July 23, 2021

Maximum Benefit

Two comedians; Max and Ben - do you see what they did there? Maximum Benefit - combine their powers to create an entirely improvised show. Now, I've seen improvised shows in the past that follow a pattern but here there was no pattern, everything was entirely original. Unique to every performance.

The closing show of their July season at Bats Theatre tonight was hilarious. And as there is never going to be another performance like it, I can spoil to my hearts content.

To open they asked the audience for a hobby. The first suggestion of interspecies erotica (that's a reference to Clerks 2) was rejected for not being a genuine hobby but went on to be referenced several times throughout the show. The second suggestion of Adventure Racing; a sport consisting of teams with up to 4 participants running, biking and kayaking over hours varying from 3-9; was accepted.

We open on a scene in Wellington with Bruce, a recently separated man, meeting Margaret his team mate who has a not-so-secret crush on him. They both have hygiene problems - Margaret never washes her clothes, and Bruce's clothes are starting to grow mould because his ex wife took the dryer. In succession we are introduced to Sophie, Bruce's ex wife and team mate who is the only one who takes the racing part of Adventure Racing seriously, Carl, Bruce's German best friend who has just returned from a two week rave and was previously involved with Bruce and Sophie together, and Pierre, Sophie's new French-Canadian lover who is there to film the whole race on his go-pro. Then there's also two men watching the race, who eventually decide to participate, Gil and Stu, who are sharing margaritas but didn't know each others names despite being neighbours for 52 years, their daughters being married to each other and them sharing grandchildren.

Do you have that all straight? It was a lot. And it's even more impressive when you take into account that these 6 characters were played by two actors - sometimes this involved them jumping from one side of the stage to the other to play another character. The night ended with 5 of the 6 characters kayaking across the Cook Strait, drinking margaritas and trying to sort out their tangle of relationships. 

There was never a dull moment and quite a lot of laughs - from the situations, the hilarious characters, the jumping between characters and the bits where you could see them setting each other up. I don't think I've even been at a show with a more engaged audience.

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