Hijacked Rabbit – Theatre as revolution. (Theatre review)
31 October to 11 November, Blood Moon Theatre, Jack Rabbit Theatre company.
We should be careful when we think of theatre as receiving good press, because the theatre has always been violently attacked. We look back at “Shakespeare’s time” with a sort of reverence for some lost claim to authenticity (particularly that fascinating “authenticity” the working class claim over us middle class) but the truth is the theatre has always been regarded with suspicion, slapped with interdiction by the Church and attacked by great philosophers like Nietzsche and Plato. It has always been considered by diverse authorities to be susceptible to subversive or critical activity. Many great revolutionary undertakings create theatres in their midst. Like poetry, it is an artform as dedicated to political struggle as it is to the enormity of human feeling. Surely part of its resistance to colonization is the nature of its ephemeral yet potent reach. We are deeply touched by theatre, and yet in a puff of smoke, its gone. Within the walls of theatre, it is Hegel who exhorts us to the importance of comedy as a device. Comedy occupies a central position in Hegel’s Aesthetics; it can even be stated comedy has the last word. Comedy for Hegel is linked closely with subjectivity and directly confronts the idea of moral custom. That is, the un-reflected obedience that law and moral custom present as ultimate and decisive without needing another authority is best subverted in the comic realm, dissolving the supposed objectivity and stability of tradition and state. In order to question and upset the world, one of the best things you can do is write, produce, direct and or perform in a comic play that questions societies norms.
Enter Jack Rabbit theatre company and their current production Hijacked Rabbit. Here we have four wonderful young vibrant Australian writers, presented on a most beloved smaller stage (you must go to the Blood Moon theatre if you haven’t yet – it’s a haven for talented non-mainstagers who have something magnificent to say) presenting theatre that matters to them and should to us. The comedy flows free. (It’s always amazing to see how very talented witty young people have no problem coming up with excellent jokes in the age of political correctness. It seems not everyone needs to ridicule or humiliate others to feel freely expressed) It’s edgy, cheeky and fun but also ever so slightly dangerous.
On the night I attended, I saw two plays.
Hit, written and directed by Lincoln Vickery and performed by Seamus Quinn, Adam Sollis, Emma O’Sullivan and Elle Harris is a witty take on a Tarantino meets Scorsese type gangster play with a sexy twist – gay lovers, female gangster. It works very well, successfully interrupting and playing with the adrenaline hype and faux masculinity these films and plays can suffer from. Within Hit, Lincoln Vickery elaborates the central role of contradictions and the need for comic resolution. The audience are left with a valuation of error as a formulation on truth. This work takes the hero’s (David) predicament seriously, accepts it, and follows it to the point where it reveals its own absurdity and therefore destroys itself. Therefore, Lincoln Vickery enacts a kind of comic negation in that it is the negative in and for itself that becomes self-cancelling. For Hegel, Vickery’s choice to use a traditionally masculinized world, playing with the tropes of the virile male (here his gangsters are women or homosexual men and his rational protagonist is a justifiably hysterical gay man) allows for this world to be commonly negated or canceled in this comedy that is the false elevation of subjectivity or particularity. The result is a very funny play that Is equally food for thought, as we find ourselves responding to stereotypes of the genre, while questioning them.
Gate 64 was very different in nature, but no less a marvelous comic trip. Jane Watt is Winnie, a woman who lives on the edge of civilized society. She uses airports as a reality television and the folk around her as evidence of an alternative take on reality. The character Winnie and the characters she observes around her are entirely without substance – neither they nor their aims – and therefore they cannot succeed. Winnies goals and aims in her life are defined by an absurd abstract observation of society. We don’t want her to succeed as a “normal” person might, because that would imply she is lost or a failure. Instead we want her to define her life and her successes by her standards and in that we recognize our own. Winnie takes her observations of human life as the ultimate reality. Winnie might fail to reach her goals; she may occur as a failure to the rest of us. But inherent in her desires is the negation of our own life that is legitimized in this production. There is more of the comic in a situation where petty and futile aims are encountered with a show of great seriousness and dedication to preparation, but where the desire for something inherently trivial fails, nothing is lost. We see this in the way that Winnie will cheerfully encounter each of her situations, despite essentially being a “bag lady.” Winnie goes about her life using the structural and causal language of the way we describe our life, but her absurdity highlights our own, through Jane Watt’s ability to make us laugh.
Highjacked Rabbit comprises of four shows, spread over two nights. The first is the aforementioned Hit and Gate 64 and the subsequent night is Orange is the New Crack and It’s Mars Time. I was only fortunate enough to attend the first two shows, but there is no reason to skip the second and enjoy back to back nights of wonderful theatre in The World Bar. Theatre like this reminds you why thoughtful presentation is still considered so dangerous. These plays are fun, rough and very funny, but beneath each runs the existential threat that anything can happen, if only we choose to let it.