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Event: H.R. The musical – Feb 2024

A new comedy musical takes contemporary workplace culture to task.

Artsense Productions announces the first public performances of its new show, H.R. The Musical by Amy Mansfield.

Set in a series of work environments and presented in the style of a revue, H.R. The Musical refers to the now out-of-fashion term, “human resources” (H.R.), but the show considers more generally the curiosity of work in the present day. It comprises a number of vignettes, punctuated by songs in a wide range of genres, from country waltz to blues to rap to latin plainchant, in which audiences will recognise themselves and their co-workers.

Reflecting the idea of a ‘performance review’ back on itself, and exploring issues of organisational hierarchy, bureaucracy, equity, and the almost alien language that has built up in the modern workplace, the show references recent phenomena like The Great Resignation, “quiet quitting”, and Universal Basic Income.

Mansfield says it’s necessarily a comedy, with the wide range of musical genres she employs offering some “delicious and unexpected juxtapositions” which allow the audience to view the subject matter through a variety of frequently hilarious lenses. “If you ask me, there just aren’t enough middle-aged Pākeha women rappers,” she quips.

All the songs are originals, written especially for H.R. The Musical, including: ‘Corporate Anthropologist Blues’, ‘Lay Your Global Hands on Me’ and ‘Mansplain it to Me’.

Performers Mika Austin, Zoe Triggs and Lizzie Buckton, along with Mansfield herself, will bring the work to life as part of Q Theatre’s Summer at Q festival of independent makers. Quite by coincidence, two of the cast members have in fact worked as H.R. professionals, adding an interesting layer to the themes and messages of the work. As well as singing and dancing, each of the performers will also play various instruments, including piano, guitar, flute, melodica and percussion.

All of Mansfield’s previous plays have touched on the question of work in one way or another. This is what you signed up for, a 1:1 interactive play about endurance parenting, looked at the unpaid work of mothers. In I Didn’t Invite You Here to Lecture Me, the eight university-lecturer characters unpacked the connections between what we do and who we are, asking the audience of ‘students’ to consider

how we make, and move, our identities. Her most recent play, you are [not] alone here, criticised employer surveillance of workers through digital means.

“I feel like I’ve been researching this since before I even started school, but certainly since I did my first paper run, delivering the Central Leader in the mean streets of Epsom for the grand sum of $3.27 a week. Every job I’ve ever had, and many that I haven’t, show up in some way in this work. Some people’s jobs drive them to drink. Others to religion. My life in work has driven me to write a musical.”

H.R. The Musical plays at Q Theatre 1 – 3 February

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