What really strikes me is how strangely low the stakes are. You’d think that an immigrant rights protest exploring police brutality would hold some tension, but it doesn’t. Shinzo doesn’t seem affected in any convincing way by the violence he witnesses. In fact, because Ambiguous only plays characters on the sidelines and there is no supporting sound design, you could easily believe that the protests aren’t even happening, if it weren’t for him robotically saying ‘Oh no, now the police are firing rubber bullets’. Ambiguous tries to play too many characters, and the result is that the transitions are clumsy and, aside from a few distinct voices, there often aren’t enough defining mannerisms to make it clear who is meant to be speaking. In the most questionable scene of the show, Ambiguous, who is of Japanese descent, makes an error of judgement when he starts playing a Latino man. As this character, he gives a speech to protestors about racism, which is ironic in the worst kind of way. It feels very pot-kettle, but I am relieved to say that at the least he does not attempt a Latino accent.
The most redeeming moment of the performance comes from Shinzo’s grandmother. She tells the story of her sixth birthday party, which no one showed up to due to racial prejudice sparked by the Pearl Harbour bombings. The story is poignant and vulnerable, and in it Ambiguous shows more emotional scope as an actor than he has across the entire show. It’s a beautiful and moving scene, but unfortunately these five minutes aren’t enough to justify the other 55.
Frames of the Chaos is on in the Te Auaha cinema at reduced capacity at 7pm until Saturday 6 March. To book tickets, or for more information, visit the Fringe website.