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Kill Climate Deniers

Photo by Brett Boardman

Griffin Theatre Company presents, KILL CLIMATE DENIERS, by David Finnigan, at the SBW Stables Theatre, Kings Cross. 23 February – 7 April.

KILL CLIMATE DENIERS is a new Australian play by David Finnigan. It was the winner of the Griffin Award in 2017.

The author of this play, Finig (Eden Falk) narrates this complex happening for us: Gwen Malkin (Rebecca Massey), the Environment Minster, along with her Media Advisor/Assistant, Georgina Bekken, (Sheridan Harbridge) are bent, determinedly, on an approach to Climate Change that is, ideologically, a welfare boon for their political party to assure the continuing reigns of Government stay in their hands. Meanwhile, a militant cell of eco-activists, led by a charismatic spokeswoman, Catch (Lucia Mastratone), with her principal ‘henchwoman’, (Emily Havea) and other terrorists, Throat, Lucky and Ebb – all with code names of famous music artists – are, similarly, bent on bending those same government policies to a different ideological solution, so take hostages, at a concert by Fleetwood Mac in the Parliament House, demanding that Australia immediately cease all carbon emissions and coal exports or, they will start executing those hostages, all 1,700 of them. Both sides become armed and in a scenario straight from film literature of the likes of DIE HARD or WHITE HOUSE DOWN, a show down of carnage evolves as both sides, appalling and murderous, begin a ‘battle’ that may lead to mutual extinction, both with parts of hero and villain.

KILL CLIMATE DENIERS is a controversial take on the climate change ‘debate’ in Australia.

This play was originally commissioned for the Canberra based theatre company, Aspen Island Theatre Company (Artistic Director, Julian Hobba), begun in 2013, with a government grant of $19,00 dollars. With the announcement of the play, the title alone, KILL CLIMATE DENIERS, roused the bellicose ire of Andrew Bolt and his conservative bloggers, sight unseen (or, read), resulting in the production being shut down in the ensuing storm. In this new version of the play, David Finnigan, has folded that ‘scandal’ into the text:

It’s a play within a play, an action film inside a documentary, a satire inside a rave.

David Finnigan is a new voice and it is a very ‘smart’ voice at that. One feels stimulated with the verve of this man’s intelligence and passion. From his program notes:

I’ve spent the last ten years producing theatre in collaboration with climate and earth system scientists. I produce ‘science theatre’ with a collective called Boho. … In that work I spend a lot of time bending over backwards to ‘avoid politicising the science’, picking my words carefully to avoiding getting anyone offside. … This play isn’t that. This isn’t going to change anyone’s mind about anything. This is years of anger and despair tied up in a barrage of some of the best music our species has ever produced. This is everything I wanted to say but bit my tongue about, year after year, until I sat down and blurted it out in one hit. This is fuck it I’m scared, turn the volume all the way up, panic euphoria, hold hands tightly and let’s go. Straighten up and fly right, ecstasy chasers. It takes a full day’s work just to survive.

And that is the thrill and challenge of the writing in this play. I recommend that you buy the text/program in the foyer (Currency Press). Its presentation is unique and exciting – a very good and outrageously informative read. Lee Lewis has taken on the task of Directing this play and has created a dazzling set of offers, visually (Design, by Jonathan Hindmarsh; Lighting Design, by Trent Suidgeest; AV Designer, by Toby Knyvett)), and sonically (Sound Design, by Steven Toulmin) to accommodate Mr Finnigan’s demands. Too, she has elicited performances, from most of her cast, of outstanding courage and brilliance, with Rebecca Massey ‘butting head’ with challenges of physical comedy of total hilarious brinkmanship with Lucia Mastratone, each ‘topping’ the other, aided and abetted by Sheridan Harbridge, who is no shrinking violet in the ‘madcapping’ arena of comic bravura – it can be deliriously funny. Mr Falk, in a fairly dramatically thankless but key role, asserts his intelligence to keep us apprised of the many ‘Finnigan’ twists-and-turns in the writing’s ambitions/densities.

Ms Lewis in her program notes talks of the legend of this ‘scandalous’ play and of the ‘wonder’ (like all plays) heading into production, if his words can make their way off the page, onto the stage and into our consciousness in such a way that it can make a difference. The main play thrust of the hostage take and battle between the two ‘warring’ parties works a treat, but the written AV text/play scrolling up on the screens on the walls behind, dealing with the Bolt and cohort revolt – as well as the many self-referencing of the writer to himself in response to the chain reactions to the events – became the cause of an intrusive and confronting dilemma: which do I attend to? where do I give my focus? the live action or the textual information? The double and often simultaneous offers became a distracting alienation effect that Brecht, maybe, could not even manage, to serve and support the other. Maybe, too much is trying to be achieved here. Two simultaneous plays, too hard to absorb.

However, KILL CLIMATE DENIERS, at the SBW Stables Theatre, is a provocation to all of us who agree with the scientists and the eco-activists and yet sit, heads in the sand, relatively, passively, whilst our governments dither and slither from the courage of taking controversial leadership to make this planet earth sustainable for the future, for our children and childrens’ children’s future. The passionate stance of both sides in this play could/should sober us, and urge us to bring these parties together where sober reason could employ these passionate energies to bring compromise and inspirational negotiation to the fore, to help bring an urgent joint solution to fruition. For, otherwise it seems, extinction may become the only real option for our species, and that is not at all funny. Like the Gun Revolt led by High Schoolers in Florida, the kinetic action for change may come from the youth who will have most to deal with and lose. Our Children and their Children – for nature knows I’ll be dead, more than likely, so why should I care too much? Hmmm.

Says Terrorist Throat:

In the mental picture you paint you need to think about your own house, where you live right now, and project 30 years. House aged by 30 years or so. You gotta have yourself in the picture. 30 years on, how old will you be? Do those calculations in your head before we go on. You gotta have your family, especially any children, they’ll be adults.

Gotta have the east coast of NSW and Queensland hit by increasing storm surges, wiping out coastal towns.

Gotta have rising heat intense droughts destroying Australian farmland.

Gotta have the temperature in the cities hitting 50 degrees, day after day, week after week.

Gotta have boatloads of refugees fleeing climate disasters in Asia coming not in hundreds and thousands, but hundreds of thousands a year.

Gotta have no more food on the supermarket shelves. Black markets for clothes and medical supplies and being unable to buy basics for your family.

Gotta have massive dust storms blasting through the cities taking down power lines and causing brown outs and black outs.

Gotta have hyper inflation, banks collapsing and taking your savings with them, not being able to spend the money in your wallet.

Gotta have rich people sealing themselves off in air conditioned gated communities guarded by private security forces.
Gotta have police not responding to calls from poor suburbs, nurses looking after their own families rather than going to hospitals.

Gotta have massive bush fires burning out of control with no-one left to fight them and whole suburbs on fire with everyone who didn’t make it out alive.

Gotta have a world population of 9 billion people with only enough food for half that many.

Gotta have the government of Australia now desperate to keep climate change under control, but now the Arctic has melted, the huge methane bubbles that were trapped under the ice are beginning to rise, locking us in to more and more warming. Things are out of control and getting worse.

We’re approaching a bottleneck. And humanity is not going to scrape through to the other side without some horrific wounds.

I hope you have imagined it vividly. Fortunately you’re never going to see it, either because we’ve made it all up because climate change isn’t an issue, or because we’re going to murder you all tonight.’

KILL CLIMATE DENIERS, is worth a visit. It certainly puts THE TURQUOISE ELEPHANT, another play dealing with the urgent Climate Change debate, which we were given in this theatre not so long ago, into perspective as an effective experience.