Kiwi comedic royalty and award-winning performer Michele A'Court is returning to the first stage she ever performed on at Levin Little Theatre this weekend.
NZ Comedy Comedian of the Decade award-winner A'Court, who will headline at Levin Comedy Club on Saturday October 6, grew up in Levin and had her first taste of performance on the Little Theatre stage when she was in primary school, as well as her first work experience job at the Horowhenua Chronicle.
These days, A'Court performs up and down the country, along with book tours, her weekly column in the Dominion Post and regular appearances on Radio NZ National's The Panel.
She caught up with Sadie Beckman for a chat ahead of next weekend's show.
What are your fondest memories of growing up in Levin?
"My mother, Donna A'Court, was on the committee of the Levin Little Theatre from before I was born. My most delightful memories are of watching her on stage, hanging out in the dressing rooms backstage, and being allowed (if I was very well behaved) to explore the wardrobe and prop departments under the eagle eye of Trudy Black who was in charge of everything. Trudy was a stickler for good behaviour, but cut me some slack because I was Donna's daughter. The theatre was always a magical place for me. I learned then that the best view in any theatre was from the stage. My first work experience as a Wellington journalism student was a holiday placement at the Levin Chronicle. I was paid $54 for the week's work, and spent it all on a frock. It was a really nice frock."
How has your upbringing influenced your career and comedy style?
"My grandmother, Edith Duthie, was a very witty woman - I think I picked up my storytelling style from her. My daughter - now a mother herself and reading Winnie the Pooh to her children, now says my sense of humour owes a lot to AA Milne. It is, however, less suitable for children's parties than this might suggest."
Which is your favourite type of gig? Large or small?
"Big gigs are easier - if comedy was surfing, a big room gives you a big wave to ride. But small gigs are like a conversation - you have to work harder to make the stories sound real and feel authentic. That's a bigger challenge, but it's really satisfying when it flies."
Does the idea of performing on the stage you first performed on in primary school feel strange, or like a full-circle?
"To be honest, I feel a bit emotional about it. This is the place I started, and where I first started dreaming about making a life on the stage. So there is a sense of something - completion? Coming home? - about standing on that particular stage again after so many years. My mother and I visited Levin earlier this year and spent an afternoon with Jocelyn Whitehouse who directed me in plays there when I was a teenager and Joyce Corrin - who was and is on the committee - and we had very special time. I owe those three women the whole shebang, really. I don't think any of us knew what I would end up doing as a performer. But I know that I'm really happy with the way things turned out. Wouldn't change a thing."
What can we expect from your set at Levin Comedy Club?
"I never decide what I am doing until the night I do it. Before a show, I make a list of things I might talk about, and then I see what feels right once I'm out on stage and talking to the people in the room. The only thing I can say for sure is that, one way or another, I'm going to try to make it count."
LEVIN LINE UP:
The Levin Comedy Club show will also feature 2018 National Raw Comedy Quest runner up Sean Collier and finalist Dan Alexander, as well as up-and-coming Palmerston North comedian Molly Malone. It will be MCd by 2017 Billy T nominee Patch Lambert, a regular fixture throughout the Wellington and Auckland comedy scenes, winner of the 2016 NZ Comedy Guild Breakthrough Comedian Award and a writer on TV3's 7 Days.
The event has been organised with support from the Horowhenua District Council's Creative Communities Scheme. Tickets are $25 from eventfinda.co.nz or $30 at the door.
Early bookings are recommended.