REVIEW: Force Norman (NZ International Comedy 2015)

Force Norman

Revenge of the Nats  [by Matt Baker]

Force Norman
Force Norman

If New Zealand’s political history lacks a flair for the dramatics, Billy T award-winning comedians Rhys Mathewson and Nick Gibb have certainly made up for it with their two-man, six-character, action-comedy Force Norman. Following fictional events sparked by equally fictional Minister of Defence Tim Tambly (Mathewson), presumably National party Prime Minister Wallace Norman (Gibb) enlists incompetent yet ironically accomplished mercenaries Captain Rug Tank (Gibb) and Lance Corporal Mark Hardigan (Mathewson) for unorthodox (see; illegal) operations in order to secure public support. Add a bloody rampage of revenge by a vengeful widow (Mathewson) and a Canadian (Gibb), and this dynamite comedy is set to explode.

Set in 1975, the costumes, projections, and music do an excellent job of setting not only the era, but also the style and tone of the show. It’s a high-energy screwball comedy reminiscent of ZAZ movies, but with an authentic New Zealand humour that makes it its own. The show is billed with buzz words including blackmail, explosions, and good dialogue – and it delivers on all fronts. With the merciless pen of script editor, however, the good dialogue could be great.

The plot ticks along at a steady pace, and for the most part is a consequential sequence of events, however, it lacks some of the classic monomythic stages that would elevate the narration to something even more spectacular. Having attended a reading several weeks prior, the arguably convoluted plot was relatively easy to follow, but for those who haven’t had a chance to hear it all before, the scenes themselves are entertaining enough to compensate for any missed plot points. Said entertainment piques at two points of classic physical comedy; a pantomimic battle finale, and the greatest tango between two men I have ever seen – worth the price of a ticket alone.

The prop heavy show, with its numerous costume changes and technical requirements has, naturally, a few hiccups on opening night. However, Gibb and Mathewson are consummate professionals, and I have no doubt the show will only improve throughout its unfortunately short season. Perhaps the opportunity to truly finesse this tour de force will be awarded if it takes the next logical step – regional touring.

Force Norman plays part of the NZ International Comedy Festival at The Basement until May 9.For details see  Comedy Festival.

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