Who’s Neat? You!

‘Happy Healthy Hangout’ - meet @ BATS, Wellington

16/02/2010 - 04/03/2010

NZ Fringe Festival 2010

Production Details

Top of the Class Theatre in a Ten-Tonne Truck

A New Zealand Fringe Festival show starring some of Wellington’s most lauded ‘up and comings’ hits the streets of Wellington in a ten-tonne truck this February.

Keep your eyes peeled for the arrival of the ‘Happy Healthy Hangout’ near BATS Theatre on Kent Terrace this February for the 2010 New Zealand Fringe Festival [actually parked in the Bay Plaze car park: get your tickets at the BATS box office then wait to join the ‘walking bus’].

The ‘hangout’ – a ten-tonne truck outfitted as the home of the Happy Healthy mascot, Griswald the Manatee – is the venue for the black comedy, Who’s Neat? You! which is based on the makers’ experiences of childhood health education programmes in New Zealand.

The creators of Who’s Neat? You! hope that their unusual venue and subversion of nineties nostalgia will get people talking about the positive and negative effects of contemporary attitudes towards childhood education, particularly the message that ‘you can be anything, as long as you work hard enough’. “We began with a sense of nostalgia,” reveals director Alex Lodge, “then we took it somewhere a little darker, and asked ourselves, ‘what would happen if it all went wrong?’”

Another audience draw card is the reputation and calibre of the group of young theatre makers collaborating on Who’s Neat? You! The show stars Erin Banks, who won the 2009 Chapman Tripp Theatre Award for Actress of the Year, as well as Paul Harrop and Ralph McCubbin Howell, both of whom were nominated for the Most Promising Male New Comer award, and three other 2009 nominees are included on the Who’s Neat? You! production team.

Who’s Neat? You! runs at 6.30 and 8.00 pm from the 17th of February to the 5th of March (no shows Monday). To book contact BATS Theatre on (04) 802 4175 or email book@bats.co.nz. Get in quick, as audience numbers are very limited.

Director: Alex Lodge
Producer: Charlotte Bradley  
Co-writer: Lucy O’Brien  
Co-writer/Performer: Ralph McCubbin-Howell  
Performer: Erin Banks
Performer: Paul Harrop
Prop-maker: Hannah Smith
Composer: Tane Upjohn-Beatson  

Edgy fun

Review by Lynn Freeman 24th Feb 2010

Fringe shows performed outside of the usual theatre venues are always an event, and the mobile classroom/container that hosts Who’s Neat? You! is no exception.

We become primary school students encouraged to take the journey of a life time with Cody and Margot (Ralph McCubbin Howell and Erin Banks), our politically correct life coaches. We are encouraged to believe in ourselves, to practice our tolerance skills, not to crumble to peer pressure, ka pai! 

But while they preach ‘friendship rules’ our two hosts are not respecting each other’s differences. They also show a lack of tolerance and understanding towards Dave (Paul Harrop) the safety officer who has some, well, issues.

Great fun, with a bit of an edge to it.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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A clever and original concept creatively put together

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 19th Feb 2010

After much hassle with Wellington City Council the Happy Healthy Hangout has finally found a home behind a friendly hotel in Oriental Parade. The Hangout is in fact a large truck turned into a classroom where the audience sit on the floor like obedient schoolchildren to be entertained by Margot (Erin Banks) and Cody (Ralph McCubbin-Howell) in the style of The Wiggles or Hi5. 

Through songs and highly animated stories and with the help of Griswald the manatee (sea cow) they explore issues such as self esteem, peer pressure, racism and puberty, revealing to the classroom the secrets of such topics. They convince us that we are special and unique but when the stage manager Dave (Paul Harrop) bursts in wanting to be special too it soon becomes obvious that some are more special, equal, than others and the happy and healthy atmosphere of the classroom soon dissipates. 

Who’s Neat? You! is a clever and original concept creatively put together by writers Lucy O’Brien and Ralph McCubbin-Howell and director Alex Lodge, the energetic cast neatly capturing the patronising and superficial presentation style of many children’s shows. 
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


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Childhood collides with young adulthood

Review by John Smythe 17th Feb 2010

Pitched as the last stop on a nation-wide tour – the last performance, in fact – Who’s Neat? You! casts us in the roles of te tamariki from Kelburn Normal School. Eager Dave (Paul Harrop), the team’s Safety Officer (+ driver and stage manager) collects us from Bats and leads us up the Bay Plaza’s car park ramp to the 4-tonne covered truck in which the show will take place.

Festooned within to suggest an aquarium, with cushions for us to sit on, the Happy Healthy You! truck is destined to play a significant role, as a resonator, shall we say, of the dramas that play out.

There is nowhere to hide once we’re all inside – except for Dave the wannabe performer, who is excluded – so despite the upbeat professional commitment of Margo (Erin Banks) and Cody (Ralph McCubbin Howell), not to mention Griswald (sp?) the sea cow puppet, the cracks in the team’s relationships are hard to conceal.

This is unfortunate since the main message of their 45-minute show it that anyone can be anything they want to be as long as they have self-belief. Capturing superbly the tone and style of Theatre In Education, they cover off bullies in the playground, peer pressure, respect for individuality, puberty, ‘specialness’ … and the reality of life beyond the sugar-coated message of the pill the are trying to get us to swallow.

The relationship between Margot and Cody is bad enough but when it comes to Dave trying to get a shot at ‘stardom’ … suffice to say the contradictions and questions their behaviour raises give us plenty to ponder as we walk away.

The wittily-worded script, by Lucy O’Brien and Ralph McCubbin-Howell, is perfectly balanced to compel our consideration of its implications without spelling out its message. As directed by Alex Lodge and performed by this ideal cast – beautifully paced with nothing outstaying its welcome, plenty of twists and surprises, and some wonderfully harmonised singing – Who’s Neat? You! adds up to a provocative evocation of the way childhood and young adulthood collide.

You are bound to find yourself somewhere in there; indeed the programme carries a disclaimer warning that it could be a life-changing experience. The director’s note is well worth reading too.

(This YouTube clip is closely related to the show).
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


Charlotte Bradley February 18th, 2010

Heads up punters - the truck is actually FIVE TONNE - so gird your loins for THAT...

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