WHAT WE TALK ABOUT
12/02/2016 - 28/02/2016
WELLINGTON’S FINEST GET OBSESSIVE
Returning to BATS Theatre for Fringe 2016 is Wellington’s favourite storytelling show ‘What We Talk About’. Back again after a successful run in Fringe 2015, ‘What We Talk About’ sets out to prove the theory that regardless of what an individual speaks about, as long as they are passionate it will always be entertaining.
Hosted by comedians Eamonn Marra and Alice May Connolly, each night will provide audiences with a different lineup of comedians, actors, directors, writers, fringers, and general fanatics looking to enthral audiences with their greatest obsession.
Each show is guaranteed to have hilarious anecdotes, heartfelt moments and captivating storytelling – making What We Talk About required viewing for those searching for a fulfilling late-night Fringe experience. But it’s not only a live show, What We Talk About is recorded and podcasted, eternalising each speaker into audio history.
Launched at BATS during the New Zealand Fringe Festival in 2015, What We Talk About sold-out shows and captivated audience attention. Named after the iconic Raymond Carver short story, the show takes inspiration from New Zealand’s own storytelling podcast ’The Watercooler,’ international storytelling podcast ‘The Moth,’ and the hit 2013 New Zealand Fringe Show ‘Corner Diary’.
The first season offered subjects ranging from Star Wars and Musical Theatre to Field Notes Brand Memo Books and Little Women, with previous speakers going on to develop their stories further, creating longer shows such as Yes, I am Riverman and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Gross. Season two promises to be just as diverse, just as bizarre and just as entertaining.
Due to popular demands in 2015, What We Talk About expands to a six date season for this year’s Fringe, and a new website www.whatwetalkabout.co.nz is up and running, with access to all previous podcasts and information about upcoming events.
WHAT WE TALK ABOUT
13, 14, 20, 21, 27, 28 February
tickets from bats.co.nz
Saturdays & Sundays only
Recommended to all generations
Review by Henrietta Bollinger 14th Feb 2016
I am early to the opening night of What We Talk About. This is on account of the slow assent of the Bats Theatre stairs to the Studio I’ve just made using Bats’ stair climbing contraption. Despite the affability of Bats staff, as a wheelchair user I have a very short list of things that are worth the careful twenty-minute chair-bound climb at odd angles required to reach this space. First with his solo show Respite and now with What We Talk About, Eamonn Marra’s work has made that list twice.
I am unsure what to expect from What We Talk About. His solo show, Respite, was gently handled, self-conscious, socially conscious and dryly delivered depressive humor; truly comedy of the millennial generation. It had seemed highly personal and we were let into a very private space, the intimate Studio serving as almost a bedroom or living room where we were invisible guests.
I know, however, that this is less his work and more a constantly changing group of storytellers curated by him and Alice May Connolly, (who despite playing host and performer herself, describes herself modestly to me as something along the lines of an “admin lady”). Eamonn himself is present at a sound-desk, recording the three acts and Alice for future podcast and archiving.
Being early I think perhaps I am getting some insight: privileged knowledge about how this experimental show/podcast of recording people’s obsessions works. As it turns out, the atmosphere of friendly banter, the speech cue cards with decorated Lindsay Lohan’s face, and comically awkward mic adjusting, all make it into the show proper. Seeing the nuts and bolts of the thing seems to be all part of the experience every audience member is allowed into and it stops the undertaking becoming clever and self congratulatory: Look, we’re doing something fresh and edgy.
There is an immediate connection between audience and performers and I get a building picture of a community around this show. This may just have come from Alice and Eamonn drawing on their social circle of other 20-somethings performers. Though the show has a second-season slickness to the way it runs – seamlessly – when an audience poll is taken through a raise of hands it turns out we are all newbies bar one. Despite this we are all taken along for the ride and welcomed like old friends.
Part of the idea of What We Talk about is to host new faces each night. As such some of these speakers are better at connecting directly with their audience than others. Though it seems a deliberate aesthetic to have people reading off their phones and print outs, my favourite moments by far are the moments in between: unplanned or at least un-doctored moments of comedy. This, I think, is the joy of the live medium embraced.
Equally some performers are more practiced at navigating the dual mediums of live show and podcast. It is certainly a skill to bring their future listeners along with the visual jokes of the theatre context. Some storytellers are quicker to describe the silent facial expressions, the iPhone in their hand, the ‘I heart Lindsay Lohan’ t-shirt they wear, than others.
Though the moments that don’t translate are few and far between there is something special about being present and seeing this extra layer. Bearing witness is also special in that the audience themselves are part of the creation of the podcast. As someone who shies away from audience interaction I think our participation is well balanced; we are included but never put upon.
On the final recording you will be able to hear my unchecked laughter and appreciation. The joy of What We Talk About is ultimately what I will take away.
I think that in the Facebook age that demands constant self-marketing there is something quietly wonderful about the ability to hold and host a space for others to talk about what they love. There is no sense from the curators that this needs to be impressive or life changing. The only expectation is that people they care about talk about what they love.
I recommend What We Talk About to all generations. I look forward to what they do next and hope that some older storytellers may come on board too at some point to further diversify the conversation.
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