Dirty People – Millenials on the verge of greatness. (Theatre review)
Doonbrae Productions and Jackrabbit Theatre
Photo credits: Tom Cramond
Like every generation before them, Millennial’s get a lot of bad press. Narcissistic, delusions of grandeur, more interested in becoming a personal assistant to a star than enter politics, they are the generation that receive on average eighty-eight texts a day. Seventy percent of them check their phones every hour and many experience phantom pocket-vibration syndrome, and the list of phone related psychological disorders goes on. Googling the list of defects of the Millennial will yield results going back to 2010; However, many of these behaviors, internet specific particularly, are endorsed by older generations through copy-cat behavior. Sure Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers don’t day-dream about becoming personal assistants to famous people, but we fell prey to trends of our own youth; Addiction to soap operas and couch potato behavior in the Boomers when they first got television; Refusing to embrace sunlight in the Gen-Xers when we thought divorced parents was the worst thing that could happen to a person. (And consider – much of Millennial behavior is a response to technology. Can you imagine what the Boomers would have done with phones and selfies? How many irritating Woodstock-mud shots would there be? Bad YouTube recordings of the latest folk genius from Greenwich and white arms around the shoulders of Miles Davis holding signs saying “He gave birth to the cool”) It’s not until a generation hits its forties that the contribution becomes evident. Gen-Xers were no hopers, miserable, too small to make a difference, and now they’re the generation that produced heavy metal, rap, grunge, wiki leaks, Bitcoin and Edward Snowden. Mellenial’s have more to offer the world than Facebook, and the proof will emerge in about ten years time.
Unless that is, you’re fortunate enough to see Dirty People, which has just completed its all-too-short run at the Depot Theatre. Here writer Charlie Falkner gives us an account of the Millennial condition that is soulful and self reflective, while youthfully vibrant, witty and capturing the language of this much maligned generation. Through Charlie Falkner self-entitlement and selfie-obsession are converted to self reflection and the examined life. Good deeds happen as much on the fly as bad deeds, and trusting your gut becomes a decision without justification. Dirty People acknowledges an important awareness; Only good or bad deeds exist, not good or bad people. Evil and goodness are reduced to rapid fire decisions while long-winded self-indulgent speeches about intentions to change ones life are dismissed with generous good humour. The way Charlie Falkner tells it, Millennials are a thrilling bunch wise-cracking information junkies, hacking each other’s computers, perfectly at ease with legal and illegal knowledge at their fingertips and prepared in a moment to act on that information.
However, Dirty People deals with two dark and difficult subjects peculiar to the Millennial’s – that of slut shaming and the entitlement to money at all costs. When James (Charlie Falkner) is being blackmailed by Lucy (Charlotte Devenport) it is pornographic images of Tina (Zoe Jensen), his sister that become the bait. This group of stereotypical Millennial’s will work out how they deal with the subject and transform their relationship to their own finances as they engage with the problem. Still, the problem is raised and solved in one evening, and includes a subversive political action as anti-democratic as Millennial’s recognise their governments are today. Millennial’s may not be overt activists, claims Charlie Falkner, but they’re solving political problems in secret in ways you can’t imagine. Voting is no longer restricted to the booths, in the world of the Millennial.
All this and more is available in Dirty People, making this reviewer sad that we don’t see more writing like this from this generation. Structurally, Dirty People is fun and thrilling, forging clever links between scenes that relate to a television addicted audience while retaining the thrill of the live experience. The narrative loses its way ever so slightly toward the end, but all is forgiven in the wake of such a witty and clever show. Director Michael Abercromby manoeuvres his cast with great strength, holding them tight within the bounds of the material, while letting them embody the stereotype they recognise as part of their generation with obvious freedom. Everyone in the cast is strong there are no weak links here, including production design by Emma Diaz and wonderful original music by Ben Tierney. Dirty People is a funky, fun energised show, tightly woven and filled with the thrilling promise of a budding new generation and their particular voice. Doonbrae Productions will have another run of this show soon if we’re lucky, and we definitely want to see more writing from Charlie Falkner.