WINNER: BEST SHOW 2009 at the New Zealand Comedy Guild Awards
WINNER: BEST LOCAL SHOW 2009 NZ INTERNATIONAL COMEDY FESTIVAL (Auckland)
WINNER: BEST COMEDY DUNEDIN FRINGE FESTIVAL 2009
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“Plain astonishing…. If you don’t choke with laughter you might learn something”. Waikato Times.
There’s a trick to getting people laughing about cannibalism… Te Radar’s mastered it. Taranaki Daily News
“We went out feeling proud to be New Zealanders” Nelson Daily Mail
FULL REVIEWS OF EATING THE DOG in 2011:
Entertaining and accessible portrait of New Zealand culture: Caiolynn Hughes, Theatreview
When attending Te Radar’s Eating the Dog at Downstage Theatre last night, I wasn’t sure whether to expect a play, a history lecture, a stand-up comedy act or an entertaining informal talk on New Zealand culture. I could say I got all of these things, but it’s more accurate to say I got something different; something not easily categorised… Unique – and certainly something I’d never seen before.
I saw a truly enthusiastic, vibrant and enlightening portrayal of New Zealand heritage and identity by a highly articulate and charismatic comedian, performer, educator and Kiwi ambassador. I saw audience members on the edge of their seats – not due to carefully measured suspense – but because they seemed to want to physically or discursively engage with what was going on, as the show unfurled like an impressive, aesthetically pleasing and culturally significant fern.
They were seeing something they understood, cared about, and felt part of, and in which they wanted to participate somehow; to locate themselves in Te Radar’s discussion of New Zealand historical and cultural identity, which he addresses through the stories of a dozen or so under-recognised heroic (or anti-heroic) and iconic figures of New Zealand history: Brunner, Maui, Wakefield, Te Rauparaha, Te Rangihaeata, Hone Mokekehu (a.k.a. Hone Mokehakeha), George Wilder, Bob Semple and more. And Te Radar, like a good stand-up comedian, allows for this participation.
Te Radar asks if anyone has ever heard of the uranium rush of 1955. A man responds: “I was given a piece of that uranium, but it was taken off my by the nuns. They caught me using it to read under my bed sheets at night.” Te Radar grabs that piece of uranium and juggles with it. When New Zealand architecture comes up, Te Radar gets an impromptu dig in at the architect of Downstage Theatre who happens to be in the audience.
Involving another audience member, Te Radar asks what they do for a living. The lady is one of the Image Editors at Te Ara – the Encyclopoedia of New Zealand, around which Te Radar has based his entire show! He clenches up and mumbles something about having ‘liberated’ some imagery from the site, and invites the Te Ara employee for a post-show drink. Brilliant!
This audience interaction epitomises the type of show this is: something very much alive and on the table. Kiwi culture in action. It is a celebration of the awkward and interesting anecdotes of history that make us who we are: “rogues, morons and scoundrels… pooh-poohing the idea of danger.”
The return of Te Radar’s show to Downstage is very appropriate for the Rugby World Cup, as it presents an entertaining and accessible portrait of New Zealand culture, which visitors will surely find illuminating. But it is also an important selection because of the nature of the show: Eating the Dog is intellectually and culturally accessible by all classes of society. It speaks to all kinds of New Zealanders, at a time when the New Zealand theatre industry desperately needs to have a more inclusive, larger audience.
To find out that Downstage has had to make redundancies as recently as last week is very dis-heartening, as the theatre is a vital part of New Zealand culture, and needs the ongoing support and patronage of Wellingtonians: all kinds of Wellingtonians. This is not elitist, exclusivist theatre. A wide range of shows are supported by Downstage which reflect the diversity of New Zealand society. This kind of quality New Zealand theatre needs and deserves an audience.
Come and see Te Radar’s Eating the Dog at Downstage and don’t let New Zealand theatre get to a point where it has to consider eating the dog.
A trip off history’s beaten old track: Laurie Atkinson, Dominion Post
When Te Radar first appears in the Victorian antiquarian’s study that is the setting for his totally delightful history lesson, he looks like a well-dressed Harpo Marx, with his ginger hair sticking out from under a top hat. In the second half he comes on like a down-at- heel Noel Coward, wearing a dressing gown and holding a huge goblet of red wine.
Like Coward but unlike Marx, he talks and doesn’t stop for two and a bit entertaining hours, and he doesn’t take a blind bit of notice of the study except for the screen above the desk on which a modern lantern show called PowerPoint is projected.
He paces back and forth exhilarated about the stories he has to tell from our country’s little- known history – or, at least, the stories we were never taught at school.
His show is a wonderful melange of stand-up comedy, history lesson, manically funny digressions (pig hunting for a television show), ad libbing and an infectious enthusiasm for life.
You will learn, among many other fascinating stories, all about New Zealand’s first and last submarine, Bob Semple’s tanks and his wheelbarrow handle memorial, New Zealand’s funniest mug shots of a criminal gang, two West Coast uranium miners’ excitement at finding this new gold, and the tale of the Taranaki Highwayman who wasn’t a very good highwayman in the days before Taranaki had highways let alone roads.
I have only one minuscule gripe (why the microphone?), and apart from that all I can do is urge you to see this love letter of a show to the past, present and future of this country.
And what better way is there to show that love than through a great deal of affectionate laughter and the occasional sober appraisal of one or two disasters.