Enough of the sideshow, let's get to the real thing

JOSHUA DRUMMOND
Last updated 10:19 22/09/2012
John Banks
Maarten Holl/Fairfax NZ

EXIT STAGE RIGHT: John Banks, on his way to Question Time at Parliament.

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OPINION: I'm done here. The Government has outsourced satire to itself. It is now indistinguishable from a low-rent improvisation troupe made up of balding, middle-aged, unlikeable men and a token woman or two doing an act that the audience just wishes would end.

The John Banks farce has reached a wonder crescendo.

John Banks really is the gift that keeps on giving, isn't he? His saga, which began with his bizarre, rambling election campaign, continued with the cup of tea, showed signs of subsiding into predictable mediocrity before the Kim Dotcom donations scandal erupted and satire rapidly became obsolete. Now we have the bizarre spectre of a prime minister refusing to read a police report about one of his ministers because, if he does, he won't be able to take the minister at his word any more.

The farce has reached a wonderful crescendo, with John Key being quizzed about what it's like on Planet Key. Naturally, the prime minister responded with a lurid description of his personal Nirvana, where golf courses are plentiful and people take plenty of holidays. Or something. Winston Peters, an unlikely bastion of sanity, chirped up at this point.

"The prime minister may as well just have said ‘Rhubarb'," Peters said.

"Rhubarb!" shouted the prime minister, happily.

It's probably a good time to remind ourselves that this is an actual thing that happened in our actual Parliament. Let's also remind ourselves that this gang of idiots is also looking after the Christchurch rebuild, a necessary part of which, we are now told, is closing schools and letting the free market decide exactly how much landlords should be screwing people for and, you know what? I'm done here.

The Government has outsourced satire to itself. It is now indistinguishable from a low-rent improvisation troupe made up of balding, middle-aged, unlikeable men and a token woman or two doing an act that the audience just wishes would end. So let's change the subject. (One last word on the subject: sack Banks.)

The Hamilton Fringe Festival is rolling around again, and it couldn't be better timed - a wonderful sideshow distraction from National's sideshow distraction of "let's see how we can ruin the lives of beneficiaries in exchange for hate-votes this week".

One of the beautiful things about the Fringe is how entirely non-elitist it is. It's so cheap, even beneficiary scum can come along! (Beneficiary scum: do make sure National hasn't passed a law against this in the next couple of weeks.) Many of the events are free. Like one I'll have attended by the time this column comes out: the slightly unfortunately-named Pukete Pooh Picnic. The idea is simple: bring koha, and get together with a bunch of cycling folk for a lazy ride up the Waikato River path to Pukete. Apparently there's a footbridge there. I had no idea, but that's one of the best things about the Fringe - the (sometimes unwitting) expansion of horizons.

OK. Things that are in the future. Don McGlashan will be playing on October 5 at the Meteor. If you're reading this and you want to go, book your tickets like right now. I hear it's selling out quickly. On September 30, local filmhead Paul Barlow, who has masterminded the V48Hours film competition for the past seven years, is doing a retrospective of his favourite films from the comp. Films that will almost certainly be little jewels of uniquely Hamiltonian creativity. I've been lucky enough to be involved with a few and I couldn't recommend it more.

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At the family-friendly end of things is the Free FM chalk fest, which involves you (legally) creating street art in Garden Place with every schoolkid's favourite substance, coloured calcium carbonate! It's on September 29, and it's free.

On the same day, we have Songs with Jokes In. People of Hamilton, take the opportunity to meet the sense of humour of Ross McLeod, who is probably Hamilton's most stupendously talented Waikato Times delivery person and playwright. Then there's Six Hours, which is about a boy and a girl whose friendship is complicated by the girl being, um, a ghost. That's on from September 27. Then there's Six Bad Arthouse plays, which is a number (not six) of (intentionally?) bad experimental plays. I'm producing and co-directing it. I've never done it before and it's scary as hell, but incredibly rewarding. That one starts October 4.

Why plug all this stuff? Apart from naked self-interest, of course? The answer is: because Hamilton's incredible range of talent will be on display during the Fringe, and it would be criminal to miss it. There's so much more happening than just what I've listed, too. This town has so much to offer, and I'm proud to be part of it, and to know the people who make it happen. So take a break from whatever vice usually holds your attention. Forget the petty theatre of politics. Arts and culture and community are what really matter. Go get some. Joshua Drummond is a Hamilton freelance writer who always wanted to do something that was intentionally bad, instead of the usual unintentionally bad.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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