Fringe Review: Comedy Unplugged
Fringe Review: Comedy UnpluggedReviewed by Ali Little
The Fringe Bar, cnr Cuba and Vivian Streets, Wellington
7pm Every Monday during the NZ Fringe Festival
General $15 / Concession $12 / Fringe Addict $10
Ahh, Wellington's Fringe Bar on Mondays. Over the last year or so the Fringe Bar, with its "Raw Meat Mondays", has become a regular venue for new comedians, and for more experienced comedians trying out new material. During the 2010 Fringe Festival the Monday night slot is filled with Comedy Uplugged, advertised as a chance to sample some "fresh fruits" from the NZ International Comedy Festival (23 April - 16 May 2010). In Comedy Unplugged four acts use the reactions of a live audience to give their newest work that final polish.
On the night this reviewer visited the performers were sketch comedy trio Little Moustache and standup comedians Cruzanne Macalister, James Nokise and ex-country girl with a guitar Sarah Harpur.
The comedians for the most part told unhappy stories with relish. The two Little Moustache sketches which started the show used the device of a young innocent tormented by ruthless older people exploiting social power to misbehave. Cruzanne Macalister described the horror that is immigration control at American airports. James Nokise drew on memories of some awkward family moments, while Sarah Hapur gave a rapid-fire precis of everything she dislikes, and shared some dead-pet memories.
The four acts were loosely linked together by host/compere/MC Noor Razzak. A prize winning rookie back in 2004 he is now a performer with definite "old hand" status. He kept the thread of his largely self-directed ethnic humour going through the show, sometimes very funny and sometimes causing the people sitting behind me to make audible sucking-through-the-teeth noises.
One uncontrollable component in any live show is the audience; and Wellington audiences are famous for occasionally being politely underwhelmed. This night, cruelly, the front row of seats was left largely empty. Although most other seats were occupied, from the spotlighted perspective of the performers (who at best can see only a few meters beyond the stage), the effect would have been quite disconcerting. During intermission the stage manager removed the empty seats, creating a new front row.
Although all the acts made the audience laugh, the only performer to really engage the audience's full attention was the refreshingly high-energy Nokise, whose second-half happy ramble at the start of his set was impressively relaxed, and he charmingly mocked any audience member unfortunate enough to catch his eye. Of course, it is audience fear of just such mockery that causes those front row vacancies . . .
Overall, the fresh-fruit comedy string bag contents varied on the ripeness scale, some a little under, some a little over. But if a performer can wring any laughter out of a Wellington audience on a Monday night, then really, they're doing just fine.