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September 24, 2011 | by  | in Theatre |
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Death by Cheerleader

There are tourists in New Zealand at the moment. And on those nights when there are no big games on, they need look no further than BATS theatre to keep them occupied. Loud, bawdy, and outrageous, Death By Cheerleader will suit anyone who thought our RWC opening ceremony was “a bit poncey”. It is a fun, frisky piece of theatre that lets us into the crazy world of those smiling dancer girls on the sidelines.

Death By Cheerleader follows a small cheerleading squad who will stop at nothing to get to Dubai to support the All Blacks in the 2015 Rugby World Cup. The reason for their desperation though, far from patriotism or loyalty, is Jessica’s (Amy Walker) throbbing desire to ‘get it on’ with Tane Smith, the Sonny Bill Williams of 2015. So Jessica pulls her daughter, Dakota (Julia Hyde), from her books and into a cheerleading suit, and springs Lucy (Claire van Beek) from a psychiatric hospital to form The CheerBlacks. And so begins an hour of risqué, cheer-tastic fun.

The narrative really seems to be a vehicle for some truly impressive dancing in some truly revealing costumes. Every so often the narrative pauses, and the three actors perform moves of such a quality they could be stolen for the next Bring It On film.

Anyway Jessica has readies her squad to support the boys in black, cue a Rocky style training montage set to the Rocky theme song (involving an erotic spray tan dance). Then we’re off to Dubai (signified by two blow-up palm trees brought on stage to the tune of Pussycat Doll’s Jai Ho) and the girls do their very best to cheer on their team. This is when the death the title promised rears its head.

Each of the three members are dangerously deluded in their own cheer ways; Jessica is a 28 year old (Okay, 28, and not a year older. Okay?) Mega-bitch; Dakota is dealing with a (non-existent) weight problem and an overbearing mother; and Lucy is a (compelling) mad lesbian murderer. I thought I knew what it is to ‘cheer’ but these girls seem to live ‘cheer’; it is not so much a form of dance as it is a lifestyle. The dangerously huge smiles and exaggerated moves extend beyond the dance sequences and into the whole story. I’d really like to see what happens if these three just dropped the cheeriness for a moment or two so we could find out just where their delusions stem from.

The play is fun; the set is cute (a mini Astroturf rugby pitch) and the lighting suits the party atmosphere. But let’s get real for a second here; there is no sport like rugby in New Zealand, and it is no surprise that plays about rugby have popped up in the theatre. Yes, it was inevitable, this is theatre pitched at the fans who like their art themed. The character Lucy said it best; “this is rugby, culture has nothing to do with it”. So if you’re like me and have foreign supporters littered all over your lounge, take them to Death By Cheerleader. But only if Dreamgirls is full. Cheers.

Death By Cheerleader
Created by Julia Gyde, Claire van Beek and Amy Waller
20-24 September at BATS

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