She Rode Horses Like the Stock Exchange – How and who to be after The Event. (Theatre Review)
She Rode Horses like the Stock Exchange
Rocket Productions in association with bAKEHOUSE Theatre Company
Kings Cross Theatre, 20 October – 11 November.
Images: Clare Hawley, Asparay Photography
Occupy Wall Street can be seen as an event that is yet to reveal its profoundity on history. It did not attempt to define financial inequality, but rather declared it against the corporate stranglehold on economics and politics. The true political event does not concern itself with ambiguous realms within political discourse. Yet Amelia Roper does just that when she writes about bankers on the edge of the GFC in She Rode Horses Like the Stock Exchange. This is the world of the gradations of economic liberalism – conservatives, neo-conservatives, liberal-liberalism etc – the hair splitting of The Real where sexism, racism and heteronormativity are seen as side issues, yet fed to flourishing as if the very economy depended upon it. Even face to face with economic collapse, Max (Dorje Swallow) and Henry (Tom Anson Mesker) preoccupy themselves with a definition of Amy (Matilda Ridgway) and try to understand her terms of the feminine ideal. It is the observance of these occurrences that allow for An Event, which is really nothing more than a large-scale decision to see something that was previously kept hidden. The economic system relies heavily on the maintenance of certain stereotypes. In many ways, the best way to ensure nothing changes is to uphold the status quo and reinforce the norm. Max might be happy to sacrifice his life and his wealth for an “Amy” who acts like a man and has outplayed him with men’s games, but he is far less willing to concede to a woman who interrupted a sexist failing regime in order to establish something altogether different. Seen in this light, his preoccupation with a definition of Amy as outplaying him by using “male games” is essential to his ability to carry on.
Is not the bind for Amerlia Roper’s protagonists is the same for us? The decision to see a thing that has been strategically ignored or buried for the establishment of the status quo, comes down to the way we choose to respond to The Event. We can spend our time in the distracting business of life, keep our ideals and opinions, but not use them to cause change, and effectively “be.” It is the way our body enters into a subjective formalism with regard to the production of a present that is key. When an Event takes place, such as the GFC, it is up to us to decide in which way we will be touched and transformed, for there is no chance that we will not. You are either reactionary to the Event (you will say that it will not have the impact we hope in order to maintain the status quo) Obscuring the Event (turn it into an issue about some enormous totalized body such as God, or the nation) or faithful to the Event. We are always one of these things, but we can float in and out of them regularly, just as Amelia Ropers protagonists do throughout their chance encounter on the blanket in the park. Each is in transition, each is living out an exposure to the broader Event. What is happening affects each as they gather in the transitional space of the park. To remain faithful to the event is to take a chance, to break wholly from one’s world, one’s existing reality. We must be willing to abandon our situations and worlds as the are in order to be faithful to the new Event of love, politics, art or science. Without this, we are a floating ideal, occupying other shades of response, in a park, on a blanket upholding some version of the status quo criticized by The Event.
This is the way (according to philosophers like Alain Badiou) that truth emerges. It emerges only though the appearing of The Event. And this truth does not emerge immediately from The Event, as The Event only opens up the possibility of truth. We cannot constitute a truth only see it through The Event and then respond to it. For this reason truth can be re-actualised ad infinitum. We watch these four people on the blanket in the park, each face to face with a life changing event. What we see before us is, primarily their struggle (and a very funny one it is too) to try with all their might to unsee, or not see what is before them, and to embrace it as some sort of status quo. To not be affected by that which is literally touching them – or in this case their homes, their shelter – at one of the most crucial points in the hierarchy of human need. The house. What was so shocking about The Event of the GFC was the loss of people’s homes. There is only one thing worse than losing a place to live and sleep and that is losing food to eat. Without these things we die. And the GFC stole people’s homes. Amelia Roper is right to have us see that the loss of this very base need is crucial to understanding the depth of this crises. A depth that asks us to respond.
Of course, this is not all that is available in She Rode Horses Like the Stock Exchange, but it is one of the many joys to be had. This is a funny, witty exploration of the human condition when confronted with a genuine life transforming event. It examines that which we will resort to in order to avoid seeing and that which comes and finds us in the dark. Director Nell Ranney has put a marvelous spin on the production, giving it extra depth by including the Americana feel of the characters and their environment. She calls forth marvelous performances, particularly from the women, Nikki Britton and Matilda Rigway, taking full advantage of the struggles women have today in our attempt to understand one another. Surely the idea of one woman taking another woman’s home is a drastically underexplored topic that resonates into all our previous definitions of wife and mother. I got chills when watching it played out in front of me in this play. Amelia Roper is a clever writer, and she has been blessed and respected here with a great, attentive cast and an engaged aware director. She Rode Horses Like the Stock Exchange is a great reason to turn your television off and venture out into the night in search of theatre. You will not be sorry.