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August 4, 2008 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Black Tuesday

Black Tuesday
Written by Richard Dey and Felix Preval
Directed by Rachel Lenart
At Bats
July 29 – August 9

I have a lot of respect for the Theatre Militia, whose plays for me have always managed to capture the essence of being a young and talented artist in the Capital. Their successes are widespread, their shows popular and their talents evident. For this, they deserve serious ups. And yet Black Tuesday left me desiring something slightly more enchanting than its final incarnation offered.

Aside from a wee bit of pre-show chatter, I walked into the theatre with little background knowledge of Fred Evans and the 1913 Waihi Miners’ Strike. Apparently it was a fairly significant event, although one from quite deep within the bowels of New Zealand’s socialist history. \ (Actually it would probably be a bit more accurate to say i’ts from the oesophagus of New Zealand’s socialist history, given that the transpiring events occurred quite early within said history…but I digress.) I wasn’t particularly aware of what this event was and why I should find it significant, but at the least I was able make some fairly informed guesses.

The show does a good job of establishing the conflicts and tensions at play, expressly those between the law and the miners, and the miners and their wives. We learn and feel the hardships faced by the young men of the mines, such as phthisis (dust on the lungs), and we sympathise with the women who struggle to feed their families on the pittance earned by their partners. It was a pretty shitty world back then, and us, with our reliance on the pleasures of government benefits and financial safety nets, certainly owe a lot to this era of our history.

Where Black Tuesday falls short is in its style, which for me relied a bit too heavily on the practices which we already know and expect. I adore the way that Theatre Militia’s previous shows have created distinctly theatrical worlds, such as in Sensible Susan which played with pantomime and theatre convention. With Black Tuesday I felt that these moments of theatricality, such as the fight scene, didn’t serve the message in the same way as they had in past shows. It’s a bit like trying to cut a piece of paper with a karate chop, but what was needed all along was a pair of scissors or a stanley knife.

I’m always in favour of artists stepping outside of their comfort zones, and I’m certainly glad that this team are willing to tackle new types of drama. Black Tuesday needed to be a bit more thorough on moving the human in me, rather than the theatre fan.


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