In Bad Guy, New Zealand’s star of the West End and Broadway, Hayden Tee (Ngāti Kahungunu) unites the music from stage musicals Les Mis, Matilda, The Little Mermaid and 1776 with contemporary, alternative and pop anthems by Crowded House, Radiohead and Billie Eilish. Don’t let his show stopping renditions of villainous tunes such as Javert’s ‘Stars’ and Miss Trunchbull’s ‘Scent of Rebellion’ confuse you though: Bad Guy is a hero’s journey, a post-colonial tale of redemption, where shame is buried and virtue is reclaimed.
Early in Hayden Tee’s Australian and New Zealand premiere performance, he confides that the villain in his life is his inner critic. He leaves this bread crumb in the woods, then wanders away from his private life for a time towards a discussion his public career as an antagonist. Tee examines the cultural origins of good and evil in storytelling and how, as a nice guy, he manages to find the motivations of the hard-to-love characters that he has played. He displayed his dramatic range, transforming from the cartoonish devilishness of Ursula from The Little Mermaid on ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’ to historical realism as the pro-slavery politician, Rutledge, from 1776 on ‘Molasses To Rum’.
Tee connected these disparate threads into an emotionally rewarding and cathartic finale which examined the colonial indoctrination of Indigenous peoples, cultural relativism, sexual politics and post-modern moral relativism, before concluding that his negative perceptions of himself were culturally imposed. As an intersectional artist a Maori member of the LGBTIQ+ community, a minority within a minority, Tee’s resonant baritone is doubly powerful. This is a work that could send audiences home questioning the origins of their own inner critics and whether it is time to break their shackles, or, for younger audience members, prevent the shackles from being imposed in the first place.