As I settled into the back row I considered how Richard Meros is possibly the most successful New Zealander writer who is not a real person. I ponder if Meros has released a string of satirical books, or if Meek has published several books from the perspective of a satirical character who is being genuine. I figured as I have not read his literature I shouldn’t worry about this meta-conundrum and watch the show instead because he’s warming up the crowd.
I feel I should mention sooner rather than later that Hillary Clinton / Young Lover offers no real opinion on American Politics other than implying that is silly, which is great for me as a reviewer as I don’t have to pretend to be well-informed. So if you’re avoiding the show because you are concerned about not being informed, then don’t let that stop you. On the flip side, if you are after some crispy commentary ala Jon Stewert The Daily Show, R.I.P, then you may once again be disappointed by the promises of a man behind a lectern. You will however be entertained because the interplay between Meros and his Slides is polished, witty and holds a perfect absurdity curve.
He distinguishes members of the audience by academic standings; from non-graduates through to doctors, acknowledging the divide between the unqualified youth in the audience and the educated adults. This is the real politics that the show addresses, that of the intergenerational divide between the young and the elder, which is much more relevant to 2016 New Zealand than the Political Trail in America.
As he searches the house for a real doctor in the house (warning: joke from show), I admire the simple sharpness of the set. Twin projectors. Nice shade of pink for a shiny floor treatment. A chandelier above a lectern. The show requires very little to perform, and it is nice to see that the set is not overcrowded.
He dims the house lights, wasting no time introducing his thesis as to why he, and only he can and must become Hillary Clinton’s Young Lover. The show takes form of a Lecture which feels much like a Doctoral Defence. I think about my time ascending, crooked and sweaty up the Ivory Tower of Victoria “That f*cking hill" University, considering that each of my course lectures were a similar length and more than twice as expensive than this show, with much less effective uses of powerpoint. So at $25 dollars I would say it’s actually good value considering you aren’t tempted to check your Facebook in the middle of the lecture.
I listen to his argument, which boils down to a well crafted and rehearsed stand-up set. I consider how the show may have aged and changed since it’s debut as On the Conditions and Possibilities of Helen Clark Taking me as her Young Lover in 2008 at the last Presidential Primary when I was 15. They must have updated the slides, but the thesis is still likely the same. A key part of his argument hinges on the sexuality of Hillary Clinton, so that was probably their in the original as well. Was the lesbian joke less offensive then? Is it actually offensive now? Am I expecting too much, like a token Millennial, from a show programmed at Wellington’s main centre theatre whose primary audience is Baby Boomers? Problematics aside, the crowd loved it.
Was I offended? No, because I was not and am still not a lesbian. I would however consider myself disconcerted; concerned that jokes like this do unnerve many people of my generation, which Meros/Meek claims to be a part of during the show. By no means is his joke particularly malicious or hateful, nor am I implying Meek/Circa/Associated Partners are bigoted and should be witch hunted as such. Especially with satire, I think that theatre is allowed to offend. My feelings on this are best articulated by saying that Meros’ thesis/Meek’s show hinges on an joke that I hope, by the next generation will no longer be relevant.
Hillary Clinton / Young Lover is an excellent opportunity to see professionals at the top of their game, and for that reason, as well as the unlikelihood of a return season in Wellington for another 4 years at least, I would set aside an evening to check it out. It opens Saturday 30th and goes on to the 20th of February.