Shows seen. Globe Hamlet, Julius Caesar, One Day Moko, Niu Sila, 2080, Beyond the Beautiful Forevers, Woyzeck.
Man, when you put it like that it seems like I didn’t do anything in June except watch theatre, but it didn’t feel like a chore. I also managed to squeeze in the Hurricanes blistering run of form – and in watching two live games at the Cake Tin, I saw some of the finest theatre in town.
Globe Hamlet was all about the theatre. The Opera House was the best of venues, and the worst of venues for the same reason – everything Shakespeare’s Globe does, and everything Shakespeare wrote is violently opposed to everything a 19th century end-stage theatre stands for. So to see them knock it out of the park at the Opera House was as awesome and unexpected as watching say, a, gay, black Latino woman become pope. Or something. Hamlet changes as a play as you change as a person, and it talks to you about where you’re at at your particular point in life. The choice they made that struck a chord with me was the sense that Hamlet is theatre within theatre within theatre. At the end of Hamlet Fortinbras commands: “Bear Hamlet, like a soldier, to the stage;/For he was likely, had he been put on,/To have proved most royally:” In this version, a company of actors interprets this as a command to go tell the story as a play. Fortinbras was wasted as a warrior. He should have worked in development.
Julius Caesar to me was all about the themes. Leadership, and the hive mind. Caesar’s a good man. He’s never done anything wrong, in fact, he’s always done everything right. But all the next tier politicians and landed gentry get it in their head that he must be about to do something terrible soon. So they kill the golden goose, and merrily slaughter each other in a more horrible fashion than they ever feared Caesar would do to them. Caesar picked the problem from the start: Lean people. They think too much. I think too much and I’ve been putting on the pounds. I wonder if Caesar and I would get on.
One Day Moko. Compliment Sandwich. I really like Tim. He’s an energetic talented actor, I really like Gene, he’s a brilliant director - but for the life of me I can’t see how this wasn’t mental health blackface, and straight out blackface to boot. Tim plays a homeless man, Moko, so I assume he’s Maori. Tim becomes Moko, wears his clothes. There’s no sense of distance, no sense that this is an actor performing a role, and no sense of exactly what we’re meant to get from it. It seems as if Tim’s claiming to be this mentally ill Maori person. Why? We spend a lot of time laughing at Moko, and therefore at people like him. Moko takes freaking song requests. If you passed someone like Moko in the street would you ask him to sing for you? Or tell you a story? Or do his funny walk? Then laugh at him? Tims’s great, Gene’s great. I’m an arsehole ‘cos half of the point of writing these things is that when I’ve got confusion about something, I’m meant to pick up the phone and talk to Tim, ask him the questions rather than speculate or wonder at the motives. But I’m lazy and scared and this one hit me in the guts in a bad way. And this might be the best way to start this conversation: Tim I’m prepared to apologise, recant, repent and take all of the above back and down. Just tell me what’s going on. Help me understand. And I mean it when I say you’re a great actor and a good bloke.
2080. Aroha and I are very fond of each other. We had a thing. 2080 has two things going on, and one’s fucking the other in an unhelpful way. The idea that doesn’t work is the whole future dystopia thing. Aroha has to spend too much mental energy setting it up, and as an audience member I spent too much of my time picking holes in it. In a hyper-technological world, why would we anyone need to work in factories? In the future, why would we bother physically separating social classes, when our current socio-economic system does this so insidiously and effectively right now? Just ask anyone who wants to buy a house in Auckland. No access to capital generated by the inherited wealth of your forebears? No mortgage for you. The idea that does work, that’s the heart of this play, that I know Aroha is really interested in and knows about because she told me and it leaps off the stage and into you, is the near impossibility of social mobility right here and now – either ambitously or romantically. If you’re born poor, you’re likely to die poor and love poor. Relationships between educated and uneducated people are virtually impossible for remarkably complex reasons that Aroha, as a perceptive human and talented artist, knows all about, and she’s only half telling us at the moment. There’s her play. She’s got a Foreskin’s Lament in her and it could be this play, revistited.
Beyond the Beautiful Forevers. “No, no, no, no, no.” As Apu might say. Apu, by the way is a more accurate and less westernised version of an Indian human than anything on display here. This is the kind of show that makes you puke. Not at the poverty of the characters, but in the poverty of imagination of the National Theater. Desperate to tell an Indian story, but don’t trust the darkies to make one themselves? Send a white writer and a white director to India for a couple of weeks. Armed with a popular book. The result? A play in which all the people in the slums of India mysteriously want exactly what white male Londoners want. Because that’s all that’s worth having. Teenage girls stand in the slum toilet discussing Mrs fucking Dalloway, for God’s sakes. Would you do that standing in a portaloo? I don’t want to discuss Mrs Dalloway at all. And their Western ambitions would work out just perfectly if not for their inherant corruption and lack of the very western values that they crave. Fuck off David Hare. Fuck off Rupert Norris. History will condemn this form of story telling. It already has – Amos and Andy anyone? Anyone? You can’t justify racist, myopic storytelling simply by casting Indians to say your words. I could go on but there’s no point.
Niu Sila. Yes. Dave knows how to do what BTBF was trying to do, and he knows how to do it properly. It's based in his own experiences, and he's brought Oscar Kightly on board to work with him, engage him, inspire him, inform him and help him look at inter-cultural tropes and tell inter-cultural truths, truthfully. Dave and Oscar help us laugh at ourselves and think about ourselves and our relationship to the differences of others in the best possible way. That’s why this play is and will remain one of the most important pieces of theatre ever made in NZ. I saw it at the Court, which is a really exciting theatre to watch shows in, by the way. Nice work, Court.
Woyzeck. This was cool and refreshing. I found my mind wandering a lot during this show, but not in a disengaged way. The show creates images and juxtapositions that act as springboard for my mind to think and go places, like a controlled artistic version of staring at clouds, or like looking at an abstract painting. This is theatre as high art, and it looks as fun to perform as it is to watch. Important.
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