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McGuffin | Shaolin Punk


An unconscious man handcuffed to a briefcase...

Photo by Robert Young.

A man wakes on a park bench in Melbourne, handcuffed to a briefcase, with no memory save three rules: don’t open the briefcase. Don’t let anyone take it. Don’t stay in one place.

What happens next? That’s decided in the writer’s room. By you. And you only have seven episodes to find out.

McGuffin is hybrid improvised serial theatre, where the structure of each episode is mapped out in advance, but the dialogue, character development and plot are created on the night by the performers, director/producer and audience. You pitch your ideas to influence the mood, genre and plot. Is this a spy thriller? A supernatural horror? A sci-fi action series? A whimsical romance? Maybe it’s all of the above. It’s your choice.

McGuffin premiered as part of the 2010 Melbourne Fringe Festival. It was the brainchild of Shaolin Punk’s Ben McKenzie and veteran improviser Sean Fabri, in their first collaboration. We’re hoping to bring it back in 2011; watch this space for details.

Melbourne Fringe 2010

McGuffin’s first season was in the Fringe Hub as part of the 2010 Melbourne Fringe Festival. Over seven nights in The Loft upstairs at The Lithuanian Club, the cast and audiences created the saga of Kate Dymphia, an ordinary woman working for a diary company in Melbourne, whose life was changed forever by encountering McGuffin, lost heir to a worldwide conspiracy involving ancient artefacts and illegal genetic experiments.

McGuffin ran in a late night slot at 10:30 PM from September 24 to October 1, 2010, with a show every night except Monday September 27. You can find the cast list and episode synopses below.

The Cast


Gina Morley in McGuffin

Gina Morley as the female protagonist of McGuffin. Photo by Ben McKenzie.

Gina Morley (female protagonist) trained at the National Theatre Drama School, VCA, Impro Melbourne, The Rehearsal Room, and with stage director David Myles. She has had guest appearances on Neighbours, City Homicide, Underbelly and Blue Heelers. She has been in over fifteen films, both features and shorts, seven of which she played leading roles. Her stage work is much and varied with her last role being the lead role of Cathy in Rio Saki and Other Falling Debris, a Parnassus’ Den production at the Carlton Courthouse. If you wanna know more, she has a website complete with showreels etc – www.ginamorley.com. Gina is loving everything Impro at the moment and has been having a ball putting this show together.


Chris Broadstock in McGuffin

Chris Broadstock as

Chris Broadstock (the McGuffin) is an award-winning comedy writer/performer, actor and improviser who has been working in both stage and screen for over 10 years. He was part of the team behind best-comedy-winning The 5th Dementia (Melbourne Fringe 2001), and Melbourne Comedy Festival shows The Hindsight Prophecies (2002) and The Bus of Regret (2004). He was part of the Grand-Final winning team in the 1996 Melbourne Theatresports season and has recently returned to Impro Melbourne in its season of long-form impro ‘Spoken’. He pops up regularly on local TV shows and the odd ad. Stage highlights include playing Hamlet and performing in the Australian Professional Premiere of Brian Friel’s Winners at the Malthouse.


Kate O'Neill in McGuffin

Kate O'Neill, character actor in McGuffin. Photo by Gina Morley.

Kate O’Neill (other characters) joins the cast of McGuffin fresh from the sell out season of Robot vs World in the 2010 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. One of the busiest young performers in Melbourne, (Hawke, Channel 10, Two In A Million Melbourne Fringe 2010, Tangle Foxtel) Kate O’Neill is a wonderful addition to an already stellar line-up. With upcoming tours of Adelaide, Sydney and Perth, Kate is massively excited to be premiering McGuffin and can’t wait to see you there!


Sean Fabri in McGuffin

Sean Fabri, co-director and character actor, in McGuffin. Photo by Gina Morley.

Sean Fabri (other characters, co-director) has been performing in the highly popular Impro Melbourne shows for several years, including regular shows in the Melbourne Comedy Festival, where his friendly nature and ability to laugh at himself prove a draw card. He teaches and practices improvisation at every opportunity, to the sometime bemusement of his colleagues and patients (he also practices as a doctor). His improv experience includes training and performances in North America, where he has worked with and stolen ideas from key figures in the improv world. They stole ideas from him too, so this was okay, and everyone left feeling quite satisfied.


Ben McKenzie in McGuffin

Ben McKenzie, director and

Ben McKenzie (the showrunner, director) is the founder of Shaolin Punk theatre. An actor, comedian and improviser, Ben was the last artistic director of Melbourne comedy impro troupe The Crew and previously produced the musical impro show Set List. With Shaolin Punk Ben has also produced the acclaimed short play A Record or an OBE, the two-man Dungeons & Dragons comedy show +1 Sword, and the similarly themed improvised comedy Dungeon Crawl. McGuffin is Ben’s first original improvised theatre format.


1-1 “Pilot” – A woman’s life is turned upside down when she meets a man handcuffed to a mysterious briefcase who doesn’t know his own identity. Friday September 24, 10:30 PM.

1-2 “A Friend in Need” – Our protagonists meet a woman in distress, but can they afford to help her while they’re still on the run? Guest starring Amanda Buckley. Saturday September 25, 10:30 PM.

1-3 “A Friend Indeed” – The first real lead on the mystery of the briefcase leads the McGuffin and his friends into danger. Guest starring Amanda Buckley. Sunday September 26, 9:30 PM.

1-4 “Past Lives” – A new face provides a startling revelation. Meanwhile a new threat emerges. Part one of two. Guest stars Scott Brennan, Michelle Nussey. Tuesday September 28, 10:30 PM.

1-5 “Past Lives” – Conclusion to part one. Guest stars Scott Brennan, Michelle Nussey. Wednesday September 29, 10:30 PM.

1-6 “Book of Revelations” – The heroes find out more about their situation and themselves than they ever imagined. But can they really believe everything they’ve been told? Thursday September 30, 10:30 PM.

1-7 “Dare to Tread” – The heroes face a final confrontation with the enemy – but can they survive its implications? Friday October 1, 10:30 PM.