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Auckland Fringe: Frank the Mind-Reading Hotdog - Review

Feb 13, 2015 Theatre

I’m a few shows into the Fringe Festival now and ready to start making some calls…

THE SHOW MOST IN NEED OF AN AUDIENCE: Frank the Mind-Reading Hotdog

You hear about the smash successes at Edinburgh Fringe (like Away From Home, opening next week at the Herald Theatre), but what you hear less often is that average audience numbers per night is just four. Should we expect the same with Auckland Fringe? Considering there are only 50 odd shows compared to Edinburgh’s 3000+, I don’t think so.

Matt Penny is on his first Australasian tour (he’ll head to Wellington and Dunedin later in the month) and is playing 9pm shows at Q’s Vault all this week. He’s a mentalist, but even he conceded he never predicted he’d be playing his show to just five people last night. This matched the number for opening night (which is traditionally when all the free tickets get handed out). His second night did better because his Auckland relatives came along. It can be tough being a one-man band in a foreign city, but something has gone very wrong here because Penny has a quality show on his hands.

Forget the bells and whistles of The Illusionists’ mind-readers, Matt Penny is the real deal – personable, unshowy, yet completely impressive. He looks like a wise Obi-Wan Kenobi who has traded in his Jedi robes for a hotdog suit. Rather than actually playing a hotdog, his suit is just a visual gimmick. He promises to explain why hotdogs make great mind readers. He begins to explain morphic energy (like shared and absorbed physic energy), and cites a researcher whom my partner, who teaches a neuroscience paper, gets her students to rather harshly critique a research article by. Penny never gets around to why hotdogs especially. Perhaps the suit is what puts people off? It makes the show look a tad silly. It’s not.

Penny can do it all. We get our minds read multiple times. He asks if I can remember a four digit number and says he’s going to perform a Jedi Mind Trick on me. I reckon I’m more a Jabba than a Stormtrooper. I can still remember the four digit number I thought I saw – 3285 – but this was not the number he produced at the end (with my signature on the paper, dammit!). My partner was amazed he could predict the name of her first pet, which she couldn’t even recall immediately. He even recreated a picture I drew of a demonic apple. There’s much more, and things even get a little bit Matilda-like at the end. If you go you’re certainly getting your money’s worth, even if Penny isn’t.

Penny says he just wants bums on seats now (or should that be buns on seats?). He does a great show for five people, and I reckon he can do an even better show for more. He’s put 10 complimentary tickets aside at the Q box office for anyone that says “mustard”. I think you should take him up on it, Auckland.

To February 14.


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