THE CHANGING SHED
14/09/2022 - 15/09/2022
Written and performed by Michael Metzger
Growing up gay is not for sissies. Especially in 1970s rural Otago. In this energetic and thoughtful autobiographical work, Michael Metzger weaves together his childhood memories with his present-day experience of training for and running a marathon, because sometimes we find a sense of community in unexpected places.
The Changing Shed is a play about overcoming the long-term effects of bullying while offering a heartfelt message of hope and solidarity. It formed the creative component of Michael’s PhD at Deakin University in Melbourne (2020) and it won the award for Best Theatre at Dunedin Fringe 2021 and Best Script at the 2021 Dunedin Theatre Awards. Michael’s PhD also won the Australasian Drama Studies Association’s 2021 Philip Parsons Prize for performance as research. Proudly adding to the small canon of New Zealand gay plays, The Changing Shed is the first to specifically address queer identity in a rural context.
“This unsettling power play opens a dialogue between the performer and the audience, a dialogue that moves beyond the play into minds. The personal is political. The personal is worth repeating.” Emer Lyons, Pantograph Punch, 2021
BATS Theatre, The Stage
14-15 September 2022
$20 | $20 | $18
A celebration of solo artists, TAHI is a ten-day Festival from 8-17 September dedicated to showcasing the finest and most engaging solo performances from all around Aotearoa. With events across Pōneke in 2022, check out our website for all the details and to book.
www.tahifestival.com | @tahifestivalnz | #TAHI2022
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Solo , Theatre ,
Simultaneously heart-warming and heart-breaking
Review by Shauwn Keil 16th Sep 2022
It’s calm and quiet in the theatre from the first step in. Thank god for the person doing yoga in the pre-show, to separate this feeling from being at a wake. That happens to be our performer for the evening, Michael Metzger, with not a worry in the world, it seems. I guess that’s the vibe, relaxing, chill, settled down. Not death, just cool. I sit down and take note of the projector screen at the back of the stage, and a treadmill on my left, or stage right. There’s a cardboard box near Mr Yoga-exponent as well, and little else for me to spy, for now at least.
As the show begins, we hear a nice song (I don’t know what it’s called) as Michael plays with some tape. Not a word is said but I get the feeling of pain and struggle as I watch him exist in this moment, shifting the tape between his fingers. This reminds me of one of those indie Netflix show moments; it feels weighted, embellished with sadness but not depressing. There’s something kind of sweet and hopeful in this one moment. It’s a moment that could fit anywhere in this show, and probably have a different impact depending on the context. I don’t mean to obsess over a single minute, but I really love that about this little snippet of life. My melancholic heart.
But I’m waffling! Following this wonderful scene, Michael tells us a dramatic story of a meteor, only slightly dramatised by meteorological events of the night. Michael is from Tapanui, West Otago. While he lines the stage with tape, he reveals some Tapanui history. A forestry town, populated 85% by Pakeha, 10% by Māori, and 5% by ‘Other’. He gives a particular inflection to the word ‘Other’, as if to imply outsider. Or at least that’s my take on it.
Turns out the tape marks out a changing shed: four walls, an entry point and a barrier. Tape crosses mark the ground which I never really make sense of, but perhaps I’m taking notes and miss it, or the concept is too high for my intellect. That may be my largest criticism throughout.
Michael is relaxed, telling his story, thanks to the pre-show yoga. Only now do I begin to accept how appropriate this is. As a fan of bombastic, larger than life works, seeing what I’m seeing is a unique treat and a reminder that a story can simply just be… Told. With humanity, softness and patience, Michael takes us from one point to another through his story. No matter the change in topic, tone, or placement on stage, I feel with him along the way. I see flashes of excitement as he describes Andrea Parks’ girly clothing and his jealousy at not being able to wear them. The emotional range is present, subtle but captivating. I am simply charmed by Michael’s cool authority over language – jealous, in fact.
Soon, the treadmill is in use. Seriously in use. Not just an awesome thing to look at. Michael delivers his story while warming up to what will soon be a run. We hear about his first marathon and tension builds with the speed of his running. What is most impressive is the consistency with which he continues to tell this story calmly, while physically engaged in literal exercise. I don’t feel bored for a moment.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I really must acknowledge that the story we are being told is with the quietest confidence, and that is enough. I can’t get over it. This is amazing in a way that doesn’t match what I would normally think of as amazing. It is a privilege to bear witness to this contained performance, and I will elaborate on that shortly.
There are many other points in the story that make this show what it is, but I won’t spoil. I will mention the farm’s killing sheds and horror we feel from the crystal clear picture Michael paints with his descriptive language and a refined performance. More running, more speaking, leaving behind ego and beginning to ‘run like a girl’.
My personal favourite line: “a motorbike in miniature.” But let’s not forget, this play at its core is about finding the strength to shatter the black mirrors put up by peers, family and otherwise, for being… Gay.
Not for a moment do I feel like an agenda is pushed in my face, only a sweet man with a simultaneously heart-warming and heart-breaking tale. Growing up queer in a hardy town, going to boarding school with other boys, hearing your own family pass comments, suffering ridicule for your differences, and still finding a release, love and meaning is an incredible thing. Reassuring, and necessary.
As it ends, so eloquently told through an hour of theatre, I wish I had seen more wins in this man’s life. The pain is real and I feel for the protagonist, because he is human, he has shared his soul and it has landed with me in a way that I truly did not expect. Bravo, Michael Metzger and all who helped put this together. Quietly spectacular.
Please check it out if it returns. It may not be the theatre you’re used to, or maybe it’s just not the theatre I’m used to, but I’m richer for it and certain that you will be too.
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