Show Review: An Evening with Chelsea Manning -Auckland - 8th Sep 2018

Chelsea manning.jpg

By Reon Patterson

Artist: Chelsea Manning

Date / Venue: Saturday, September 8th, 2018 - Q Theatre, Auckland

A complete disappointment.

As a keen but disgusted, distraught and worried follower of the American war machine, I was excited to be attending this event. Since 9/11 and the ensuing and blatantly illegal invasion of Iraq, I’ve been intrigued.  Bush was a warmonger, Obama continued where Bush left off and now we have the Orange guy. The world is in a strange spot.......   The story of Private Bradley and later Chelsea Manning was a fascinating one which I was very interested in. 

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect however I did think the audience would be stepped through the story of Private Manning, the release to Wikileaks of the classified information, the ‘shit-storm’ caused by the collateral murder video, her incarceration, some thoughts on Julian Assange, NZ and the five eyes alliance, perhaps some Edward Snowden mass surveillance thoughts, the Trump phenomenon.......??

No, none of that.   Not really.... 

The evening was hosted by Georgina Beyer, a New Zealand politician and former Labour Party member.  I assume someone thought it was a good match to have a trans-gender interviewing another trans-gender person, unfortunately, Beyer was woefully unprepared and proudly announced at the start that she had not scripted any questions and would 'just freestyle' an interview.   Beyer started off chronologically in the right spot asking about Chelsea's childhood which was indeed interesting, Manning had a tough upbringing spending time as a late teen living on the streets of Chicago.  Unfortunately, the part that I suspect most of the paying public were there for (the Iraq war) was glossed over.   Chelsea Manning even saying at one point that she wouldn't talk about her time in prison as she was saving it for her book!   I’m sorry, but that’s not what you say to a theatre full of guests who had paid a lot of money to come and hear you talk about exactly that.

Again, as the evening went on Beyer was obviously unprepared with heckling and booing starting to come from the audience who rightly were becoming restless and confused by the pairs nothing questions and answers.   Very awkwardly disgruntled guests were now walking out and leaving the show further adding to the negative feeling in the room.    

Finally, we came to the end of the Q&A between Beyer and Manning and it was the Audiences turn to line up at the microphones and ask Chelsea some questions.   Great I thought, there will be some intelligent, probing questions that will finally spark some interesting thoughts and conversation…Wrong...!.   Besides a couple of folk who attempted to take things back to the classified information leak etc… largely it was a procession of rants from the ‘tin foil hat club’, this further riled up the crowd with more booing and heckling from the floor ensuing.   Interestingly the entire evening went without mention of Julian Assange or Wikileaks.

How could that be? It’s like discussing a jam sandwich but never mentioning the jam?   

Again, a disappointing night and I can only hope that Georgina Beyer gets herself sorted and does a bit of homework should she be hosting the Wellington event.

Manning overall is not a great communicator and so poses a challenge to the host but with preparation, this could easily be dealt with.   

Paying guests deserve better. 


*The views expressed are opinion based only, are a general overview of the show and are not the express opinions of Libel Music.