Mr Burns, A Post-Electric Play
Q Theatre, Auckland
5/5 stars

Ana Scotney did not prepare me enough when she said this play was a “wild ride”. It is certainly more than that. It is complete madness. And in this madness lives a great beast of a metaphor, disguised with chaos and humour. I left the theatre and I could not stop myself from questioning how The Simpsons, a simple TV show, reached an almost cult-like following. Yes, it was a religion. People quoted episodes out of the blue and people responded, not with confusion, but with a laugh and the appropriate follow-up quote. Mr Burns, A Post Electric Play is an experience that forces you to look at your world and your stories from a third-person perspective. No longer are you immersed in the world you know. You are thrust into life after the apocalypse, and only then do we start to see the essence of humanity glow and shimmer.

Upon walking into the theatre, you first notice the sparsity of the set. A bed, a sofa, and then black space, unlit space. Without any cues, we know there has been some sort of disaster. This is similar to the play itself. We never receive any explicit exposition or overt indication as to what has or will happen. But I never found myself being confused, I found myself filling in the blanks naturally. Mr Burns is about something so innate within us all that there is not any need for explanation. However, do not look at the set in Act I and think that is all there is to Mr Burns. Suddenly, the set and the story is built up extravagantly in Act II and you think, what next? Then the final Act shows Mr Burns transformed into an epic musical, almost reminiscent of Greek theatre. The costumes are mythic, completely out of this world and constructed from the base colours we associate with each character. There was inspiration from various cultures and religions, all brought together to perform this Simpsons episode. The set and atmosphere grows more legendary and mythic with each act. And what you expect from this performance is so overturned with each line and breath, you learn to just sit there and enjoy the ride.

I must commend the 7 actors in the Mr Burns ensemble for possessing an amount of energy and spunk that did not seem humanely possible. And I was astounded with their ability to shift from chaotic hilarity, to genuine upset and emotion. Their reactions and connections were an honest representation of human coping mechanisms. Despite the moments of absurdity, there was truth. The behaviour and emotion in these actors mirrored that of people genuinely trying to cope with their destroyed world. I found myself laughing one minute, then having some epiphanic paroxysm the next. I began to really question the importance of pop culture in our society, and how we implicitly use it as a coping mechanism. Also, the blocking and full spatial use of the stage created a balance of audience involvement and metafictional elements.

Darkly comedic and confrontational, Mr Burns will force you to consider the fall of humanity and question what happens next? How do we pick ourselves up from such an event? I highly recommend this performance if you don’t mind death, humanity, The Simpsons and interesting bondage-esque Itchy and Scratchy costumes.

Mr Burns, A Post-Electric Play is running at Q Theatre in Auckland from 13th – 19th September. Click here to get your tickets!

JENNIFER CHEUK is an English/Communications and Linguistics major with a passion for graphic novels and sophisticated picture books.  She likes eating grated cheese and watching niche films. Can be found cartooning and writing on Instagram: @selcouthbird.