Inspired by Basement Theatre’s upcoming mini comedy festival (5-9 September) I thought I’d reflect on the funniest theatre shows (not stand up) that I’ve seen in the past few years. Clearly humour is a matter of personal taste, but hopefully you saw and enjoy some of these shows.
Ernest Rutherford: Everyone Can Science! (Basement Theatre)
Informative and hilarious, a winning combination in Nic Sampson’s solo show about the man on the $100 note. It featured probably the smallest volcano in Auckland (one of my props of 2015) and some well judged audience participation (which I for one enjoyed being part of).
Benedict Cumberbatch Must Die (Basement Theatre)
Three uber fans meet to argue about who is Cumberbatch’s most obsessive fan, and explore their wildest (and they were pretty wild!) fantasies if they were to meet the great man himself. Three fairly extreme stereotypes were brilliantly brought to life by Frith Horan, Lucy Suttor and Donna Brookbanks.
Don Juan (Q Theatre)
Hugely entertaining and innovative, this was one of my favourite shows of last year. So much so that I saw it three times. The large amount of (friendly) audience participation made it sufficiently different every time, with the jokes remaining fresh and non-stop.
Twisted (Basement Theatre)
There have been some great comic musicals recently (Infectious, Jingles) but Twisted is my pick of the bunch (though it was an import from NY rather than home grown). This inverse of Aladdin had the usual hero singing ‘I Steal Everything’, ‘Orphaned at 33’ and ‘Take Off Your Clothes’, while Ja’far is a sympathetic ruler trying to do his best. The whole run sold out before it started, time for a return season!
Hudson & Halls Live! (Herald Theatre and Q Theatre)
A deservedly huge hit, with Chris Parker and Todd Emerson bickering and bantering through the increasingly chaotic filming of a Christmas special. I saw it twice, nice to see how seemingly improvised jokes had evolved, though as with all comedies the audience reaction is as important as the performance itself, second time round the audience took a while to warm up.
The Book of Everything (Q Theatre)
Mainly dramatic but also very funny in places, generally whenever Jesus (brilliantly played by Tim Carson in the original) appeared to offer sage advice, levitate or remove frogs from the stage. Jesus swept!
Camping (Basement Theatre and Q Theatre)
Four brilliant comic performers (Brynley Stent, Chris Parker, Thomas Sainsbury and Kura Forrester), one double booked holiday home, and a few mushrooms. What a combination! The whole show was fantastically funny, but two moments in particular stick in my mind. Brynley’s painfully awkward clog dance, and Chris Parker’s coffee aid exclamation of (repeated) surprise.
Basement Christmas shows (Basement Theatre)
Saved the best for last, with what is consistently (other than perhaps Hauraki Horror) a highlight of every year. I’ve seen the last four – The Opening Night Before Christmas, Jesus Christ Part II, Hauraki Horror, and A Basement Christmas Special Carol – full of so many memorable moments. The look of near constant terror in the eyes of most of the guest actors, Natalie Medlock struggling to sit down in a ridiculous costume, Hayley Sproull’s word perfectly explicit song, and a sentient corn from the future.
What do you think? Any of your favourites missing?