No Time to Dry — A Response

A man is on his knees with a paper bag on his head.

It’s not my usual Tuesday evening scene—at least not before 7:00 pm.

I’m ready to make an exception, however, for opening night of Lucy Dawber’s new play, No Time To Dry.

A comedic pastiche to classic spy movies, No Time To Dry asks: what if we transposed the world of James Bond-esque espionage to a small theatre in downtown Tāmaki Makaurau? And while we’re at it—what if we threw in some flamboyant choreography, an almost all-female cast, jokes about the IRD and a leaf blower or two?

The answer: a seriously silly, delightfully camp story about three ‘normies’ taking on both bad guys and their inner critics with a swift roundhouse kick.

From the first moment, it’s clear there are some big supporters in the room for opening night. We can tell this because, despite a bit of a rocky start due to some minor sound mixing issues, the front two rows are going absolutely ape shit. At one point, I think someone is having trouble breathing. I look over and wonder if we should call an ambulance.

Serving up a perfect mix of goofy physical comedy and deadpan delivery.

We soldier on and by the time our three main characters are together on stage, I all but forget about the potential medical emergency in the front row. In fact, I’m having too much of a good time to think about much else at all.

After a series of hijinks in a Morningside laundromat (been there), our unlikely trio are enlisted into New Zealand’s Secret Service (haven’t been there . . . yet). Serving up a perfect mix of goofy physical comedy and deadpan delivery, we follow our off-brand Charlie’s Angels as they navigate their way through the trials and tribulations of modern-day espionage.

Jacinta Compton’s Martha is a hilarious pocket rocket of physicality—with two stand-out moments in the second half (I won’t spoil it, but one involves an incredible, if unexpected, tribute to Mariah Carey).

Gabriella Chauca’s Carmen suffered from repeated wardrobe malfunctions—deliberate or not, I’m still unsure—but otherwise, they were a warm and lively presence on stage.

However, it is our pining pushover Ada, played skilfully by Brit O’Rourke, who manages to somehow match the laughter with some formidable tugs at the heartstrings.

Key scenes between O’Rourke and drill sergeant Jane (Georgia Pringle) allowed both actors the opportunity to dig a little deeper and to bring the audience along with them (of which both did superbly). These moments of genuine emotion allow us to understand and connect to the imposter story behind the jokes—and add a little necessary light and dark to an otherwise laugh-a-minute story.

Another notable mention must be made of Millie Hanford’s Spy 001. We weren’t given much backstory for 001, and this, coupled with Hanford’s campy rendition, did lead the spy to feel more caricature than character. Perhaps this is why my millennial, chronically online brain traced an immediate parallel to Joe Walker’s Voldemort in the viral 2009 A Very Potter Musical. And perhaps this caricature-over-character impression was the intention for both Spy 001 and Spy 002 (Vincent Andrew-Scammel), who did seem to have arrived from a slightly different world than the rest.

Some of the best moments of No Time To Dry occurred through surprise staging.

Basement Theatre’s upstairs Studio isn’t a big space, but the set design was simple and effective. Two sheer curtains cut diagonally across the stage, carving the space into different locations, and serving as a canvas for the projection of electronic green text, denoting time and location (another wry nod to the genre). Other surprise uses of the space (again, I won’t spoil it!) are a clever and interesting way to get around some of the obstacles created when trying to transpose cinematic tropes into a theatrical context.

You can’t take this kind of show—or yourself—too seriously.

And, by and large, those tropes transpose remarkably well: from Bond-style ‘down-the-barrel’ shots, through to montage fighting sequences, laser beams, sky-diving and dastardly plot twists—Dawber has managed to take these classic motifs from screen to stage, without losing any of their cinematic magic.

The moments that truly have the audience in stitches are the physical. Dawber has done a great job at giving her actors the space and opportunity to really play with their physicality. Personally, I love a show where women are encouraged to take up space and share their physical comedy chops—especially when no one feels the need to ‘name’ or reference gender at all. 

The same can be said for the play’s treatment of queerness—there simply isn’t time to point out that there the central romance happens to be queer when we’re fighting off evil henchmen or oversharing our trauma on a lie detector test. It’s delightfully refreshing. 

You can’t take this kind of show—or yourself—too seriously.

No Time To Dry is a hilarious, Tāmaki-born love letter to classic spy movies—and all the tropes they encompass. The jokes are funny, the choreography compelling, the staging clever, and the entire thing is just a rollicking good time. Even if the audio mixing and wardrobe adhesive needed a little fine-tuning at times, that ended up just adding to the silliness.

For the 60-minute run-time, it’s a welcome, if all-too-brief, escape from the world outside.

Featured image via Basement Theatre.


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