It's becoming a trend for Toi Whakaari graduates who have gone on to be in shows together to then make a show about very close friendship and the ways it gets tested.
In this year's Fringe, having toured last year in EnsembleImpact's She'll Be Write, Ria Simmons, Carrie Green and Andrew Patterson created I Could Live Here to explore that theme. Now, as a sequel to last year's Outsiders' Guide in the Comedy Festival, Hayley Sproull and Chris Parker bring us Tighty Whiteys.
“This time we're going inside,” they proclaim. “And this time, it's personal,” their publicity promises; “that uncomfortable, skin-crawly type of personal.” Yup. They certainly deliver on their promise in what is now established as their own inimitable style, abetted by directors Aaron Cortesi and Leon Wadham.
After some pre-start creepy weepy, it's all upbeat dancey wancey … until it's not. This prologue disjunction /dysfunction captures the essence of the aspiration v reality scenarios to come. This is the high-fiving, party-partying, ‘Yay!' generation after all, thoroughly conditioned to project total awesomeness no matter what.
Rhyming couplets mash the metaphors splendidly. Mental telepathy proves just how close they are. The unveiling of … what they've created to celebrate the fifth anniversary of their first meeting in a dance studio at drama school exposes the proverbial writing on the wall. And that's just the intro sequence.
The format is recognisable to anyone who saw them last year: a dynamic synchronised dance routine leads into a madly sophisticated rhythmic beat-poetry duet introducing eachother and the friendship theme. Then they talk a bit about what they've learned from eachother before busting into another rhyme accompanied by gymnastic moves with a Swiss-ball representing friendship.
This rapid-fire form is maintained throughout the generous hour; if any scene looks like it might be going to settle down they violently intercept it with the next concept, delineating each progressive ‘friendship' stage with twee chiming chapter title voiceovers: ‘Honesty', ‘Boundaries', ‘Confrontation' … etc.
Exchanges of gifts of affection and lovingly composed acrostic poems are interspersed with spiteful retaliations to each other's less commendable traits. Sometimes they engage with the audience, subverting the typical stand-up small talk with their thinly veiled agendas to put one over on the other and/or make them jealous.
There is of course an undeniable core of truth to Parker and Sproull's treatise on the nature and function of being a friend. As abstract and absurd as their paradoxical cerebral stupidity may appear, perhaps this is just your typical comedy-leaning Drama School graduates' natural way of expressing themselves. Pretension with a genuine purpose.
The promotional claim to this show being a ‘brief exploration into an insanely supportive relationship' might more accurately have said ‘supportively insane', as in enabling each other's incorrigible lunacy. I'm tempted to call it genius.
Hayley Sproull and Chris Parker, co-creators of last year’s excellent Outsiders Guide, are back with their sequel, Tighty Whiteys. Last year’s show helped us cope with socially awkward outsiders, but this time “they’re going inwards.” Based on their own five-year-strong friendship, Tighty Whiteys is a crash course on creating and sustaining long-lasting friendships with Sproull and Parker as the tried and true model friends.
Tighty Whiteys is a sketch show taking us through cycles of arguments and reconciliation, with sketches ranging from self-contained scenes about forgetting to take anything to a pot-luck to karaoke-styled renditions of ‘Friendship’ from Anything Goes. There’s metaphor-laden beat-poetry using a swiss ball as friendship, competitive acrostic-poem offs, and many, many breakaway dance sequences. A brilliant, squirm-enducing sketch reveals the titular tighty whiteys as the two decide to push their relationship to the next level.
Voice-over titles break up the show and a tight lighting and sound design (Matt Eller) ensure the show zips along with the panache that made Outsiders Guide so successful.
Read more here: