THE GREAT AMERICAN SCREAM
Te Pou Theatre, 44a Portage Road, New Lynn, Auckland
16/09/2015 - 19/09/2015
“The Day The Earth Stood Stupid – IN 3D THEATRE-SCOPE!”
On the evening of October 30th 1938 America thought the world was ending due to a broadcast radio play by Orsen Welles based on H G Wells’ War of the Worlds.
Facing their anticipated annihilation by the Martian threat, a small American family in Grover’s Mill New Jersey reveal all their secrets to each other. The type of secrets that signal the end to truth, justice and the American dream. In his brand new comedy, award winning playwright Albert Belz takes us to ground-zero of the imagined invasion, where alien fear and paranoia turns the wholesome all-American family dream into a nightmare.
16 – 19 September, 7pm
Review by Tamati Patuwai 17th Sep 2015
Ko te mūmū ko te āwhā ko te mānihi kaiota
Tihei Mauri Ora.
Inapō kua uru tēnei ki Te Pou mo te wa tuatahi.
I a au e taraiwa ana ki muri i te whare na, ka tiwha mai te pō me tēnei whakaaro āku, “Aue, ko te tumanako e pai ana te noho o taku waka”. A, ka whītikihia e au taku waka, a ka kuhu ki Te Pou. Pai marika! Nā ngā pou whakaahua i runga i te pātu o te whare, me ngā menemene o ngā kaitiaki, a, kua tau te mauri ki ahau. Nō reira ka whakamihi atu tēnei ki ngā Mana Whakahaere o te whare tapere nā. Kia Ora koutou me o tiakina Māori.
The Great American Scream is currently playing at Te Pou, the new home of Maori theatre in New Lynn, Auckland.
Written by the eclectically talented Albert Belz, The Great American Scream is a remarkable and refreshing piece of satire. It weaves the sweetest of Americana kitsch with some very strong threads of the pop-politico commentary on the tsunami of propagandist globalism.
Go see it. You are guaranteed a good chuckle and some very stimulating and highly intelligent theatrical work.
Set in a small New Jersey town in 1938, the production kicks off with a sudden announcement over the radio that Martians have invaded the Earth. This sets the Grovers, a small mid-west American whānau, into a turbulent swirl of emotionally harried revelations and unhinged tirades.
Beginning in the spirit of enchanted American dreaminess, the story spirals very quickly into a flurry of very funny and unusual events.
Ascia Maybury has designed a set that is highly stylised and roomy, obviously as the mainstay for the production. A lounge and dining area make up the entire stage. It feels very much like the audience is inside the room and at times claustrophobically so. Reminiscent of the lush Broadway style stage typical of American theatrical standards, this is a very simple platform that corresponds tidily with the ensuing work.
Tatiana Hotere’s costumes clearly emphasise the period of the play very efficiently and without excess. The victory rolled up-do’s designed and sculpted by Boni Tukiwaho are gorgeously shaped to, again, support the culture of this 1930’s middle class American family.
The stage management and assistance should also be noted. More so to honour the particular charm that is held at Te Pou. Scene changes are very relaxed and even suit the refreshing nature of the work. Tena korua Hannah raua ko Manawanui.
The most pleasurable feature of this most enjoyable play is the clip of its text and the ideas that pervade throughout. Albert Belz has always pushed the envelope of what Maori storytelling is. Te Maunga, Awhi Tapu, The Titanics and the award winning Yours Truly all present inventive and salient works that express an intelligence and wit that is unrivalled.
The fact that a relatively young Maori playwright has written an entirely tauiwi, American production is fascinating and brings a long awaited vitality to what is possible for Maori theatre. Talk about balls Belz.
Belz has managed to graft clever political twists into what on the surface is a poppy even peachy keen satire. Religious fervour, patriarchal snobbishness and straight up racism trip off the script like colourfully feathered arrows. If you blink you could miss them which as an audience member is a fantastic challenge.
Director Tainui Tukiwaho has honed the cast with clear refinement and comic genius. The theatrical elements spin wonderfully around the text and Tukiwaho has been careful not to overshadow the intent and acuity of the calculated textual pathway.
The cast move very confidently through the piece. All of the roles are fairly evenly weighted which is another feat within the writing. Jatinder Singh plays Ezra with a disciplined and understated presence which is true to his position as house hand. Rosie and Kate are the teen sisters played by Briar Collard and Abigail O’Flynn, both jousting for attention in typical sibling opposition.
Ayse Tezel as the Matriarch of the house is pristine in form. Tezel presents a steely, almost porcelain austerity that begins to crack as her world falls away under her feet. Francis Mountjoy is the polar opposite as her husband. Buffed up with self-aggrandisement and chauvinistic bravado, Mountjoy’s collapse is awash with schoolboy confession. The vagabond duo Slim and Lennie played by Mike Drew and Josh Harriman slide in and threw the house sniffing out any feeble prey to satisfy their carnal interests.
Johnny Givins gives a steady and supportive performance as Grandpa whose head is full of whisky and a heart full of gold. Reon Bell is the young brother who actually holds the essence of the family backbone. Bell does a great job of holding space with his fellow performers.
Special mention to Ben Van Lier who performs with dell’arte precision. I recognise a young John Cleese in there.
Again it is exciting to partake in such a cleverly constructed theatrical work as this. Tukiwaho and Belz have added another layer to the legacy and whakapapa of Maori Theatre.
This piece is whānau friendly and would suit teenagers well. There is enough in the play for everyone to enjoy. It’s not playing for long so book now and get along!
Mauri ora ki a koutou Te Rehia, te whānau Belz me te whare whakahirahira o Te Pou.
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