Next Big Thing Festival, but all the actors are aged between 7 and 25.' />

Two very different shows make up the Auckland Theatre Company's Next Big Thing Festival, but all the actors are aged between 7 and 25.

Checkout Chicks: The Musical, as its title suggests, is several kumara truckloads of fun. If you've "lost your smile", definitely "take a trip down the aisle" at Shop N Pay at Paru Bay. A high energy 75 minutes written by Julia Truscott and Rachel Callinan, and directed by Simon Coleman, this is an undemanding piece of feel-good hilarity, featuring long onion strings of quick-fire quips set to catchy show tunes.

The dozen great comic characters (trying not to be eggs) include pensioner-age checkout chick Margaret (Kalyani Nagarajan) whose past includes "the SAS, NASA and macrame"; the all tap-dancing, sequin-wearing rival supermarket heir Peter Frackwit (Daryl Wrightson); an uptight lawyer mum (Crystelle L'Amie); and schoolboys (James Collyer and Caleb Wells) chasing an ever-elusive bottle of Scrumpy.

The lead, scrunchie-wearing Tashandra, is played by Hazel Tansley-Broad, a Claire Chitham lookalike with a wonderful singing voice (under the musical direction of Jason Te Mete). Choreographed simply but effectively by Amanaki Prescott, the wonderful cast literally dance with Jessika Verryt's cheery, bright backdrop on wheels.


Tusk Tusk by the UK's Polly Stenham is a highly-strung drama with a premise taken from a child's make-believe game: three siblings - aged 16, 14 and 7 - have to fend for themselves when their mother disappears. All this information is drip-fed to create artificial suspense, lengthening the show to two hours. But the concept is interesting: when trying to avoid your bogey man, you can create a worse situation through your panic (and not know it).

Directed by Hera Dunleavy, the young cast have a lot of potential (particularly leads Arlo Gibson and Lucelia Everett-Brown, and young Flynn Allan, on "Finn" duty the night I saw this) but the repetitive script ("I'm serious!", "I mean it!" "you can't stop me!" etc) seems to lack authority and grounding.

Choose your seat carefully for sightlines. $20 for one show, $35 for both.

What: The Next Big Thing Festival
Where: The Basement, Greys Ave, to July 21