Richard Meros is our contemporary equivalent to a Shakespearean jester. The show – or lecture – may be more amusing than laugh-out-loud funny. It compensates this lack with its gusto, thought and performance value.
Cleverly interrogating our social dysfunctions with spot-on insight, Richard Meros Salutes the Southern Man is a brilliantly choreographed satire.
Gathering inspiration from our idiosyncratic political figures to our desperate desire to identify our national identity, the show is smartly written and tightly performed. Richard Meros unravels like clockwork.
The show uses a wonderfully produced PowerPoint presentation, which in fact is as witty as Meros on stage. Here, opportunities to make fun of our social zeitgeist are well and truly milked.
Arthur Meek as the title character is quite something else. Even performing outside the confines of his one-hour show as he ushers in his audience, he's a born entertainer. He comes off as someone who doesn't only know his material; he truly loves it.
Richard Meros is a perceptive show. Far from being didactic, it's wrapped in a delicious presentation that's easily digestible. And to top it all off, it's very entertaining.
As cliché as this might sound, Richard Meros Salutes the Southern Man deserves a salute of its own.
As his valiant attempt to save New Zealand by becoming Helen Clark's young lover so tragically failed, Richard Meros seeks out a new source of salvation: the Southern Man; stuff of legend, tough, taciturn, indomitable. Good for selling beer.
At first this seems a surprising decision as Meros is in almost all ways the antithesis of the archetypal Kiwi bloke. Meros is super-civilised, exceptionally articulate and blessed with a charmingly sociable personality.
Fortunately Meros's alter ego, actorArthur Meek, is every bit as exceptional. With delightful stage presence and sheer technical prowess he convinces us that this is a true quest. The audience responds rapturously to his energy, pseudo-enthusiasm and delicious precision of language. He is so very funny that from the moment he welcomes us personally into the theatre we are willing to laugh along as he mocks all we hold dear.
Meros's crazily inventive theories are delivered as a power-point lecture, argued under neat headings: the Problem, the Solution, and finally, to seek out the Southern Man himself, the Field Trip (which will gain us NZQA credits if we're under 18).
This is the same format as the previous show, On the Conditions and Possibilities of Helen Clark Taking Me as Her Young Lover, that took New Zealand (if not its revered erstwhile Prime Minister) by storm. It is a pattern well worth repeating as it offers marvellous opportunities to debunk our culture and myths about ourselves.
Several other shows at the Fringe have offered rather hit-and-miss slide shows which suffer by comparison. These illustrations are imaginative and always perfectly relevant, providing not just elucidation but witty counterpoint to the spoken words.
They are interactive too. Meek can crouch beside the recumbent Southern Man, or duck frantically to avoid labels that appear to fly out of the screen. Clever lighting ensures he is well lit while the screen pictures are still vibrant.
Meros pokes fun at all our sacred sheep – even, recklessly, Creative New Zealand. But it's never offensive because Meros is endearingly modest. He shares with us his moments of self doubt: “This is the worst salute ever,” he grieves, deciding that Southern Man is not a hero after all and we should get our money back. Fortunately he recalls acknowledged heroes with similarly dubious qualities, like Maui who beats up the sun, and Hercules, whose twelve labours are chiefly about pest control. We don't get our money back.
But what better way to spend your cash? This is a hilarious show that pays us the compliment of assuming we can keep up with dazzling logic and bizarre flights of fancy delivered at a cracking pace. On no account miss this dose of cheerful home grown irony – it's just so damned entertaining! Fringe salutes Meros!
These are tough times. There’s the global financial crisis. Climate change. John Key. And Richard Meros, once a leading academic specialising in Helen Clark’s specific niche – can no longer earn a living. And so he turns to the world for a solution, and finds it in that lone figure staring across the plains: the Southern Man.
As with On the Conditions and Possibilities of Helen Clark Taking Me as Her Young Lover, Meros, played by Arthur Meek, uses a gorgeously rendered PowerPoint presentation to convince us of his thesis in inspired and imaginative ways. Drawing on visual jokes, live-action shadow puppetry and a short-lived bout of pyrotechnics, Meros explains in bullet-point form his search for the Southern Man, the figure he believes will be our modern-day hero.
To read more, go to: http://www.theatrescenes.co.nz/review-richard-meros-salutes-the-southern-man-comedy-festival/