Comedy's acting, humour a hit in show-within-a-show that plays off overlapping worlds.

The first two-thirds of this wink-clever Playground Collective comedy are exceptionally assured and superb - writing, design and acting interlocking perfectly - even if things come a bit unstuck at the end.

Remarkable New Zealand playwright Eli Kent pulls off a difficult conceit: a show within a show, directed by an autocratic talking lightbulb, in which the main actor "Simon" (Kent himself) doesn't seem to know he's pretending. (The Truman Show is one of many 1990s allusions; the lightbulb's robotic voice evokes Radiohead's Fitter Happier.)

Kent both flatters his audience by inviting us in on his intellectual joke, and holds our hand, with annotations on narrative devices. The lightbulb tells us the show is "a completely universal story" of a young white heterosexual man of privilege, "so you should all be able to relate". In the wings, the lightbulb's crew drink coffee and squabble over music choices while Simon is paused like a computer-game avatar. The jokes within both overlapping worlds are very funny.

Directed by Robin Kerr, the cast (Joel Baxendale, Victoria Abbott and Hamish Parkinson) helped to devise the show - the puppetry with pieces of mannequin is one of many effective moments - and their acting is great, including Abbott's various voices.


Gareth Hobbs' intense soundscapes of electronic noises are fabulously distracting and over-stimulating; our ears multi-task, keeping track of voiceovers, music, and sound effects. Lighting and costumes are both sympathetic.

The wonderful set is integral to the show. Designer Sam Trubridge gives Simon a large blank white cube to live in (in his turn, Simon keeps rats in a cage, and receives a mystery box). The cube keeps out a surrounding sea of backstage clutter, beautifully portraying the boundary between the tidy stories we tell about our lives and the muddle of facts we keep out to keep plotlines neat.

As in 2002 film Adaptation, the final meta-unravelling is supposedly deliberate. That isn't entirely convincing, but richness does emerge upon reflection. After all, we are all our own Trumans.

What: All Your Wants and Needs Fulfilled Forever
Where and when: Q Theatre, to September 19