Written by Natalie Medlock, Thomas Sainsbury, Daniel Musgrove
Directed by Sophie Roberts
Basement Theatre, Auckland | September 3-7
While I wasn’t fortunate enough to see the first two parts in the Yeti trilogy (I Am Yeti and Yeti is Dead) on their previous outings, I’ve heard amazing things about both plays. So it’s with a lot of anticipation that I went into The Yeti Trilogy, which incorporates both these shows with a third part (Yeti in the Himalayas) completing the saga.
It’s a deceptively simple premise. Natalie Medlock plays Yeti, a Nepalese immigrant who wants to be a screenwriter and is, as her name suggests, a yeti. She moves in with aspiring screenwriter and depressive Tom (Thomas Sainsbury) and his wife Yvette (Yvette Parsons). The plot unfolds in ridiculous fashion, involving Daniel Musgrove in a dual role as Tom’s mum and Yeti’s ex-boyfriend Simon and also Chris Parker as a Jeremy Kyle-esque figure.
I haven’t seen a comedy like this before. While it bears the loose trademarks of a Sainsbury play, and he is a co-writer here, there’s another level of weirdness that makes things that shouldn’t be funny really funny. A simple gag like a dude in a dress becomes funny with Musgrove’s committed performance, as does Parker’s energetic talk show host parody. And even the more offbeat stuff works well, like Sainsbury’s thousand dances, which are abruptly and sadly cut short, and the entirety of what Parsons is doing for the show’s one hour and forty five minutes.
But the reason that this comedy is unique, and the main reason to see it, is Medlock’s performance as Yeti. From the moment she’s onstage in an adorably makeshift yeti costume, complete with fluffy white eyebrows and boots, she’s electric to watch. It’s something that should be a one-off, lazy joke: she’s a yeti with a funny voice and a funny sensibility. But Medlock, and co-writers Musgrove and Sainsbury, bring a surprising amount of humour out of her interactions with the real world and also the crazy world of the play. Medlock also gives Yeti an endearing simplicity and a bizarre soulfulness. By the time we get to the third act (or second half of the play), we are totally enamoured with Yeti, and her interactions with her ex-boyfriend Simon are a highlight of the play. Despite a hilarious, understandable crack at one point, Musgrove and Medlock have a chemistry that made me want to see a play entirely about Yeti and Simon’s relationship.
As a production that appears to have once been two plays with a third added on, it isn’t flawless and some of the seams show. I found the second part, which as a standalone was Yeti is Dead, to be a little bit of a dip compared to the first and third acts, just for the lack of Yeti in the action. The show is a rough in spots and some gags run longer than they should. Not all the jokes hit as hard as they might; I felt like I was the only person who laughed (quite loudly) at an Adrian Lyne joke, which is not something I was expecting at a show at the Basement, or a show anywhere, for that matter. However, director Sophie Roberts keeps the show moving along at a clip, and cohesively too, especially with a massive genre shift in the last ten minutes or so. For what is essentially a two hour comedy, it goes by like a dream.
Flaws aside, I genuinely enjoyed The Yeti Trilogy and would seriously recommend seeing it. It boasts a lot bawdy, surrealistic humour, and I was most happy to spend two hours in the presence of a character as genius as Yeti. She’s the kind of character that doesn’t come around often, and you’ll regretting missing her if you don’t catch her now.