Hamilton Gardens, English Flower Garden, Hamilton

21/02/2016 - 22/02/2016

Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival 2016

Production Details

Follow Diva, Lillian, and Tink – 3 men in drag as elderly women of means – as they meet an entire neighborhood of characters during the course of their yard sale.

Expect a little bit of slapstick, some bawdy humour and a bit of an acid tongue in this is a raucous, raunchy, more than a laugh-a-minute play.                        

English Flower Garden
Sunday 21 Feb, 7.00pm
Monday 22 Feb, 7.00pm


Theatre Comedy/Seated/90 minutes
Sponsored by: Creative New Zealand  

Theatre ,


Review by Jan-Maree Franicevic 21st Feb 2016

Hurrah! It is summer time in the city of the future, thus time for the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival. My faithful festival review buddy Frances and I are waiting with a growing crowd to enter the English Flower Garden for tonight’s show: the first in a week of shows we will see. I am super excited. I love drag, I love garage sales and I love comedy: the publicity for this show proclaims it contains all three.

The first irk of the evening for me is that the show starts late. The near capacity crowd bustles for a seat, Frances and I unpack our comfy camp chairs (we are old hands and as such, pity those who will sit for 90 minutes on an unforgiving plastic seat), we pour an Appletise and open our Tupperware containers of snacks. 

The snacks are the highlight of my night and punctuate an otherwise dull, unmemorable hour and a half of my life.

The show starts promisingly. I am impressed with the Hamilton-centricity of the script; I like hearing about our town and the places in it. We are at a garage sale at Diva’s home in Rototuna (very Kiwi accent; I laugh at her saying it: Rotto-Chewner). Pal Lillian joins her, and wheelchair-bound oldie Tink.

The jokes are simple and need flesh. Soon the titters of the crowd wane, and the show lurches from bawdy jabber to bungled physical comedy. By half time all the trio have achieved is to get drunk… causing them to think that they have killed Tink. The three disappear off stage and music comes up: only 40 minutes has passed.

En masse people get up from their seats and make off into the night. Some front row dwellers pass us on their way: Frances tells them this is merely an intermission (it has to be: the programme states a 90 minute show), the reply from this group of theatregoers? “That’s okay, we’re leaving anyway.” 

When the trio returns it is with their neighbour who (after a strange accident in the first half) is also wheelchair bound. As the set has not changed I guess they are still in the same day – but no, it is another garage sale at Diva’s, and this time they are drinking Absinthe, so the compulsory ‘wild hallucination’ humour ensues. Yawn – that stuff must be done well to come off, and this just isn’t.

In the end, Diva gets her egg (I am not going to spoil the one mystery of the show) and ‘We Are Family’ plays over the sound system. The show is over, and just in time, as there is no lighting rig and the day’s light is fading fast.

I wanted to love this show so much that I would tell everyone I know that they had to see it. Frankly I am glad it’s over, and solemnly disappointed.

The way I see it, if you are going to do drag, then you had better do it well… And a garage sale is not that exciting once everything is set up and strangers are pawing your treasures. Frances and I are AVID garage salers – but it’s mostly only fun for the people doing the buying. If perhaps we were watching Diva and Lillian unpack each item and place it out for sale, certain pieces spurring a recollection of some wild time or sentimental moment, then perhaps the pair would avoid the boring talking heads pit which the show falls into.  

I am left with the distinct suspicion that the writer, Edward Crosby-Wells, has never been to a garage sale, nor to a drag show, nor knows any drag queens. Just quietly: no self-respecting drag queen would ever, ever put a used dildo on the front table of a garage sale. That is low humour at its lowest – eugh. I feel sure that Carmen is spinning in her grave just now. 

I hope that some of the support that this show received from Creative New Zealand is left in the kitty as there needs to be considerable work done to bring this show up to the level of the “more than a laugh-a-minute” status it proclaims on the festival’s website.  


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