Kia Ora Khalid was an opera. A children’s opera, actually. I had a foreboding feeling I was going to be told that a big purple dinosaur loved me. When the curtains rose, it was clear I was in no such luck.
There is a great unspoken irony in Kia Ora Khalid. A play about racial harmony, about how we are all refugees, it casts a white actor—Martyn Wood—as Khalid, an Afgani refugee. Wood blacks up to play Khalid, a move rather wildly unnecessary, as all the leads perform multiple roles, and the young audience this is aimed at would have no problem suspending their disbelief that little bit more.
They all sing very well. So at least I could listen without wincing. However, I did want to punch the New Zealander played by Jason Chasland in the face. A sexist, racist ten-year-old, he sauntered around and pulled absurd faces, his racism was immovable, and when he said, “well if you don’t like it here, piss off.” I was forced to confront my own racism and attitude towards refugees. So, in a small way, the show could make a difference.
The children on the stage, and the embarrassingly blatant themes, were about the only things that made it a kid’s show. In the midst of the death and sadness, the children happily threw themselves into being a set. Like diligent little mice, they created the impression of a car, a boat and soldiers. It would have been moving and somewhat clever if they hadn’t kept looking out at the audience to spot mummy and daddy. Also, there is something deeply unsettling about seeing young children reenact the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge in song form.
The show had a heart of gold, really. Children should be encouraged to share and include, but this wasn’t the catalyst. The woman next to me remarked to her child, “I don’t think the audience liked that very much. I think they thought it sucked.” And she was right. The plot was insulting to a five-year-old’s intelligence. The final revelation, “ooooh, the fat kid has a past,” brought the play to the odd conclusion, that, deep down, we have all had shit times. Therefore, let’s fester in our individual cesspits of hatred and play a good ol’ game of touch. When the boys finally bonded, it was to defeat the girls, so, at the end of the day, sexism won over racism. A happy day for all.
Directed by Sara Brodie
Written by Dave Armstrong
With Martyn Wood, Jason Chasland, Kali Kopae and Nikita Tu-Bryant
Music by Gareth Farr
Wellington Opera House
Sat 14 March at 7pm, Sat 21 March 2pm and 7pm
Part of the Capital E National Arts Festival