PREVIEW: Mike & Virginia (Comedy Festival)

Mike & Virginia
Mike & Virginia

Back on the radar [by Sharu Delilkan]

Mike & Virginia
Mike Virginia is a romcom with a difference... Photo: Jamie Pettigrew

Most people know Te Radar as an award winning satirist, documentary maker, writer, failed gardener, and amateur historian.

And more recently he’s been in our living rooms starring in TVNZ’s Radar’s Patch, Off the Radar, and Homegrown.

But you’d be forgiven if you didn’t think of him as a stage director, especially since he’s been off the theatre radar for a good seven years.  The revered Kiwi comedian’s last live theatre gig was directing Those Indian Guys in Indian Invaders at the 2004 International Comedy Festival.

Radar admits he knew he had to direct Mike & Virgina as soon as he saw the read through at Auckland Theatre Company’s Read Raw series.

Mike & Virginia is a unabashed romp of a play about love and who you think you shouldn’t fall in love with, that subverts every romcom convention in the book to create a bitingly funny and surprisingly tender Kiwi love story.

Besides peaking Radar’s interest, Mike & Virgina has attracted some serious talent including comedian Michele A’Court and well-known actors Lisa Chappell, Stephen Papps and Will Hall.  Quite an achievement considering the fact that the romantic comedy is the first time screenwriters Kathryn Burnett & Nick Ward have ventured into the world of theatre.

“I have known Kathryn since I moved to Auckland in the mid 1990s,” Radar said.

“We’ve worked on and off on different projects and have hung out a lot, watching shows together.  But it was the clever, witty writing of the ‘romcom’ that got me hooked.”

Working in theatre again is definitely a refreshing change for the TV personality.

He is also enjoying working with familiar faces such like A’Court, who’s making her theatre debut.

“I don’t really have to do much to get Michelle to do what’s required because she’s got the stage chops to do it.  It just involves a little gentle massaging.”

But that’s not all Radar has been up to.  He’s currently filming another TV series, Global Radar, scheduled for a worldwide release in August.

“It has been an extremely hectic filming schedule where we’ve covered an average of three countries within 10 days.

“Like when we went to Dubai we were literally there for a day and then filmed Rawanda the next day, making it a 38 hour work day.”

He says traveling and filming in remote locations has “a distinct lack of glamour.  Often we end up staying in places with no functioning electricity.  So learning how to cook with no electricity, after a 14-hour day can leave you a bit lacklustre.”

I couldn’t help asking him a question both my husband and I have always wondered about, ever since seeing Radar on the tele.

“Are you New Zealand’s answer to Hugh FearnleyWhittingstall from River Cottage fame?” I said.

And without missing a beat he replied “Our similarities are uncanny.  We look so oddly similar. 

“But I’ve looked the way I do, way before I knew who he was.” 

BrainStorm in association with STAMP at THE EDGE present Mike & Virginia at The Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre from April 30 – May 7, part of NZ International Comedy Festival 2011.   More information at The Edge website.

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