REVIEW: The Bitches Box (Auckland Fringe)

The Bitches Box
The Bitches Box

Hot Dog! [by Matt Baker]

The Bitches Box
The Bitches Box

After forty-two shows across the country in their (literal) Woolshed Tour, actresses Emma Newborn and Amelia Guild finally bring their two-woman show to Auckland for the 2013 Fringe Festival. “Born out of a dream and desire to provide rural audiences a chance to have a truly unique night out with their neighbours”, if the show was received as well on tour as it was on its opening night in the City of Sails, it could only have been an unreserved success.

While the overarching story comes to a somewhat abrupt end, the show is cannily driven through the perspective of several canine groupings. There’s Red and Twink, the bitches box veteran and newcomer respectively; the aptly named diesel dogs, whose narrative function gives a perceptive overview of the world of the play; James Clive Reginald Montgomery Smith, the aged pig-dog inspiring his fellow breed in a Churchill-esque address; and Fenton, the house dog with a penchant for rap. The sequence of scenes is brilliantly interspersed, allowing for a steady progression of characters and non-contrived reveals through the plays narrative (including a genuinely sorrowful story plonked right in the middle of this upbeat comedy).

Both Newborn and Guild are brilliant comedic actresses, taking their vocals and physicality to extreme measures, though nothing is too over the top in this heightened style of theatre. There is great variation in their characterisations, and these actresses’ innate qualities compliment each other harmoniously, with gravitas and vivaciousness respectively. Simple costume changes, a red curtain backdrop and authentic set, occasional stylistic lighting, and an appropriate soundscape/track, the spectacle element of the show cleverly compliments these performances.

Originally conceptualised via Stranger Things 3 in 2011 (where actors are paired up and given two weeks to develop a short theatre piece), Newborn and Guild have workshopped and developed the show into its now fully formed one-hour play format. It is a testament not only to their skills as theatrical practitioners (set, costume, sound, and lighting is entirely attributed to them), but the substance of the show. With gags abound, it is difficult to comment on the specificity of the show’s elements without giving anything away, so, put simply, it is a superb night of theatre.

The Bitches Box plays at Q as part of Auckland Fringe until Sat 23 Feb. Details see Auckland Fringe.

SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz review by Melissa Fergusson

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