Yen – Anna Jordan and feminine salvation. (Theatre Review)
Kings Cross Theatre with New Ghosts Theatre Company
27 September to 13 October. You can grab your tickets here.
In Yen, writer Anna Jordan evokes a feminine savior for two lost boys. This saviour is the same age as her charges, but advanced in maturity. Jenny (Meg Clarke) has suffered like Bobbi (Jeremy Campese) and Hench (Ryan Hodson) with an absent father, a dysfunctional mother and caring but distant relatives. Their paths have led them to the same housing estate, but the pathos and neglect surrounding the boys includes a malnutrition and recklessness Jenny does not suffer under. Unlike the boys, Jenny evokes a savior mentality in order to save herself, while the boys allow their situation to deteriorate, and indeed force it upon their dog in an effort to normalize. Jenny becomes the boy’s savior, the divine feminine, a mother Mary archetype similar to Joan of Arc. As is always the case in white mythology, every Christ must be crucified and so it is with Jenny, but even this will leave the boys bereft and Jenny with a sense she will somehow survive.
In this way Anna Jordan calls forth questions in the audience around the appropriateness of savior mentality. Just as the uniqueness and supereminence of Jesus will become meaningless when liberated women reject the God who became incarnated as a unique male, so we see the role of savior reduced to the reaction of the saved in Yen. All of Jenny’s goodness cannot be justified and balanced against the behaviors of the boys. Their inability to adapt and self-protect (quite unusual in English literature that has given us Dickensian street urchins and Harry Potter) in the face of their ineffective mother and autotomising grandmother leaves them ripe for a ‘Christian Savior’ – more than ripe; they will not act until they receive one. Their inability to rise up, even in the face of this savior, is a mirror of their behavior prior to her arrival and their tragedy. Is this not the perfect metaphor for the lost white lower classes, those angry white men displaced by self-reliant immigrants and autotomised women? These young men are not angry that women are refusing to mindlessly tend them and minorities are doing jobs they reject; they are angry at the revelation that they need those things and always have. The salvation of Bobbi and Hench relies solely on the behaviors of others. They have no agency.
It was Margaret Thatcher who said “There is no such thing as a society.” This statement was intended to absolve the government of repercussions and place the demand for citizen care on the family and neighbors. It was stated in a women’s magazine to women readers. It was a piece of information delivered on the lips of a Capitalist that the government would no longer perform the role of care of its citizenry, but leave it entirely to women. If women wanted to autonomise – they would be neglecting their own. Back in the world of Jenny, Bobbie and Hench, Anna Jordan has us see that none of the characters have any choice. Jenny’s autonomy, her escape, is dependent upon her savior behavior, for she has no permission to act unless she has fulfilled her duties. Bobbie and Hench need the salvation commissioned to women, but to accept it compromises their access to masculinity. The unwritten white rules of this society that will take no responsibility for its process because it does’t exist prevents anyone in Yen finding a path out of the tragedy they feel.
This production of Yen currently on at the Kings Cross Theatre is superbly wrought by director Lucy Clements and a credit to New Ghosts Theatre Company. On top of a powerhouse performance by the dynamic Jeremi Campese as Bobbie, the production flows through its events with vigorous pace. Equally significant are the performances of Meg Clarke and Ryan Hodson as the fated lovers who find some similarities in their mutual tragedies. Rounding out the superb casting is Hayley Pearl who manages to evoke potent sympathy from an unpleasant character who deserves to be seen in her own humanity. Louise Mason’s lighting provides a sublimated strength to the highly charged emotionality of the text, while Lucy Clements fuses all the elements into a tight and immersive show. Yen is a wonderful contribution to the 2018 theatre calendar in Sydney and an important commentary on what it is to be white and growing up in 2018.
 It is worth noting ‘God’ has only one characteristic that is exclusive to one sex, and that is a womb. Yet God is always evoked as male.
 “They are casting their problems at society. And, you know, there’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbours.” – in an interview in Women’s Own in 1987