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48 Nights on Hope St. Covid Tales and and Fables

Ravi Gurunathan in 48 Hours on Hope St (Photo Sacha Stejko)

48 Nights on Hope St

Auckland Theatre Company

ASB Auckland Waterfront Theatre

Until September 20

48 Nights on Hope St imagines five young people quarantined in a Hope Street apartment during lockdown and is loosely based on Bocaccio’s Decameron written six hundred years ago during the Great Plague.

For this production, the audience was socially distanced  on the stage  at the Auckland  Waterfront Theatre with the five actors presenting nine tales using half a dozen small stages scattered throughout the audience.

In the Decameron ten people move to the country to escape the plague and tell tales to each other. These tales cover a range of topics in various forms. Some are fables some are contemplations  some political. Almost all the stories were about love and lust, the important message being that the virtues and vices can overwhelm reason and common sense; it transforms people sometimes for good sometimes for evil.

The idea of a series of tales which explore the dynamics, fears and aspirations in this Covid environment was great but the realisation of the project was disappointing.

Some of the tales are only a slight reworking of the original as in the case of  Boccaccio’s Ciapelletto story which becomes the story of Mr Wee Hat. The original was an evisceration of the Catholic clergy, but this contemporary take doesn’t have the same savagery going for ribaldry instead. With many of the tales there was a lack of tension and no real sense of the stories coming out of the drama around us at the present time.

The Decameron was often banned partly because of the  obscene and erotic passages but also because of Bocaccios criticism of the church, its management and its practices. This aspect of questioning the powers and responsibilities of the authorities is not really addressed in 48 Hours so while the pieces are entertaining enough they are ultimately unsatisfying. Too much of the time we were faced with actors rather than story tellers. They were more stand-up comedians with succinct one-liners than raconteurs creating relevant tales.

Much of the time the actors relied on thespianic enthusiasm in their delivery which undercut their message and weakened  the performances. The one stand out performer was Ravi Gurunathan with his measured delivery and sensitive take on racism

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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