Review: Satirical play has spooky parallels with US election

By Paul Simei-Barton

The production boasts a large, young cast and strong vocal performances.
The production boasts a large, young cast and strong vocal performances.

There is an eerie prescience in the decision to stage Vernon God Little just as America succumbs to the belief that the frontman for a reality TV show will lead them to greatness.

The stage play is an adaptation by Tanya Ronder of DBC Pierre's novel that controversially won the Man Booker prize in 2003 with an enraged satirical rant against America's media driven obsessions, as seen through the eyes of a foul-mouthed Texan teenager who is falsely accused as accessory to a mass shooting.

There is an expectation that the show might offer some insight into the shocking presidential election but the tone of sarcastic ridicule probably stands as an example of the dismissive attitude towards heartland America that fired up Trump's supporters.

The production from The Actors' Programme and Last Tapes draws on the energy of the large youthful cast and the strong vocal performances, with well judged Texan accents, highlight the actors' commitment to their craft.

The script poses enormous challenges as moments of raw emotional intensity are laid directly on top of cartoonish satire that calls to mind the raucous adolescent humour of South Park.

There is some unevenness of tone as the 2 hour plus show lurches through a helter-skelter plot and introduces a grotesque carnival of freakish characters drawn from the shadowy margins of small town America.

Among several fine performances, Jarred Blakiston nails the slick charm of a conman turned news reporter and Genevieve Kent embodies the distracted sassiness of Texan goodtime gal.

In the title role, Sebastian Dudding captures both the vulnerability and rage of an alienated teenager and in his intense relationship with his mother, played Bronwyn Ensor, the shows find a slender hint of optimism.

What: Vernon God Little
Where: Basement Theatre to November 25.

- NZ Herald

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