hiroshi nakatsuji (who has played the best earthquake and cellphone i have ever seen) recently introduced us to playback theatre in auckland.
the premise of playback theatre is so simple it is brilliant…instead of watching scripts and stories made by someone else, the audience get to watch *their stories (or bits of it) played out by the actors. the conductor/director talks with the small audience, drawing out their stories and incidents they are willing to share. (s)he then tells the actors what format/genre to put on it, and off you go, seeing your story on stage. while i have done little other than yell out place names, i find the experience very empowering, and invariably entertaining. the stories range from the funny to the pathetic to the tragic, like any story does; are as simple or complicated as any hollywood/bollywood movie. the difference is that they are somehow *our stories, things that *we have been through. and the actors seem like *us, not the big-media pumped-up royalness of yet another goddamn celebrity.
saturday’s special show was made even better (and a good bit longer) by the performance of “our stories” by a bunch of english-language students from all over the world. none of them were professional actors, and none of them used english as a first language. while parts of it felt like a high school play, the fact that it was *personal seemed to make all the difference, much unlike high schoolers playing some story by a long-dead-and-much-venerated person. many of their stories were of travel/migration, and while i find regular theatre very entertaining, for a change much of this stuff i could bloody *relate to. a damn good effort, AND on stage in a foreign language (still pretty impressed).
you see me, i’m tired of bloody gods and rulers and celebrities and heroes. they have their place, no doubt, and often do almost as much good as they do harm. but really, for a while, i just want to listen to *our stories.
the auckland playback theatre are on every 1st friday of the month, at the all saints church hall, 284 ponsonby road. it starts at 2000 hrs, and usually finishes by 2130 hrs. entry is $12 adults (waged) and $6 unwaged and children.