Let’s be clear: Shot Bro – Confessions of a Depressed Bullet is not drama therapy. Any therapeutic effect that may eventuate as a result of watching a brilliant writer and performer share his most personal stories is a result of not merely absorbing and reflecting upon the details of the story but basking in the world of how the story is told.
Rob Mokaraka is a versatile artist and in this 60-minute show (longer, he tells us, if he decides to milk it for all its worth) he brings forward a range of elements to share one of the most defining decisions of his life: to stay or not to stay on this planet. As it turns out – fortunately for him and the rest of us – (spoiler alert). Rob Mokaraka survives. But as anyone who has battled depression knows, it is confronting what led up to that point, as much as what follows, that enables any form of liberation from the demons that haunt us.
This is Rob’s story, deeply reflective of growing up in an environment where Māori lives are cheap, facades become a necessity and a maelstrom of emotion picks up the human mind and spins it faster than an old fashioned top. But it’s not docu-drama, nor is it verbatim recitals; this is theatre: compelling, intriguing and deeply touching yet welded with so much cheeky humour it’s impossible not to recognise, laugh and blink away tears at the same time.
To the almost perfect soundtrack of his life, consisting of recognisable foot taping favourites, Mokaraka brings to the fore his skills as charmer, clown, facial contortionist while maintaining an engaging pace as he weaves in multiple metaphors to share his story.
The lights never fully come down and there is no fourth wall. With a light and easy touch, Mokaraka repeatedly pulls his audience into the story: one that is carefully crafted with multiple characters including Depression (who morphs from a black sheep to a hard-core-battle-axe-expletive-laden tormentor) and Bullet Bullihana who is simultaneously adorable, as he explains his whakapapa back to the wars in which Māori have been involved, yet revelatory, as his history illustrates how deeply conflict, tension, and loss have seeped into the soul.
Erina Daniels has done an excellent job of directing this work, creating an inclusive environment that welcomes its audience from the moment they step into the theatre right to the very end when people leave, having shared a cuppa tea. It’s a powerful piece that shares a hugely important story, and with the addition of wit, humour, charm and compelling performance, Shot Bro – Confessions of a Depressed Bullet is simply theatre at its best.