Are You Listening Now? – Xavier Coy and the growing wealth divide. (Theatre Review)

Are You Listening Now?

Fresh Works at 505 and Fixed Foot Productions

29 Janary – 2 Feruary 2019

You can grab your tickets here. 

For those of us on the left, a desire to cause social transformation usually leads us directly to the naming of an ideological enemy. Today this is easy – the enemies name is Donald Trump. A few years ago it was harder, but we knew wherever this enemy was they were rich. Rich is defined by an accumulation of goods and a lifestyle that requires an income that is (must be) derived from exploitation in some form. Too often, while seeking an ideological enemy, we come up against rich white people with their own problems, struggling to make good, and living under their own despair and strain. Where do we go when confronted with this? We tell ourselves the accumulation of wealth is luck (and not deserved) yet we see do not include this phenomenon in our condemnations. Luck is arbitrary. Random. If you were lucky enough to have enough money to keep you safe all your life, would you prefer to give it away and embrace risk? Writer Xavier Coy sees and intuitively understands this dilemma. When he places Mez (Fiona Mahl) and Charles (Martin Bell) in a room together, surely the horror for each is the humanity of their enemy?

Xavier Coy is equally right to place technology and substance abuse at the center of a loss of humanity. Control by Big Pharma, digital media and our precious tech machines via our psyche’s create a connection that provides these forces with extraordinary power. These forces intuit our needs as we think and act freely. Following our intuitive needs and desires places us at the mercy of technology, medications (or other substance) and the machines that record all our actions and “serve” our needs as soon as we have them. There is no need for a Hitler or even a Donald Trump. We give it away easier than we fight to keep it all.  Fredric Jameson made note of the fact that today it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism. It is possible for us to believe now that Capitalism will survive the end of humanity. While so many of our emotions, feelings and physical responses are controlled by drugs, how do we even know how to see with our minds to define the new enemy, let alone come up with a way to defeat them?

For Xavier Coy it is the mind-numbing repetition of the pokie machine that evokes the wrath of Mez, but this machine can easily be a stand in for any intuitive machine that we use recreationally. If the feelings of injustice (disgust loathing, fear, horror) are outsourced to medication or recreational drug use, from where comes the rage thtat inspires action? The only place Westerners feel this rage today is when we point the finger at each other.

And here is Xavier Coy’s most beautiful observation. Death will come early to the undeserving because chaos will see to it. When we feel so powerless, so in need of a masterful enemy, we will find a new master – and it is one we do not recognize. Economic market are not determined by the will of the people, they are explained to a doped up phone-obsessed people via ‘knowledge.’ Markets behave that way, we are told. There is no choice, only explanation. Xavier Coy makes a tragic meal of his Robin Hoods. They are not outcasts, they are humanity itself, not margin dwellers, but all of us arguing over semantics while the world (literally) burns. Mez and Gaz (Xavier Coy) are not wrong, they are too late, and too weak.

Are You Listening Now is a complex message wrapped in deceptively simple theatre. It’s a modern take on an old narrative, but it has a subtle inner core that makes for an intelligent, sophisticated play. Ed Wightman directs the writer and the rest of the cast with a deft yet light touch and with Scott Witt’s movement notes and advice, makes the visceral beautiful. Are You Listening Now enjoys at its core a strong group of young people keen to make a strong impression. Ele Vanderdeyl ‘s set design is a standout, particularly as interior design is central to the play’s themes. Kianah Marlena makes her subtle slighting technique thematically potent and in tune with the overall themes of the play. Martin Gallagher’s sound is gently affective.

Ed Whightman pulls great performances from his cast. Fiona Mahl is particularly strong as the highly intelligent Mez. Writer Xavier Coy is charming, funny and hopelessly tragic as Gaz. Emily Stewart exhibits a forceful grasp of character evolution as the transformative Claudia. The cast is complete with a strong performance from Martin Bell as Charles. All four characters properly exhibit metamorphosis essential to the developmental plotting of the play.

Are You Listening Now is a stellar piece of writing from Xavier Coy. Fixed Foot have done a good job with the Fresh Works effort which is properly nurturing this young writer and stellar bunch of creatives.