Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

26/02/2016 - 27/02/2016

Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Wellington

16/02/2016 - 20/02/2016

NZ Fringe Festival 2016 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Production Details

Vladimir the Crow is a scholar of Horror and a conduit to all things ghastly and ghoulish, a grotesque clown and surreal song and dance man. The show is a dark, poetic, hypnotic, horror, Fairytale and a celebration of classic Horror.

The show is a hybrid Horror inspired theatre piece incorporating elements of Clown and Bouffon theatre to create an hilarious, high energy one man show.  

Paul Bourke is a graduate of the Helikos International School of Theatre Creation, The Ecole Philippe Gaulier in France and The John Bolton Theatre School. Paul has a passion for honing a synthesis between the physical articulation, imagination and pleasure of the actor which he explores through his work as a performer, director and teacher.

Paul Bourke has worked with companies such as I.C.E (The Institute of Complex Theatre), The Tarpit, The Well, The Artesian AV Arkestra, Four Larks, Porcelain Punch, Full On Theatre and has toured the world extensively with the Australian spectacle theatre company Strange Fruit where he performed at the Melbourne International Festival, WomAdelaide and Tasmania’s Ten Days On The Island Festival. 

Recently Paul Bourke has received critical acclaim for his high-energy one-man vaudeville horror clown show, Vladimir the Crow, his work with the madcap clown trio “the Broccoli Brothers” and now with his new Vladimir the Crow performance piece: Vladimir the Crow Whispering Ghoul. 

In addition to his onstage work Paul works as a freelance director and also designs and teaches his own workshops on movement, clown, bouffon and character acting through his Melbourne based business Paul Bourke Theatre. 

Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee St, Te Aro, Wellington
16-20 Feb 2016 (60 min)
BOOKINGS: fringe.co.nz TICKETS: $18/$14/$12

Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland CBD
26 – 27 February 2016
Prices: Adult: $18 | Concession: $16  

Theatre , Solo , Clown ,

Open the Doors

Review by Tim George 27th Feb 2016

‘Some are born to sweet delight, Some born to endless night…’ — William Blake

‘Is everybody in? The ceremony is about to begin…’ — Jim Morrison

Generally, while I watch a show, I try to get a grasp on something that I can use as a basis for my review, a hook to hang my hat so to speak. About midway through Vlad the Crow – Whispering Ghoul, I was still scrabbling around trying to find that little nugget of inspiration. And then Vlad made the above quote, and a series of connections began to form in my mind.

From Blake, I immediately remembered the Doors song ‘End of the Night’, where Jim Morrison repeats the same line (which Google helpfully told me comes from Blake’s Auguries of Innocence). Suddenly creator/performer Paul Bourke’s approach came into focus … [More]  


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Review by Nik Smythe 27th Feb 2016

The minimal set begins and ends with a single black drape loosely hung upstage, with mirrors subtly protruding from each end as an unspoken reference (I presume) to the fact that potentially evil dark forces dwell within us all, latent or otherwise. 

Paul Bourke of Melbourne-based Paul Bourke Theatre is the conduit for our eponymous host, tottering and quivering onstage in a flurry of flashing lights and industrial noises, dressed like a vampire orchestra conductor.  As he seems about to say something a sudden gunshot stops him dead-ish, and a few minutes of mimed violent evisceration portend the grotesque one-man pageant to follow.

Speaking through buckteeth in haunted nasal tones reminiscent of Igor and/or Gollum, Vladimir explains he is himself a mystic conduit to the other side, the dark realm of the undead, to which we are being treated with an entertaining and mildly educational sojourn through a temporary portal. 

His capricious temperament never quite settles down, evidenced in his encouraging us to make scary ghost noises, then being immediately intimidated by them, scowling and hissing defensively.  (The opening night crowd, containing numerous local performers, enjoy his neurotic reactionism so much it’s an effort to get them to stop). 

The lighting and sound designs (uncredited) serve the fractured narrative very well, in particular the rumbling reverberations of his radio-mic occasionally building to cataclysmic proportions.  A handful of songs performed in twisted, impassioned, slightly off-key circus tones confirm Vladimir’s position as occult entertainer.  

Vladimir doesn’t at any point ‘whisper’ any actual crows per se, as one may infer from the title (not that it says he will – just that he can).  No matter, he whispers plenty else – Vampires, werewolves, zombies, ghosts et al. With plenty of direct interaction between him and us, a few select members of the audience even get ‘whispered’ themselves, apparently unable to withstand Vlad’s hypnotic gaze. 

Frankenstein’s creature is cited as a moral lesson in what truly makes a monster: not creator or circumstance but rather the judgmental mob that call him a monster in the first place.  This adds a deceptively poignant facet to the broader compulsive Bouffon character-and-genre study. 

By the end we’ve been startled, dismayed, confounded and greatly amused on our guided tour through the realm of nightmares.  As veritably awkward, disjointed and eerie as the gothic flights of fancy we are taken on are, there’s an infectious fascination with Vladimir’s wheezy, poetical persona; we are indeed drawn irresistibly in to his macabre and freakish, yet oddly charismatic, even lovable psyche.   

In a word: horrorlarious.


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Confusion offset by contagious need to smile

Review by Ashleigh Pope 17th Feb 2016

Have you ever had a child come up to you with excitement affixed to their little face like the angels of God are shining upon them to enthusiastically show you a trick… only to have to feign excitement for them? On one hand, you can’t help but admire the child’s enthusiasm, but on the other, you wish they were showing you something truly incredible. These mixed feelings echo throughout Vladimir the Crow Whispering Ghoul.

Paul Bourke, who plays Vladimir, adopts an unnatural appearance to communicate he is not one of us. His cartoonishly-wide open eyes, forced tension in his neck and cocked head gives the impression he is expecting something of us; it is not clear what this is. Is he waiting for my reaction as he milks every gag with his drawn-out pauses?

He channels every monster he knows simultaneously and repeatedly at different locations within the theatre, seemingly with the expectation of a different response each time. The discomfort of the situation encourages some audience members to buy in and give him the praise his character so craves.

Vladimir goes from one idea to the next as he takes the audience on a constant stream-of-consciousness tour through the mind of a monster. From a tangential sock puppet to making a cup of Earl Grey tea, he floats from one situational extreme to the other in an instant with no reasoning.

As he begins to deconstruct the traditional tale of Frankenstein, an innocent creature who was corrupted by humankind, we expect the show to take shape. While he holds our attention throughout, he never answers the question of whether he too is a creature corrupted by mankind, leaving us dazed and confused. Perhaps this is his desired effect.

Bourke’s biggest strength as a performer is his ability to wait silently with unwavering enthusiasm for offers from the audience. He builds a trusting relationship by praising any reaction from the crowd, as he invites us to buy in much like a parent would at their child’s garage theatre performance. Bourke’s skill in setting up this relationship is evidenced as the audience obliges every request to please Vladimir, whether we are bucking like a chicken or mimicking his ghoulish gestures. However he does need to remember to reward all offers from the audience.

Much like the child who is enthusiastically presenting their trick, Vladimir’s child-like ability to have us play along with his game is commendable. We may not understand why they find their trick so exciting, but the emotional contagion alone causes us to smile all the same. 


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