Putting his theory into practice, James Wenley’s ‘Dr Drama Makes a Show’ charms, chatters and goes boldly beyond drama

After a break of 10 years and having been inspired by shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, James Wenley (James III) is back on stage in this funny and informative one-man show.

The Theatre Scenes critic, who’s normally more comfortable behind the scenes, has a sparse stage and Wenley himself greets the audience as the enter for this ‘lecture’.

The desk on stage is the physical manifestation on Wenley’s heritage, which he explores as he mimics, mocks and deconstructs the usual tropes of theatre. He interweaves toying with theatre’s well worn tools with an exploration of whether a Pakeha man has anything to say or is the play itself a reinforcement of NZ society’s norms and the well-worn paths through a performance.

Wenley’s charm neatly counterbalances the avalanche of academic dissertation and polysyllabic speeches. He plays with media to neatly focus our attention on a specific point before expanding out across his history and occasionally breaking into dance, much to the audience’s delight.

So, is this an overblown intellectual exercise rerunning and reinforcing our societal beliefs? Thankfully, no. It’s a personal tale from the simple physical connection of his inherited desk, through the light moment of lost love, questioning his masculinity to his PhD, which is actually in English by the way.

A nice touch at the end provides instant feedback and every audience member who spoke echoed my feelings of being engaged, taken on an interesting journey and given some good laughs by an honest man with the bravery to step out from behind the page.

Grab a chance to see the show in Auckland’s fringe festival before he returns to his lecturing base in Wellington and onto his ancestral stomping ground on the other side of the world. It won’t be like anything else you’ve seen in the theatre but that’s the point, right?

Dr Drama Makes a Show is on from February 18th – 22nd at 8:30 pm – 9:30 pm as part of ‘Summer at Q’, 2020 and Auckland Fringe. 

Reviewed by Mike Hales

Please note: This show contains adult themes and is recommended to audiences 16+.