June 16, 2016


solOthello is a one man show (solo-Othello, see what they did there?) based on Shakespeare's Othello. Don't like Shakespeare? That's ok! Neither did the guy who wrote it! (Regan Taylor - he stars in it too)

Othello is a tragedy and it did get pretty deep at the end. But don't be turned off, three quarters of the show is very funny. Regan isn't shy about adapting his show to his audience, asking late comers where they'd come from (overseas it turned it, I assume it was the difficulty finding a park due to the Noodle Markets), and telling one patron to answer their phone when it rang. Weirdly, another phone rang later in the performance - have people forgotten their manners?

The most amount of laughs came when Regan forgot a line and improvised with "a rhyming couplet I don't remember". When one member of the audience congratulated him on this he said he could try to remember. It should be noted that the lights were up on the audience for the whole performance, this made it feel like a dialogue between us rather than a show.

Regan is an amazing actor. With the aid of three masks (and his own handsome face) he plays three characters. Othello; Desdemona who never actually speaks; the scheming Iago and; Roderigo as a fool providing great comedy. Even the way he moves changes.

I will admit to sitting down with a sense of dread. Who really wants to watch a tragedy? (You could cross the foyer to the other theatre and watch King Lear) I was pleasantly surprised, this wasn't high brow; it was funny and accessible. Yes, there were the obligatory dead bodies but they never littered the stage, another bonus of the actor having to stand up to play the next part.

Tickets: $25
Performances: 15-18 June, 7:30pm

June 15, 2016

de Sade

3rd June 2016, Cavern Club, Wellington 

Alexander Sparrow dresses up as the Marquis de Sade and sits in his dungeon of whips and graffiti, addressing the audience, who are a touring party in the insane asylum that confines him. Last time I was here in the Cavern Club I was at a Shepherds of Cassini post-prog rock gig; this time I’m in Charenton. Last time I was in Charenton I was watching Geoffrey Rush try to corrupt the good Kate Winslet in Quills, which was more about the consequences of censorship than sadism itself.

‘Dresses up’ is a misnomer here, as the Marquis begins the show en dĂ©shabillĂ©, but he does don his roguish costume shortly after, as if we have woken him from a fitful night’s prison slumber. He swigs from a bottle of wine, tells his story, rips off a hunk of bread, chokes on it, and educates us in sexual freedom. By the end of the show, members of the audience will have been asked to pose or imagine posing in a variety of expected and unexpected BDSM set-ups with one another. This is audience participation heaven (or hell), and the randy transgender perched on a bar stool makes the very most of it. Other members seem to play out their own bits of behavioural gender stereotype (at least until encouraged to branch out) too. One girl strikes cautiously; a conventional-looking dude whacks the Marquis extra hard – acting out the identity-preserving I’m a man, hur hur thing. But the Marquis can deliver as hard as he gets – well, Monsieur, that wasn’t what you were expecting tonight was it?

Sadism is using someone else’s pain to bring about your own satisfaction. Somehow – despite the hilariousness bubbling up from his show as air slowly turned up through an aquarium – Alexander manages to seriously convince you of the obvious merits of sadism in the same was as, say, after a particularly fascinating appointment you wonder at how you missed your calling as a dentist, or you regret not becoming an engineer after talking to a driver on a train journey. A true professional is always able to make it seem as if their discipline is the zenith of exciting and reasonable things to do in the world. Then you make your way back to your own real life, bruised and bemused.

Limited though it may seem, the Marquis opens his world up, the injustices that befell him chapter by chapter, to such an extent that it eventually seems we have barely examined something we thought could be thoroughly covered in the session. Hints at further stories are left hanging (for the sequel?) as Alexander’s ever-so-slightly too hushed voice trails off into further fantasy. But the only thing that really grates in the both joyful and depressed outpourings of the Marquis is when his lists of accomplishments include the non-consensual, which, while being realistic for the character, didn’t fit with the application of these lessons in liberation on our modern lives. Otherwise, sadism begins to seem like a cult you could join to increase personal fulfilment, like yoga or going Paleo, but less pseudo-primal and culturally appropriative, and maybe less publically appropriate.

He shows us ourselves convincingly (so brilliant), and lets us be them, and says we should do so without shame. Some people – most people! – need to hear this from time to time. I just want people to be honest with one another (this is correct English because ‘each other’ is used in situations where there are only two!). Aside from the shock-value, the Marquis does make a very good point, particularly for the shy people and the teenagers who were probably not in attendance at the R18 show: if you fancy someone, you should step up and talk to them – the worst that happens is they walk away flattered (hopefully). Another emphasised point is that masturbation is a game of diminishing returns and you end up doing a lot of it in jail, as evidenced by the tally marks covering his pale skin.

This isn’t just entertainment, it was Interesting historical details, such as the fact the guillotine of the French Revolution was known as Le Rasoir National. Then we feel all knowledgeable, but find ourselves falling off our seats with laughter to hear fashionable multilinguality poked fun at with he said ‘oui’, which means yes, or slipping in a Simpson’s style meta-reference to this room full of people in his cell, and, inexplicably, seventy chairs. I get the feeling the jokes would vary every night if he would only bring us a season of this show. Also, I am 80% sure this strange woman also known as my mother really was her in the audience. This is bravery. This guy could have simply been an ordinary successful comedian, but what we are receiving is bespoke, artisan comedy.

After this most edifying one-off show, we approached the young actor and told him we were having a party, would he like to come? But the Marquis was expecting a guest.

Do let this libertine detain you next time he’s in town.

We did a previous review of this show in 2014