Review: Deep South Caesar (Gryphon Theatre)
Updated: Jun 2, 2022
It is not often that you get to see a one woman show about a man called Greg. Aimee Smith's satirical show follows the life of the arrogant and ambitious "typical kiwi bloke", aided by Isaac Thomas providing a soundtrack on guitar as well as performing as any characters to assist Greg in his story telling. From his humble beginnings to "the inspiration you see today", and the inevitable downfall that follows, "Deep South Caesar" is a critique of masculinity, the expectations of a kiwi, and the response we give to ambition and misogyny.
The narrative of the show seems to have been devised after the character of Greg was created, or at least it comes off that way on the strength of Smith's performance. Strutting about the stage with a self-appointed air of wisdom and authority, you never doubt that he has total faith and admiration for himself. The danger with a character like this is being so realistic that they become unwatchable, but Smith never loses sight of the balance between being foolish and being irritating. Even in this eccentric and exaggerated performance it is all too easy to relate Greg to people we all know and hate in our own lives.
Assuming that the creation of Greg came before the creation of the plot, the risk is that the story will fall flat and the production will slump as a result, but instead it comes off as a fun drama exercise created by a someone who loves classical theatre. The juxtaposing imagery of Smith sitting majestically atop a ladder surrounded by random props (including a small plastic doll, a pop plant and a bit of blue rope) can be analysed or it can be laughed at. Some of the best scenes are those without dialogue featuring Thomas's original music, such as when Greg tries to woo his future wife before resorting to lassoing her.
The stage imagery itself, along with well written lines, is responsible for what makes "Deep South Caesar" so comparatively funny and original. The sight of Thomas (draped in a toga) dashing about the stage being sheered as a sheep whilst also playing the guitar had me in stitches. Thomas himself played an unexpectedly important role in the show in the final scene. The creative decision involved would, in most hands, ruin a perfectly good satire, and though the change in atmosphere was not quite as strong as it had been until that point, Thomas's brutal, sarcastic and energetic performance pulls it off nicely. It rounds off "Deep South Caesar" as a clever and hilarious satire, that mixes in commentary with comedy (and even a nice touch of product placement that will make New Zealand Fringe insiders giggle). Four stars.
Whispers from the crowd:
"The was edgy as fuck."
"It was a rollercoaster"