Text by Logan Carmichael

Sacriligious encounters with the devil, angels, and Cupid. Musical numbers about Nike’s sweatshop labour. The odd subtle dig at Auckland house prices, Hell Pizza, and Lime Scooters. Back for its eleventh iteration, this year’s edition of Stir Fried had all of this, in one place. 

A series of eight skits, intertwined with a storyline entitled ‘Framework’ – the overarching adventures of Virgil and Dante Allegheri – the stories told in Stir Fried ranged from dark humour, to downright tragic.

Acted out by a large cast of over 30, Stir Fried’s various skits explored common themes of death, religion, and the underworld, with its show programme asking “which circle [of Hell] are you in today?”

The show feared no conventional religious sanctities, broaching provocative topics and leaving many interpretations to the eyes – and minds – of the beholders. In the intimate Lot 23 studio, the laughter, gasps, and even dead (no pun intended) silence of the audience spoke volumes.

It was never quite clear how each of the skits would turn out. Stir Fried ranged, from a second skit entitled ‘Unbearable,’ featuring a pop-culture-referencing Cupid amidst a love triangle and elicited constant laughter from the audience, to the penultimate ‘Arridy,’ which warranted stunned silence as a special needs man received his death sentence for admitting to a crime he did not commit.  The skits of Stir Fried, alongside the storyline of Virgil and Dante, were wholly unpredictable, thought-provoking, and kept the audience on the edge of their seats for two hours straight.

The show even incorporated the audience into its storylines, with a cast member popping up from the front row as a witness in the fifth skit, ‘Utalitarian Court,’ and allowing the audience to decide the fate of a recently deceased man – Heaven or Hell? Ultimately, it was decided he’d go to Heaven – in Stir Fried’s first skit.

Though the subject matter was provocative – and maybe even for some, controversial – the characters depicted in Stir Fried were endearing, especially Virgil and Dante, with whom the audience became especially well-acquainted in nine different segments of their journey.  The quips about everything from life in Auckland to deadly sins were witty, and the musical talent of cast members, especially the Nike sweatshop workers in ‘Swoose,’ the show’s fourth skit, was impressive.  The show runs until 28th September and, if you think you can stomach the sacrilege and want to have a good think, I’d suggest you get your tickets.

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