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March 9, 2009 | by  | in Arts Theatre |
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Best of Fringe. Two Day Plays: Grand Final

To be honest, I thought that the Two Day Plays would be pretty shit. Kind of like bad improv, except without the making-it-up-on-the-spot funny thing. Perhaps they would be funny, but I expected little depth to be found in any of the ten minute plays.

Needless to say, I was surprised the plays were quality. All of them were. And I was terribly impressed. The Two Day Plays is an event that should stick around.

The six finalists each did their best to devise and polish a ten minute play in 2 days. As well as using their two prescribed props, the play had to have someone shaving in it, and a thirty second song.

First to knock that bastard off were the HalfWITS. Their play, Destination Venus, was a fine example of some old fashioned New Zealand storytelling. Two kiwi blokes from Rangiora decide to build a rocket – because if Sir Ed could climb a mountain – then they can get to Venus. The story culminates in a classic bloke vs sheliah dilemma when one of the boys, Gordon, falls in love with an Alien. A nice story, well told with the support of a terrific soundscape and some solid acting. Oh, and he chose the girl – I like that.

Hackman were next up and took the risky and not-too-often attempted challenge of devising a more serious play. The Execution of Billy Ray Mitchells was a clever and engaging depiction of the circumstances surrounding a Texan man’s capital execution. Including a live Skype feed from Auckland, some inspired use of the audience and chilling moments of drama, this was a good play. Indeed, out of all of them, it stuck with me the most.

Holy Balls was the play devised by a group of year-eleven Wellington High School students, with more senior directors. A funny little story, not intended for the Christians in the audience. There is a new messiah in town, and he has been told by God to make fired chicken – Christian Fried Chicken – “Good for the Soul”. Very well done, and featuring the best integration of shaving into any of the plays as the disillusioned messiah rips his Jesus-beard off in defiance when Campylobacter threatens his business (how could God do that to him?). The High School students certainly held their own amongst the more established groups.

The Places in Between by Newtown Ghetto Anger was wonderfully creepy. A man doesn’t like salespeople. In fact he has developed a penchant for trapping them in his basement. This time it is a Mormon. Excellent comic-timing made for a hilarious time, and an interesting backwards structure kept us intrigued. However, the ending was rather confusing, and not really in a good way. Despite that, thoroughly enjoyable.

My favourite of the night was Refreshments Will Be Served by the ever-impressive Theatre Militia. A simple story portraying one man coping with the death of his father. As he is hit by this loss, he is immediately sent through the rigmarole associated with such incidents. Making funeral preparations. Receiving condolences. Wondering whether he has a clean suit. Vegemite or marmite? A play of great integrity and tied together by a terrifically understated performance by the main actor. The high-risk strategy of “doing serious” paid off here.

The last finalists were Babyshads and they gave us Kelburn Mama Mia: An Abadaba tribute. The life of the stay-at-home-super-mum came under fire in this delightful acidic comedy. It’s all perfect and friendly until you stab someone, drag them into your laundry and try to find those ‘perfect abs’ somewhere amidst their stomach fat. An inspired song, that I have called friendly, friendly, made the play an extremely pleasurable experience.

The judges then retired, and we were treated with the enchanting, quirky little number The Autopsy as a filler. The judges decided on the HalfWITS and their Destination Venus as the winner of the competition and an impressive prize package.

Overall, it was a great night of great theatre, and was brilliantly presented by Cohen Holloway – the self-proclaimed king of ‘not knowing what the fuck he is doing’.

I look forward to the second Two Day Plays – and you should too.

By Max Hardy

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