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Theatre Review: A compelling journey into the complex nature of America
Apparently (according to the highly reliable Wikipedia websource), one who supports their country is a qualifiable patriot. Indeed, this task of devotion seems feasibly attainable, but the American patriot appears to uphold the dictionary description at a whole new level.
“Oh say can you see …”
From impassioned poetry reading to singing and sword-fighting Civil War re-enactments, ‘A Patriot’s Guide to America’ highlights many juicy and contested elements in American history. Stabs are made across the board on topics ranging from race, colonisation and cultural appropriation, to disagreeing histories and biased narratives.
Colour-blindness oozes from a theatrical display of a ’60s America and, sadly, today’s world. Numerous jabs are made at problematic and present-day supremacist remarks as well as an ultimate unwillingness to wrestle with reality.
This production, put on by director Jeremy Thomas-Poulsen, raises audience hairs in its breadth of sadistically staged humour. The show is cast by a trio of actors (Tom Hale, Tina Robinson, Alex Lehman), themselves hailing at one point from the featured America, and accompanied by Danish band members Jeppe Cloos, Asger Soegaard and Anders Hermansen. Cued lights and designated props help feature the actors in their elements as they co-ordinately bicker with one another. The band’s exquisitely jazzy soul performance offered an irrevocable asset to the show.
The central theme of the show continually refers back to the flag: the emblem of the nation, the prime symbol of AMERICA. Not only are there many mini flags decorating the waiting hall (so much that it feels like an indoor July 4 barbecue party), the flag also provides the backdrop of the stage after some premeditated hassling unfolds while attempting to hang it up properly. The flag is crucial to the storyline, as its final folding signals the program finale.
As it was, or as we remember it as?
We all have a very primal, childhood nostalgia for chalk. In an interactive timeline style, the actors progressively scribble annual dates across the floor as they lapse back in time. Only one brief reference is made in regards to the World Wars, in which the United States obviously did enough by saving the world twice over, because that is what happened, is it not?
We slide from the 20th century into the 1800s with a bang as Lehman (impersonating John Wilkes Booth) shoots good ole’ dear Abe (played by Hale) after an irritable discretion from the Gettysburg Address steals Lehman’s spotlight monologue. This is not the first time shots are fired, as an upset Lehman bang-bangs earlier over feeling threatened by Hale’s character.
Our dear perception of the Wild Wild West is of course included, along with the sweet chum of a ‘Home on the Range’ melody played by the live band while puppet animals are bulldozed down by a cackling gun owner’s rifle. Spoiler alert: it goes so far that even the symbolically brave bold American Eagle is shot down! This commemoration of an untouched frontier all conspires after a few tense blows are made regarding the wicked short-sticked plight of the Native Americans.
Yet to summarise, when referring to the scroll-lengthy list of wrongs committed in the name of the United States, as in true American fashion of sidelining responsibility, surprise surprise, we Americans ostensibly ‘got past them’.
Wow. We have reason to fear that there really are leading world-views built off such an insincere identity …