Hideto Ambiguous’ solo-performer tragicomedy is a creation that taps into a whole host of modern day issues. The exploitation of a migrant worker, inherent social and institutional racism, political ‘wokeness’ versus the realities of life, so on and so forth. It’s a hodgepodge of ideas thrown out over an hour-long show that taps into audience unease. Well, it is a tragicomedy, after all
Hideto rapidly shifts between characters, quickly, efficiently, and beautifully. The narrative sucks the audience in, making you forget you’re sitting at The Vic in Devonport in a side stage, a tiny, intimate space. And it works to Hideto’s advantage; there were only seven of us in the audience (there really should’ve been many more), which meant there were ample opportunities for Hideto to interact with each of us individually.
His music was particularly poignant, especially in this moment in time, and his song ‘Everyday Dissident‘ leaves particularly jarring thoughts on our roles in a world with increasing numbers of tyrants and authoritarian practices.
The spoken-word poetry, as promised, were slick and provocative, but while connected to the overall narrative, felt detached to story of Benjamin the Servant. What stood out to me instead was the “traditional Asian dance of happiness”, which yes, mocks orientalism, racism, and notions of the ‘other’ and the ‘exotic’. It speaks to the commodification of our entire collective existence; just as Benjamin the Sevant dare to protest, he is shut down for fear of jeopardising his own right to exist.
There’s something to be said about confronting what we think of as the status quo. Personally as an Asian kid growing up in a western country, there’s no shortage of cultural appropriation and everyday racism that now, unfortunately, are similar to water off a duck’s back. As in, I have to be reminded by more woke white friends that there exists racism directed at me; my normal is now complicit with silence, of which requires a sort of penance, that subsequently, supposedly, transforms into action.
I can’t help but think that’s a narrative in this day and age carried out by people who genuinely care, but don’t truly understand. The right to stand up for themselves, to be angry, to take action, to change. That’s a privilege. A privilege I’ve barely understood, as to do any of the above was to incur repercussions that held long-lasting impact in contexts far beyond the grasp of a young child. But I digress.
All the way through all I could think of the character was as a cross between sniveling, begging-for-his-life Peter Pettigrew of Harry Potter, and Mr Yunioshi from Breakfast At Tiffany’s.
And to be quite frank, I felt a little sick. Not for Hideto’s protrayal, or his creativity in so successfully conveying this character, but the fact that I knew Benjamin’s treatment exists in real life. It is a story I’ve seen and heard. There is, however, a redemption arc that offers the barest modicum of hopefulness, a glimmer of grace.
To say much more is to reveal too much of this show. While unfortunately it only runs for one more night at 7.30pm, Feb 21 at The Vic Devonport, if you’re able to catch it then absolutely go see it. The show might spark a little change in something, though the cynic in me wonders.