If my calculations are correct, the New Zealand International Comedy Festival should be going on as you read these very words.
The comedy festival is, like so many events on the Wellington cultural calendar, so routinely wonderful and electric that it is easy to take it for granted. Every year for more than two weeks this city is flooded with not only the funniest people in the country, but the funniest in the whole world. For those two weeks, the otherwise stealthy and subterranean Wellington comedy scene pokes its head above the ground and gives us a glimpse of what we’re missing for the rest of the year.
And, as if things couldn’t get any better, there is a wonderful trend returning to the festival: that of theatre companies seeing it as an opportunity to stretch their comedy wings and show us all just how much they can make us laugh. In recent years, theatre companies like Breaking the Fourth Wall, Discharge and Traces of Nut (who created Live at Six) have been bringing a second renaissance (after one in the mid-1990s) of comedy theatre to the festival.
One of the companies sharing their theatre giggles at the festival this year is the newly minted Big Lies. Consisting of Abby Howells (of Discharge and Beards! Beards! Beards!) and Alex Wilson (who, through starting the company Counterpoint, was pretty much the reigning king of Dunedin young theatre until he moved here late last year), they already have one show under their belt — Pupil Zero, which they showed in this year’s Fringe. For the Comedy Festival, they’ll be gifting us Glocknid (Dwarf Warrior), which is written and performed by Abby and directed by Alex.
Glocknid started as a Tolkien-style Dungeons and Dragons character played by Abby, but she grew attached to the role and has developed it into a solo work for herself. “Subconsciously, I guess I just wanted to wear a lot of armour,” she explains.
“We’re a company that’s focused on exploring joy and play in shows,” says Alex, “so making a show like this, that’s kind of a metaphor for doing comedy. It seemed like a good idea.”
“It’s stand-up comedy with a mask,” Abby adds, “and a helmet.”
But though it plays on stand-up, Glocknid comes from a place of theatrical truth. “The best humour comes from truth. It’s not just funny words,” says Abby. “It’s easiest to write and perform if you have a character and they’re thinking and feeling.”
So, if you want to get in on all the great theatre laughs going on in the Comedy Festival, there is no better place to start than thinking and feeling along with Glocknid (Dwarf Warrior) at BATS. Find out more at comedyfestival.co.nz.