Queer Bogan Love (At the Wintergardens)

Jez & Jace: Lads on Tour is an improvised—lesbian, bogan—comedy show. My friend and I were the first to arrive in the theatre and the two actors (Nina Hogg and Megan Connolly) were already in character as Jez and Jace, chatting away about Speights, Featherston, and friendship. From the literal start to the very end, this show was a delight. I hoped for some entertaining cracks at toxic masculinity (check), queer representation (check), and obscure Aotearoa cultural references (double check). I wasn’t expecting the earnest twist as the two characters—lifelong friends—began to accept their own queerness, and then their love for one another.

This show initially appears to be a very simple one. The two actors (in impressively realistic bogan drag) use haybales as props to represent various locations as they embark on a road trip from their home base of Featherston to the big city, Tāmaki Makaurau. Music is used very well to heighten the mood and the comedy over the course of the hour-long show (Robbie Williams’s ‘Angels’ is a highlight). Despite minimal props and staging, it’s a truly absorbing show. The actors have excellent chemistry, fully believable as two emotionally reserved rural men in a state of transition in their lives. Crucially, they’re very funny. Responding to an insistent heckler, they continued to bat back or incorporate audience comments, cracking puns and expanding the backstory of their characters through silly stories—like side quests in the show. On the night I attended the show, Jez and Jace found themselves romping through the Domain and Wintergardens trying to find a good party to attend. You truly get the sense of the endless possibilities of the world of these characters.

“Entertaining cracks at toxic masculinity (check), queer representation (check), and obscure Aotearoa cultural references (double check).”

Speaking to the two actors and their director Austin Harrison afterwards, I discovered that the show’s plot has a basic structure that doesn’t budge, but that the ending can be changed entirely depending on the night. The happily ever after is not a guarantee, but will depend on the mood and audience participation. Though I can’t say it would have been as joyful as the ending I saw, I do believe that no matter how the story of Jez and Jace plays out, it is hilarious, heartfelt and fun.

This show only ran for three nights but has run several times across Aotearoa already—here’s hoping for a return of Jez & Jace soon, and much more to come from Nina, Megan and Austin.

Featured photo courtesy of Auckland Pride Festival 2023.


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