Those hilarious dogs are back - and this time they're on the road.
Well, not for long. As the saying goes, Life's A Bitch, and none more so than when you lose a wheel right at the start of a road trip in a strange new land.
Duo Emma Newborn and Amelia Dunbar first hit the Taupō arts scene in 2014 when they brought their wildly successful play The Bitches' Box to town. It told the tale of Red and Twink, female dogs confined to the "bitches' box" - the kennels female dogs are housed in while they're on heat.
The 2017 follow-up Sons of a Bitch saw Emma and Amelia this time playing two rural male dogs on a trip into town who meet other dogs along the way and experience some serious rural/urban culture clash.
Now they're making it a hat trick, bringing their newest play Life's A Bitch to the Malcolm Flowers Insurances Taupō Winter Festival on Wednesday, July 14.
Coming up with another crowd-pleaser like The Bitches' Box (which got a five-star review in The Times during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival) and then Sons of a Bitch seemed at first a big ask.
But Emma says the pair had planned a third play for 2020 and although it was initially delayed due to Covid-19, they took a risk in committing to touring it in the South Island in October that year.
Turning the classic fish-out-of-water comedy scenario well and truly on its head, the pair this time portray Swiss ex-circus dogs, newly out of quarantine and ready to backpack their way through New Zealand. That is, until their van breaks down in the back of beyond - at a small rural garage, where they meet a parade of colourful doggy characters, from the perpetually pregnant garage dog to quintessential heading and huntaway farm dogs.
"If you enjoyed the last couple of shows you'll definitely enjoy this show," Emma says. "It's fast-paced, multi-character, very funny observations and lots of fun."
With the help of director Renee Lyons, Emma and Amelia did some of the writing together in person but after Covid the remainder was completed partly via day-long writing sessions held via Zoom.
"We wrote it during Covid, so quarantine was top of mind. We sat down and we decided 'what are our theatre dreams?' What do we really want to do on stage?' A big dance number was part of it and sequins were part of it so we then tried to fit that into the dog show. It's very silly but I think we achieved it."
When they're not touring, Emma's main day job is custodian, along with Governor Grey the cat, of Old Government House at Auckland University. Amelia, who is also an artist working under the name Amelia Guild, has two small children and lives on a Canterbury high country station.
They seem an unlikely pairing and were only brought together by chance. Country girl, artist and aspiring actor Amelia was living in Auckland, and Emma, an actor and theatre maker, had returned temporarily from Europe. They were asked to participate in an arts event called Stranger Things, which paired strangers of different talents and challenged them to spend two weeks producing a 10-minute entertainment piece that an audience would pay to watch.
"We didn't really know what we wanted to do," Emma says. "We both knew we were quite interested in funny animal videos on YouTube and we gave ourselves some improvisations. One was two women locked in the boot of a car, and we did this funny improvisation and we both really liked it and there was something there and we kind of merged the two things really.
"Then Amelia explained to me what a bitches' box was on a farm and then we wrote this 10-minute long sketch where these two women were wearing cocktail dresses and talking very candidly about sex and the punchline was they were dogs on a farm locked in a bitches' box."
The show was comedy gold and Emma thinks part of its appeal is that there are not a lot of comedy shows written from that rural New Zealand background.
The three Bitches' Box plays have toured extensively through rural areas too, usually being performed in wool sheds and country halls. Emma says there is something about taking something specifically rural into a country community that is 'really beautiful'.
'We have so much fun being silly and playing dogs. It's not easy but it is really deeply rewarding and we get to see so much of the country and meet cool people, awesome communities and I love it."
Performing the shows has also given Emma and Amelia the opportunity to raise funds for things like drought relief and flood relief - something that's especially pertinent right now with Canterbury hit hard by this week's flooding. They've also partnered with Rural Support Trust to promote mental wellbeing - getting people off the farm and going out for an evening with their neighbours and taking a break from day-to-day worries.
What: Life's A Bitch, presented by Harcourts Taupō
Where: Great Lake Centre theatre
When: Wednesday, July 14, 7.30pm
Cost: $38. Tickets at www.taupowinterfestival.co.nz.