Before Lysistrata – Power to the People (theatre Review)
Currently showing KXT from 10 July to 22 July
Ironically, it was the success of Donald Trump that brought to light a previously hidden kind of absurdity to the discourse of consensus. Before his election win, enlightened reason existed as the great arbiter, the great offender as Stendhal suggested. Post-election authority in language is a thing of the past. Its a hodge-podge of heated emotional, a jumble of experiential preferences shrouded in the elegance of poetry and philosophy or the raw cutting slice of a tweet. It no longer matters what you think, for all can be persuasively argued away, or buried under a barrage of words carrying the bone breaking capacity of sticks and stones. Personally, I had the unpleasant experience of seeing my philosophical and scientific heroes brought to their knees, and they have not recovered. When Nietzsche says a philosopher writes as a tree bears fruit, he looks like a fool. (On the genealogy of morals) When Sartre claims democracy is the only regime in which prose has meaning, he looks hopelessly naive. (What is Literature). Donald Trumps petulance doesn’t just make him look ridiculous; He an unveiled the ridiculousness of us all.
This is the legacy of the left, for the burden of prevention was at our feet, and we failed to heed the call. Some argue we needed this “dose of reality” to wake our slumber, but if that is the case, we need more still, for we aint woke yet. We know that PC is the liberation of language, rather than its constraint, but we continue our placating, secret, internal dialogue in gentle tones laced with anemic sympathies. I use guilt like a divining rod in search of the oppressed and busy-ness to pretend I’m active. The only indicator of success we listen to is our own exhaustion, refusing to pin ourselves down to tangible results. We measure our worth in self loathing as we watch the warm seas rise.
It is this horror that writer Ellana Costa saw with clear vision in 2016. She left a weak, empty march and stormed home to write a play. A play! How is this the best course of action in a democracy demolishing itself? How is Costa any different from the Athenians she so perversely and scathingly pulls apart? The answer is in Baudelaire’s claim that art must reveal modernity to itself. She speaks our language and speaks to we the Athenians, shining a light on the outrage of a moral conscience that does not act – or worse, wears itself out on meaningless acts. Sure the left use theatre to placate, but we also use it to speak. The aesthetic appropriation of theatre today is part of our attempt to tame it, wield it and above all else, stop seeing ourselves in it. It is this moment Ellana Costa, Saro Lusty-Cavallari, Imogen Gardam and the clever cast and creative of Before Lysistrata want us to see. The women, guided by Lysistrata’s leadership, took action. But who were they and what did they face before their great act? Most importantly, asks Ellana Costa, what drove them to act?
Of all those on the left, it can be argued that white women are the worst. We wield the greatest power of any woman, and we refuse to use it. We properly understand oppression, yet we refuse to fight it. We are the only demographic is the world able to straddle the position of the oppressor and the oppressed, yet we refuse to craft a new morality separate from a male god and a masculine state. We understand better than our men the horrors of war and the pleasures of community, and yet we are mute. NO leader, no strategy, no alternative. Mute.
Before Lysistrata seeks to address this minefield and draw attention to the pathetically small differences we cling to in our left v’s right mentality. Red wine against beer, boxing workout against massage, dress suit against pants suit – its all the same under Baudelaire’s scrutiny. And, as it turns out, Aristophanes. This is a gem of a production, pulsing with the spirit of sturm and drang, and yet moderated by the sensibilities of the enlightenment. (You can argue the nonsense of that sentence with me in a the foyer) Before Lysistrata is, therefore, its own joke, a parody of itself and the cult of writing it represents. No one loves to be preached at more than an earnest leftie, and yet no one is as deaf. It appropriates the “lores of old” that are presumed to uphold current ideals, and reveals them to be struggling with the same problems we face today. Ellana Costa performs as well as writes, bringing a wealth of power to her role as the obedient and yet brilliant lampito. With her, Michaela Savina is a measured and strong Lysistrata, the creative, the steel y matriarch of her nation. Between them is Alex Francis as their men, Pericles and Archidamus, her slight frame and femininity making the empty gestures of masculinity all the more pronounced. The subtlety and intelligence in Francis’ performance is one of the many joys of Before Lysistrata. As always, Montague Basement come up with the goods, always pushing the boundaries against the gentrification and beautification of theatre, and maintaining a strong voice for the theatre that is most good for us.
Before Lysistrata is another wonderful show in a stellar line up for Kings Cross Theatre who are establishing themselves as a theatre space to watch, that has not refused a bohemian street wise real. This is another fine show for this venue, which keeps coming up with excellent reasons to enjoy a night out in Sydney culture.