Reviewed by Talia Carlisle.

On a rain-splattered Wellington evening, I find myself refuge in BATS Theatre’s Studio space where paper “worries” are hung on string across the small stage.

An eager smattering of audience members buzz in excitement, waiting for Ray Shipley to enter, fresh from a popular Christchurch season with a well-crafted set ready to wow us in Fifty Shades of Ray.

The microphone confirms our excitement, and with a clever self-introduction, our star and Billy T Nominee – Ray – appears as themselves. How great is that! (Who did you think it would be… Ray O’Leary? O’Lordy not me).

Ray looks so comfortable on stage, it might as well be a bubble bath – although I’m not sure if bubbles would stress them out as Ray seems anxious about a lot of things…

They are also comfortably cool among fellow comedy royalty at BATS Theatre this week – Kura Forrester in the sold-out season of Here If You Need, Kura Turuwhenua in Hōhā Guy, Janaye Henry’s Crush Season, and Abby Howells’ nautical romance La Soupco which offers an additional relaxed performance on Saturday.

Talking about anxiety may not be relaxing, but it is lovely to hear such a positive and encouraging set that touches on a unique angle of anxiety in the modern world.

From playground angst, to getting stranded on a Disneyland ride, Ray reminds us we can’t all live in the happiest place on Earth all the time, but we can still find things to enjoy and to celebrate. Even our worries.

We can also find ways to help manage the anxiety of the modern world – this is something Ray has been learning since childhood, and it doesn’t seem adulthood is much easier, so pay attention!

I like the unique layers hidden in the show, from Ray’s nifty zine magazine left on every seat… to opening all the paper worries at the end of the show and revealing that these worries are…about the show. And yet hilarious!

Ray reminds us that the truth has a heart, happiness has its downsides, and even in the hardest situations you can find something to laugh about.

We don’t have to look too far for funny this New Zealand International Comedy Festival! For something relatable, surprising and aww-inducing, check out Fifty Shades of Ray, at BATS Theatre until Saturday.