Small towns a highlight for comedy duo

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Stand-up comedy has taken Michele A’Court and Jeremy Elwood around the world, but they say there is something special about performing in small New Zealand towns such as Oamaru.

The married couple, and now duo act, are heading to 27 towns and cities nationwide with their show On the Road, as part of the Arts on Tour programme.

They are performing at the Oamaru Opera House on February 7 and while they only have about 24 hours in the North Otago town, they said they would be making time for Whitestone cheese, steampunk, the Victorian precinct and The New Zealand Whisky Company.

“I’m looking forward to Whitestone cheese rolls and a visit to Steampunk [HQ],” A’Court said.

“My theory is: shopping is easier, and you’re more relaxed about it, the further you are geographically from your mortgage, and Oamaru is about as far south as we go .. so I’m going to get my credit card out.”

For Elwood, it is a homecoming of sorts. He started his comedy career in Dunedin and spent his early touring days in South Canterbury and Otago.

The On the Road tour had been put together by Arts on Tour NZ with a focus on getting performances and artists into the regions.

“I think it’s a fantastic initiative – they grab shows they think the country would like to see and put us out there,” he said.

Every town had its quirks, an interesting news story doing the rounds, or a large fish or piece of fruit – and that was part of the fun of it and they added a local flavour to each show.

“That’s the nature of the comedy we do – it’s quite often reacting to what’s happening in the wider world,” Elwood said.

“Obviously, over the course of a month, and particularly at the moment, things change on a daily basis, never mind weekly.

“Also, sometimes it’s the old cliche – something funny would’ve happened on the way to the gig, or you’ll arrive and there’ll be a local story that’s caught our eyes.”

One of the joys of the tour was arriving in each town and checking out their venue for the night, they said.

It could be anything from a “tiny little hall in a paddock with some old sofas” to somewhere like New Plymouth’s TSB Theatre with a capacity of close to 1000.

“So many places around the country have these really quite amazing theatres and venues,” Elwood said.

“If you go back one hundred-and-something years, to the gold rush even, they were pretty much the centre of the social scene and so many of them still exist, which is a real rarity.

“I love that. You look at the opera house in Oamaru. I remember touring there 20-something years ago and it was pretty run down and then the community got together and put some money into it and refurbished it and it’s a fantastic place.”

The regular guests on TV shows such as 7 Days and The Project were both looking forward to performing in the Oamaru Opera House’s Inkbox theatrette.

“That’s a really lovely venue. It sort of feels purpose-built for the kind of stuff that we do,” A’Court said.

They would be performing their stand-up individually, with “little moments” on stage together.

Elwood described it as “just comedy, just two people giving their ideas and hopefully in a funny way”.

“There’s very little ballet or juggling – that’s the best description I have for it,” A’Court said.

“Both of us write on stage, we come up with the best gags when we’re standing in front of a room full of people staring at us.

“At this point, as well as the stuff that I know works, I’ve got some half-baked ideas I’m working on and I imagine that by the time I get to Oamaru those half-baked ideas will be fully cooked.”

★ Michele A’Court and Jeremy Elwood, On the Road. Thursday, February 7, 7.30pm at Oamaru Opera House, Inkbox Theatre. Tickets $25 general admission (plus service fees) from the Oamaru Opera House and ticketdirect.co.nz.