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  • Guy van Egmond

Review: Sandwich Artist

Written by Guy van Egmond (he/him)


Maybe I’m being subjective here, but a show playing “Man or Muppet” as house music is bound to be good fun. And Sandwich Artist was! A heartwarming and silly musical, that poked fun at the genre conventions while being a genuinely well-put together show, with a lot of love and just a bit more to it than only sliced bread. 


The story follows Sammy Rye (Phoebe Caldeiro), an unrecognised sandwich genius working for an unnamed sandwich chain, who’s unorthodox, off-menu sandwiches get her fired, despite how good they are. She gambles it all on a bus ride to Wellington, where a fellowship is formed with a despondent carrot farmer (Catherine Gavigan-Binnie), a butcher with attachment issues (Anna Barker), and a strangely shifty baker (Dylan Hutton). Phoebe and Jack McGee worked together on a story that does a lot with very little: only 6 major speaking roles and minimal props or set. 


Extremely self-aware, The Sandwich Artist was unabashedly silly yet professionally executed. Musical spoofs like fake pirouettes and cheesy dance canons made the most of a cast that couldn’t really dance, and the bright themes and set designs were delightful, if a little immature. Every scene had been very carefully constructed with an eye for detail: everyone leaned at the same time when the ‘bus’ turned, and Brad’s weird house-rules foreshadowed his bakery work. They even referenced Solace in the Wind (The Naked Man statue on the waterfront), a small example of the very clever humour that peppered through the show. 


What truly blew me away, however, was the show’s music. The collaboration between a cast of talented singers and Phoebe Caldeiro’s original composition was very impressive. Each song was clear and purposeful (and intelligible!), balancing rhyme and rhythm with lyrical storytelling and lovely melodies. ‘The Pitch: Take One’ went hard, and ‘Kill Your Darlings’ was a personal favourite too. Lin-Manuel? Take notes. 


The music did suffer from some mic issues, which were consistent enough to be distracting. That’s where the small-scale production trips up; none of the main actors had enough time off-stage to fix any issues after starting. But otherwise every costume or scene change went flawlessly. 


All things considered, The Sandwich Artist was very straightforward, but so heartwarming. Not overly avant-garde—as many Fringe shows tend to be—its strength lay in both an excellent execution and a really personal connection. As the show wraps up with a blue-sky conclusion, the real message dawns. Sammy’s quest for sandwich perfection is an homage to the trials and triumphs of creating independent art in New Zealand. To the dream of making it big, globally big (intergalactically big, even). It’s a shoutout, a pat on the back, a standing together with anyone and everyone who makes crazy, funky, batshit art in this nifty little country at the bottom of the globe. 


The 60-minute show I watched was only a taster of Sandwich Artist’s potential. They’re in a so-called Development Season as yet, but this isn’t a mark on the show so far. It’s only upwards from here for the team; their Fringe premiere will hopefully lead to the time and money for a more ambitious, long-form performance run. Until then, catch Sandwich Artist for a final few shows until the end of the Festival, and stay tuned for whatever else is to come! 


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