BATS Theatre
January 15-19 | Reviewed by Helen Sims

OTCAPOHCTMAHYL is based on the book by the same name by Richard Meros, which was written when “Aunty Helen” had been the PM for 6 years. Described by Meros as “ridiculous”, Pinfield and Meek have thankfully mined the more humorous and pointedly political content from the book to create an excellent stage play, with extra resonance given it is election year and shortly Helen’s political neck will be on the block. It’s less of a play in the conventional sense as a post-modern power point presentation. We are skilfully guided though the carefully constructed presentation by Meek, playing Meros, in order for him to persuade us of his point – that Helen Clark is in urgent need of a young lover, and the only viable candidate is him. The logic takes some magnificent leaps at some point, but there’s no denying the force of his argument. It’s also the cover for two other thinly veiled messages – the rampant individualism amongst 20-somethings as a product of the “Rogernomics” of a government which Clark was a part of, and the portrayal of Meros as a self-obsessed loner, the “poster-kid” of this generation. Ask not what you can do for your country, but what you can do for yourself!

Meek’s characterisation as Meros is flawless. The “real” Meros is notoriously elusive (check out his Myspace page...) so I’m not sure if he has “read between the lines” of the book or met the genuine article. He slowly builds a picture of Meros that extends beyond this evening, back to the fantasies that have induced a young, recent BA grad from Balclutha, “with maidenhead intact”, to formulate an elaborate theory as to why he is Clark’s much-needed young lover. This young lover is far from the heroic, romantic ideal. Near the end the play takes a forward leap as Meros imagines himself kidnapped to Clark’s stately pleasure dome, at which point the narrative breaks down into a never-ending repetitive explanation of how he has arrived there. Pinfield’s direction is also excellent and there is an obvious eye for detail. I found the pot plant inexplicably creepy. There are a wide enough range of political jokes in there to crack up those who scan the headlines to those who know some Kantian theory. Most political parties come in for a bit of a drubbing, but the play is neutral in its politics, alleging National was formed for the sole purpose of “pillow biting” at the same time as bringing Labour down into the gutter as well.

The vision is slightly disturbing, but highly entertaining. It is sharp political satire which we so desperately need more of in New Zealand theatre. I hear that the remainder of the season is sold out – in which case I would lend my voice to calls for a return season and/or this excellent show to tour.