REVIEW: Jez & Jace: Lads on Tour (Auckland Pride)

Review by Ben Shand-Clennell

Jez & Jace: Lads on Tour is a humorous and heart-warming improvised show, which delightfully depicts two life-long bogan mates trying to figure out what they really want.

The eponymous Jez and Jace; devised and played by Ginge and Minge, respectively (Nina Hogg and Megan Conolly, respectively); are the beer-swilling, womanising, stubby-wearing men that typify rural New Zealand. They are the love child of Fred Dagg, Lyn of Tawa, and Irish from Foreskin’s Lament – in costume and mannerism.

The importance of the setting for the story, a rural New Zealand pub, cannot be understated, and the performers do an incredible job of portraying the strict social pressures thrust upon them, by themselves and others. The main action of the play follows these two characters as they go on a road   trip to Auckland to try to reconnect, and be reminded why being in a city is the worst! Much humour was made from expounding this to an Auckland audience.

All locations in the show are made or evoked exclusively out of four hay bales. This does an excellent job in cementing the rural setting, but  is also very practical as the four hay bales are tessellated in lots of inventive ways to make stools, cars, and bars, at a moment’s notice. The scaled-back set, props and lighting serve to accentuate the actors and their commanding grasp on the performative and humorous aspects of the piece.

The play really shines in the improvisation and audience interaction. Those who arrive early to the performance are treated with an in-character stream of pub-based banter. Audience members are quickly delegated roles, like Rippa-Rugby Coach, Ex-girlfriend (who still has the lucky pokies coin), and Radio Alex. We’re  asked for advice on the characters’ predicaments, and for prompts as to where to go and what to say. Radio Alex was the highlight of the audience interaction: an audience member is handed a mobile phone with Spotify open, and asked to be the car radio. 

One of the dangers with improvised theatre that relies on audience impetus, is that the show can easily get derailed. The performers do a valiant job not letting this happen, even when there was an overly chatty audience member. The performers must also be commended for their canny ability to extend moments which need it, while keeping overall pacing up.

Jez & Jace: Lads on Tour is a truly delightful offering. It is a funny and poignant piece, which tackles the battle between head and heart, and the struggle of overcoming the expectations that society sets, with grace and earnestness. The characters of Jez & Jace have a pleasing arc, which sees them shuck the harmful and embrace inclusivity. The play has an optimistic outlook for New Zealand, which keeps love and truth at the forefront.

Jez & Jace: Lads on Tour plays at Vault, Q Theatre, from Thursday, 9th February to Saturday, 11th February, 2023 as part of Auckland Pride.

This review is part of the Auckland Pride Review Project – a collaborative project between four local publications (The Pantograph PunchBad Apple GayRat World and Theatre Scenes) to provide more critical discourse around queer theatre and performance work. We will be reviewing a range of shows throughout the month of Pride – so keep a look out and go support our local queer performers!

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