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May 16, 2011 | by  | in Theatre |
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You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yeti

When I remember the Claymation Christmas television specials of my youth, there is one that clearly stands out: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

This is not because of the cuddly little flying reindeer with the shiny flashing nose, but because this was my introduction to the gigantic white furry creature known as the Abominable Snowman, or in indigenous terms, the Yeti. It is this folkloric animal which is conjured by Natalie Medlock to become the protagonist in her self-written (along with Dan Musgrove and Thomas Sainsbury) piece Dan is Dead / I am a Yeti, as part of the New Zealand International Comedy Festival.

Yeti, as the character is called throughout, is a creative writer who flats in a bedsit with newlyweds Tom (Thomas Sainsbury) and Yvette (Yvette Parsons). Depressive Tom, an unsuccessful scriptwriter, works at JB Hi-Fi “lowering the entire store’s morale”, as his supervisor puts it. Yvette, his perky wife, is employed at the theme park Rainbow’s End and considers Yeti her best friend. When the story begins, Yeti is unemployed, spending her days in her nest fortress (a cardboard box), shitting on the furniture and floor, eating jellymeat out of a can, and of course, writing the screenplay of her life. When Tom forces Yeti to get a job in one day, Yeti sells her screenplay to Warner Brothers Film Commission New Zealand, plunging Tom even deeper into his world of depression and fanatical Star Wars watching. Yeti, on the other hand, is in love and lust with Tom, and uses her favourite movie, Fatal Attraction, to scheme.

If this sounds absolutely preposterous, it is; but it is this very absurdity and ridiculousness that makes the show a comedic success. This show has something for everyone. It is packed with wit: endless puns and malapropisms (“I’ve hit sock bottom” and “A hairy tale come true”) and physical comedy: Yvette giving Tom an intense facial massage distorting his features in every way possible springs to mind, topical and local humour, dark humour, topless flashing, exceedingly tight yellow pants, and if none of these things tickle you then surely a woman dressed in a big white fuzzy animal suit with a unibrow making Chewbacca-like mating calls will. Above all, exceptional character-driven comedy reigns in the piece. Natalie Medlock brilliantly remains Yeti throughout, but her supporting cast of Thomas Sainsbury and Yvette Parsons seamlessly switch between an array of characters ranging from Sir Edmund Hillary to Dave Dobbyn to Chairman Mao. Hillaryous.

The piece could probably use some editing as at almost an hour long it perhaps stretches the material a bit thin, especially in the middle sections. This tightening would generally help with timing and tempo—key factors in comedy. Also at moments, the show resorts to ‘inside jokes’ about such things as the Auckland theatre scene or the actors’ offstage lives (thus the enigmatic co-title Dan is Dead), which seems a bit selfish and restrictive towards a general public Wellington audience. Theatre should be about sharing, not exclusivity.

Despite these criticisms, I really enjoyed Dan is Dead / I am a Yeti and found myself roaring with laughter throughout. Silliness aside, I think the show does strike a chord of serious meaning. Maybe it is that we all probably feel like we’re a mythic animal sometimes. We may or may not exist, sometimes far from home and misunderstood, yearning for someone to love us, or maybe just let us shit where we please.

Dan is Dead / I am a Yeti
By Natalie Medlock
May 10 – 14

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