Memorial Hall, 15 Skird Street, Alexandra

18/06/2012 - 18/06/2012

Real Journeys Fiordland Centre,

15/06/2012 - 15/06/2012

Memorial Hall, 1 Memorial Street, Queenstown

20/06/2012 - 20/06/2012

Oamaru Opera House, Oamaru

24/06/2012 - 24/06/2012

SIT Centrestage Theatre, Invercargill

13/06/2012 - 14/06/2012


23/06/2012 - 23/06/2012

Fortune Theatre, Dunedin

19/05/2012 - 09/06/2012

Memorial Hall, 36 Melmore Terrace, Cromwell

19/06/2012 - 19/06/2012

Production Details

Written by Carl Nixon
Director: Patrick Davie
Artistic Director: Lara Macgregor
Designer: Matt Best
Lighting: Stephen Kilroy

One chip shop, two actors, & sixteen characters 

Set in a Chinese-owned fish-n-chip shop, TWO FISH ‘N’ A SCOOP follows a blossoming romance between new employee Jason (Chris Parker) and the owner’s daughter, Rhea (Hweiling Ow). Their love, however, is threatened by cultural and racial divides as well as pressure from family and friends.

Throughout the course of the play we meet all the customers in the chip shop, Rhea’s father and mother and Jason’s thuggish friend Tug.  The sheer brilliance of Carl Nixon’s play is that all sixteen characters are played by Parker and Ow.

TWO FISH ‘N’ A SCOOP began as a short story, Fish ‘n’ Chip Shop Song (featured in a collection of the same name published in 2006). “The story really appealed to me and, after it was published and read out on Radio New Zealand National, the idea grew that it would work as a piece of theatre,” says writer Carl Nixon.

While TWO FISH ‘N’ A SCOOP contains comic moments, at its heart the play examines some of the darker aspects of Kiwi culture. Nixon feels that “the theme of race, cultural integration and tolerance are perennial and important. I believe that theatre should be dealing with important social issues.”

Director Patrick Davies says that Nixon’s work “offers something new for Dunedin theatre goers.” Parker and Ow’s ability to seamlessly adopt a plethora of characters quickly makes this play “a tour-de-force” for the actors.

Artistic Director Lara Macgregor believes that TWO FISH ‘N’ A SCOOP is “an important contribution to the Fortune Season. One of the major draw-cards in programming this insightful New Zealand play is that it challenges audiences as it entertains. Every day there is an item in the news directly related to the strong themes inherent in this work.”

This will be Parker and Ow’s first time performing on Fortune Theatre’s mainstage. Parker is a recent graduate of Toi Whakaari Drama School in Wellington and Ow is an Auckland based actress most recently seen as Angkasa in Shortland Street.

As excited newcomers to the Dunedin area, both actors are also looking forward to the two week Otago and Southland tour that follows the end of their season at the Fortune.

Parker says “What a treat to work on this dexterous new New Zealand play and visit some of the most beautiful parts of the country.”

Two Fish ‘N’ A Scoop
By Carl Nixon
Production Dates:  19 May – 9 June Fortune Theatre | 3 June – 24 June Otago and Southland Tour (see below)
Venue:  The Fortune Theatre, 231 Stuart Street, Dunedin 9016
Performances:  6pm Tuesday / 7.30pm Wednesday – Saturday / 4pm Sunday (no show           Monday)
Tickets:  Gala (first 5 shows) $32, Adults $40, Senior Citizens $32, Members $30, Tertiary | Students $20, High School Students $15, Group discount (10 +) $32
Bookings:  Fortune Theatre, 231 Stuart Street, Dunedin; (03) 477 8323

Otago and Southland Tour Dates:

Following the Dunedin season of TWO FISH ‘N’ A SCOOP (19 May ­– 9 June), the production will tour to:

SIT Centrestage Theatre, Invercargill
Wednesday, 13 June and Thursday, 14 June
Book at Ticketdirect 0800 224 224

Real Journeys Fiordland Centre, Te Anau
Friday, 15 June
Book at Fab & Finesse (03) 249 7309

Alexandra Memorial Hall
Monday, 18 June
Book at Alexandra iSite (03) 448 9515

Cromwell Memorial Hall
Tuesday, 19 June
Book at Cromwell iSite (03) 445 0212

Queenstown Memorial Hall
Wednesday, 20 June
Book at Ticketek 0800 842538

Ranfurly Town Hall
Saturday, 23 June
Book at Maniototo iSite (03) 444 1005

Oamaru Opera House
Sunday, 24 June
Book at Ticketdirect 0800 224 224

*Booking fees may apply at some venues.

Chris Parker
Hweiling Ow

Theatre , Comedy ,

Brilliant acting, Kiwi as

Review by Barbara Frame 21st May 2012

Fish and chip shops: Kiwi as, they’re often owned and run by immigrants.

When student Jason gets a job in Mr Chan’s shop he wastes little time, despite an express prohibition, in falling in love with smart, brave Rhea, his co-worker and Chan’s daughter. What happens next is affected by Rhea’s parents – her Chinese father clinging to ambition while enduring incomprehension and racism; her mother, a New Zealander of European descent, succumbing to heartbreak and doughnuts. When one of Jason’s ertswhile friends turns up with some very nasty attitudes, Jason finds himself having to do some speedy and painful growing up.

The shop itself, represented in a clean and very recognisable set right down to the lettering on the menu board, designed by Matt Best and with excellent lighting by Stephen Kilroy, becomes more than just a workplace. It’s a cultural melting pot where a poi dance can be performed expertly with wire chip baskets. It’s also the scene of romantic dreams and wrecked aspirations, and a trap.

Hweiling Ow performs the parts of Rhea and Mr Chan, and Chris Parker portrays Jason, Silvia Chan and all of the play’s 11 other characters. This sounds astonishing, but, under Patrick Davies’ expert direction, the actors’ agility, charm and fine acting forestall any possible audience confusion. Any one of the four brilliantly created, sensitively acted main characters is in him- or herself a reason to go and see the play.

At a time when New Zealanders pride themselves on fair-mindedness and yet rhetoric about “real New Zealanders” and “immigration” often barely conceals outright racism, and when Asian-bashing can and does happen in George Street, Carl Nixon’s socially aware, funny and deeply affecting play couldn’t be more timely.


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Bitter sweet comedy and tough questions

Review by Terry MacTavish 20th May 2012

The Fortune continues buoyantly on the crest of its wave. “The tide turned for me with Gods of Carnage. Makes me want to buy a season pass,” confided an English Professor I claim as a friend.

Two Fish ‘N’ A Scoop is exactly the sort of polished professional production we need: a New Zealand playwright giving us our own voice, delighting us with laughter, yet forcing us to confront such dark and demanding issues as racial intolerance. 

The problem is real and sadly always topical. Just a week ago PM John Key proposed stricter immigration laws, maddening fiery Dunedin Methodist minister Ken Russell into thundering from the pulpit, “Let us not forget we were all boat people once!!”  Award-winning writer Carl Nixon has chosen that humblest and most familiar of forums for the debate: the local fish ‘n’ chip shop, and it works a treat. 

Nixon has two actors playing all the parts, which amount to some twenty lively characters, though we concentrate on the sweet love story of Rhea Chan and Jason. Beyond these two, we see most of Rhea’s two parents, who own the shop, and Jason’s thuggish friend Tug, a sporting mate from his schooldays.

Patrick Davies, director of recent outstanding Fortune productions The Pitmen Painters and The Tutor, is the obvious and perfect choice to direct. An improv champion, he is himself brilliantly adept at swift character changes (unforgettable in The 39 Steps), and he has clearly honed the technique of his actors, who slip impeccably between characters in a virtuoso display of vocal and movement skill.  

Davies has great material to work with; two likeable and alarmingly talented actors: energetic Hweiling Ow, tiny and ever so cute beside gangling Chris Parker, fresh out of Toi Whakaari, but already clearly an actor with a shining future ahead. Keep your eye on this one! These two establish a great rapport as the young lovers, but are convincing too as the previous generation, playing cross-gender to flesh out* the curious yet touching relationship of Rhea’s parents.

In a clean and shiny cafe with whiteboard menu and lots of stainless steel, charming half-Chinese, all-Kiwi Rhea Chan keeps up a cheerful patter, her realistic encounters with customers interspersed with little flights of poesy describing the rhythm of the days. So believable is she, as she mimes deftly to a background sound of bubbling oil, that I resolve to be more considerate next time I order takeaways. 

Enter Parker, who quickly establishes his versatility as one after another of a stream of idiosyncratic but recognisable customers, while Ow as Rhea serves them all with patient dexterity. (How long can one yobbo hold his ‘a-a-a-a-a-a-nd’ before he says ‘nah, that’ll be all’?) Eventually Parker settles into what will be his main role, Jason, who is applying for the job of assistant (no experience required). 

Abruptly Rhea transforms to her dad, with yellow baseball cap, bent posture and strong accent, to test Jason’s maths with a barrage of fast orders. It makes for a very funny scene, though occasionally the comedy overtakes the credibility – I doubt Mr Chan would have been so direct, let alone physical, in his threats to warn Jason off seducing his daughter. The performance, though, is hilarious, and the theatre rocks with laughter. 

Altogether this is an extremely funny play, encompassing the authenticity of the ‘chippie’, including the high energy of Jason’s first Friday night, and the hilarity of tall boy figuring out how to kiss tiny girl, leading to the sweetness of a gently discreet sex scene.

The clever role swapping keeps the chuckles coming, particularly when Rhea’s doughnut-scoffing mother enters. Above all it is rather delightful simply to watch two people falling in love, before they confront the difficult choices each must make. 

Their bitter-sweet shared fantasies of secret dates and a happy life together are reminiscent of Jimmy and Alison playing bear and squirrel in Look Back in Anger, of Somewhere there’s a place for us from West Side Story…What would drama do without its star-crossed lovers? And what a great device they are for exposing the evils of society.

Thus with the arrival of Tug the thug the mood darkens, as his Asian-baiting allows us to explore the themes of racism and of misplaced loyalty to mates. The agonised conflict of easy-going Jason, in love with an Asian girl, but burdened by a debt of ‘honour’ to the team-mate who saved him from a bashing, leads inexorably to the climax.

And what a climax! Davies wisely trusts script and actor to tell the horrific story of the brutal racist act straight to the audience, just as Greek theatre used messengers for any act considered an obscenity.  Parker’s delivery has true power, and the shocked silence from the audience shows he has hit the mark.

It can be terrible for those who lead sheltered lives to have their vague inchoate fears realised, that such things really do happen in God’s Own; to face the truth that we are full of envy and hate, ever searching for a scapegoat. “That this could be New Zealand now,” murmurs my companion, aghast, though as a child she herself suffered prejudice during the Watersiders’ strike. 

I remember many years ago in this very theatre, another play forcing us to confront unpalatable truths about our country. A rugby player called Foreskin standing on the same spot, downstage centre, eyeballing us and bellowing, “Whaddarya??!” It is never too often to ask ourselves that question.

It is a triumph that this production will take its cheerful humour and its tough questions on tour around the region: it deserves to be seen throughout the whole of New Zealand. Gratitude is due to Nixon and the team at the Fortune for holding this particular mirror up to nature, however it challenges us.

Of course the challenge is softened by the exuberant warmth of the comedy, given the Fortune’s impressive professional treatment, including yet another fabulous programme.  (This one has the history of the Chinese in New Zealand as well as fascinating information on the Chinese zodiac, and a nice touch I hope other centres copy: lists of what is happening in theatres round the country.)  And finally a terrific themed supper – need you ask? Two fish ‘n’ a scoop in a newspaper wrapping! Delicious.

* Small joke comprehensible if you have seen play…Highly recommend you do!


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