28 Jan 2024

H.R. The Musical - putting office culture on stage

From Culture 101, 12:30 pm on 28 January 2024

Amy Mansfield

Amy Mansfield Photo: Supplied

“Some people’s jobs drive them to drink, others to religion. My life at work has driven me to write a musical,” says writer and composer Amy Mansfield.

Most of us at some point have worked for a company with an HR (Human Resources) Department. We’re familiar with the jargon and usually have brushes with the team entering and exiting a role. 

But what about HR as a musical? 

As part of Summer at Q Theatre, Amy Mansfield is bringing H.R. The Musical to the stage. Vignettes feature work environments include the corporate and governmental and - one, artists are more familiar with - the gig economy. 

The show provides a large wink to the audience, with song titles like ‘Mansplain to Me’, ‘Nobody Knows Where Their Time Goes’ and ‘CEO Song: OK So I’m White’. It’s hard to know - will they tickle or trigger you? The songs are also spread across various genre, with blues, country, waltz and even rap. 

HR The Musical

HR The Musical Photo: Supplied

The musical also addresses some more recent work themes, like ‘Quiet Quitting’ and the ‘Great Resignation’. 

The work environment has long been a place of fascination for Mansfield. Even during her student years in lectures, she was taking notes. Not study notes, but notes about ridiculous things said during lectures. Mansfield is intrigued by concepts of productivity and how your job and work can define who you are. 

“I think over the years, I've been observing, and sometimes experiencing ridiculous and sometimes objectionable things within work environments.

“And so, I’ve been collecting some of these stories. And then a couple of years ago, I started to think about it a bit more seriously, and started talking about it with people, and really got the sense that this was going to be something that would resonate with people right now, but also potentially going ahead - I don't want to say going forward,” she told Perlina Lau.

Her fascination with the world of work and the whole idea of time, goes back to her being a toddler in her grandparents’ garden, she says.

“I remember standing in my grandparents’ garden before I started school, looking at them, and they were in retirement. And I was thinking, wow, it must be really cool to be retired. And that was obviously before I'd even entered the education system, let alone had a career.”

The show explores the idea of rest as a form of resistance, she says.

“Because one of the one of the ideas is that you shouldn't only rest in order to restore yourself, in order to work again, there might be something actually intrinsically good and human about resting.

“And quietly quitting, is one expression of that.”

H.R. The Musical is on in Tāmaki Makaurau from 1-3 February.