What I love about the NZ Fringe is that friends from all over the country and the world congregate in The Coolest Little Capital in the World, Wellington, to perform new and exciting works. One of these friends being Dan Bain. We worked on a show at the Court Theatre together down in Christchurch during my last year of drama school and I've watched Dan tread the boards with the Court Jesters for many, many years. He has always inspired me and once I even got a shout out on his podcast... No big deal (pretty big deal!) I'm thrilled to see he's coming to the NZ Fringe with Maddie Harris and Millie Hanford to present a new work: Two Girls One Shop. Dan tells us more...
I went to the Court Theatre Youth Company DUETS showcase in 2015 with low expectations. I’d had minimal contact with the youth company, I’d taken them on a weekend workshop in clowning technique and seen an show that they’d put on with excerpts from various New Zealand writing for youth including my own piece GAMEPLAN. I’d mostly enjoyed working with them but I’d never been blown away by anything I’d seen them do. And someone forgot their lines in the GAMEPLAN extract and improvised a big chunk that totally changed the scene and the character. So… low expectations.
DUETS was much as I expected for self-devised work at this level. Competently performed but mostly underdeveloped or simple concepts that prioritised the acting over the content. Millie and Maddie’s piece - RETAIL THERAPY - closed the show and was very different. The content was sly, sophisticated satire, masquerading as obscenity; A damning inditement of the worst aspects of female youth culture, through the lens of two, acutely observed, utterly shallow, vacuous, characters desperately trying to one-up each other on obscure diet successes and sheer number of cute boys blown.
I was seated next to The Court Theatre's Artistic Director, Ross Gumbley. When they finished we agreed that the sight gag at the end of the piece was inarguably the theatre’s joke of the year. Then I mostly forgot about it.
“No one is realising I have no idea what I’m doing”.
I'm doing alright. But I wish someone had helped me at the start. That I hadn’t squandered so much time and opportunity through a trial and error system of learning.
I can’t go back fourteen years and help myself. I can be that person for someone else. So when a friend of mine said they were working with Millie and Maddie in THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ, I mentioned how much I’d enjoyed Retail Therapy and how I thought it should be developed into a festival show. Then I thought about younger me. How if I’d been told that I’d have at first been encouraged and then would’ve spent three years trying unsuccessfully and messily to make it happen. Younger me looked back, all sad-eyed, yet hopeful, with his good skin and full head of hair. If the idea interested them, I said, I’d help them make it.
The idea interested them. I helped them make it. And here we are. Retail Therapy has evolved into TWO GIRLS ONE SHOP and is ready to debut.
I genuinely love the work that Maddie and Millie are creating. I think it is important, that their voices are unique, essential and that they are more than capable of becoming a a serious force in this country’s next generation of comedic performers. They are an excellent comic double act, the wry scepticism of Maddie a perfect foil to Millie’s cheerful obscenity. They are hard working, pleasant natured and, most importantly, funny as fuck.
I am proud to have helped them make this work.
Two Girls One Shop