Public Service Announcements: Election 2023 - Reviewed by Madelaine Empson | Regional News Connecting Wellington

Public Service Announcements: Election 2023

Written by: Thom Adams, Johanna Cosgrove, and Jamie McCaskill

Directed by: Gavin Rutherford

Running at Circa Theatre until 26th Aug 2023

Reviewed by: Madelaine Empson

Created by James Nokise and Anya Tate-Manning, Public Service Announcements (PSA) is Aotearoa’s longest-running political satire. When I caught my first one back in 2017, I was practically apolitical but still found it accessible because it’s totally nonpartisan and parodies every politician in da House. It sparked the conversation for me and my interest in New Zealand politics in turn. So, going into my third campaign (read: show) with a slightly firmer grasp, I agree with co-writer Johanna Cosgrove’s statement that each edition feels “more urgent and unhinged” than the last. Our political landscape is interesting right now, and for PSA, mistakes mean pisstakes.

In Election 2023, Carrie Green, Tom Knowles, Simon Leary, Jamie McCaskill, Sepelini Mua’au, and Tate-Manning bring MPs from Labour, National, Green Party, ACT, Te Pāti Māori, and New Zealand First to party on a stage resembling a grownup playground (a knock-your-socks-off set by Daniel Williams). Thanks to Helen Todd’s distinctive, RGBY lighting design and Williams’ costume design – the brilliance of which is highlighted in turbo costume changes during the final scene – audiences never lose sight of who’s speaking when. We do lose some lines on opening night however, so ear-splitting is our own laughter.

Onto the funny stuff then. (The whole show is the funny stuff, but alas, word count.) Oliver Devlin’s sound design sees the flighty Greens introduced to the White Lotus theme song, and Labour to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Red Right Hand (a stroke of genius). How did Leary’s lips chap instantaneously as Chris Hipkins? McCaskill’s Winston’s Song is still stuck in my head, as are Carrie Green’s hilarious outbreaks of Te Aroha as Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. Mua’au’s three-fingered “Hi”s as David Seymour; Knowles’ Sméagol-esque Christopher Luxon; Tate-Manning’s cannibalistic Judith Collins on mute… There are too many highlights to list, and they’re all fire. The meta references woven throughout, especially to Gavin Rutherford’s appropriately inappropriate directorial decisions, are the honey on the Beehive for me.

Whether you care about politics or you don’t give a coup, take a seat at PSA for a rollercoaster riot this election. They’ve got my vote.

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