PSA: Election 2020
Written by: Thom Adams, Jamie McCaskill, and Anya Tate-Manning
Directed by: Gavin Rutherford
Running at Circa Theatre until 12th Sep 2020
Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson
Public Service Announcements is a long-standing recurring political satire show that pokes fun at politicians left, right, and centre.
PSA: Election 2020 features mammoth production design (Meg Rollandi and Rose Kirkup). Characters clamber and climb over, duck and dive under rubbish and rubble piled high into a Beehive configuration. Director Gavin Rutherford’s blocking utilises the levels to demonstrate status and emphasise moments of triumph and defeat. Televisions buzz static and crackle, LED lights flash and strobe (lighting design by Helen Todd), and vocal effects and overlapping voiceovers cause MPs to seem not only omnipresent, but occasionally demented (sound design and composition by Oliver Devlin). Meanwhile, politicians emerge from bins like trash.
The full firecracker cast of Johanna Cosgrove, Neenah Dekkers-Reihana, Hannah Kelly, Simon Leary, Sepelini Mua’au, and Matu Ngaropo open the production with a reworking of ABBA’s Mamma Mia. It’s a flat number due to the lower register of the singing and the lack of harmonies – which come out in full force in the pertinent finale, Politician by Kora. It’s all uphill from the first song. In fact, the musical highlight of the year has to be Savage by Megan Thee Stallion, performed by Ngaropo as the whisky-swilling Winston Peters, Dekkers-Reihana as literal cartoon character Shane Jones (my favourite performance), and Kelly as the upright Tracey Martin (who can sure bust a move). I screamed out loud at the choreography (Sacha Copland) and would pay to watch this performance on a loop.
With her delicious over-annunciation, Cosgrove makes a wickedly evil vampire out of Judith Collins. I can still hear Mau’au’s pre-pubescent “hi” as David Seymour, who sports a tin hat. Simon Leary’s doped-up James Shaw is balanced by his surprisingly sweet but sycophantic Grant Robertson. Kelly nails Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s press conference tactics with striking accuracy.
PSA: Election 2020 just gets sillier and more savage (ratchet, sassy, nasty) as it goes on. But it’s all in good fun – and what fun it is.