Review: Pudgy Mediocre White Men Solve Your Problems
A whiteboard greets us at the top of the stairs of BATS’ Dome Theatre.
10am – Dancing with Craig (R18). It reads. 1.45pm – Knitting with Craig (R18), then 8pm – Dave & Bryan Impov Thing.
And that is what we’re here to see (though I am particularly taken by the concept of 12.45pm – Autopsy for Beginners.)
We’re at the “Hataitai Bowling Club” for an evening with our two hosts Dave (Austin Harrison) and Bryan (Dylan Hutton), two middle-aged Kiwi dudes who just really want to use their vast experience and privilege to help solve the problems of us common folk. One’s a charter boat owner, the other runs ebikes on Wellington’s waterfront, but together, they’ve got a wealth of knowledge to make all our lives better. Winning October’s Late Night Knife Fight last year, the show is back, full length and packed full of familiar improv games that delight and amuse.
Look, you know the show’s fantastic, you’ve seen who’s in it. Both Harrison and Hutton are veterans of the Wellington performance scene, bringing joy and charm to gigs across the city for a handful of years now, and have phenomenal rapport as performers, bouncing off each other excellently through premise after ridiculous premise. For a show that relies a lot on its audience, the ask-fors never feel stagnant and we are gently chauffeured through any moments of audience interaction – something that I’m personally always trepidatious about!
Some particular highlights for me during this show included: Harrison making it through the word “diverticulitis” while speaking in a particularly heavy French accent, Hutton’s absolutely ridiculous stature as a “Milo vampire”, and a scene about family politics prefaced with, “Sorry for what you’re about to see,” though believe me, I was giggling in my seat throughout.
The endearing “will they, won’t they” push-pull of this performance duo is highlighted throughout – neither performer feels particularly like they’re acting as the leader, with the stage very well balanced for the duration of the piece. This well-hewn chemistry is one of the true drawcards of the work – even in moments where there are stumbles or jokes don’t land as expected (hey, it’s improv!), the charm of the performers and their banter with the audience is a solid constant. I just really enjoy watching performers who get on well perform with each other, okay?
Gabe (Matt Hutton), is a very gifted 14-year old pianist who needs to be home by 9pm, and he provides a whimsical backing to each scene, while Scotty (Scott Maxim) is on the lights, and gifts us with the final ask-for of the night – a little spiel about how he ripped his pants for the second time this week – which Dave and Bryan turn into a batshit nonsense song to close out the show. Both production roles are wholly incorporated into the narrative itself, and often cause laughs of their own.
Pudgy Mediocre White Men Solve Your Problems is (mostly)-duo improv at its best. Never does the format feel grating or too apparent, and the skill of the performers with their mastery of the audience is such a delight to be part of. Magic has been made in Haitaitai Bowling Club this week – and it’s something you’ve got to get in on too.