WHAT:

The Supermarket Sisterhood

WHERE:

Shambles Theatre

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WHEN:

October 7-22

How ironical a play about a supermarket checkout operators' sisterhood should be staged next to a supermarket.

Unintentional as it is, it's a nice geographical touch that the Shambles Theatre and Pak 'n Save are immediate neighbours, but would the carryings-on of the Discount Co crew ever translate to the real deal?

Very easily if self-service kiosks were to replace the "checkout chicks" as the Discount Co crew proudly style themselves.

They are a disparate lot, these chicks; there's Barbara the dinosaur who shuns the scanner, played by the inimitable Wendy Burgess - where would the Little Theatre be without her multi-tasking skills?

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Then there's Michelle the Shakespeare-quoting 'strumpet' (Emily McGowan) and Oxana (Bridget Donovan) a Russian émigré with a dark secret hidden away in her Masters degree.
It's a Masters in technology and darn useful it proves to be when the new bean counter owner turns the place on its head and, as the positively frightful customer Brian (Leigh Taylor) says, "draws it into the last part of the last century".

They're a madcap crew, aided and abetted by a handful of shopping regulars, well fleshed out by Sue Morrison, Christine Maher, Natalie Matthews, Margaret Ennis and Val Dyson.

On the male side there's Rob the butcher (Ian Stabler), fiancé of Michelle, the ideal foil for women on a crusade to keep their personal apocalypse at bay and former owner Mr Everson (Craig Blank).

Could it all possibly be, as Brian suggests, the timid Everson's fault for selling out to a faceless man of figures?

Let's not overlook the guest appearance of "Sven the Super body"; the ultra-muscular cardboard cut-out Barbara introduces to lure female customers back to her non-electronic aisle.

It all adds up to a madcap romp with side portions of romance and pathos.

All this from the pen of Tauranga-based playwright Devon Williamson. He's put a great Kiwi spin on traditional British farce, like life before technology its had use-by date.

The home-grown version with such a convincing cast delivering it guarantees to send audiences home with a smile and a self- promise to keep patronising checkouts manned by people not robots.

- Jill Nicholas