Violent Extremism and Other Adult Party Games – Lisa chats with Richie Black (Theatre Interview)

Violent Extremism and Other Party Games is on at The Depot Theatre from 15 – 25 November. You can grab your tickets here.

The Depot theatre have had a great 2017 and that run looks set to continue with their latest collaboration with Ain’t It Fun Theatre Productions, Violent Extremism and Other Adult Party Games. Political opinion is in no short supply in the Sydney theatre scene, and there have been some intense conversation starters bubbling up this year that look set to continue into 2018. This creative expression of purpose, opinion and politics is one of the many reasons to enjoy local theatre. The Depot Theatre have posted the following blurb on their website:

Robert Kelly seems to have it all. Stardom. A beautiful wife.  A big house. And an ability to look good in reaction shots. 
Still, he’s not happy. His conscience is kicking in through the coke haze and it’s telling him that he’s a shallower than a red-neck’s gene pool. But is entering politics the answer? Could he be a voice for the common Australian? And how many lies must he tell to serve the truth? 
Following one disastrous morning involving a twitter-famous teenage nazi sympathizer, an accidental death (or two) and a faked terrorist siege with a former shock jock, he’ll discover how far he must go to save the country and, more importantly, prove he’s not a complete jerk. 

I was lucky enough to catch up with Richie Black, the writer of Violent Extremism and Other Adult Party Games, and toss him a couple of tricky questions regarding the forthcoming production. Have a read through and make sure you grab your tickets early so as not to miss out on this exciting Australian work that is likely to inspire lots of marvellous conversation after.



LT: Do you think there is a class structure in Australia? Do you think class warfare exists in Australia? What can art do about these structures?

RB: I think the fair-go mentality has been compromised quite a lot by socio-economic division – and you only have to look to popular culture to see how we’ve developed very recognisable urban tribes. I figure it’s exacerbated by things like social media and god-awful transport planning, which tends to encourage us to stick to our cosy lil’ bubbles. Perhaps art can remind us of our shared humanity and the fact we actually exist on the same planet, one which we collectively happen to be screwing up.

LT: It’s been suggested that everything from the 1960’s forward has been a backlash against potent activism. This has resulted in a reduction of democratic action. You have your guilt-ridden character decide to enter politics. Did you write Robert Kelly to encourage more of us to become politically engaged? If not, why not?

RB: Yes, the central character is inspired to enter politics but it’s because of naive opportunism rather than an “activist” ideal. One of the play’s central ironies is how the struggle of our heroes is as much of an effort to convince themselves they aren’t monsters as other people. Robert Kelly represents a certain kind of successful 21st century politician in an embryonic state – blessed with just enough stupidity to be able to believe he’s right. People should be more politically engaged, to avoid vacuous gronks like him taking over their lives. 

LT: Do you see xenophobia as a way of discouraging solidarity that encourages group support for public funding of institutions like social security and public education? Or do you think it is mere a tool for distraction?

RB: I think it can be used as a tool for all sorts of political exploitation. People are nothing if not reliable. There always seems to be enough fear and loathing handy for the next election campaign. 

LT: How can comedy break down barriers in understanding? Do you think it needs to for us to solve the problems you are looking at in Violent Extremism and other Adult party Games?

RB: Comedy is often assumed to trivialise issues – but it can also emphasise the real importance of resisting complacency and corrupt authority. In this play, most of the characters are hypocrites and they demonstrate how blinkered ideology, on both sides of politics, can lead to extremism of all kinds.

LT:  Is your intention to highlight or provoke resolution to some of the issues you raise in Violent Extremism and other adult party Games? What can theatre do politically?

RB: Not much, realistically. But if it contributes a tiny amount to a spirit of resistance, then great. Otherwise, it can be relied on to provide some comfort to the disturbed. Then we all go to the pub.