Review: Bay’s Anatomy
I once again embarked on the odyssey that seems to be one of Kickin’ Rad/Soap Factory’s Fringe schticks these days – an improvised soap opera, set in Wellington, with a cast of ten and new episodes on the hour every hour from 1-11pm.
Having stumbled exhaustedly but also with a great sense of excitement from the ten hour epic that was their last long-form soap opera (Mirror Miramar, Fringe 2018), I was incredibly keen to see what this group of talented Wellington improvisers would have up their sleeves.
And I was not at all disappointed, sticking around for the entirety of the bizarre, hilarious, and often quite touching show.
Drs. Shelly (Jen O’Sullivan) and Evans (Matt Powell) Bay own NZ’s leading animal hospital. For the most part, this goes very well for them (there’s a dash of revolution around about episode six – we’ll get to that later).
They’re joined by a cast of lively and soap-appropriate characters.
There’s a hint of romance brewing between lovelorn ambulance officer Pam Hamm (Christine Brooks) and nurse Jake Remore (Wiremu Tuhiwai) but it’s dashed to the rocks when Pam ends up with chief of operations Greta Point (Clare Kerrison) after a particularly poignant degustation menu and a few too many glasses of port. Pam, however, is not lovelorn for long, ending the ten episodes with three people after her heart; Remore, Point, and wealthy Polish donor Laars (Lyndon Hood, after his first character was killed off by mutant roosters).
After surveying the audience, Pam decides, that she should love herself instead, much to our cheers and applause.
Receptionist Damian Raven (Sam Irwin) gets a little too big for his boots after getting lost in the catacombs of the hospital and decides to commit some fraud. He weaves in and out of the main plot, occasional antagonist, but mostly just there for his crossword.
Fishologist Charlie Boothroyd (Jonny Paul) has lost touch with the sea, and definitely doesn’t have daddy issues. It sure is convenient that his father – he discovers – is the hospital’s animal chaplain Keith Grant (Stephen Youngblood), who spends most of the season running away from that fact. They do reconcile, in the end, but it’s a near thing. Keith takes off on a whirlwind romance with Dr Sam Sheppard, who spouts animal facts when she’s nervous, and the pair get married at the end.
It is not just saucy entanglements in the world of Bay’s Anatomy, but true hospital! drama! too. The medical team give an octopus a catfish heart transplant – to much success, Sam loses an eye to a lion but is her sight is saved by the practise’s best surgeon, Shelly Bay, and Damian commits, in his own words, “a shitton of fraud.”
Once nervous, but quickly quite maniacal salesman Kea Falcon (Lyndon Hood’s first character), loses sight of his business goals, nearly loses his job, and then kidnaps Pam, setting off the show’s kidnapping plot, which is wrapped up in under an episode. Kea is killed, very gruesomely, by Pam’s mutant roosters, which I assumed were just throwaway jokes at the start of the show but came into their own after ten episodes, basically becoming characters in their own right.
The entire season is underscored by Gill Grilligan (Liam Kelly), a salty sea dog turned bartender/musician, who provides a fantastic soundtrack to the show, as well as some gorgeous sea shanties. It’s all very fitting for a show set somewhere in the vicinity of Kilbirnie.
Some additional highlights from this ten hour odyssey –
– Many Freudian slips, some of which were clearly not intentional.
– The entire clinic, barring Shelly and Evans, deciding to take their workplace from their oppressors and start a revolution, which mostly seemed to involve the drinking of many bev-er-rauges from Gill’s Grill. VIVA LA REVOLUTION (the workers were right).
– The life. death, exhumation and slight mutilation of Anastasia, the clinic’s Russian Blue cat.
– Sam coming on stage eating gradually more and more weird things, culminating in a can of Chef in the final episode, throwing proceedings off for several minutes.
Bay’s Anatomy was ridiculous fun, and a true undertaking. The right blend of satirical and heartfelt, I cannot imagine the energy that went into improvising for nearly ten hours and keeping a logical plot straight. Major kudos to the performers and crew.
I was very committed to the rooster storyline, and I had one hell of a good time.