The Flick – The engulfing fear of a self-aware utopia. (Theatre Review)
Outhouse Theatre Company and the Seymour Centre
4 – 21 April. You can grab your tickets here.
Images: Marnya Rothe
Of all the existential possibilities available, the idea of death holds a special place. We no longer think of the human being as having an immortal soul (at least the modern existentialist doesn’t) and therefore unsurpassable finitude has become the hallmark of the human condition. Today, post-metaphysical philosophy likes to look at the ramifications of finitude, not only fir its various metaphors for death, but also for the potent vulnerability of the human body and the material conditions for its survival. These issues are entwined with the ethical and political implications of a finite human doctrine. There is an existential utopia that grapples with the constitutive finitude of its subjects, as much as with the limits of its own political project. It was Heidegger who suggested in the 1920’s that the human condition was attached to Being which is finite time. It is Annie Barker who properly and delightfully presents our three protagonists (Rose, Sam and Avery) as modern day Godot waiters, racing through time toward their death, yet also energetically doing nothing with the time they have.
The possibility of death ruptures Being in that death is something distinctively impending. If the will ‘To Be’ gets taken over by death, then each human should undergo a loss of meaning ensuing from the collapse of an old world and thus become existentially prepared for an existential utopia. In everyday life, however, and particularly as we see in the lives of the three protagonists in The Flick, ‘To Live’ evades the unsettling futurity of its death and, instead, submerged in the world of mundane concerns, anesthetizes itself to the thought of finitude and as a result evades the idea and responsibility of the short-lived utopia. Driven by a fear that their individuality might be lost in an acceptance of their inescapable death, Sam, Avery and Rose shore up the old, reassuring webs of signification (of the mundane) but in doing so they undergo a deeper loss (just like Vladimir and Estragon) for which ‘To Be’ is the individuating factor.
This fear of a self-aware utopia is attributable (according to Annie Barkers beautiful words in The Flick) to the looming fear of depersonalization, exemplified in Avery’s fear of a loss of moral righteousness (as defined by him) in the human condition. For Avery (beautifully performed here by Justin Amankwah) the loss of righteousness in humans is posited against a loss so complete that his surviving consciousness seems to be outside of himself. He is a new born in the worst sense, in which he has lost even that private unhappiness, that boredom and existential misery that constituted his identity in the first place. It is (ultimately) Sam’s (an exceptional Jeremy Waters) mundanity that will be his salvation, but only when he distances himself. This act ensures the maintenance of the status quo and finally precludes any possibility of any freedom or utopia. Those who have nothing to lose but their chains are conditioned by ideology to be affectively invested in the source of their unfreedom. It is from this, they derive their identity as they wait for a new Godot that will eventually arrive.
Still, it is in love, and the sacrifice of self for the Other that finally places Sam in touch with his own very slight utopia. It is through an ethical bond that Rose (a divine Mia Lethbridge) and Sam share that excludes Avery and creates a humanness of dying for the other that ends up being the very meaning of love in its responsibility for one’s own fellowman. In this very existential way that the call to holiness precedes the concern for existing, for being there and being in the world. It liberates Sam (and then Rose) from material concerns and vested interests. Above all else, existential utopia connected to the ever-present death of the human condition responds to a victimized Other (just as Rose responds to Sam) taking into account this shared finitude of the human condition. Sam’s beauty lies not in his authenticity but in his ability to avow a historicity and transience, establishing itself on the same fragile finitude as human beings. This utopia grounded in our ephemeral existence, exposed every moment to the possibility of death, is precariousness. Finite existential utopia as Annie Barker would have us see (and as opposed to the absurdity and meaninglessness of Waiting for Godot) is entwined with an ethics that Levinas would call ‘prior to that place in the sun that Pascal feared was the prototype of and beginning of the usurpation of the whole world.’ As old as time itself and before even the idea of our impending death.
The Flick has multifarious relational meanings, but this reviewer was struck by the strongly existential elements called froth by the excellent direction of Craig Baldwin. On Hugh O’Connor’s spectacular set, this modern day accessible existentialist (non) drama seeps slowly but carefully beneath the surface of the most carefully protected heart. Craig Baldwin takes full advantage of Annie Barkers beautiful characterization and language to sink carefully into the slow pace and thereby relaxes the audience into the long ride to nothingness that is the human condition. With outstanding performances and superb sound composition by Nate Edmonson, The Flick connects itself strongly to a world that is both passing and not moving fast enough. Outhouse Theater Co can always be relied upon for beautiful, thought provoking theatre, but they have surely outdone themselves with The Flick.