Seed Bomb – Daniela Giorgi and an alternative to Capitalism. (Theatre Review)
Subtlenuance for Fresh Works ar 505Theatre.
March 5 – 9 You can grab your tickets here.
It was Mark Fisher who noted “it is easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to Capitalism.” This has been the cry of leftist intellectuals for the last twenty years or so – that the left has become ineffective, focusing on the individual rather than the collective. The result is isolated acts of correction that have little collective impact – call outs on political correctness, recycling at home – except to quell alarm bells inside that would have us act. When Margaret Thatcher claimed there was “no such thing as society” she was able to dissemble all that socialism stands for. Individualism has taken such a strong hold that even Socialisms big Other (to use the Lacanian phrase) is represented by individuals such as Stalin, Mao and Marx. Socialism isn’t about the individual. It is about the collective. “A collective will” in Rousseau’s terms. A “collective unconscious,” that exists in an abstraction, not in the empirical substantiation of a collection of individuals. For Daniela Giorgi, the conversation and central meeting point for this abstraction is in beauty. When her characters Pax (Matthew Abotmey) and Gridlock (Kate Bookallil) come together to act, it is not the promotion of ideas that unite, but the propagation of beauty. Acts of service. Sure, her characters are fundamentally on the same team (left wing anarchists) but the senseless action of making beauty provides an unseen unification that allows for other important actions to take place.
For this theatre reviewer, it is enormously gratifying to see left wing theatre makers exploring solutions to Capitalism as opposed to ‘just’ complaining about it. Daniela Giorgi uses her character Kat (an always elegant and glamorous Sonja Kerr) as a link between existential anxiety and the yearn for country living those of us in the city often experience. Kat struggles to name and therefore claim her dissatisfaction. Her partner Toby (a marvelously befuddled Julian Ramundi) has even more trouble trying to resolve her anxieties. For Kat, joining with a rebellious Guerilla Gardener force gives her the impetus to question her life, question what drives her and ultimately, question her ideologies. Building beauty gives Kat the room she requires free of judgement and suspicion and above all, liberated from the concept of ‘the individual.’ This encompasses an understanding by Daniela Giorgi that since the banking crises, its clear that it is impossible for capitalism to carry on in the form that it has for the last thirty years. Everything is impossible, including the status-quo. It is not up to the individual to ‘do their bit’ it is in the formation of groups, called together to create something beautiful, that a side step, a new perspective is possible. This concept makes the country house conversation between Kat and Toby so essential. For Kat the house comes to symbolize something ridiculous. The smallest of actions designed to pacify a tremendous need that should connect her to something far larger than her singular concerns.
Typical of the Subtlenuance theatre company, Seed Bomb sits on a pared down set, privileging words and ideas over technical boast. The set is properly evocative, brought alive by subtle lighting effects designed by Artie Hotchkies and a bevy of night noise and bird song that brings the spirit of a beautiful nature into the room. Paul Gilchrist directs a strong cast who are comfortable in the 505 Theatre space. He draws solid performances from his cast with a few notable standouts, keeping the stage action to a minimum. Movements between scenes flows naturally and easily, giving one the impression of turning pages in a book or living through sunsets and sunrises.
The bulk of the play sits on the very capable shoulders of Sonja Kerr as Kat. An always stately and commanding presence, it’s a thrill to see her in a relaxed role, grappling with an inner turmoil she brings to her surface with ease. Of particular note is her ability to convert Kat’s confidence in her own world to an information hungry adventurer when she meets with the Guerilla Gardeners. Her counterpart Toby is played to great comic effect by Julian Ramundi. Daniela Giorgi has gifted him some of the funniest lines of the play and he relishes the opportunity to play the comic.
An outstanding performance by Kate Bookallil brings the role of Gridlock to vibrant and exciting life. Essential to Daniela Giorgi’s writing is a slightly discordant relationship between her anarchistic characters, and Kate Bookallil’s contribution calls this forth with skill and accomplishment. Properly filled with righteous anger, she nevertheless exposes the personal struggle at the core of such vibrancy, resulting in a performance that is exceptionally endearing. Posited against Matthew Abotomey as Pax, the pair embody the principles that ideology can be subsumed for the production of beauty which, via unification, produces right action. A scene with knitted bees call forth a vulnerability in Kate Bookallil’s character that is beautiful wrought by the actor. Equally Matthew Abotomey is a joy to witness as Pax. With the task of delivering the plays political complexities simply, Matthew Abotomey manages to impose a sense of warmth and connection into Pax that drives us to a desire for connection.
Lindsey Chapman is left with the least desirable role (who wants to play the ardent capitalist?) as Pru, but also has been gifted some of the best comic lines. With these she makes a marvelous meal of joyful fun. At times recognizable as a financial advisor and at others easy in her total mockery of the industry, the role of Prue is brought to energetic life by her witty and confident efforts.
Subtlenuance have gained a reputation as one of the most interesting and vital theatre companies in Sydney. With Seed Bomb they further enhance that position, by confidently transforming the great perceptive wit of Daniela Giorgi and Paul Gilchrist into a deceptively simple play that speaks to exciting, large and encompassing themes. This is one of the best conversations about genuine alternatives to the capitalist machine I have seen. Seed Bomb is only on at the 505 for a short run. Make sure you don’t miss it.