I began to feel uncomfortable the second I walked into the theatre. The set of HIR looked like a scene from Hoarders, portraying a home so disorganised, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a rodent scurry across the stage.
My feelings of discomfort only increased as the characters were introduced and it became evident that the set itself was nothing compared to the internal chaos that the characters represented.
Based in Everytown, USA, HIR uses the vessel of a dysfunctional family of four to question the audiences’ understanding of patriarchy and societal systems in general.
Isaac (Arlo Green) returns home after 3 years in Afghanistan to find that his home isn’t exactly how he left it. His father (Nathaniel Lees) is dressed in a wig and a gown and his mother (Rima Te Wiata) has seemingly lost the plot while trying to maintain control over the household while Max (Adam Rohe) is transitioning and more outspoken than Isaac remembered.
The acting in the show was absolutely phenomenal. Particularly the tensioned relationship between Max and Isaac, while mostly dysfunctional, it was probably the most heart-warming relationship in the show.
The comedy in HIR was used cleverly to somewhat diffuse some of the tension without taking away from the more serious topics.
HIR refers to the third person, gender-neutral pronoun that can be used in place of ‘her’ or ‘him’ which is the first hint that the show covers gender related topics, however, it talks about gender and sexuality in such a matter of fact tone that the transgender conflict becomes the easiest to accept compared to the other themes covered.
As well as tackling gender norms, HIR also talks about revenge and how past trauma manifests in present actions.
One of the lines that stood out to me was “We will not re-write his history with pity” when referring to one of the characters abusive past. We all know that two wrongs don’t make a right but HIR made it easier to sympathise with actions of revenge when someone’s past actions were so abhorrent that they might just deserve their punishment.
HIR doesn’t claim to know all of the answers and certainly doesn’t speak in binary definitions of right and wrong, it leaves it up to the audience to decide if they’re comfortable with the way the characters interact.
I would recommend HIR to anyone that is comfortable enough to be confronted by a very entertaining subversive comedy. I can guarantee you’ll leave the theatre with more questions than answers.
When: 2 – 23 August
Where: Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre