The Intervention and Good, Die Young – Sydney Fringe Festival 2018
The Intervention and Good, Die Young
The Sydney Fringe Festival
25 Sep 2018 to 29 Sep 2018The Living Room, 104 Erskineville Rd Erskineville
A presumption existed through Western thought that the human mind or consciousness is autonomous and authentic faculty with which one can interpret the world as it is. This presumption has been passed down by writers such as Shakespeare, Cervantes, Bacon and Descartes and on through Kant, Hegel and Sartre. It took Freud, Marx and Nietzsche to question the legitimacy of human consciousness as an independent human faculty to perceive and decipher the truth. For Marx, it was literately your financial position in society that dictated your consciousness. For Freud it was the deterministic impost of socialisation. For Nietzsche it was language and the broadness and limits of the words you speak (sentences you create) that enabled your ability to notice and reflect on that which is going on around you.
Assuming this inherent lack in our ability to observe that which is going on before our eyes might be so, what do we make then of Valentin Lang’s observational play about millennial’s living a chic inner west lifestyle who combine recreational drug use with a penchant for judging each other on their recreational drug use? Under the guise of friendship and looking out for each other, these four young people observe, categorise, analyse and measure the behaviors of each other, unsurprisingly finding their dear reflected friends usually fall short of their arbitrary standards. Self-absorption is the filter through which they observe each other, and a desire to mask their own problems becomes the impetus for focusing on another’s. While this isn’t particularly new (young people have been like this with each other since there were young people) Valentin Lang does strike chord when he reveals to the audience that the filter through which others are watched is more than mere selfishness. It equally harbor’s a desire to connect that this age group is starting to suspect may not be possible.
What we used to call alienation when we were in love with Samuel Beckett may be our adjustment to the idea that consciousness of a subject (or friend) is only a representation of the real object. What we know is not The Truth but only how it is represented to us by language. When the four friends of Valentin Lang’s world try to connect, what is immediately apparent is that ‘intervention’ means something different for each of them. This creates an unbridgeable gap, that for all four friends feel tragic (and indeed becomes so). Subject and object are completely different spheres, and therefore truth and authority itself come under question. For Nietzsche, truth is “the mobile army of metaphors, metonymies and anthropomorphisms.” For Valentin Lang’s cast, truth is an ephemeral whirlpool of action clashing with perspective. Everyone has a position and everyone is right in their own way.
The Intervention is a nice little hour-long production in which director Lloyd Alison-Young draws strong performances from his cast of four. Jess-Belle Keogh and Valentin Lang are engaging and witty as flat mates, who set the tone for self-consciousness. Elle Harris is strong as the ‘Other’ who suddenly appears to force the necessary disruption that will cause events, and Luke Mcmahon is particularly engaging as the (un)happy drinker at the center of all the fuss. Australian drinking (and drug taking) culture is brought under the spot light, and Valentin Lang successfully creates some cringe-worthy moments of fear and neglect as the troop partake while we watch. This is all quite ‘ballsy’ at times, and includes some intense on set imbibing by the performers which they handle flawlessly. The intervention reveals a thoughtful contemplative side to Valentin Lane’s writing along side his go to observational wit that is always fun to watch.
Good, Die Young
Kierkegaard (from Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing): “Immortality cannot be a final alteration that crept in, so to speak, at the moment of death as the final stage. On the contrary, it is a changelessness that is not altered by the passage of the years…Only the Eternal is constructive.”
There was a time when Kierkegaard was thought of as quaint for his philosophical interest in immortality, but now it is the skeptics that are found wanting. However, in his play Good, Die Young, James Sweeny uses the idea of immortality without the need for belief nor all the questions surrounding belief. Combining the ideas of plastic surgery and molecular biology, James Sweeny uses very modern ideas to toy with the concept of being immortal – a very believable concept in our day. Belief becomes subsumed and no longer relevant to the conversation. Belief and all the questions surrounding belief (questions of proof, evidence, inferential justification etc) are distractions from the real significance of the thought of immortality. As is brought out in the play, the thought of immortality has in itself so much power, so much responsibility even in just posing it, that it has the potential to transform all of life; and that includes fear. From there, as we see in James character Alex, the desire to shift the discussion of immortality to spiritual or epistolary dimensions s in response to a symptom of the deep unease with the idea of immortality. For James Sweeny, the question is so disturbing that his character Jane will choose no to it.
This in itself is very interesting and says a lot about the way we are tied to a certain approach to immortality. By thinking of immortality in terms of justificatory arguments that can be articulated we can keep the thought of immortality at bay. Even Alex, who has embraced the theory of immortality still questions it and keeps the truth of his immortality at a psychologically safe distance. The question of metamorphosis is left off to the side. He witnesses Jane’s transformation through time, but ignores the lack of his own. For Alex the thought of immortality fundamentally comprises of what it might take to persist as the person he is beyond the horizon of death, and what changes does death necessarily impose upon us that he is missing out on. In this way, the true value of immortality is not presented so much as what happens to you in the future as what is essential to the individual I am today.
For Simone de Beauvoir it is not boredom that threatens the existence of the immortal but indifference, and it is this that James Sweeny hints at. Certain events such as love, intrigues, political questions and the changing face of nature would keep boredom at bay, however indifference is a genuine threat, in that decisions lose their gravity due to the endless number of them. This does not threaten enjoyment, but rather the significance of the event I am enjoying. By the mere fact that I can no longer risk my life for something, I would immediately become indifferent to many things that were previously of paramount importance. For James Sweeny, it is this that threatens Alex as he watches Jane hurtling toward the end of her life.
Good, Die Young is an interesting modern take on an old but important subject. James Sweeny proves himself a competent writer, engaged with large ideas that he is able to properly distill into a recognizable concept; something that is often lacking in sci-fi style literature. Direction by Damien Strouthos is very strong and results in fine performances that give a powerful connection to the very interesting subject matter. Th play succeeds in capturing our attention and drives our interest into new territory for this style of examination of timelessness and what it means to be human.
Both the plays for French Santa at the Sydney Fringe Festival are inventive and interesting. So many wonderful shows at the Fringe, but you won’t go wrong adding these two to your schedule.