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September 11, 2006 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Masterpiece Theatre!

Wednesday the 6th of September

Starring: Nick “The hair” Kelly, Joel “The helmet” Cosgrove, the VUWSA Exec (aka the “Hey, you do a better job!” Cheerleaders), Student Choice (because who really needs to get laid?), Christopher “$10,000 grant” Bishop, Nicholas “I get up to get down” O’Kane, VUWSA Staff (because who really needs to be appreciated?), an ever dwindling cast of extras, otherwise known as the ‘crowd’…

I had been warned by the consistently scathing reviews of VUWSA’s regular installments of VUWSA Masterpiece Theatre to never attend. Predictably insipid” was the consensus from 2005, “really, really, frustrating” someone remarked of a 2004 effort, and these were pre-Nicholas O’Kane days. Still, I was reeled in by the plot of this week’s effort: the harrowing plight of the Student’s Association for adequate funding of services, which is a topic that has only recently been touched on at this university. Despite calls otherwise, I was excited about examining this issue, explored in the form of gritty, realist theatre for the people. With such a wide cast, it could only be interesting – and beyond the initial coverage of the main money issue, it promised to deal with a wide range of other constitutional topics. In a way it appeared to be The Matrix meets A Few Good Men meets Les Miserables meets Sunday Bloody Sunday, seen through Joel Cosgrove’s effeminate sunglasses. If anything, it would be funny. I mean if Cosgrove has anything, it’s a ‘so, so, bad that it’s probably kitsch entertainment that goes over our own feeble heads’ quality to him that would translate into something watchable. I was wrong.

The themes of the piece seemed hypocritical at times, undercooked at others and poorly thought out at the best of times. The play centred around a debate over various student issues. The ideologies seemed cartoon and hard to identify with, the performances hysterical and over the top. For a piece of theatre covering such politically hostile territory, we need to believe the actors. And a lot of the material here contradicted previous plays in the VUWSA series.

Chris Bishop, playing the role of ‘token righty opposed to raising the level #2’ spoke out against the raise. But even though his performance was one of the more eloquent, his script was stupid. Hadn’t this very character been awarded $10,000 from VUWSA to help stage a debating tournament? Ignoring this previous point belied his message that “no-one needs the services that VUWSA provides”. I couldn’t believe his character.

But by far more annoying than that were the Student Choice speakers, who made a lot of noise, in quite ridiculous costumes, with little message. They seemed to be unjustifiably angry for the material they were covering, their performances jerky, hysterical, nasal and unpleasant. They were harsh both on the eye and ear, which for lunchtime theatre is never good. Luckily my mango yoghurt was delicious, and my enjoyment impervious to such erroneous distractions.

I was confused by the Student Choice statistics. They seemingly threw numbers around out of context, and, even though not directly affiliated with the group, Nicholas O’Kane (by far the ringleader of the “Tormentors”) was most guilty of this. His reaction to the motion not passing in one of the climactic scenes was especially disturbing. Jumping up and down and yelling out “yay” with his arms waved in the air, his armpit stains fully visible on his 1983 Warehouse issue grey shirt, it was a perplexing moment. And a level of awkward campness not brought to G rated entertainment since the Teletubbies.

The other side stuck to a message. But the acting lacked. Where was the passion? Nick Kelly played the role of ‘President’ and got the show going, but he didn’t explain himself out at all. His subsequent subordinates stuck to rhetoric, with no explanation. I found myself battling confusion the whole time, and audience members around seemed constantly baffled. All the while, Cosgrove pranced through the crowd, Shakespeare’s court jester gone bad, Liberace’s nightmare, and generally being the unseemly tape that glued this messy piece of theatre together.

Embarrassingly enough, audience numbers dwindled so severely that there was no point going on and the play was abandoned half way through. Appalling for a play held in a café with a built in audience. But promotional materials, like the actual play itself, were appalling – reflecting the confusing mix of misunderstood statistics and confusing rhetoric on display here.

Walking away, dumbfounded the play had been canned early, (but then, slightly relieved that I didn’t have to sit through the second half) I came to a realisation about why the play was not a success. I mean, theatre usually deals with classic themes, lost love, war, death… Staging a production over the quest for a measly twenty dollars was hardly going to make for compelling viewing, not with the current cast and this director.

The time has come for new actors, and new life to be injected into the VUWSA Theatre company. After consistently poor audiences and performances in 2006, not even a change of venue has attracted the punters, even when the plot promised to be as juicy as this one.
No Stars
Stay tuned for a repeat performance!
Coming soon!


About the Author ()

James Robinson is a university dropout turned journalist who likes to pretend he has an honours degree. Turn ons include soup, scarfs, a hot bath and some FM-smooth Kenny G-esque instrumental jazz. Turn offs include student politicians, the homeless, and people who pronounce it supposebly.

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