Review By Chrystal Thompson
It’s democracy meeting drama, where an intentional breaking of the fourth wall gets audiences as active participants in an Auckland council meeting simulation.
There were nervous giggles all around, as anticipation and excitement grew towards an unconventional piece of drama.
The focal point of the performance? Setting an agenda on urban growth in the public space. Real-life council members sat in on this dramatic rendering of a council meeting to lend an air of legitimacy, though the meeting was chaired by Ellie Lim (Have You Been With An Asian Person)
Introduced in a sensory-overloading frenzy of flashing lights, provocative international news voice overs, and catch phrases, the show’s producers held placards for each side of the audience to read aloud as symbolic of our political polarisation.
As one side chimed the logic of hard work and property ownership, the other retorted with barriers to entry. It was excellent crowd work that was unfortunately never used again, though excellent ideas soon came thick and fast.
Projects and proposals from the crowd were furiously written on a giant whiteboard by Lim and the rest of the team – pitch after pitch that involved everything from tree houses (a big crowd pleaser with the children) to a military base installation (a giant no-no).
There was inclusion and acknowledgement of rangatiratanga, community driven justice networks, and a smorgasboard of great initiatives that came from a whole bunch of smart people. Many of whom well versed in current affairs and policy, some with vested interest in urban planning policy. There was civil, if not so rigorous debate, from the largely 40-50 year-old demographic.
Coming from an academic background, it was a space I would have loved to engage in if not for the need for an impartial review, and regrettably so. The production was invigorating and engaging – which was also the show’s downfall.
On one hand, members of the community were being united amidst an isolating pandemic and a symbiotic transaction was forged in which the audience were being given the opportunity to relay their ideas to real council meetings. And council members were walking away with active data as opposed to passive survey data – often neglected by some in the mail cycle.
It’s a taste of council life, but many have been left with an unsatiated appetite. It’s not a hopeful fantasy, and as the cliché goes, the show is what you make of it. Artistic license was in high doses with a clutter of abstractions, and the execution shaky.
Ultimately, the show succeeded in crafting an interesting piece of drama that ought to set future precedent for shows to come. In the spirit of classic old school Greek style democracy, Auckland council has demonstrated that they care for polis-opinion and are willing to be creative in their pursuit.