Conspiracy 911Reviewed by Alastair Thompson
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Half Baked Co-op
By James and Cheryl Amos, performed by James Amos
22 Feb-24 Feb
6.30pm (70 minutes)
Bats Theatre (Bookings 802 4175)
I must confess to not being a complete newbie to the subject of conspiracy theories in general - and 911 conspiracy theories in particular (Scoop.co.nz is the only New Zealand media source listed in the programme notes) - and so the prospect of reviewing a play about an outsider's encounter with the subject was rather irresistible.
However the downside of my interest in the subject matter of this play is that I probably saw the performance from a completely different perspective than that with which the target audience is expected to see it.
For me what was most striking about the show was not the material itself but how James and Cheryl Amos treated it.
As the play comes to its climax, from amid all the humour about tin-foil hats, ants, lizards, freemasons and veggie-burgers at McDonald's protests there emerges a hard core of rhetoric questioning whether things in this world of ours really are as they seem.
The writers intention is clearly to shock more than a little with a series of revelations about the strange circumstances around the events of September 11th 2001. These come around two thirds of the way through the play and unlike most of the rest of the play are not interspersed with jokes.
However Conspiracy 911 is first and foremost a comedy and has lots of good laugh lines.
The audience on opening night reveled in these jokes, most of which revolved around a combination of self-deprecation on the part of the central character and illustrating the more comedic aspects of the lifestyles of the conspiracy-minded crowd.
The play begins at Allan Parker's 21st birthday on September 11th 2001; nobody turns up. In the wake of the events of that day he starts to suffer anxiety attacks. He hears bombers over Wellington at night and tanks in the streets. He goes to the doctor who suggests he take prozac. Then one day he decides to go to Fahrenheit 911, Michael Moore's documentary film, and a chance meeting with a smooth talking cool guy - who introduces him to infowars.com and Alex Jones - sets in train a voyage of discovery.
On this voyage Allan is accompanied by his friend Smell, and guided by cosmic traveler, house truck owner, nexus reader and David Icke enthusiast Moonbeam. All the characters – including Icke, Jones and the cool guy are played by Amos.
For most of the play you might have easily come to the conclusion that the writers' intention in this play is to make fun of the conspiracy theories and their sometimes nutty exponents and followers.
However the intensity of the rhetoric exposition towards the end tends to suggest otherwise.