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Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - NEWS - In­ter­view/ Britt Mann Pho­to­graph/ Liesha Ward-Knox

Amelia Dun­bar (right), 32, and Emma New­born, 34, are ac­tors per­form­ing their hit show Sons Of A Bitch at this year’s NZ In­ter­na­tional Com­edy Fes­ti­val. Amelia lives on a high-coun­try sta­tion in North Can­ter­bury. Emma lives in Auck­land. AMELIA/ I was liv­ing in Auck­land five or six years ago. There was a cre­ative evening called Stranger Things, sort of an artists’ col­lec­tive that a cou­ple of friends of ours were run­ning. The whole point of the evening was pair­ing up with strangers. I got paired up with Emma.

It was a hi­lar­i­ous kind of blind date sit­u­a­tion on our first meet­ing. We had two weeks to come up with a 10-minute piece of en­ter­tain­ment to be per­formed.

Com­edy has al­ways been a huge pas­sion of mine and Emma’s. For some rea­son, we played dogs.

The show at the Com­edy Fes­ti­val is our se­cond of­fer­ing. We’ve prob­a­bly per­formed it around 300 times. It’s an an­thro­po­mor­phi­sa­tion of ca­nine char­ac­ters. The first show was about farm dogs, pre­dom­i­nantly. This show is about two farm dogs who go to the city, where they meet city dogs.

We don’t re­ally sit down and “write” in the tra­di­tional sense – we do a lot of role-play­ing and im­pro­vi­sa­tion.

I’ve got a child now so there are time constraints, but we tend to split our time – I’ll go up to Auck­land or Emma will come down here. On the road, we can tweak and change as we go.

I tend to take the kind of er­ratic, more pepped-up char­ac­ters and Emma has th­ese strong char­ac­ters with grav­i­tas. The one thing I’ve re­ally learnt from her is how you can draw out a gag. She has no shame or fear when it comes to get­ting gross on stage.

In the first show, Emma played a drool­ing dog. The au­di­ence in the front row couldn’t ac­tu­ally look – they’d be hid­ing be­hind their hands – be­cause there was this enor­mous amount of saliva com­ing out of her mouth. I would end up hav­ing to stand in it.

Of­ten Emma, I feel, is a lit­tle bit naugh­tier than me. I’m the prude. She’s re­ally not that gross in real life.

We’ve toured around ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties for the last four years. I just find she has the same ef­fect on every­one – they just in­stantly warm to her. With ru­ral shows, ev­ery space is dif­fer­ent. You might turn up and there’ll be peo­ple shear­ing be­cause they don’t know you’re per­form­ing that night. Rather than go­ing back­stage and let­ting some­one else do the tick­et­ing, we have to do it all. So Emma and I are nor­mally up front and get to meet our au­di­ence. Quite of­ten they don’t re­alise we’re the ac­tors.

She was born and raised in the city but she can fit in any­where. She’s in love with ev­ery lit­tle town we go through. She’ll see a wee fall­ing-down house and go, “Oh my God, look! It’s Tony’s Tyre Ser­vice, CUTE! Oh my God, it’s a wool shed. It’s a barn. It’s a garage – GREAT!”

She re­ally loved Oa­maru when we first went down there. Gore – loved it. It’s turned into a joke, like, “Oh my God. Emma. It’s just a su­per­mar­ket.” EMMA/ We’d signed up to this evening called Stranger Things which Lara Fis­chel-Chisholm and her brother ran. I met Amelia at Lara’s house and we swapped num­bers. I re­mem­ber Amelia was very stylish – she al­ways wears lots of colour and I am al­most cer­tain she was wear­ing a hat.

We spent th­ese quite in­tense first few ses­sions to­gether to make this thing. It was like fall­ing in friend love. We would end up talk­ing about life and death and our val­ues and go off on th­ese huge tan­gents.

What led to The Bitches’ Box was a role-play­ing sit­u­a­tion. We were two women locked in the boot of a car. We’d al­ready agreed we were quite into talk­ing an­i­mals and then she told me what a “bitch box” was. I was like, that’s a great idea.

In the skit, we were dressed up kind of as pros­ti­tutes talk­ing can­didly about want­ing to sort of, f... ev­ery man in the dis­trict. The punch­line was we were dogs. Peo­ple re­ally re­sponded to it and loved it. I grew up with one dog; Amelia grew up with like, whole packs.

I had been liv­ing over­seas for about 10 years and I had my flight booked back to Lon­don. But I’d never been to the South Is­land. I was like, be­fore I go back, it would be cool to see some of the coun­try.

Amelia had al­ways had a real pas­sion for bring­ing things to the coun­try. She gets an­noyed so much hap­pens in the city and the coun­try kind of gets for­got­ten about. We thought, maybe we should tour a full-length show around wool sheds.

Last year, we wrote the se­quel, Sons of a Bitch. It was a much big­ger tour and Amelia was a new mum. There were long pe­ri­ods of time when we’re on the road, which is hard and ex­haust­ing enough as it is, but then to also be away from your lit­tle baby... She did a bril­liant job. I’ve got such a lot of ad­mi­ra­tion for her.

Some of my favourite mo­ments with Amelia are when we’re warm­ing up, get­ting ready for the show. We’re do­ing it any­where from in­side the Toy­ota Hilux to the dis­abled toi­lets, peo­ple’s liv­ing rooms, sheep pens.

We’ll be in the truck when the in­ter­val hap­pens and all th­ese men will come out and line up against the fence to take a p... They don’t know we’re in the truck. We al­ways get great delight from that.

“Or they come and ac­tu­ally p... on the truck and we’re like, “Oh God, we’re in here!”

We took the show to Ed­in­burgh and stayed with her fam­ily’s friends, who own a cas­tle. We got very drunk one night and were run­ning round their ball­room jump­ing round try­ing to play the bag­pipes.

Sons Of A Bitch, the Her­ald The­atre, Auck­land, May 9-13 and BATS The­atre, Wellington, May 16-20.

“Emma has no shame or fear when it comes to get­ting gross on stage. In the first show she played a drool­ing dog.”

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