It’s in the news, it’s in the papers, it’s in countless political debates, and now it’s in Christchurch’s Court Theatre: Afghanistan. This Friday Dean Parker’s latest play The Perfumed Garden premiered at The Court Theatre.
The play, which is set in Afghanistan, takes the audience on a political, provocative and above all humorous crash course through the country’s history. In a succession of five witty scenes, played out against a simple but powerful set, the play moves from Afghanistan’s invasion by Alexander the Great right through to the country’s current occupation by peacekeeping troops. The ensemble cast, Mel Dodge, Kathleen Burns, Matt Hudson, James Kupa and 13-year-old Jackson Karaitiana Smallman-Noble, transform again and again from one age to the next as they tell their powerful tale. While the later stories keep feeding on the preceding ones, the actors entirely adapt the ever-changing roles of the multiple characters they’re playing. Mel Dodge is especially impressive in her embodiment of differing roles such as a slave of Victorian invaders who seduces her master’s wife and a geeky 1970s political activist.
When The Perfumed Garden premiered last Friday, Dodge and Hudson even stuck to their assigned roles throughout the two-hour play’s intermission. People who took up the chance for a bathroom break missed out on an improvised interaction with the rest of the audience as Dodge and Hudson set the scene for their political activist meeting, handing out cookies to the audience which – for the duration of the scene – transformed into their meeting attendees.
The Perfumed Garden takes you into the past and into an astonishing country all in one evening. It’s about desire and danger and invasion, and it teaches you about a country which we all see in the news so much but which we know so little about. Be prepared to dive into a land of mud-yellow deserts, cobalt butterflies, white veils and green-tiled mosques; and be prepared to laugh. Lots.
Catch The Perfumed Garden until 14 August 2010. Tickets are $32 for adults and concessions are available. For bookings visit The Court Theatre or call +64 3 963 0870.