Work Do writers Rose Matafeo, left, and Alice Sneddon (photo supplied)

Rose Matafeo and Alice Snedden are making Christmas horny again

This year the Basement Christmas show enters its tenth year with Work Do, written by superstar comedians Rose Matafeo and Alice Snedden. Alex Casey talks to the duo about office parties, Christmas fantasies and Michelle Obama. 

Somewhere in London, Rose Matafeo is lying on her bed, embroiled in a late night battle with what she has self-diagnosed as acid reflux. Closer to home in Auckland, Alice Snedden has dipped out of a midday Jono and Ben meeting to join our group call. It’s not long before they are engaged in a fierce argument about what is the best Christmas movie of all time (Alice says A Family Stone because it tickles her, Rose says The Holiday, Alice says that there’s no way that Kate Winslet would ever pine after Jack Black like that, let alone him have an extremely hot model girlfriend).

Leon Wadham, Rose Matafeo and Alice Snedden

Getting them on the same call took weeks, so it’s a mystery how they managed to write an entire play together for this year’s Basement Christmas show extravaganza. The raucous holiday season institution celebrates its tenth year with Work Do, written by Matafeo and Snedden and directed by Leon Wadham. It’s the bow atop the tree of a stellar year for the ex-Funny Girls and Jono and Ben colleagues, one that has included prestigious international awards, the best new television show of the year and, more recently, the return of their diabolically horny podcast. Needless to say, there was a lot of unwrapping to do. 

Alex Casey: I guess we should probably start by talking about your big award Rose, do you feel like talking about your big award?

Alice Snedden: Can I just say Rose, I couldn’t be more proud of your award. I’ve always been your biggest supporter.

Rose Matafeo: It’s so weird. I’ve got the literal award in my tiny bedroom and it’s quite large, which is very funny. It’s just sitting next to some shitty crystals and a diffuser looking very out of place, which I think is a good reflection of how strange this year has been. But yeah, it’s good. I’ve got some money, I’m going to buy an armchair. I still haven’t decided what armchair I’m going to get.

AS: You feel the instinct to downplay it, but it is an amazing achievement.

RM: It’s just so bizarre I do feel proud – but not too proud. Because I can’t come back to New Zealand feeling too proud about anything. It hasn’t changed that much for me really, apart from the fact that now I don’t have to do gigs that I don’t want to do.

And Alice, Bad News was obviously one of the greatest television shows of 2018, is it coming back?

AS: I don’t know man, I wish it would but the people who have all the money don’t seem to want to give me any. I hope we do get to make more, it was probably one of my favourite work experiences in terms of the final product and being in line with things I want to be doing. But it was so hard to get it made.

RM: Maybe you could rename it to Good News, you know? Something more positive?

AS: That’s why you’ve got that award man.

So tell me, what is Work Do about please?

AS: It’s set in an office Christmas party in 1997 for a travel agency who are making various discoveries about themselves. Most of them are sex-related.

RM: Yeah, we’ve written a very horny show. We’re not proud of it.

AS: I’m embarrassed.

RM: I’m so embarrassed and scared of what people are going to say about as us writers and as people. I’ve seen so many of the Basement Christmas shows – they are clearly an institution – but I feel like it was a bit of a daunting task to write something different to what they’ve already had. This is like, a proper show.

AS: It’s a classic throwback play in that it’s all one act. It plays out in real time, the comedy comes from high drama and there’s very ridiculous characters.

RM: There’s a lot of sex. The thing is, Christmas is a sexy time. Christmas parties at least. It’s sex on a damn stick. Like look at The Office Christmas special, you know? I think that’s one of the perfect episodes of television comedy, because there’s such heart to it. You feel something in your gut, that happiness when everything is resolved. I love when comedy can do that.

AS: Everyone’s Christmas fantasy is in there: you find your one true love at Christmas or, you tell your boss to fuck off.

RM: We’ve made the boss character Linda into the worst kind of person, with all the worst possible things we’ve ever thought about saying, but then I think that everyone’s worked under a boss like that at some stage. Another funny thing is that the Basement Christmas show attracts the very office parties we were writing about.

AS: That was a big thing we talked about when we were brainstorming, the fact that so many of the people in the audience would be there on their own office parties. Hopefully they get a real kick out of it and can do a lot of elbowing each other and being like ‘that’s you!’.

RM: Maybe even some of them will hook up with each other.

AS: That is the dream outcome – that people come with their work, watch the play and then make some bad decisions.

The writers and their Basement team

Will this be the raunchiest Christmas show that Auckland has ever seen?

AS: I think it will be. Also with Leon [Wadham] at the helm, that’s not helping anything. He’s the horniest director around. I want to go on the record and say that I think Leon is the most sexually confident person I know.

RM: I don’t know why it turned into such a horny show. I just think we found it so fun to write that way.

AS: We did a workshop where we realised out that some of the characters were longing for a man for no reason, and we didn’t want that. We figured out their desires and we realised that, for some of the characters, their desire is something very primal. They just want to fuck. And in that sense, we’re kind of like legends for putting that on the stage.

RM: Legends. I hope the script gets sold at Playmarket.

How the hell did you manage co-writing given your circumstances?

RM: What they basically did was put an insanely early deadline on the script. We were like ‘why the fuck are they doing this? This is due so early compared to when the show is actually going to be on?!’ And then we realised they know us better than we do.

AS: Deadlines came and deadlines passed and no work was delivered. In all honesty, this year we’ve actually spent a considerable amount of time together.

RM: We started writing it properly in Melbourne, during the comedy festival there. We are never in the same place unless it’s coinciding with comedy festivals and those full-on times. So yes, basically, the show took us a long time to write and Alice has done most of the work.

AS: We worked out what the story was together, and then we would take out little bits and write them separately and then the other person would read them and pull them apart. Really tear them to shreds. And then we would rebuild from there.

Rose Matafeo and Alice Snedden

Did that process put any strain on your rock solid friendship?

AS: We actually had one very tense Facebook conversation towards the end, that was about it.

RM: I think the logistics of writing the thing together was the hardest thing for our partnership, but during the actual writing of it I think we rarely had any disagreements about anything and I’m thankful for that. Maybe we just have really low standards.

AS: That’s probably it.

RM: To be honest, it’s definitely the longest writing relationship I’ve had with someone. Any kind of relationship, really.

AS: I honestly don’t know why they picked us. They did well to get Rose, though. That’s a huge get for them. I’m just happy for the work.

RM: In a way, I did this for you because I knew you would be so happy for the work.

Are we going to have a huge lineup of celebrity cameos as per tradition? 

AS: It’s one celebrity guest per show. We’ve got Jodie Rimmer, Brynley Stent, Kura Forrester and Byron Coll as core cast every night, and a celebrity appearance each night.

Who would be your dream Work Do celebrity guest?

AS: Barack Obama. Alone. I don’t want Michelle coming.

RM: No comps for Barack.

AS: She can buy a ticket if she wants to see it.

RM: It’s sold out.

AS: Ah well, she should have got in earlier.

RM: I reckon mine is Sam Neill because he’s hot. Two Paddocks, get on down here. Maybe the next Christmas show can just be me, in a room, alone, with a celebrity guest, upstairs from the Basement and also there’s no audience.

AS: There’s no script at all, just improvised physical action.

One more thing that always makes me a little anxious about Christmas shows is the audience participation, how much can you promise in Work Do?

RM: There’s actually kind of none. Logistically, with us being so far away from each other, we had to have the script pretty set in stone. It’s such an unknown entity, we couldn’t make room for it. We also don’t want anything fucking with our masterpiece.

AS: I think some performers do audience interaction really well and I know a lot of audience members love it, but it’s my worst nightmare to be called upon. It makes me so anxious and nervous, so I just couldn’t be a part of something that puts that onus on the audience.

RM: Let’s be honest – some people are going to get wasted at this show.

AS: Most of them probably won’t even remember it.


The Spinoff is the media partner for the Basement Theatre’s 2018 Christmas Show Work Do

This year marks is the tenth annual Christmas Show, the theatre’s only current public fundraiser. Profits raised from tickets sold help maintain development opportunities for artists and keep the venue a safe space for community. Book tickets to Work Do, written by Alice Snedden and Rose Matafeo, here.

The Basement Theatre are charitable trust and Auckland’s culture-defining powerhouse. To hear more about the awesome shows and mahi they do, sign up to the mailing list!

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