It’s 1982 in New Zealand, a time of Olivia Newton-John, Lazy Susans and brick mobile phones, and the students of the Khandallah Academy of Performing Arts are growing their skills, making friends, and perhaps even finding love, all while they try to get a paying performing arts career. However, things are not quite that easy in Khandallah, and agents of chaos are afoot. Will these students reach their dreams through the swirling morass of blood, sweat, and glitter? Well, you’ll just have to watch the show to find out.

So You Think You Khandallah is an improvised soap opera being performed over five nights at BATS Theatre. There’s ad-hoc dance numbers, questionable duets, and all the soap opera nonsense one could ever want.

The arc of tonight’s show was around friendship. Rudolf (Matt Powell), a dance maestro but total loner, fought to find himself some mates, two best friends Jasmine (Tara McEntee) and Sheryl (Jennifer O’Sullivan) fell out and made up again all over creative differences, and naive, but likeable, Quane (Matt Hutton) had his friendship taken advantage of by carpenter Albatross (Sam Irwin). Child star Peppermint Sparkle (Christine Brooks) decided to push past her past and become a triple threat, and hip-hop dancer Amelia (Dianne Pulham) did some pretty rad hip-hop moves. Backstage guru, turned acting star (???) Chad (Wiremu Tuhiwai) started to find his place in the spotlight.

With live music (by Liam Kelly), live directing (by Clare Kerrison and Luke Rimmelzwaan) and improvised lighting (Darryn Woods), this show is totally created on the spot and finds itself in some interesting places. I particularly enjoyed the fade to blacks out of nowhere – it really created a true low-budget soap feel.

So You Think You Khandallah is quality improv, and feels very genuine. There’s moments of genuine hilarity, times when I felt like ‘aww-ing’ at the predicaments the least fortunate of the characters got into, and some pretty swell dancing besides. It takes a lot of confidence to stand up and dance and sing on stage (especially when it’s improvised), and I think that really fits in with the byline of this show – “You’ve got talent. Now let’s see what we can do with it.” I hope to see some of these characters find their fortunes and fulfill their dreams over the next few days, and surely that’s what a true soap opera is all about.

With the final moment of this show’s ‘episode’ being, “She’s pregnant?!” I’m sure that we’re in for some thrills and spills tomorrow.


So You Think You Khandallah is being performed at BATS Theatre between now and Saturday. They recap the previous episode before each new one, so you’re completely able to come in and start watching even after not seeing the preceding episde. Tickets are from BATS’ website.