REVIEW: Brynley Stent: Escape from Gloriavale (NZ International Comedy Festival)

Review by Tim George

Brynley Stent

[Running in Place]

Following up her roles as the naïve bride in Camping and the naïve actress in The Opening Night Before Christmas, actress Brynley Stent completes a hat trick with her new solo show Escape from Gloriavale, in which she plays a naïve member of the secretive religious cult.After reading a copy of Women’s Weekly, Providence Gratitude (Stent) becomes possessed by a desire to go to the mythical Shortland Street and meet the ‘celebrities’ who reside there. With the help of pumpkins, costumes and various other props, Providence regales the audience with her epic story.

From the mid-wedding hallucination of Amanda Billing, that triggers her escape to the outside world, to her bacchanalian adventures in Auckland, Escape From Gloriavale comes on like a low-stakes version of The Odyssey with more bodily fluids, orgies and a soul-crushing trip to Kelly Tarltons.

Stent is a talented comic, and embodies the reckless optimism of her role well. Some of the best laughs come from Providence’s tone deaf interactions with other people, and Stent carries that awkwardness across with an economy of expression and body movement that hits the funny bone with razor-sharp precision.

However, early on I was gripped by a sense of deja vu. From the nasal voice to the lazy half-smile and shuffling footwork, it felt like I was watching a sequel to her roles in Camping and Opening Night; the same performance, only with minor changes.

Is this a problem? If you are not that familiar with Stent’s recent work, it shouldn’t be, Escape From Gloriavale is a very funny show, and those who have enjoyed Stent’s shtick before may do so again too. But I’d like to see Stent use future roles to show off more of her comic palette.

Brynley Stent performs until 6 May at the Q Theatre Cellar. Details see Comedy Festival.

SEE ALSO: review by Candice Lewis

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1 Comment on REVIEW: Brynley Stent: Escape from Gloriavale (NZ International Comedy Festival)

  1. It may be relevant to mention there is a long tradition of actors developing their comic persona – their clown, if you like – and bringing it to all the work they create themselves.

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