I remember the ironically named ‘Occupy Movement’ (ironic in the sense that they never actually moved, rather they just sat around in their lean to’s and protested something. Anything. Everything). I also remember it because it was one of my least favorite Movements. Bolero by Vivaldi is my second least favorite movement. While I am taking that trip to Movements I didn’t like; Orchestral Movements in the Dark (OMD to fans apparently) was also pretty rank.
But that’s not the point. The point is I went and saw a play, Occupy: The Road To Joy, based on Auckland Occupy movement Directed by Rachael Longshaw-Park and Andrew Parker (who also wrote it). This two-hour original play tells the story of Beth and Meg and the perversion of their noble Aotea Square sitting(squatting) cause set in Auckland Circa 2012. Much like OMD and the real Occupy Movement, this show features some surreal elements and some free and loose retelling of history (think what Tarantino did with Inglourious Basterds) as it substitutes the relative fizzle of a conclusion Occupy Auckland (The Council chasing them out of the Square with hoses) for an off-stage riot, that I think secretly, many of us were hoping the actual protests would result in.
Much like the actual titular movement, Occupy: The Road to Joy, struggles at times to decide what it wants to be.
On the surface, it’s a modern retelling piece of ‘The Bacchae‘, a bit of Greek theatre (pronounced like you went to say “The Ant Eater” but changed your mind at the last moment and said “Tea-Ahh-ter…Lovey”. The “Lovey” is optional but highly recommended. For best results cock your head back and make a face like you’re about the sneeze then look down your nose at someone, anyone) set among the Auckland Occupy movement.
Delving deeper reveals an obvious ode to Andrew Parker’s interest in the Greek Tragedy, single syllable names and an interest in politics and he obviously wants it all in this one show, as it meanders back and forth and struggles to settle on it’s a single core message or thread of defining oneself “Me” amongst a sea of “Us”.
I felt like there were two possibly three good ideas here worth fleshing out into their own pieces that have been welded together. However an argument could be made that this is consistent with the actual movement itself. As it too struggled to define what it was about. A repeated question through the show is “what is the one thing you would you change” to which all who are asked lack a definitive answer except for singular character who answers seemed overly fatalistic. Perhaps if I were asked, I would say pick a story arc (I counted 3) and hammer that nail like there was no tomorrow.
The first half was dynamic and awash with fresh and snappy scenes. A personal favorite, ‘Brazil-esque‘ absurdist scene, invoked genuine giggles, involved meeting protocols and its use to silence dissenters in a meeting full of dissenters. Unfortunately, as the show progressed it became increasingly bloated (and preachy) in its middle, before limping to its conclusion. I felt the show could have benefited from some judicious editing of its script to tighten things up and improve the pacing.
Acting-wise, we were treated to some largely solid performances. The lead couple Rebekkah Farrell (Beth) and Georgina Silk (Mag) tend to get trapped in the ‘Shouty’ end of the vocal spectrum and their more intimate moments left me feeling as awkward as they looked, but their performances were heartfelt and engaging. Special praise is deserved for Mary Rinaldi who is deliciously manipulative Dionysus, and Joe Nathan who shines as the duplicitous “Dan”. It would also be remiss of me to not offer additional shout-outs to Jake Love’s “Jim” and his little band of angry drug dealers who made the most of every line they had.
At times, it seemed that some of the actors struggled with the venue and made me think they themselves were part of the 1% of actors who had never worked in a venue that didn’t have perfect acoustics or had only worked with a boom mic just out of view. There was also a couple of moments where I wanted to drag an actor over into their light. Seriously, actors that don’t want to be heard and don’t want to be seen?! What is the world coming to! There was, of course, a moment or two where I played my favorite game of “Dramatic Pause or Desperate Line Scramble” but to be fair, this was a very wordy play and perhaps the source of my greatest gripe.
Overall the ensemble performances were all really good with some actual scenery chewing happening by the obligatory Greek chorus who never once had me wanting to scream “Stand still you upstaging twats”.
From a technical standpoint, the show was well executed. They made the most of the space that they were afforded and were supported by excellent lighting design by the always excellent Sam “Miracle” Mence and Amber “Maestro” Molloy*. In addition, they employed a soundscape that only once or twice had me wondering where that ambient noise fit in. As I whinged earlier there was occasions where I wanted to drag an actor over into the light but that’s no slight on the tech crew.
So to conclude, It’s not on my list of least favorite movements. While the show itself perhaps suffers from a bit of being loved a bit much (trying to be too many things to too many people, while covering far too many topics), it did benefit sharp and at times inspired direction, actors making good choices, and a tight technical setup. At the very least it’ll provide ample talking material for your flat white drinking iPad-toting 1 percenter friends.
If you’re young enough to not have witnessed the physical manifestation of the “slacktivist” at it’s most evolved state; The Occupy Protester. Or if you are old enough (like me) to remember it (perhaps you were even a part of it) it’ll serve (inform) to remind yourself that you couldn’t quite figure out why some of those people were there in first place, as they were the flat white drinking, iPad-toting yuppie larva they were protesting against in the first place. I mocked you all equally from the central suburbs flat whilst complaining about you on my Samsung Galaxy tab.
I showed some serious criminal neglect in my unintentional snubbing of Amber Molloy who shares equal billing with Sam Mence for lighting design in my original review. Unintentional as it was, it was a snubbing all the same and I have corrected this now for all to see and submit my humble apologies to Amber “Maestro” Molloy.
- Mary Rinaldi and Jake Love should be cast in everything
- Great Technical Setup
- The Script goes places. All of the places
- Occasional actor wandering off into the dark muttering