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April 7, 2008 | by  | in Theatre |
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Rubber Turkey

Any discussion that begins with the complications of constructing a head tap is bound to be fruitful. Thus I introduce to you Eli Kent: poet, playwright and absurd prop enthusiast. His latest foray into the world of comic theatre is an exploration of the relationship between comedy and tragedy, in particular the tragic nature of stereotypes. The Playground Collective’s Rubber Turkey, soon to be showing in the 2008 Comedy Festival, doesn’t just rework old jokes – it splits them open, probes their innards and sews them back up the wrong way round. Calling all airhead blondes – the Germaine Greer book club begins in 5 minutes. Kent’s play calls into questions our instinctive reaction to stereotyping and asks, what would happen if clowns, average joes and flaxen haired ditzes were real people?

The result is a heady mix of suicidal chickens and cream pies, social commentary and musings on the philosophy of humour. It is sure to follow in the successful footsteps of the Playground Collective’s last piece, The Hunting of the Snark, which blew the cobwebs out of last year’s Comedy Fest. The Collective is comprised of Kent and fellow theatre boffins Robin Kerr and Eleanor Bishop, who set it up in order to make quality theatre – the kind they themselves would like to see. By providing a platform for young aspiring actors, Bishop, Kerr and Kent hope to encourage those who haven’t taken the institutional path to get involved in Wellington’s ‘vibrant’ theatre scene. Rubber Turkey is a shiny new challenge for the Collective, testing producer Bishop’s organisational skills with a dual run in Auckland and Wellington, and Kent’s abilities as both writer and director. However, this being the first run, the process is also dependant on the actors ability to understand their material and work with Kent on ironing out the finer details of dialogue and staging. It’s the first scripted piece they have attempted, an entirely different process to the mad, collaborative improvisation of Snark. One can only hope this determined silliness of that piece’s execution lives on.

So where does one find the inspiration for such finely crafted excess? For Kent, it was an outrageously long winded joke, courtesy of an 8am drunkard. 15 minutes of ramble and an obtusely dead-ended punch line gave birth to an idea for a short film based entirely on this one gag (so lame as to be hilarious . . you know the type) which never made it past the first two scenes. The premise never quite left Kent alone however, and three years later Rubber Turkey was born after two weeks of furious writing. Whilst insights into the science of laughter may have been casually ripped off Wikipedia you can be assured the comic genius is terrifyingly original. It is hard to imagine the kind of wacky stream that would gush forth should Kent decide to wear the head tap he has so lovingly constructed. Do your funnybone a favour and make sure you catch Rubber Turkey at Bats, from 22 to 26 April.

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