December 8, 2015

A Christmas Karel Čapek

Are you a robots fan? Want to save the world or at least a part of it? Are you a Grinch? Do you like
Charles Dickens? Do you know who Karel Capek is? Do you simply like attending Bats Theatre for an
intimate show? Do you like people who are able to laugh at themselves?

If you answered yes to at least one of the above (surely?), then you will walk away from A Christmas Karel Capek feeling pleased you got to see this one off Christmas production by the multi award winning Wellington based theatre company The Bacchanals. They are known for their ‘liberal whining’ and being ‘very angry and political’ but have stepped back from their usual approach with this story. They deliver  a humorous, clever, futuristic take on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol set in a present day Wellington Cuba St flat – with old second hand furniture that looks like it's from the local Sallys and a heap of posters of theatre productions (past plays by the The Bacchanals).

The play starts with a warm and funny introduction from David Lawrence and Brianne Kerr – who also greet you as you walk into the theatre. David proclaims to the audience that the Bacchanels are “giving you what you really want for Christmas: a Christmas show featuring Christmas and robots, performed by a combination of humans and robots!” From the get go, you know this is going to be a quirky 90 minutes.

David and Brianne play… David and Brianne. David is ‘bah humbug’ about Christmas, to overcome his misanthropy he invents a robot. Initially he presents this to Brianne as a gift. An attractive, ‘WOW looking’ female robot that cooks, vacuums, makes banana smoothies, coffee and does as she is told. At first Brianne is excited by the robot then she recognises the robot is not only for David's ‘personal selfish gain’. This enthusiasm gives way to the realisation that robots could help humanity and do things humans cannot do  easily, i.e. going to the moon, helping the world to be more sustainable and also saving endangered Pandas… Along with these thought provoking suggestions by Brianne for the audience to consider, there are clever, well thought out, quirky points. For instance, Brianne describes how the mass manufacture of robots would mean less people working, therefore less people doing awful shitty jobs, therefore less people drinking coffee (to get them through the day) and thus would reduce third world problems in coffee production!

Will the robots achieve what Brianne and David created them for?  Whether you agree with the ideas posed, or think the plot is too far fetched, you will be challenged and laughing at what the characters say and come up with.

Brianne, David and the robots are not the only characters; a panda makes an appearance, a Welshman and even a Galek. A stand out character, my personal favourite, is the narrator played by Salesi Le’ota. Le’ota plays Ghosts of Christmas Past and St Nick. He has some of the coolest moments and funniest lines in the show – ‘No Ho Ho’ did not go unnoticed, simple, yet very funny.

Set in the brilliant, intimate, exposed, Bats Theatre, A Christmas Karel Capek is worth checking out. From the small things like the smell of curry cooking, to the great, ‘feel good’ musical number at the end AND of course the clever, witty and quirky lines from the characters, A Christmas Karel Capek should be the one thing to check off your Christmas list this year.

Propeller Stage, BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace
4–19 December, 7pm
Tickets: $20.00/ $15.00