22/02/2006 - 24/03/2006
by James Amos and Cheryl Amos
directed by Cheryl Amos
Half Baked Co-op
“We wanted to make a show that is funny, and confronting, at once, the comedy hooks you in, then, whammo! We hit you hard with the facts!” says James, with a cheeky grin and a nervous twitch.
“In researching the show, we think James may have gone a little crazy,” laughs Cheryl, “but we haven’t had to have him committed, yet.”
Theatre , Solo ,
The road to paranoia and perdition
Review by John Smythe 30th Mar 2006
Great idea – needs work.
First, a minor but crucial detail. If a bloke in New Zealand had found himself bereft of guests at his 21st birthday party because they all stayed glued to TV images of planes flying into the World Trade Centre and the Twin Towers collapsing for the umpteenth time, it would be the night of 12 September, not 11 September 2001. It hadn’t happened yet on ‘9/11’ for us.
Conspiracy 911 takes a linear approach through the experiences that lead Allen Parker (James Amos) from the desolation of his lonely passage through the door to adulthood, to a growing entanglement with the plethora of conspiracy theories that surround 9/11 and radiate inward and outward, leaving few New World Order leaders, Think Tanks and Multinationals unsuspected.
Drawing us in with a bumbling comic persona that rivals Michael (Fahrenheit 9/11) Moore himself, Amos replicates his sadly solo party with comic skill and pathos: the comic speech that assumes a normal world, the dance routines, the inevitable up-chuck into one of the red bins that serve as his set …
As the next day wears on he sketches in Allen’s ‘best mate’ (S)Mel and other archetypal Kiwi bloke flatmates (the party was at his parents house and they were overseas), his upbringing, his job as help-guy in a cyber café, the reason for his nickname (Logic-Al), his insidiously growing post 9/11 fears and phobias, his outrage that Prozac is seen as the cure-all … So far so very good.
His turning point viewing of Fahrenheit 9/11 brings him into a whole new alternative lifestyle world, also nicely sketched in, and to house-trucker Moonbeam, the free spirit who feeds him with the conspiracy theory material that sets him off on the road to paranoia and perdition.
These theories are out there, no two ways. The programme lists 17 videos and 17 websites that ‘may be of further interest’ (hey, wow, this recurring number 17, is that a secret code for something? 1 + 7 = 8 which rhymes with fate and hate. Holy Hell.). As part of the fabric of our society they should certainly be included in the scope of contemporary theatre. And not just for easy laughs. There is no doubt that fear-based politics and divisive belief-systems have made the world – to which poor Allen has scored the key of the door – into a sick and dangerous place.
In their writers roles, James and his director Cheryl Amos are perfectly entitled to take them seriously and in the end, they do. I think. Their media release puts it this way:
"We wanted to make a show that is funny, and confronting, at once, the comedy hooks you in, then, whammo! We hit you hard with the facts!" says James, with a cheeky grin and a nervous twitch.
"In researching the show, we think James may have gone a little crazy," laughs Cheryl, "but we haven’t had to have him committed, yet."
But be they satirising or serious about them, simply regurgitating great tracts of increasingly bizarre conspiracy theories is inherently un-theatrical, no matter how compelling they may be to some minds, and – amid evocations of nightmares about the reptilian shape-shifters – this takes up a great deal of the show, for a long time after Allen has cried ‘Too much information!’ already.
It could probably be worked up into a play with more actors, where the audience can look for their own places to stand in the spaces between the committed positions of different characters.
As it stands, Allen fills our heads with all this brain-corroding stuff then exhorts us to "Tell the New World Order we will not submit!" without any apparent awareness that he, too, is peddling fear.
Yes I know: just because we’re paranoid that doesn’t mean They are not out to get us. I also know that paranoia is inherently self destructive. And as such, it plays right into Their hands. Doesn’t it?
(PS: Someone should point out to Allen that 09 + 11 + 01 = 21, which makes it absolutely clear that They picked the date in honour – or predictive commemoration? – of his 21st birthday.)
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