March 7, 2024

Leave to Enter

Two/fiftyseven, once you find it*, is potentially the nicest venue for Fringe this year. It's a coworking office with a cafe (bar for shows) and performance space overlooking the old central library. It's spacious. light, quiet and clean (don't get me started on the floors in the Fringe bar), plus it's not at the busy end of town. All of this added to a much more relaxed atmosphere for Leave to Enter. 

There's an audiovisual element that is nicely done so it doesn't distract or detract from the commentary. The great venue means the microphone and brief music aren't at an ear piercing level either. All around this might be an easier show for people with sensory issues to attend.

The basic premise of the show is you need "leave" or permission to enter a country which Nick Robertson was denied when he attempted to visit Scotland in 2017. What follows at a high level must have actually been really anxiety inducing; flying long distance is bad enough but being detained is worse. However, apart from a wee panic when he might miss a flight, I didn't experience any of the stress from the situation - which considering it's traumatic, says a lot about Nick's talent for comedic delivery.

Interspersed with the travel story we learn more about Nick, his life and his family. He's relatable, an everyday, potentially nerdy kind of guy who seems to have been overlooked apart from this one unfortunate incident. His comedy however hasn't been overlooked; this show has won awards and a fellow red headed Australian comedian has only great things to say about him (check out his press release). Many cliches apply here: "one to watch"; "destined for great things"; and "don't judge a book by its cover", this is "not to be missed".

Performances: 7-9 March 7pm

Tickets: $25

*thank you to the Fringe team for instructions with the tickets

March 1, 2024

The Unluckiest Magician

My first thought when Steve Wilbury walked on stage was "he looks like a magician - he should be wearing a top hat." Sadly, the top hat never appeared, which is a huge shame as it would suit him.

It felt like the show couldn't decide what it wanted to be. Was it stand up comedy? Was it a magic show? Was it personal story telling? All the parts were good individually, but somehow didn't meld together well. Perhaps if they had been tied back to the title it may have worked but each part seemed to stretch too long. Unfortunately when you aren't invested in the magic tricks you're able to peek behind the curtain, ruining the least some of the time, there were other times when he truly amazed the audience.

The level of personal disclosure is high and may be too intense for some. It would have been amusing if this were treated like a lesson, with a pointer indicating each injured part of the body.

Be warned there is audience participation, always a risk with comedy and doubly so with a magician, a couple of people were even pulled on stage. Throughout there was a comfortable banter with the crowd and a real stage presence from the magician, who is honestly pretty lucky to have lived through what he has.

Tickets: $20

Performances: 6pm, 1-3 March

February 26, 2024

Some Regrets

I'm not entirely sure what Sam Gibson Regrets after seeing his show but I don't regret seeing it. Admittedly the Cavern Club is a little snug and the sound is a little overpowering, but it was worth it.

Technical difficulties lead to a bit of a slow start which may be why Sam seemed a little unsure of himself initially. He gained traction and was really into the swing of things, pulling from headlines and Facebook comments sections as well as personal experience to keep the audience amused. 

Highlights included: comparing queer culture across the country, comparing the National Party to Christchurch, comparing the royal family to drag race (perhaps the only true royalty?), counting red flags 

It was, unfortunately, obvious from several comments he made that this show was written a while ago. Feeling the need to mention that made him seem unconfident in his material which had no need to be - a couple of years doesn't make an occurrence irrelevant.

Sam saves the very best routine till last, gasps of horror followed by cackles of delight... You'll know what I mean when you see it.

Tickets: $20

Performances: 8pm 25/26 Feb

February 21, 2024

Ben Pope: Holy Cow

Benedict Pope - not to be confused with Pope Benedict, for starters he's alive and a "lapsed Catholic" (the lovely way Catholics have of saying the only way out is death) - tells intertwined tales of his life, mostly at weddings, none of them his own. 

It may say something about the way Kiwi guys dress that till Ben specifically referred to an ex as a woman, I'd assumed he was gay (he has an English accent and was wearing a button-down, apparently that's all it takes).

As all good shows are, it wasn't entirely off the cuff, there was a flow and order with specific call backs, but he was perfectly confident in adapting to the audience response and had specific pieces tailored to a Wellington crowd.

Fringe is always a mixed bag so I never take a seat convinced I'll have a good time, I may instead be in agony for an hour. No such worries here, everyone in the audience was laughing and it was intelligent humour too, not settling for cheap laughs for swearing or crassness (ok so there was some crassness, but it was classy, must be the accent). If he managed to come here all the way from the UK I should have known he'd be good, and he was.

I managed to squeeze in to his packed final performance. His show is funnier than this review and I'm sorry you missed it.

February 18, 2024


Another mix of poetry, politics and dance from Akeim Toussaint Buck, this time collaborating with an animator and using material from multiple refugee stories. The source of the stories is a research project out of the University of Manchester entitled Reckoning with Refugeedom.

It is somehow both on a larger and smaller scale than Displaced, which you could class as a sibling piece. The narrative still sounds personal but is drawn from many people's experiences. The landscape is smaller, the animation drilling down to mere movement in space. As a shorter piece it is more digestible than its sibling, though I think the other is more visually appealing. Both explore the experience of "othering" or being "othered" and how labels can cause people to lose track of individuals inherent humanity. The systems come under fire again too; surely everyone can't shrug and say "that's not my job." This feels more like a call to action.

Tickets: pay what you can

Performances: online, anytime

February 17, 2024


 Displaced is a deceptively simple piece, mixing the personal with the public to tell a universal story through dance, poetry and film. Akeim takes us through his journey from Jamaica to the UK, from outcast to citizen - but perhaps never really truly dropping the outcast label. 

We have forgotten how to be human. We have forgotten our roots or they've been torn from us. Identity is more than skin deep. We walk with our ancestors in this modern world, the generational trauma heavy on our back.

Visually beautiful the landscape moves from beach to forest to urban parks, streets and interiors; Akeim dancing or interacting with others, sometimes it's like he belongs but sometimes he stands out. I imagine this is the point, that this is how his life feels. How life feels for many, even if they were "born here." 

You can watch this on the surface to enjoy the movement, music and poetry (couldn't find a word starting with M), or you can go deeper to really hear the message about decolonisation, about our humanity.

Tickets: pay what you can

Performances: online, 16 February-26 March 2024

February 15, 2024


You've heard of Odysseus, that questionable Greek hero, now meet Odyssea. She's the feminist counterpart to the myth. Instead of stealing, she barters and helps those she meets on her journey, who in turn help her.

It's a dance film with a twist, only one woman dances and we only ever see her highly painted hands. This seems impossible with the choreography spanning the screen and multiple hands appearing. The background music is always familiar but not quite the piece you think it is, making you question everything.

Fabric makes a landscape, a seascape, to host boats made from drift wood and other coastal pieces. It all appears so simple but it's obvious deep thought has gone into every choice. Odyssea is charming and somehow innocent - how is this possible? The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Part of Fringe's online offerings this film started as a pandemic project.

Tickets: $8

Performances: view online, anytime

February 10, 2024

No Hetero / Exes and Nos

Two queer Canadian shows one after another at Circus Bar sounds like a great night. Yes, but also No. Unfortunately it means you inevitably compare the shows to each other and they have very different vibes. Don't get me wrong, both (as billed) are queer and Canadian and autobiographical - interestingly about coming out later in life - and also a little chaotic as all good dress rehearsals should be.

No Hetero very definitely has nothing to do with Taylor Swift; the friendship bracelets (bring cash to buy!) and show being split into eras are purely coincidence. Hadley hosting a show called the Taylor Swift Book Club also coincidental. She even emphatically promises to not mention Taylor Swift. Canadians are more like Americans that expected (sorry); they too go to summer camp and have very religious families. Hadley pokes fun at herself for the cringe worthy trends she followed and the obvious signs of her sexuality that were hidden under compulsory heterosexuality. Taking the audience on a joyful flashback through her life concluding with how she ended up here.

Exes and Nos is a musical journey through the dating life of Rachel Mercer through "cute angry songs". Initially, it seemed that the audience was flagging due to tiredness but they never really picked up. There are a couple of surprising twists to the show but they don't save it from being a bit of a downer after the energy of the first half of the night. The songs are cute but not quite punchy or polished enough and are lacking in presentation. The last song, with the most personality, is the best.

If you're queer, neurodivergent or just like a laugh, either show is good. If you're lacking in time or patience, see No Hetero.

Performances: 16/17 Feb from 7pm at Circus Bar

Tickets: $20 each (or $30 for both)

No HeteroExes and Nos

January 27, 2024

Ngā Taniwha o Rūpapa | Dinosaurs of Patagonia

"The real Roberts has been retired 15 years and living like a king in Patagonia." - The Princess Bride

It turns out that places mentioned in childhood movies do exist, and those places were once part of the same land mass as Aotearoa, and (here's the best part) there were dinosaurs. Touring from a palaeontological museum in Argentina, with an excellent integration of te reo and local facts making a unique experience, the Dinosaurs of Patagonia are at Te Papa till the end of April. 


  • A dinosaur with six five fingers
  • Lots of interactive bits for the kids including a talking Tuatara (our own special "dinosaur")
  • 12 casts of mostly dead and mostly recently discovered dinosaurs (creatures so huge, if you stood that close, we'd all be dead)
  • Casts of items you're allowed to touch (but not inhale) clearly labelled
  • A clear timeline to follow as you walk through
Palaeontology is a prestigious line of work with a long and glorious tradition, it's exciting to see finds named after farmers who unearthed them, as well as scientists. The dinosaurs are compared to other, more well known, ones for context. 

It's not often we get exhibitions of this calibre down here, if you miss it, that would be the worst thing I've ever heard. Don't fear crowds, timed tickets mean these are well managed.

There are two things that could be improved:

1. Joan Wiffen's discovery of the first fossils in Aotearoa should be more central. It's hidden in a corner and you'll only know it's there if you specifically read the front of the divider it backs onto and spy it. The fossil in Te Papa's collection wasn't easily found in the Te Taiao | Nature exhibition either. Surely it would make sense to have big flashing lights around it during this exhibit, if not dinosaur prints leading to it.

2. The store is separated from the exhibition, probably due to the difficulty creating the space for this particular show. There are many dinosaur books, toys and figurines but unfortunately there appears to be nothing relating directly to the content of Ngā Taniwha o Rūpapa. Perhaps there aren't published books on these recently discovered finds, or figurines but this is a wasted opportunity to perhaps create a market for the travelling exhibition.

Tickets: $15-30

Showing: 16 Dec 2023 – 28 Apr 2024

December 7, 2023

IDIOM 2023

 After last year I didn't think IDIOM could surprise me, after the hellscape that is parking in Wellington I was not primed to enjoy myself, I'd already decided to go home to bed at intermission (8pm is late for a show to start). It's almost embarrassing how quickly this show changed my mind.

Once again there was a mix of acts; an opera singer, a wrestler, circus performers, a drag king. Not to mention a successful world record breaking attempt and a repeat game of Pictionary. But it's the unique brilliance of Laser Kiwi which throws the acts together, mixing and matching for unexpected performances.

Every night is slightly different, not only due to improv and the vagaries of audience interaction but also the challenging live nature of each number. The adaptability and cohesiveness of this seemingly disparate group of performers shines through.

Once again they are performing all December and I'm excited to see what they bring to the stage next year. 

Tickets: $56.60

Shows: 8pm, 1-23 December (no shows M/T)