BATS Theatre (Out-Of-Site) Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington

14/10/2014 - 18/10/2014

Production Details


After a crowd-pleasing run at the 2014 Fringe, Alice May Connolly brings her lo-fi comic fairy tale to the BATS stage in October. Written and performed by Connolly (Vampimple, The Bacchanals), joined on stage by Hillary Penwarden (The Bacchanals), and directed by Brigid Costello (Gizza Hoon, Pinwheel Dance Theatre), TUT will play from October 14th – 18th; an enchanting encounter between an eternally brooding teenage Pharaoh and an ebulliently naive, if somewhat lost, possum. 

There are four million people in New Zealand. There are four…? Six! Major cities. There are forests. There are THIRTY MILLION possums.  

The play flips prevailing sensibilities and takes a young possum (Poss) as its hero. Transported by wondrous green rain (or is it poison?) to Tut’s chamber in the Egyptian afterlife (or the “afterparty” according to Poss), where Poss starts to make friends and influence long dead Egyptian royalty. She never loses her raw animal charm though as she recounts scenes from NZ forest life, “Like the way the face of a Saddleback peels right off if you tug from the wattles”. Connolly says, “It’s an offbeat story about two very different creatures helping each other process their respective fates… and a lot of tasty native birds.” 

Told by two actors (one aided by a great possum suit), and the disembodied voice of Pharaoh Akhenaten (Tut’s dad) the show features dancing, graphic OHP slides, and live music by local musicians Oliver Devlin and Aaron Pyke, in a cheeky, original, lo-fi fairy tale.

The play was first performed in the 2014 NZ Fringe Festival in an intimate setting at the former People’s Cinema. It has now been revamped, scaled up and even acquired a new character. Everyone involved is really looking to bringing the show back for those who missed it the first time around. Director Brigid Costello says, “TUT was so touching, sweet, and hilarious during its first season, and now it’s even better! I can’t wait for people to see it and share the fun we’ve all had making it”. 

“A whimsical response to one of humankind’s eternal questions”, TUT “suggests a fine creative mind is at work” – Theatreview 

Magical-realist style, transporting our imaginations to luminous places, and suddenly grounding us with visceral, stark imagery… Lo-fi, lots of fun” – The Lumière Reader

TUT will play at
BATS Theatre (Out of Site), cnr Cuba & Dixon Streets, Wellington
6:30pm 14th – 18th October 2014
Tickets: $16 / $13 / $12 
Bookings: BATS at www.bats.co.nz or 04 801 4175.
$10 student special on Wednesday 15th October! Email book@bats.co.nz or come to the Box Office on the night with your student ID.

Tut-tut, this play needs action

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 17th Oct 2014

Playwright Alice May Connolly states in a programme note that her hour long comedy, Tut, was born out of an idea to make things very hard for herself by introducing two completely different characters to each other. This she has undoubtedly achieved.

The two characters are both living in the afterlife. One is Tutankhamen, who has difficulties with surviving for so long in the afterlife, and is thoroughly bored with eternal fishing in a glass bowl for an amusing glove puppet fish.  

Tut has been disembowelled which is why he is immortal and eternally bored. He is played by Hilary Penwarden, resplendent in an Egyptian headdress, who injects on occasion genuine notes of sadness and world-weariness into the ancient pharaoh.

The other is Poss, a New Zealand possum with a cutesy baby voice and a naïve manner and seems to be interested in dancing and having a party. Poss dreams that there was once an Eden when all animals lived in harmony.  Poss isn’t road kill and therefore, and unlike Tut, still has guts. Poss is played by the playwright.

The play is also about presenting some of the playwright’s anxieties “about death and the afterwards in the guise of a contemporary allegory. I wanted this show to explore being lonely, being free, having dreams; wanting nothing.”

The trouble with the plot and this exploration is that there isn’t any real conflict or action and nothing much happens though each has something the other wants. It is all talk enlivened with the occasional good joke amidst the child-like drawings shown on an overhead projector and the excellent sound effects by Aaron Pyke operated on stage by Linsell Richards who also takes on the role from time to time of Tut’s Dad.


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To be savoured for its moments of brilliance

Review by Hannah August 15th Oct 2014

Tut should come with a warning: ‘May induce extreme fondness for possums’. If you’ve been hoarding that stash of 1080, waiting for an opportune moment to avenge the death of all those native trees, see this show and you’ll probably want to flush it down the loo. (Don’t do this: it’s not great for the environment.) 

I didn’t see this show at the Fringe (when it was reviewed by John Smythe); for this return season at BATS it’s acquired a third character, of sorts, but it’s still essentially a two-hander displaying the interactions between Hilary Penwarden’s dead King Tutankhamun (the eponymous Tut) and Alice May Connolly’s Poss, a New Zealand bush possum.

If that sounds like an even wackier premise than usual for a BATS show, it is, but Connolly’s script is buoyed up by deft direction from Brigid Costello, a clever set design by Harriet Denby, and Penwarden and Connolly’s engaging performances.

Connolly’s programme note states that she wanted “to make things very hard for [herself] by introducing two very different characters to each other”, and in terms of creating a cohesive plot she doesn’t quite rise to her challenge. But the show’s not about plot: it’s about what happens when pessimism collides with optimism; the benefits of community and friendship over isolation; how to deal with regret and ennui and existential doubt.

If that sounds onerous, it’s not: the themes are enclosed within a framework of absurdity and humour that make this one of the more enjoyable shows I’ve seen at BATS this year. 

The humour stems from the script, from the inventive use of an OHP to project (frequently hilarious) supporting illustrations for the monologues that are the production’s set-pieces, from Aaron Pyke’s nonchalant sock puppet incarnation of Tut’s father, and from Connolly’s embodiment of Poss. Penwarden gives a strong performance as Tut, but Connolly’s Poss is so weird and charming, her descriptions of possum life in New Zealand so adeptly and endearingly coloured with appropriate gestures, facial expressions and Kiwi accent, that she surely deserves her character’s name added to the play’s title.

When you manage to find the emotional truth in the experiences of an anthropomorphized dancing possum, and make the audience feel this emotion also, you know you’re doing something right.

There are bits of the show that still feel rough – parts of Oliver Devlin’s sound design; Linsell Richards’ voiceovers as Tut’s father. But this is a production to be savoured for its moments of brilliance, rather than its polish and cohesion – these moments more than make up for the occasional rough patch.

Go and see this show. But whatever you do, don’t do a google image search for baby possums afterwards, or you’ll be ruined forever…


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