Sex and Death: Something in the Basement and It’s Time – Everything emerges.

Sex and Death: Something in the Basement and It’s Time

DKL Productions

Blood Moon theatre 10 – 28 April

You can grab your tickets here. 

Still too close to Nietzsche’s declaration of the death of god, that which surrounds us is laced with the sacredness and sacrament of the traces of religion. Specifically in DKL Productions wonderful double hander, Something in the Basement and It’s Time. Here we see two plays, focused on a female protagonist, to which religion intrudes as an uncanny intervention: first in a man’s incredulity at the female psyche and budding sexuality and secondly more directly as a moral code gone awry. In each of these plays, religion is a great monstrosity of the supernatural appearing in natural terms. It is represented first as a Freudian sublimation and secondly as a rigid opposition to empowered female existence. For Gareth Cruikshank (who directs both plays and wrote the second) it makes sense to connect religion and art for political reasons, but is it not equally true that what we today consider art was historically first part of a religious or sacred experience? Equally, as we see art, or certain political entities who equate themselves with art (those concerned with women’s studies or queer theory) isn’t the emergence of the artistic subject into its independence part of an experience of the sacred (as in a process which reaches its peak only in modernity) correlated to philosophy and later science as an autonomous mode of thinking no longer rooted in religion?

According to Hegel, with the rise of modernity, ‘the form of art has ceased to be the supreme need of the spirit’: even if excellent works of art are produced, ‘we bow the knee no longer.’ This idea is further sanctified in the capitalist realm with capitalisms insistence upon the elevation of scientific reason into the highest form of understanding. Now with the emergence of cognitivism and the brain sciences the human mind itself has become the subject of neurobiology and although the representatives of the experimental sciences as a rule dismiss Hegels theories in this area, they cling to his ideas of artistic-obscurantist and cherry pick his notions that art is no longer the supreme question of spirit. It is in this realm we are free to express the feminine artistically, often under the obscuring reason that no ‘Shakespeare’ or ‘Chekov’ exist today. For Gareth Cruikshank, his placing Something in the Basement before It’s Time reveal a desire for art to speak the passions of woman ahead of her torments. Today, we allow her to speak because we smiled condescendingly and rearrange criteria in the name of reason: what matters is science, not art.

But Gareth Cruikshank is not condescending toward his two female protagonists (both beautifully performed by Annette van Roden). Rather, he situates two together-but-separate plays in which the ghost of patriarchy that haunts the woman speaks from beyond the “grave.” Gareth Cruikshank is (of course) the man who connects them, and in this way plays God to Mary and Mrs O’Brien, but he is a God of creation, of delivery, of birth. It is the unknown sexual force in Mary’s basement and the dead abuser of Mrs O’Briens history that evoke a sinister force in each woman. Like Hamlet congratulating his father from speaking from the grave – (the basement or under the stage as Shakespeare preferred) “Well said, old Mole! Canst work I’ the ground so fast?” (Hamlet, act 1, scene 5) – patriarchy wields a dangerous and monstrous control from invisible depths. This patriarchal spirit stirs inside Mary (and inside Phillip it can be argued) but even more so through the vehicle of Catholicism via Mrs O’Brien’s husband, until it bursts asunder the crust of the earth which divided it from the sun, so that the earth crumbles away. It’s Time works in this way as an explanation for the emotional control of something in the basement. The mole (metaphorically “Hamlets father” controlling his wife and son from the grave) of It’s Time becomes a giant watery squid, a Kracken, a sexual/emotional force in Something in the Basement. Water (emotion and depths) becomes the corroding element to the stability of mother earth. Mrs O’Brien keeps her dead son alive, because salvation comes from the resurrection of Christ, even in the face of the cruelty of a jealous God.

The brilliance of Gareth Cruikshanks work here is in the connection between all this and the plight of the left leaning activist in 2018. Whitlam, both our God and the mole in the grave, heralded a time of great hope for change, but equally the plight of those on the margins was dire. Yet, Something In The Basement reveals the nature of the beast under us has changed, but it still lurks, hidden though controlling. The problems of woman and the problems of all those who do not identify with straight white male culture transform yet erode anything solid, like water, representing a change in the element in which an entity dwells. Today, everything moves.

Something in the Basement and It’s Time are the kinds of small scale gems the Blood Moon Theatre is becoming known for. Light on resources, yet heavy on intellect, Blood Moon theatre  manages to retain it’s rogue outlier status, despite high quality productions. Plays like the two that DKL Productions are currently showing reveal this to be the case. Performances are solid and engaging, particularly those of Annette van Roden who is a joy to watch in her duel manifestations, but everyone does well under Gareth Cruikshank’s direction here. A shout out to whoever did the costuming – it’s stellar while obviously on a budget. This two hander by DKL Productions currently showing at The Blood Moon Theatre is a great night out and well worth a trek to World Bar. Take your fiends, and grab a bite to eat first. You’ll want to have a good chat about these plays after.