There Will Be A Climax – Life’s meaningless given meaning. (Theatre Review)

There Will be a Climax

The Company with Red Line Productions

The Old Fitz Theatre from 3 Jan to 3 Feb. You can grab your tickets here.

Images: Robert Catto

A directive by Nietzsche taught us to re-examine cruelty. Almost everything about higher culture, he exhorts us, is somehow based in cruelty. “That which constitutes the painful voluptuousness of tragedy is cruelty; that which produces a pleasing effect in so-called tragic pity, indeed fundamentally in everything sublime up to the highest and most refined thrills of metaphysics, derives its sweetness solely from the ingredient of cruelty mixed in with it.” And with There Will Be A Climax, Alexander Berlage sinks us into this realm again. We the audience witness six characters, human while non-human, upon a revolving stage, grappling with life’s absurdities and mysteries. Desperately they seek response from the audience. In both the response and the non-response there is an inherent cruelty – we either feed them prawn chips as if they were caged, or we ignore them out of discomfort as they become more desperate for our engagement. Pleasure and peace are fundamentally absent but for their counter occurrence against confusion, regret and sadness. They are the Roman in the arena, the Christian on the cross, the Spaniard’s bullfights and the Parisian worker with a penchant for bloody revolution. It is not true that cruelty becomes pleasure in the sight of it inflicted upon others, for we must all lay claim to a secret desire to have it for ourselves. There is an irrefutably abundant joy in suffering, of making oneself suffer. Today, Capitalism (perfectly mirroring all religions) preaches that success belongs only to the hard worker, the self-denier, the de-sensualised, the de-carnalised, to those who embrace the puritanical spasms of guilt, contrition and repentance. What is porn other than the grinding promise of unfulfillment? What is fat free milk, decaf coffee, salt free butter, sugar free everything and detox other than self-denial? What is the cult of the gym other than an ancient Christian ritual of self-flagellation?

The thrill of self-harm, the endless grinding wheel of futile advance into sameness overwhelms in the joyful witness of There Will Be A Climax. The humans are ‘fed’ product. It lands as if from the sky. They wrestle for it and then worship the winner of each new gadget. Finally, each with their collection of things, sits and rotates (literally) staring into an abyss from a pivoting orb from which there is no escape. Even the obtaining of knowledge comes from self-denial and an indulgence in cruelty. A refusal of inclinations of the heart is necessary in the reaching for knowledge. Even in approaching something with a serious mind, a certain refusal of self is necessary, a violation, a desire to hurt the fundamental will of the spirit which ceaselessly strives for the superficial version of whatever it buttresses against. Self-denial is essential in our current age. What does the six pack signify other than a command of the self against its baser urges? A wielding of cruelty against the body, an obsessive control that refuses the notion of enough? Alex Berlarge reminds us, through his characters, that life is cruel because we want it that way, because we have willed it through each other and sanctified it through religion, knowledge, spiritualism and the law.

In revealing the absurdity of life on its perpetual rotation, Alex Berlarge suggests we want this cruelty ass an antidote to the justification of our existence. Behind every great human action is the unyielding refrain “in vain” as if everything includes a lack. Humans do not know how to justify or affirm themselves, and despite all the spiritualism of evolutions attempt to rescue us, we are stuck with a knowing that we do not and cannot know this. On our planet, our constant rotation we suffer from the problem of our meaning. In linking absurdity with our passion for socially acceptable self-harm and denial, Alex Berlarge suggests we love to suffer, that we have incorporated it into ourselves as a way of dealing with our endless nothingness. We love to suffer and all our politics, religions and laws give joyful account and justification to that suffering. In this we can continue on in our perpetual grind, knowing that all futility is included in our celebratory, meaningful suffering and the cruelty we inflict on ourselves a way of controlling the absurd, constant whirl.

There Will Be a Climax is a marvelous creation that bodes well for the trajectory of Red Line Productions 2018 program. Alexander Berlarge and The Company have put together a relatively simple and yet engaging production that teases the mind and excites possibility. Set and costumes by Nicholas Fry are a standout, making the stage at The Old Fitz a thrilling joy ride of wide eyed engagement. Katelyn Shaw’s sound is subtle but very effecting, evoking a potent twist of whimsy and an ever-present grinding real that can’t be stilled. The production is held together by Toby Derrick’s concise choreography. Movement on a moving stage engages so many options for this rather large cast of six, and the audience is not disappointed in the offered spectacle. The cast of Oliver Crump, Geneva Schofield, Toby Blome, Duncan Ragg, Contessa Treffone and Alex Stylianou have allowed Alex Berlarge to call forth their best, and their performances make the show.

There Will Be A Climax is a marvelous way to begin your 2018 theatre going experience. Make sure you get yourself a night there, and be quick because these shows usually sell out and this production is heading that way.