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Dunedin Fringe 2012
Adapted from the book by Richard Meros, by Geoff Pinfield and Arthur Meek
Performed by Arthur Meek
Directed by Geoff Pinfield

at Fortune Theatre Studio, Dunedin
From 20 Mar 2012 to 23 Mar 2012
[1 hr]

Reviewed by Terry MacTavish, 21 Mar 2012

As his valiant attempt to save New Zealand by becoming Helen Clark's young lover so tragically failed, Richard Meros seeks out a new source of salvation: the Southern Man; stuff of legend, tough, taciturn, indomitable. Good for selling beer.

At first this seems a surprising decision as Meros is in almost all ways the antithesis of the archetypal Kiwi bloke. Meros is super-civilised, exceptionally articulate and blessed with a charmingly sociable personality.

Fortunately Meros's alter ego, actorArthur Meek, is every bit as exceptional. With delightful stage presence and sheer technical prowess he convinces us that this is a true quest. The audience responds rapturously to his energy, pseudo-enthusiasm and delicious precision of language.  He is so very funny that from the moment he welcomes us personally into the theatre we are willing to laugh along as he mocks all we hold dear.

Meros's crazily inventive theories are delivered as a power-point lecture, argued under neat headings: the Problem, the Solution, and finally, to seek out the Southern Man himself, the Field Trip (which will gain us NZQA credits if we're under 18).

This is the same format as the previous show, On the Conditions and Possibilities of Helen Clark Taking Me as Her Young Lover, that took New Zealand (if not its revered erstwhile Prime Minister) by storm. It is a pattern well worth repeating as it offers marvellous opportunities to debunk our culture and myths about ourselves.

Several other shows at the Fringe have offered rather hit-and-miss slide shows which suffer by comparison. These illustrations are imaginative and always perfectly relevant, providing not just elucidation but witty counterpoint to the spoken words.

They are interactive too. Meek can crouch beside the recumbent Southern Man, or duck frantically to avoid labels that appear to fly out of the screen. Clever lighting ensures he is well lit while the screen pictures are still vibrant.

Meros pokes fun at all our sacred sheep – even, recklessly, Creative New Zealand. But it's never offensive because Meros is endearingly modest. He shares with us his moments of self doubt: “This is the worst salute ever,” he grieves, deciding that Southern Man is not a hero after all and we should get our money back. Fortunately he recalls acknowledged heroes with similarly dubious qualities, like Maui who beats up the sun, and Hercules, whose twelve labours are chiefly about pest control. We don't get our money back.

But what better way to spend your cash? This is a hilarious show that pays us the compliment of assuming we can keep up with dazzling logic and bizarre flights of fancy delivered at a cracking pace. On no account miss this dose of cheerful home grown irony – it's just so damned entertaining! Fringe salutes Meros! 
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.

 John Smythe
 Ryan Brown-Haysom (Salient);
 Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] (The Dominion Post);
 Lynn Freeman (Capital Times);
 Reynald Castaneda
 Rosabel Tan
 Richard Howard
 Sarah Dunn (Nelson Mail);
 Helen Sims