The real McCoy of comedy

00:36, Feb 12 2013
Fringe Festival
SPINNING LAUGHS: Spider Dance Merrilee McCoy, left, Anna Renzenbrink and Amy Moule, part of Fringe 2013.

Fringe Festival trio Spider Dance do improvised comedy, but not in a way Wellington crowds are used to, writes Tom Cardy.

Comedy has come full circle for performer Merrilee McCoy.

McCoy moved from Brisbane to Wellington six years ago to further pursue improvised comedy. While here she co-founded the annual New Zealand Improv Festival in 2008.

In April last year, spurred by contact with improv performers in Australia, McCoy upped sticks and moved to Melbourne. There she met performers Anna Renzenbrink and Amy Moule.

The trio formed Spider Dance, and next week they make their Wellington debut in the Fringe Festival.

The group takes its name from a dance made famous by 19th-century Irish-born exotic dancer Lola Montez, who for a time performed for Australian goldminers. Like Montez, the three will entertain with a mix of song, dance and comedy.


But McCoy, who has been performing for more than decade, says their show is different from most improvised comedy Wellington audiences are familiar with. It has a stronger emphasis on theatricality.

"We are not putting emphasis on it being improvised even though it is," says McCoy.

"My impression is that in Wellington when you see improv it's always you associate it with The Improvisors or WIT [the Wellington Improvisation Troupe]. What we're doing is a little bit different from that."

And while there is some audience interaction, McCoy says it is not to the same degree as some acts.

"Sometimes we might get help or a suggestion from someone. But I didn't want to go the audience and get something [when] we didn't need to.

"So many improv groups get suggestions ‘because we have to prove that it's improvised'. In my experience the audience doesn't think that it's improvised anyway. They always think you've planned something. We just went ‘forget about that.

"If we want a suggestion and don't want to think it up, let's ask for it'. But our interactions are more playful and out of necessity rather than ‘we have to do this because it's the rules of an improv'."

Spider Dance, Gryphon Theatre, Wellington, February 19-23, 6.30pm 

The Dominion Post