Theatre reviews: Shot, Bro and Brown: It's complicated

By Janet McAllister

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Actor Rob Mokaraka, with director Erina Daniels, explores the desperate place he was in when he attempted to get killed by police. Photo /  Northern Advocate
Actor Rob Mokaraka, with director Erina Daniels, explores the desperate place he was in when he attempted to get killed by police. Photo / Northern Advocate

These warm shows both use a fragmented, fourth-wall-breaking format to depict real-life experiences with humour, intensity and relevance.

Rob Mokaraka's story (subtitled Confessions of a Depressed Bullet) is well-known. The experienced theatre-maker tried to suicide via police shootout in 2009. Aiming to help others in the "secret sad club", he shows us how he felt leading up to that day in Pt Chevalier. Usefully challenging the usual "now everything's roses" plot, he also hints that he continues to need help dealing with self-destructive urges.

Directed by Erina Daniels, Mokaraka's personification of his depression - as a seethingly angry, aggressive thing with an unattractive grimace and deep contempt for Mokaraka himself - is a memorable depiction of depression as active.

The fun slapstick mugging doesn't always overtly relate to the main story; the louche depiction of a former lover could be more empathetic, and the reason for the Pynchonesque portrayal of the depressed bullet could also be clearer (the bullet is endearing; its lethal raison d'etre isn't mentioned).

But the lines are great, Mokaraka and his expressive eyebrows are affable, and the message - reach out to others because "help really does help" - is, as the depressed bullet would say, constructive korero.

Brown: It's Complicated is well-presented by emerging Pacific theatre practitioners and is surprising. Directed by Antonia Stehlin, the first half makes us feel welcome and comfortable; the second half is a useful shake-up offering ideas (such as the defence of the church) not usually seen within theatre's white liberal enclaves.

The good script includes an unexpected array of differing opinions on what strategies are valid when dealing with white hegemony. We've adapted, says one character angrily, now white culture expects us to conform. Her brother disagrees. Less shouting may have been more effective, but exciting newcomers Selu Iloahefaiva and Samuel Kamu each play several parts with great characterisation.

The six singers playing family photographs (the backdrop cleverly evokes the living room of a Tongan/Samoan family) are a happy luxury. Refreshing.

What: Shot Bro and Brown: It's Complicated
Where and when: Basement Theatre, to Saturday

- NZ Herald

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