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Theatre review: Hauraki Horror

A ribald panto featuring the satirical (and occasionally scatological) skewering of the social set.

Nick Grant
Sat, 06 Dec 2014

For several years Auckland’s Basement Theatre, which specialises in edgy, indie fare, has staged an outrageous, uproarious Christmas-themed production as a fundraiser for the venue.

As per previous efforts, Hauraki Horror features a revolving cast of well known identities from stage and screen, most of whom appear for just a single performance.

The ribald pantomime centres on hapless friends Tom and Chris, respectively a wannabe “papparozzo” and celebrity gossip columnist, who manage to sneak aboard a Christmas cruise on the Hauraki Gulf that’s hosted by notorious Kiwi playboy entrepreneur Dick Rancid and attended by “the most useless group of people in the world – New Zealand celebrities.”

The duo get more than they bargained for, however, when Mr Rancid is harpooned (“To Death!”) and they set out to solve the malodorous multi-millionaire’s murder.

The play – which delights in gratuitous nautical puns – is anchored (see what I did there?) by writers Tom Sainsbury and Chris Parker, who play Tom and Chris and are the only cast members who will appear for the entire season.

Thanks to having worked together many times before (see their cringe-inducing – in a good way – web series Bachelor Pad by way of example), the twosome have a well-developed dynamic they deploy to great effect.

As camp as a Scout Jamboree, "Tom" and "Chris" exhibit an hilarious obliviousness and unearned sense of self-regard as they stumble through a madcap murder mystery scenario that’s rife with confusion over sexual and gender identity – and pretty much everything else as well.

Thanks to the nightly churn of supporting players – each of whom had just three rehearsals before their performance  – the show has a loosey-goosey vibe, with plenty of audience interaction (consumer advisory: if being dragged on stage isn’t your cup of tea, NBR advises you to take a non-allocated seat near the back).

Despite that, as helmed by Rachel House, the production’s ramshackle surface appearance belies a sound structure – much like the set, evocatively put together with pieces of distressed boats by Grant Hall.

The opening night’s cast featured Cameron Rhodes as Dick Rancid, Luanne Gordon as Sally Ridge (constantly pitching reality shows “starring a mother and daughter who are roughly the same age”), Olivia Tennet as Jamie Ridge, Barnie Duncan as Kelly Tarlton,  Rose Matafeo as Dame Kiri te Kanawa, Ryan Richards as Jason Gun, Barnaby Frederic as the voice of Thingee, Jess Holly Bates as Keisha Castle-Hughes’ Whale Rider stunt double and, providing the convenient if intentionally incoherent deus ex machina ending, Fasitua Amosa as Poseidon.

All had their moments, though having met Mr Gunn a couple of times, I was particularly taken by Mr Richards' eerily, hilariously, accurate portrayal of the expressively eyebrowed children’s entertainer, while Mr Frederic nailed Thingee’s voice and Ms Matafeo was every inch an egomaniacal opera diva.

If you enjoy arch self-awareness and the satirical, occasionally scatological skewering of the social set, then Hauraki Horror is thoroughly recommended. Book quickly, though, as past seasons have all sold out.

  • Hauraki Horror, 4-20 December, 8pm Monday-Saturday, 4pm Saturday matinee on 13 & 20, 10pm late show on Friday 19. The Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland CBD.
  • Bookings: www.iticket.co.nz/0508 iTICKET (484 253)
  • For special corporate booking rates & private shows, contact: info@basementtheatre.co.nz
Nick Grant
Sat, 06 Dec 2014
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Theatre review: Hauraki Horror
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