Thursday, July 26, 2007

Major Bang Review

Latest of my reviews to appear in Drum. It struck me again how easily normal people laugh. I think I smiled a couple of times but didn't make any of the hahas. I don't know whether that was because there was a very human message at the heart of the thing and it was making me think too much to laugh... I don't know. It happened at A Porthole Into The Minds Of The Vanquished too, although that had no message as such, I think I was distracted from the humour because of the inventiveness of the show.

Anyway, here's my 350ish words worth. Last line didn't come out the way I'd intended. I was trying to say that part of the show's point seemed to be that in reality most of us in Western society are largely less under threat from terrorism than we are from more mundane threats, like traffic accidents or illness, yet this culture of fear exists and is nurtured by the governments, more than likely as a distraction. Here in Sydney we've recently had tax payers' money ploughed into the promotion of the "Go Bag", a bag of emergency items we're supposed to have at the ready in case we find ourselves under attack or victims of natural disaster.

If this is not a case of the government asking us to live our lives in fear, what is it? Besides a bit of accidental comedy in itself.


12 months ago I was on a train in London headed for Heathro Airport. Crowded train, lots of travelers. An American woman started getting jittery about a suitcase that had no apparent owner. Panic rising, she started asking people if they owned the suitcase. Crowd reaction was a mixture of what the fuck is she on about and heeeey, maybe it is a bomb. In the end she woke the guy sitting next to the suitcase and he said yes, it was his, and he went back to sleep. Stupid American. And yet...

This is what Kirk Lynn’s play does. It lampoons the culture of fear we’re burdened with in the Age Of Terror while at the same time making it obvious that in so many ways, we do have reason to fear. It’s funny, sure, but it also gets into your head and will have you discussing it for hours afterwards and thinking about for days.

The patchwork story starts with an abandoned backpack. It could be a bomb. It could be a backpack. What if it’s just a backpack? What if the treacherous symbolism we now attach to abandoned luggage is unfounded? What if our jitters are unwarranted?

On the surface Major Bang is fun stuff, playing with the bizarre story of the ambitious Detroit boy scout who built a nuclear device at home to earn a merit badge; Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove; sappy movie The Bodyguard; an impressive Lenny Bruce take on the culture of fear; and more. Actor Steve Cuiffo is also a magician so there are a few card tricks and other sleight-of-hand visuals, and his comical dexterity at playing several characters simultaneously is impressive. Maggie Hoffman is his cohort in this performance which surprises and delights like a fireworks display of humour and ideas. The closing soliloquy is poetic and human and quite moving.

Can local government boffins pull their heads out of their “Go Bags” (WTF?) and see Major Bang please? You’re in dire need of the kind of reality hit this absurdist play delivers. Cancer’s scarier than terrorism.

At the Playhouse, Sydney Opera House until 29 July.


Kathryn said...

Top Review. Sounds like an excellent play and one I'd very much like to see (perhaps it will come to the Terror-ridden States?).

I think it was Michael Moore in his Bowling for Columbine doco that talks in length about America's Media and government keeping the Nation in fear and thus are able to control the masses. Moore is an extremist that should be taken in small doses, I think but I agreed with him on this point. He went to Canada and interviewed people about what life is like for them and what the Canadian Media projects. Apparently, death and negativity are not the highlights of their news! Shocking for an American to hear!

At the end of day, you are right, most people are more likely to die whilst driving or cancer or whatnot. To be constantly worried about a backpack on a train is probably the least of your worries.

Kathryn said...

*should be the least of your worries*

bohémienne said...

A year or two ago, I was evacuated, along with everyone else in the airport, in Paris, because of an apparently abandoned suitcase. Ironically, though, we were allowed to stand immediately outside the doors, leaning against the building in fact. Because apparently the bomb would have only affected the interior of the building?

Yes, we do rather live in an absurd kind of world, a culture of fear far too often.

Lee B. said...

Thanks Kat. The production came from The States so it will probably return there. And yeah - that aspect of Bowling For Columbine was particularly interesting... that America and Canada are so geographically close, but a yawning chasm divides them in their approach to life and how they approach it.

Weird times indeed, Bohemienne. I guess the thing is that until peaceful countries like Australia have seen terrorism up close, it's just a little difficult to accept that it's a real threat.