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  • Phoebe Pierard

Review: Icky

Words by Phoebe Pierard (she/her)

Greeted by a wondrously energetic, excited, and (most probably) exhausted crew after an intense season, this beautifully immersive show was the perfect distraction from my bad breakup earlier in the week. 

Oh That Theatre Company’s Fringe show Icky, written by Viki Moananu, won the Best Play by a Pasifika Playwright for the Adams NZ Play Award 2023 and was shortlisted in Playmarket’s Playwrights B425 competition. Lizzy Burton-Wood’s direction reshaped the experience by organising the stage in ‘traverse style’. The set-up acted as an aisle of life: two chairs on either side and a doorway in the centre. Icky, a meandering and mournful student, played by Moananu, paced and slipped into different timelines as they muddled their way through grief, yet marvellously wove a tale of university embarrassment, shitty friendships, and neglectful, flawed parents. 

Though the focus was on Moananu’s superb acting with the feel of a solo show, Burton-Wood supported the act in the corner as a musician, foley artist, and voice actor, using wine bottles, paper, blocks, ukulele, and guitar. The lighting and stage production was seamless. The sparse Dome in BATS Theatre was lit up, from a rainy blue to a rager of a student party (where dice cup and monopoly were played simultaneously?!)

The relationship between the crew was intoxicating and perfectly supported the play. The dramedy cushioned the dismay of the plot and Icky’s grief with humour. There were gentle reminders that this was a play that was self-aware of its situation through jokes and, at times, with the knowing looks between the operator, Angela Pelham, Burton-Wood, and Moananu. Likewise, the audience was acknowledged for their place in the play—at times acting as bodies over which Burton-Wood would act their lines, and at times acknowledged directly, as with Icky’s slightly ambiguous, poignant comment that they were just talking to “you guys” when they found out about their father’s death.

These elements of using mime and bodiless voices to tell the story made this play more acutely a commentary on aloneness, storytelling, and grief. The play between hearing both sides of the conversation through voice acting and Viki’s lines and, at times, only hearing Viki’s responses and commentary, kept a fresh and engaging perspective. The show’s closing, where the giant Tartar Sauce draws Icky out of their tumultuous spiral through dancing and pulling a reluctant Icky through the transformative doorway, emphasised the importance of people and acknowledging and processing grief. 

While the night I viewed the show had a lousy audience (some of the jokes didn’t reach the desired response), the show delivered an enticing and rich Wellingtonian experience. Sprinkled with camp and ironic use of xylophones, Icky was a show that spoke to the experiences and lives of students and the youth in Aotearoa. A visionary performance of queerness, mental health, and grief that reminded us of the importance of saying “goodbye”.


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