Get ready to laugh at your mask


It’s been a long year. A few long years, in fact, and everyone needs a little laugh, which is why Toitoi – Hawke’s Bay Arts & Events Center got together with his friends at Common Room, Spaceship and the Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival for you bring a whole weekend of deep laughs to the end of this month.

Donna Brookbanks

Laugh Your Mask Off will take place over four days, July 28-31, at four locations across the city. Tickets for all 19 shows are just $25 each (plus fees) and went on sale at 9 a.m. this morning (captioned: Friday, July 1).

Toitoi Kaiwhakahaere Ratonga Whakaari – Head of Presenter Services Glen Pickering says he’s wanted to create an annual comedy weekend for Hastings since his Toitoi debut in 2019.

“But my old Covid buddy kept getting in the way! Toitoi has a long history of great comedy performances in our opera house, Hastings audiences really love a good laugh, so it makes sense to create a regular home for comedy right here in the heart of Heretaunga,” he says.

“We wanted this comedy weekend, called Laugh Your Mask Off, to go beyond what we can offer here at Toitoi. We have two beautiful venues that we use, at the Opera House and the Assembly Ballroom, but we wanted to expand the event into the CBD and support our local hospitality businesses – which is why you will see performances at Common Room and Spaceship, and being able to take advantage of promotions in bars and restaurants.”

Read on to learn more about the Laugh Your Mask Off comedians and shows.

Chez Toioï

On Thursday, Laugh Your Mask Off – The Gala will kick off the weekend with comedy, cabaret and madness! Hosted by Ben Hurley, the gala features the best of the weekend – with comedy, music, burlesque, aerials, chainsaw juggling, mind reading and more – bringing laughter and craziness to the Opera stage.

Then on Friday, head to the Toitoi Assembly Ballroom to enjoy an hour of absolute hilarity with Ben, who you may know from his regular appearances on THREE’s 7Days, The Project, and who is now a regular contributor on TVNZ’s Seven Sharp.

After Ben, the Assembly Ballroom will transform into a Las Vegas bingo hall. Yes, that’s right, bingo is back, baby! A Vegas-style showcase extravaganza, complete with balls – not your usual bingo night! From the crew that brought you Panto Bingo, Social Club Bingo and Bordello Bingo comes an evening to remember.

On Saturday evening, the Assembly Ballroom hosts Who Run the World. Over the past two (hundred) years, women have proven time and time again that they are better at almost everything. In recent history, their expertise also extends to world management, so we celebrate their awesomeness with a lineup of fresh, fun, and fierce comedians, including Donna Brookbanks (2019 Billy T Award Nominee, 7 Days, Funny Girls) , Liv McKenzie (winner of Best Female Performer, 2017 Comedy Awards, 7 Days, Have You Been Paying Attention), and more.

Then, once you’re done with those wāhine crack-ups, stick around for Pictionary. Join Wellington Comedians Laser Kiwi for an experience like no other. Imagine a pub quiz meets a game show – one-time prizes, silly banter and glory are up for grabs. It’s surreal, it’s funny, and it’s not wholesome, so get a team together and join the fun.

Then on Sunday, the Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival offers a few free shows. Dream Garden combines aerial circus, projection art and comedy. You can’t be sure what’s real and what’s a dream, so sit in the front, get a good view of the Toitoi Opera stage and enjoy the show! Meanwhile, in the Assembly Ballroom, Gerry Paul and the Elephant Tree Band play their own mix of Good-Time Americana Kiwi Folk. Think banjos, mandolins, guitars, violins, double bass and fiery harmonies. Together they will release the hip hop grooves of “Workin’ on the Worm Farm”, the rockabilly shuffle of “Hank the Wrestling Shark” and the bluegrass skanks of “We All Got Bones”. These shows are free to enter, but registration is essential.

In the common room

On Friday and Saturday nights, head to Common Room for Local Laughs – featuring five of the best upcoming comedians and semi-pros in the Bay. Hosted by Hastings-raised Kajun Campbell Brooking, and featuring local veterans CJ Alexander, Karen Leslie and Lil Sarah, and rising star Aldreen Rodrigues.

After that, stick around to see the incomparable David Correos. David is something that is hard to explain, but we have to try. Immediately endearing, he has a particular ability to create mischief. Left to his own devices, he’s made a name for himself as a dynamic comedian who’ll take you on his own rollercoaster ride.

To the spaceship

Escapology, chainsaw juggling, walking on broken glass and other famous feats… Seven Deadly Stunts contains, well, seven stunts – each an exercise in danger, confidence and skill. But it’s also seven stories – sideshow, freak show, music hall, vaudeville and marquee. Friday and Saturday nights at the Spaceship.

Then hang around and experience Bunny. Multi-award-winning comedian and theater maker Barnie Duncan digs into the specific freedom a 3 a.m. dance floor can bring in his love letter to clubbing and exploring heartbreak. An hour of physical theater, stand-up comedy, and musical highs.

And for the full Spaceship experience, stay late to see Burlesque Un-Masked. Cherry Boom! (Miss Burlesque 2015) will keep you spellbound with her steamy tricks; Mrs. Ruby Rebel delights and exalts those who dare to look; Cici von Rouge’s brings her cheeky moves that will evoke desire and pleasure, Billie Jean wows all who look at her; and Kiki Kisses is a true entertainer, known for her over-the-top stage antics.

Your laughter schedule

Thursday July 28

7:30 p.m. Laugh Your Mask Off – The Gala, Opéra Toitoi (R16)

friday july 29

7 p.m. Local laughter, common room (R18)

Seven deadly stunts, spaceship

7:30 p.m. Ben Hurley, Toitoi Assembly Ballroom (R16)

8:45 p.m. Rabbit, spaceship (R16)

9 p.m. David Correos, common room (R16)

9:30 pm Bingo in Las Vegas, Toitoi Assembly Ballroom (R18)

10:30 p.m. Unmasked Burlesque, Spaceship (R18)

Saturday July 30

7 p.m. Local laughter, common room (R18)

Seven deadly stunts, spaceship

8pm Who Run the World, Toitoi Assembly Ballroom (R16)

8:45 p.m. Rabbit, spaceship (R16)

9 p.m. David Correos, common room (R16)

9:45 p.m. Pictionary, Toitoi Assembly Ballroom (R16)

10:30 p.m. Unmasked Burlesque, Spaceship (R18)

Sunday July 31

10am Gerry Paul & The Elephant Tree Band, Toitoi Assembly Ballroom (from 4 years old)

11:15 a.m. Dream Garden, Toitoi Opera (all ages)

2 p.m. Gerry Paul & The Elephant Tree Band, Toitoi Assembly Ballroom (ages 4 and up)

3.15 pm Dream Garden, Opéra Toitoi (all public)

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