Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

02/12/2010 - 18/12/2010

Production Details


From the writer’s of last year’s smash hit Christ Almighty! comes another serving of yuletide mischief. 

It’s Christmas time at 7 year-old Charlie’s house, and Charlie has gone away in a big white Christmas truck, with flashing Christmas lights on top. Something terrible has happened to Charlie; and his toys have got some explaining to do…

Join the revolving cast of 40 actors from stage and screen as they ask the tough questions: will Ball survive being thrown at the ranchslider again? Is Viewmaster and his obsession with Kevin Bacon really to be trusted? Will Barbie have to go and live at the dump? 

TOYS. It’s not for children. 

TOYS plays at
The Basement Theatre
from Dec 2nd – 18th.
No shows Mondays.
Adults $35 / Seniors & Students $30 / Actors’ Equity $25 / Group bookings 6+ $30 each

“Where is Barbie, anyway? It’s her dream mansion and she’s not even fucking here.” – Viewmaster 

Andi Crown, Angela Bloomfield,
Ari Boyland, Barnaby Frederic, Barnie Duncan, Ben Wall, Beth Allen, Brett O’Gorman, Bronwyn Bradley, Bruce Phillips, Byron Coll, Charlie McDermott, Chelsie Preston-Crayford, Dan Musgrove, Dave Fane, Gareth Reeves, Gareth Williams, Hannah Banks, Harry McNaughton, Ian Hughes, Jacque Drew, Jarod Rawiri, Jeff Szusterman, Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Jessica Wood, Jordan Blaikie, Madeleine Sami, Michele Hine, Millen Baird, Morgana O’Reilly, Natalie Medlock, Nic Sampson, Oliver Driver, Renee Lyons, Robyn Malcolm, Ryan Richards, Sam Snedden, Siobhan Marshall and Yvette Parsons.

Wild and witty world of toys well beyond kids

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 06th Dec 2010

The Basement theatre ushers in the festive season with a bout of wild revelry that probably has more in common with pagan saturnalia than traditional Christmas celebrations. A series of boisterous monologues provides an energising workout for a rotating cast of 40 actors which mixes seasoned journeymen with enthusiastic novices and a smattering of theatrical luminaries. 

Taking its cue from Toy Story the play builds an imaginary world out of the flotsam and jetsam of a child’s bedroom and projects the familiar neuroses of our times on to a random assortment of discarded toys. But no one should make the mistake of believing the show is suitable for children. [More]


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Like a lolly lucky dip

Review by Lillian Richards 06th Dec 2010

Christmas is about relief. It’s about letting go: of the year, of weight control, of your wallet, of inhibitions. Well that’s a secular interpretation but one at least that suits the loosely Christmas themed show Toys

Written for The Basement, with Christmas time in mind, Toys is about free-wheeling fun, about laughing and having parts of you touched by actors and having to touch parts of those actors in return (if you’re sitting in certain seats that is). Being toyed with, I guess.

Last year Medlock and Musgrove (sounds like a legal firm) wrote Christ All Mighty! for the 2009 Basement Christmas show which was full of delightfully clever, loaded back-handers at the ‘Jesus myth’. This year they’ve written something all together more, well, plebeian.

We don’t really have a class system here but I’ll state categorically that I’m not using that term pejoratively, well not conclusively. Where Christ All Mighty! implied, Toys screams. Where Christ All Mighty! cajoled, Toys insists. Is it wrong to put the two next to each other like this? Maybe.

The purpose of the exercise though is this: Christ All Mighty! felt like it was holding a candle up to Monty Python (how can anything mocking Jesus not be?) whereas Toys feels aglow with the comic sensibilities of someone more like Rich Fulcher (Bob Fossil from the Mighty Boosh).

There is a juvenile thrust to the scripting that, depending on how the actors choose to respond (ignore it, indorse it, confuse it), can either come off as naive personification or overwrought joke blowing.

You see toys are actually designed for people who find farts amusing as opposed to regrettable, so there is a high level of overt child-like self-absorption, superficiality, unexplained rage and unexplored petulance in the script. But toys are also designed for children, a child-like view of the world is simply in a way that is both moving and funny, and it’s those actors who pick up on this that are the most successful at bringing Toys to life.

What’s really interesting about Toys, as with the past 2 Christmas shows at The Basement where they’ve employed a rotating cast of actors, is the scope for interpretation within the script. I saw the opening night on Thursday as well as the following Saturday night performance and it was almost like seeing two different plays.

Improvisation (for those actors crazy and brilliant enough to be good at it) is rife and once you know the basic script outline you can marvel at just how far into the woods some people wander.

Nic Sampson deserves notable mention here for almost entirely reorganizing the character of Jack In The Box; better even than the Scottish humour and the cavalier stage presence is the fact he looks like Beetle Juice.

Gareth Reeves also plays Jack in the Box and did so with, although too much sexuality (the script is laden, it doesn’t need more), pretty compulsive stage presence, good delivery and timing.

Because the script changes depending on who’s hands it falls in to, I feel it’s mandatory to see this show twice as without the god-like understanding of what’s script and what’s edifice /acting /direction (which, by the way, is done lavishly yet tightly by Cameron Rhodes and Toby Leach, the only issue being some actors were a little hard to hear and needed to speak clearly and face forward), you don’t get to see the play flex its muscles. You miss it shifting from weak to brilliant, from pointless to powerful. And you might fail to experience some worthy nuance if an actor one night fails to uncover what could well be revealed the following night.

Like a lolly lucky dip you’re at the mercy of the night’s selection and what on the Thursday was a slightly garbled, ill-fitting, laugh/gag, lewd fest turned out on Saturday to be a truly funny, lovingly rendered, comprehensible ‘who done it?’. I guess that’s part of its brilliance, that it lowers to meet some and extends to reach others.  

My sensibilities are more suited to the Saturday night ensemble. Gareth Williams sang Michael Jackson back to life.  Angela Bloomfield was a pitch-perfect Barbie, self obsessed and vapid but with energy, charm, quirk and the most watchable facial story telling I’ve seen in a while. Beth Allen as Barbie’s sidekick Share A Smile Becky was all-American exuberance and optimism and Allen and Bloomfield are a powerful comic duo with great timing, pace and playfulness.

Brett O’Gorman played a ball with such sweet innocence that what was innuendo came off as accident, which added depth to a potentially one-dimensional character. Bruce Phillips as Viewmaster was highly successful in translating the antiquated toy into a slightly strung-out English Teacher type of dubious sexual proclivity.

The two characters that seemed comparatively irredeemable, no matter who was playing them, were Teddy Bear and Snake Eyes. Teddy Bear seems to suffer from a lack of gravitas with not much in the way of script to help a slightly mundane character along and Snake Eyes is an unsuccessful mix of egoism and misanthropy which comes off as unrealistic and quite confusing. However both roles still roused much laughter, if a little less than their more craftily scripted counterparts.

The set design is both fitting and strange in some places (the green sheer fabric in Barbie’s house seemed at odds with her native pink) but the overall atmosphere is a bit like the Log Flume, which is to say creepy, whimsical and appealingly childlike. The lighting is simple and effective, not dimming the audience too much which helps to create a greater sense of communion with the actors; a nod to the audience’s crucial part in this play.

A bag of pick n mix lollies is really the right metaphor. Bright, appealing, moreish (sic), not really nourishing but satisfying when you’re wanting something sweet, something to get you high and overall exactly what you hoped: a relief.  
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