Sam Brooks’s autobiographical show Stutterpop was one of the sellout, must-see productions of the Auckland Fringe, garnering positive reviews ranging from Metromag to The Express. ‘A strange yet compelling combination of stuttering and pop’ said Gay NZ. It now returns to Q Theatre with a larger cast, a tighter script, new stories, new songs – Sam lipsyncs with gusto - and more structure. It is all scripted, painfully scripted. ‘I have a stutter and I am speaking as I speak all the time.’
Brooks is one of the rare people who finds writing lines easier than saying them, and by December, will have seen fifteen of his plays put on within three years. ‘I hate the word prolific so much,’ he says. I suggest that he would prefer people to say he writes great plays, and he laughs. Fair enough - after all, he has been nominated for a Chapman Tripp award, twice won Playmarket’s Playwright Award, and been named the most exciting young player of the year by Metro Magazine.
This is his most autobiographical work yet – ‘this is the least sympathetic portrayal of myself’ – and though some of the stories are painfully honest, he had no trouble writing it. ‘I find it quite calming and easy on my head as a writer. It is a lot harder saying it and acting it.’ For Brooks’s stutter has a life of its own, and though it may be no worse in front of an audience, a play that may be 45 minutes on paper may stretch to well over an hour. ‘It is really interesting seeing an audience adjust. At first they don’t know how to react, then they all kind of have to slow down and engage and focus. It is a really emotional moment.’
Talking to him, you can see how this would be the case. When the stutter starts, your initial thoughts tend towards making him feel more comfortable, yet you don’t have a clue how. And then, after a few minutes, you realise he is perfectly comfortable; the interview was just going to take a bit longer, and that was absolutely fine. ‘Each night, there is a special guest who helps me.’ Not only do they add an extra comic element and keep it fresh, but if he gets stuck, or is running out of time, they can take over some of the storytelling. Brooks is smart, funny, very likeable, and comfortable in his own skin, laughter escaping from him as often, if not more often, than the stutters. He doesn’t like to be called brave, perhaps because he isn’t scared. As he says, ‘It’s heaps of fun’.