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Review of The Tigers of Wrath

Review of The Tigers of Wrath

by Sharon Ellis
November 8, 2012

Circa 2 has a new play, a World Premier no less and by renowned New Zealand playwright Dean Parker. The Tigers of Wrath is political, with laughs and history and not much deep delving into matters of current political moment. The four characters are developed over thirty or so years and the passing of time is marked by three acts, three scenes, and three sets of costumes. The first act is in China in 1974 and features three scruffs on a student trip. Yes the fourth character is there too and she is a glorious propaganda poster dancer and very lovely she is too. The play opens with recorded music that gradually and very slowly increases in volume and that has words relevant to the theme and that are quoted later and again later still are explained to excellent effect. Watch out for it.

The second act is in Auckland and everybody is 20 years older. Simone is now 15. In a previous incarnation she was the propaganda dancer and is now a marvellously real and rowdy teenage daughter of the couple who met on the China trip. The changes in fortunes not to mention the changes in costumes are skilfully introduced by Simone’s holding the action in her St Cuth’s uniform. Mum and Dad, Trish and Oliver, played by Kate Prior and Nathan Meister are doing very nicely thank you with a mock Woollaston adorning their sparse and uncomfortable living room. Trish presents a long cellphone monologue pacing about the room while Oliver is cool calm and understanding, filling himself with booze while saving his news. Simone is meanwhile resolving to murder the family cat. Trish is inspiring organising and planning the coup to be rid of Mike Moore and bring in Helen Clark to lead the party. She delivers a riot of delicious gossip about almost every politician we used to know and love.

In the end there is the comeuppance third act after the interval and another 20 years on. Things didn’t turn out quite as gloriously as expected or at least hoped and two characters are humbly resigned to swilling beer from a jug in the Mangere Bridge Tavern, one of them is planning to win the meat raffle after doing some damage on the karaoke.

All four actors make their characters believable. They each grow older without any nonsense of wrinkles stoops limps or grey hair, they are not all that old by the end anyway. Dean Parker’s dialogue has it all there for us to savour. Pauline played by Heather O’Carroll does the downtrodden but unbowed failed revolutionary in her beaten body language, love/hate tatts, and drooping jeans. The lovely Neenah Dekkers-Reihana as Simone has grown up in a way we ex-revolutionaries can be proud of, and poor old Oliver, loving Dad and society’s modern failure is still the well-groomed charmer.

The device of act by act advances of 20 years works well. It’s a prickly play, but if you are old enough to vote intelligently you will love it. If by some strange quirk the theme doesn’t concern you there will be people you can dig in the ribs who are in exactly these places.

ENDS

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