The first person that immediately came to mind for the +1 ticket that came with this review was my flat mate Nic. One of my best friends who also happen to be an hospo worker on shift that evening, that option was out. Unfortunate.
Because they would’ve thoroughly enjoyed the chaos that is Inhospitable – equal parts social commentary, comedy, and just downright calling people out. I’ll get to that last bit in a second.
Billing itself as a “one-hour comedy/drama stage show about making bad decisions”, Inhospitable presents audiences with a gamut of characters that wouldn’t be out of place in some boozy venue, downtown Auckland.
Heading into this without having read the blurb – well, much of anything to do with the show, let’s be honest – for the first 10 minutes I had wondered if it was just a slew of asshole-impersonations.
Don’t get me wrong; this was some seriously impressive acting from leads Aaron Richardson and Kalyani Nagarajan. Throughout the hour-long show they slowly reveal a full list of characters that will lead to either choking on your drink, dying of laughter, or a sober dose of reality. But by the end, as the story unravels and the characters’ stories laid bare, there will be much to think about.
From epic soliloquys about the yardie to beautifully acted renditions of entitled assholes (both genders are covered, don’t worry), the pair recreate a fair slice of the Kiwi punters that stroll down the viaduct on a Friday night for a drink, or two, or too many.
Both Richardson and Nagarajan pull no punches, with subtle changes to language and body posture to differentiate between characters. Their only props are two stools and a couple of towels.
It’s incredible acting that fits perfectly into the small space at The Basement Theatre’s upstairs studio stage. The physical intimacy allows audiences to pick up on minute nuances as the pair switch in-and-out between characters, their voices reaching the back of the seating barely breaking a sweat.
Directed by industry veteran Donna Brookbanks, it’s a powerhouse piece of theatre that not only delves down to what’s wrong with our individual entitlement and the way we treat our hospo workers, but also the way we treat each other. It’s all a bit bleak, the show seems to say, and we probably need to rethink how our society deems servers as less-than-nothing.
To be honest, it’s fair critique and probably one of the reasons I don’t head out much these days. Audiences who work in hospo will probably delight in the exposé of these nightmare stories that I’ve been privy to (thanks Nic!), but it really raises some hard-hitting questions.
Of what, I’ll let audiences be the judge of, but it certainly got me thinking about the nights seeing my friend come home, absolutely defeated by the world and some of the hateful people in it.
It’s not right. It’s not fair. But few care.
The best realisations also happen to be wrapped in dying-of-laughter humour. As Nagaranjan pulls off the most delicious rendition of “trashed Ponsonby white girl”, an audience member in the row directly in front of me whispers to their friend a little too loudly.
“Oh, fuck, bro, that’s me!”
I thought it best not to be nosy and ask who said that at the end of the show as we all single-filed down the staircase and out into the night. Before walking to the bus stop and saying goodbye to another old friend that had taken the +1, we both agreed that the first third of the show got the most laughs.
But it was the last third that really hit hard with a punch to the gut. That maybe everyone has their own story, and we ought to be a bit nicer to each other. Stranger, or otherwise.