Sarah Tuck’s visionary physical comedy show The Things We Do is opportunistically supported by the sweetly raw musical stylings of her sound designer/operator who happens to have a new album to promote.
The simple, portable set designed by Anna Robinson and Jody Burrell is predominately composed of colourful – i.e. green and beige – shop signs displaying prices on the full spectrum of retail goods from size 11 chickens to price-busted cotton softs. Centre stage a mic stand, semi-acoustic guitar and amplifiers portend the imminent musical warm-up act.
Affable country-blues-folk muso Finn Johansson casually enters with some preliminary chitchat as he plugs in and launches into a handful of self-composed ditties that coincidentally appear on his aforementioned album, available on CD at front of house for a nominal price, or on Bandcamp for what-you-like. His guitar has no pedal effects, although ample reverb and gain give some appealing rough texture to the country-blues-folky tunes overlaid with sweetly raw, sometimes falsetto vocals occasionally bordering on a yodel.
Finn’s songs generally deal with personal relationships with lovers, friends and food, with a strong humorous element. The closing jangly-pop number goes up a technical notch, being played and sung over a basic pre-recorded backing track, and the close audience (he finds the word ‘intimate’ a bit creepy) is well warmed up for the main event after a short break.
Hurling a green shopping carry-basket on stage, a bouncy lass (Tuck) with (mimed) earbuds in, vigorously dances and lip-synchs to an elaborate supermarket-themed rap song penned and recorded by Johansson – lyrics included in the programme. In the first ten minutes or so we’re introduced to a line-up of broad, recognisable characters in the arena of retail shopping, and I do mean arena in both the special and competitive contexts of the word.
There’s the bouncy girl, the pregnant housewife and her three-year old boy Timmy in tow, the ex she unexpectedly runs into with his tediously depressing travel anecdotes, the flirty meatball sample stand lady and her super-high strung manager who looks like it hurts Tuck’s face to perform, among others. While it’s not always immediately clear which role she’s slipped into from the previous one, which can be a tad disconcerting, it doesn’t generally affect the overall entertainment.
Her only costume is a fitted tee, lycra pants with (necessary) knee-pads and sneakers. Her only props are one basket and one trolley, which between them come to represent a wide range of items and accessories. Speech is not quite minimal but certainly judicious, with many silent, sometimes acrobatic action-based scenes. I’m particularly struck by the effective method for showing conversations between two characters, both talking and listening (or not as the case may be).
Johansson’s sound design utilises appropriate 90s classic hits as found in large chain stores across the nation and probably world. Choice tracks from the likes of Seal, Des’ree and Celine Dion brilliantly and at times cathartically punctuate Tuck’s increasingly preposterous routines which eventually transcend recognisable absurdity into outright madness in the form of a runaway chook (wherever that came from?), a rogue self-service checkout machine, and the outrageous climactic fiasco that I shan’t spoil here, much as you may see it coming.
Directed by Bop Murdoch, the show runs well over an hour which is considerably impressive for a solo show. Possibly a little too long, it would be a terrible task to decide which scenes to cut. The dedicated elaborateness and the farce being ratcheted up to supernatural levels echo the cinematic ensemble masterworks of French physical comedy legend Jacques Tati.
*It should also be noted the bar is cheap, but cash only, so hopefully you won’t be caught out like I was…
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Undoubted qualities yet to be liberated
Review by John Smythe 15th Oct 2015
Devisor-performer Sarah Tuck – abetted in The Things We Do by her director Bop Murdoch, sound designer/operator Finn Johansson – is clearly a creative, talented and entertaining performer ready to enrol in a fulltime physical theatre course.
The likes of Thomas Monckton, Jen McArthur, Trygve Wakenshaw and Barnie Duncan show there is no ‘right’ way to go about it but each has gone through rigorous training to master commedia and clowning skills, find their essential; comedic persona and develop a process by which they devise their work – all of which remains work-in-progress in that ever-questing genre.
There are no rules that cannot be redefined and refined. In the end it either works or it doesn’t. For me a successful show is more than a demonstration of skills. It transcends its component parts by using them as a means to some greater end. It engages its audience, holds their attention and stimulates their interest, no matter how bizarre, abstract or weird it becomes. It rewards their investment.
As observational physical comedy The Things We Do draws on the sorts of characters and behaviours anyone who goes to supermarkets will recognise. Tuck defines the characters and characteristics well, engages her audience in the fun of it and achieves an impressive synchronicity with Johansson’s sound effects, or rather he aligns them perfectly to her actions. Amid the ‘set pieces’ Tuck is very responsive to the audience, as exemplified by the way she deals with a cellphone going off.
Lines of generic ‘Sale’ and ‘Special’ price placards define the back wall and entrance (Anna Robinson’s original design re-vamped by Jody Burrell). An actual basket and trolley are used, both as themselves and to represent other things, otherwise the shelves and products are mimed. Except when they’re not.
Most of the action is mime-based but sometimes characters speak. Some action is objectively realistic and some is non-naturalistic, possibly representing what we would like to do if only we could. However trouble has been take to call all staff to an urgent meeting – about breaks – which I see as allowing certain behaviours to occur in ‘reality’ without intervention from a staff member.
Along with very credible scenarios, albeit heightened in their theatricality – like the Supervisor objecting to where the Venison Meat Balls Demonstrator has set up her stall – some very abstract things occur, involving farmyard animals. Because we are observing and sharing the behaviours and experiences of a wide range of characters, the switches from objective to subjective reality are not always clear, and dealing with the confusion becomes a counterproductive distraction for the audience.
A highly recognisable situation of frustration when stuck in a check-out queue escalates into a spectacular cat fight. Some of this physicality draws deserved applause from the fans but the sequence is somewhat tainted by having to work out where it sits on the reality/ fantasy spectrum.
It is always pleasing when someone or something that’s been established comes back into focus and it’s disappointing when something that has piqued our interest is not followed through. There’s the swaggering Bloke who fancies the Demonstrator and avails himself of product samples to spruce himself up only to discover he’s on a fool’s errand. Is this the guy that Diane, pregnant with 2¾ year-old Timmy in tow, encounters: a boyfriend from some years ago? There is a string narrative hook in this but it slips away.
Being named characters, Diane and Timmy get to play continuing roles. Their mother/ son relationship is beautifully depicted in all its fraught delicacy. So when Timmy gets lost, and an audience member is deputed by the Supervisor to look after him, we care. Do we have to assume it’s some sort of pregnancy brain-fade syndrome that makes Diane unaware he is missing? Even so, Timmy’s fate remains an unresolved concern.
As for what does happen next … It would be a spoiler to spell it out. Let’s just say a major event occurs which produces a big surprise that simultaneously has a strong theatrical impact while engendering great confusion. Has Diane just had a profound experience in reality that involves a serious psychological trauma or is this just a contrived gag about a once trendy product that is no longer “a thing”?
There is a real spillage from a bulk-bin – another clever theatrical surprise – that becomes awkward when a mimed vacuum cleaner fails to clean it up. But that and the aforementioned product do afford Tuck another opportunity to do very performer-centric things that, while impressive and entertaining, detract from the shows greater purpose … if there is one.
A unifying theme that helps to bring the component parts together with more coherence, and a more cohesive rationale for the conventions being employed, would liberate the undoubted qualities of The Things We Do.
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Theme-play needs clearer conventions
Review by Shannon Friday 25th Feb 2015
The Things We Do is a mostly physical, distinctly comic one-performer show (I hate to say ‘one man’ or ‘one woman’ show as it leaves out the team not standing onstage). The latest outing from Pat-a-Cake Productions, Things has what are quickly becoming the hallmarks of their shows: a playful curiosity, engaging physicality and a theme-led structure.
The theme in this case is an exploration of the secret dreams and desires that awaken when our minds wander while grocery shopping. The Pat-a-Cake team don’t seem much interested in creating an overarching story; they’re much more keen on playing with a sort of dramatic Rubik’s cube – twisting the faces to see what the different colours look like.
Under Bop Murdoch’s playful direction, sometimes the show explores multiple storylines, or develops multiple versions of a situation, or even just plays games around a single idea. Sometimes this loose structure pays off brilliantly, like when one character’s decision of whether to buy the ethical but expensive or affordable but caged carton of eggs suddenly morphs into an exploration of the tininess of the caged hen’s world compared with her dreams of freedom (and couscous.)
This short vignette stands in contrast with several recurring characters, including a store manager at the end of her tether over break, a disgruntled employee, an over-zealous food demonstrator, and a pair of former lovers bumping into each other after 5 years’ estrangement. There is some fantastic physical detail in switching in between characters in these scenes, such as when a free sample is held out and performer Sarah Tuck moves from side to side to show the conversation (physical or spoken) around it.
The biggest question of a single-performer show, especially one with so little narrative, is, quite simply: is the performer interesting to watch? And, yes, Tuck is undeniably fun to watch. She relishes performance challenges that are immediately engaging, from going all Harlem Globetrotters on a shopping basket to guzzling a truly disgusting amount of milk to miming giving birth. Her performance is earnest, goofy, and self-aware.
Tuck’s acting is supported by some great sound work from Finn Johansson. His tight cuing sets up some great early engagement – as an audience we get to see if the show will hold together or start to show some cracks. The cheesy-as 1990s soundtrack makes complete sense in a supermarket and serves as a great (un?)ironic highlight to some of the more melodramatic action. Who knew Celine Dion could be so much fun?
There is some basic convention work that doesn’t seem finished to me. The transitions between the scenes themselves are much too foggy, and at the end of the night, I’m not quite sure how many people (and animals and objects) I’ve seen Tuck portray. I’m also a little unclear of my role at times during the show – am I an item on the grocery shelf that is being ignored? Am I a person who is self-consciously watching the show? The show bounces back and forth between these, but the cues for these changes are unclear to me.
The rules around the (generally well-chosen) few props are unclear as well. Some transform, but others… don’t? While the shopping cart brilliantly plays everything from a Jaguar to a hen’s cage, when the plastic bag that has become the store manager drops, her whole storyline drops with it. It sits onstage, ignored, until the end of the show. If the other characters who do recur aren’t meant to interact with the manager at that point, why not either transform the bag or just get rid of it?
Considering Bus Ticket recently had its second run, I’m hopeful that The Things We Do will continue to develop and look at some of these convention questions to back up the thematic questions that Pat-a-Cake play with so well.
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