Thursday 16 April 2015

Willkommen Im Cabaret: "Table Talk" At Ika Restaurant, Tuesday, 14 April 2015.

Welcome To Cabaret! Glücklich zu sehen, Je suis enchanté, Happy to see you, Bleibe, reste, stay.
RIDICULOUS I KNOW, but I just couldn’t help it. As I looked around Laila Harré’s Ika restaurant on Tuesday night, I kept thinking: Weimar Germany, 1932.
Perhaps it was the cause. In collaboration with the Coalition for Better Broadcasting, The Daily Blog, and her own (and husband Barry Gribben’s) latest venture, Harré had called together a panel discussion on the future of Campbell Live. Looking around the restaurant I momentarily entertained the gruesome thought that one well-placed bomb would wipe out the cream of the Auckland Left (plus Bill Ralston and Fran O’Sullivan!)
Not that it’s come to bombs – not yet. Not like the poor doomed Weimar Republic. Even so, there’s the same worrying feeling that the forces of the Right are openly manoeuvring; striking ever more provocative poses; showing less and less regard for appearances. To wit, the impending demise of Campbell Live.
The thing about a good puppet show is that you either can’t see, or are artfully distracted from noticing, the strings. It’s only when the strings themselves become more interesting than the puppets they’re attached to that the audience should start to worry.
And that time has come.
Which is why, as I sat there in Ika (formerly the Neapolitan eatery Sarracino, formerly the chapel of Tongue’s the undertakers!) watching present and former MPs, trade unionists and entrepreneurs, left-wing and right-wing journalists shake hands and exchange gossip, my gloomy thoughts led me to the Kit-Kat Club and Bob Fosse’s classic movie, Cabaret.
Up on the stage, playing the role made famous by Joel Grey was our Emcee, Wallace Chapman. And the floor-show, Ika’s Cabaret Band, if you will, were (from neoliberal right to post-modern left) Fran O’Sullivan, Bill Ralston, Simon Wilson and Phoebe Fletcher.

"I am your host!" - Wallace Chapman plays Emcee at Ika's "Table-Talk" about the future of Campbell Live.
Together, they discussed and dissected the decision to dangle the sword of Damocles above the marvellous Mr Campbell’s current-affairs half-hour. All good stuff, and the punters lapped it up. (Along with their whole gurnards and snappers, expertly seasoned, and laid out on a bed of the most fashionable vegetables.)
But outside in the dark, where the unseasonable weather was turning Mt Eden Road into an icy wind-tunnel, a very different New Zealand was settling in for a very different bill of fare. The languid musings of TVNZ’s Mike Hoskings, perhaps? Or TV3’s X-Factor? Maybe The Bachelor, or NCIS, or How To Get Away With Murder, or any of a host of other shows beamed into their living rooms by Sky TV’s bounteous satellite. Their thoughts and feelings so far from the worries of these left-wing luvvies that they might as well be living on another planet.
Hence the ominous analogy with the tragic Weimar Republic. In the nite-clubs of Berlin’s demi-monde the clever and artistic lamented what was happening in the streets outside. The running battles between Left and Right. The strategic re-positioning of big business as the economy tanked and politics turned sour. And, most of all, the looming presence of a man who seemed almost umbilically joined to all the little people living in all the little rooms where democracy was fast becoming a dirty word.
Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome. Im Cabaret, au Cabaret, to Cabaret!”
A version of this essay was first posted on The Daily Blog of Wednesday, 15 April 2015.


pat said...

kindly stop that line of observation Mr Trotter...once in a century is more than enough.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. Reaching back in time 83 years for a metaphor.

I'm afraid the metaphor is a bit too cryptic or perhaps too much of a satellite for me to see the parallels between today's society and the Weimar republic.

Sanctuary said...

"... that one well-placed bomb would wipe out the cream of the Auckland Left..."

I wasn't there, so I think the left was safe ;)

However, the dissolute baby boomer middle class left - the left that has so fumbled, sold out and ultimately lacked the balls to fight - probably was. No great loss then if the bomb had have been planted.

thesorrow&thepity said...

"marvellous Mr Campbell’s current-affairs half-hour" I'm sorry Chris but maybe it's time the left took its rose tinted glasses off when it comes to John Campbell. A mediocre B grade journalist who is simply a small fish in a smaller pond. Watch BBC hardtalks John Key interview to see a true calibre interviewer. I laughed myself silly when watching Campbell's lackluster debate with the PM, that he of all people could have the nerve to accuse someone else of "playing the man not the ball" was a lamentable farce given that that's been his M.O for his entire narrow agenda driven talentless career. If that's the best NZ's left had to offer then it's all a little bit sad

vortexx said...

I can't remember much about the Campbell and John Key interview but can recall some feelings from when it happened.

The programme format, the same as TVOne 7.00pm show and morning interviews on National Radio is hopeless for any in-depth intelligent interviews.
The immediate and prime priority seems in each to be to finish within the allotted timeframe. That is more important than what is said or likely to be said.

Secondly is the format in terms of what happens. The interviewer wants to ask questions to get answers to elicit some information. The interviewee invariably goes in wanting to make a speech and make some points, political points.

When the host asks questions which have nothing to do with the prepared points the guest wants to make there is conflict. In New Zealand John Key knows he can ignore the questions, speak over the host and treat them with disdain with the inevitable result the interviewer will be called rude and unskilled.

The Prime Minister accepts invitations to speak when he knows he's on a winner. At other times he is "unavailable."

The Campbell Simon Bridges "interview" was an example of there being no chance of there being intelligent tv.

Is the answer to turn the studio over to Bridges or whomsoever, saying "You're obviously here to make a speech, go for it" ?

Many see interviews by people like Campbell as mere contests (like thesorrow&the pity ?)

Ironic really since John Key himself thinks that that programme should be mere entertainment.

thesorrow&thepity said...

Hehe not quite vortexx, these are the links to the BBC hardtalk John Key interview. The interviewer is of a standard far superior than the mediocre talents of John Campbell. Although in fairness to mr JC that's extremely subjective on my part. Personally I've never found him to be an interviewer who gets to the crux of the matter, asks questions then immediately talks over the interviewee, likewise he often has decided the facts in his mind before he even interview people, case in point the interview he conducted with the wife of climber Mark Inglis, which was simply horrendous one sided bullying on mr Campbell's part.

That said I do think you made a good point on the whole NZ politicians talking over the interviewer & making what sound like set piece speeches which never answer the question.