I am a writer living in Melbourne who loves to devour culture and the arts. Visit me at www.pumptheatre.com.au
Play explores millennial uncertainty and new world order
On the eve of her 30th birthday, Leena (Alice Chaston) loses her job and is distressed about her future. It took her eight years of study to enter her profession, and although she has $70K in the bank, she has no home, assets, or family. Without employment, Leena will never be able to buy a home.
Leena (Alice Chaston) and Jace (Dominic Westcott) photo by Benjamin Brooker
Outside, the government are shooting the homeless as they can no longer afford to support them. Citizens must wear an identification card to avoid being shot. Each night there is enforced blackouts, fresh food is scarce, and control of The Centre is growing.
It's safer to live in the suburbs than in the city – at least that's what Rose (Fiona Scarlett) and Hudson (Benjamin Brooker) believe – they'll be alright as they are set to inherit Vivian's (Mazz Ryan) house.
Jace (Dominic Westcott) works in a community supermarket stacking shelves and refuses to believe Hudson's political rhetoric – as Hudson works for The Centre. Leena agrees to marry Jace, not for love, but for fear of her future unemployment, homelessness, and a career in prostitution. Leena wonders if she was better off marrying Hudson, as he will inherit Vivian's home when dementia finally takes her.
Set in two secret locations, Damaged Guns is an intimate and immersive theatre experience, written, directed and produced by prolific playwright Thomas Ian Doyle (previously Owl & Cat Theatre).
The audience meets at Flinders Street Station in Melbourne and are escorted to a secret location for the performance of Act 1.
Leena (Alice Chaston), Rose (Fiona Scarlett) and Vivian (Mazz Ryan) - photo by Benjamin Brooker
Set in a studio apartment, only seven people have the privilege to be the audience for the performance of Damaged Guns each night. It's immersive theatre, and highly intimate and dispels the safety of theatrical illusion - real sausages are cooked on a real stove for a real candlelit dinner. This increases the reality of the situation and the audience is not only witnessing the action but is involved.
The performance takes place in a small confined space and is immaculately executed as the drama unfolds and we realise – this is not 'post-apocalyptic', it is NOW.
We are engaged in an internal war, it's physical, sexual, emotional and psychological. As the night descends into hell, the curtain closes on Act 1.
For Act 2, the sacred seven are escorted in a maxi taxi to the next secret location.
Set in a Western Suburbs Californian bungalow, the action takes place in Vivian's lounge room. Vivian is looking through a shoebox of memories – old birthday cards and photos. Leena is sitting with her and playing along with Vivian's latest retreat to earlier times.
On this night, the household has bought an extra couple of hours of electricity so they can play monopoly without candles. Vivian eats the pieces and rips up the fake currency, whilst Jace and Hudson are locked in an ideological battle of socialism and the new world order of state control.
Rose, a control freak and Vivian's daughter struggles to cope with the reality of dementia. Each night, Rose and Hudson search the streets to find Vivian, on her nightly wanders. Jace is exhausted, not only from living under Vivian's roof but with Hudson's ideology. Leena thinks Rose is sleeping with Jace. Vivian thinks Rose is a 'bitch'. Jace feels Leena is distant – but he loves her and continues working at the store for her. Leena thinks she is pregnant – but who wants to bring a child into a world where uncertainty looms at every corner, confinement is safety, and home, detention.
It's a hothouse of despair, as individual psyche's fall apart, and day by day the hope of freedom vanishes. It's a sad affair and as the stakes rise, and the opportunities vanish Jace wonders whether love is enough.
Hudson believes love is enough – but he can because he is privileged.
Vivian acts as an oracle speaking through her dementia by telling home truths.
Each character presents a complex narrative through a different lens and Doyle plays with time and memory through the two Acts. The curtain is pulled back as the self-assured and entrepreneurial millennial generation reveal their fears and paranoia about the future. Blood is thicker than water, only the genetically related with assets will 'inherit the earth'.
There is little hope in Damaged Guns, and no resolution is provided – and this is fitting because the play explores the fears millennial's are discussing over dinner every night. How will they afford a home? Should they have children in a world that is climatically and politically uncertain and unsafe? What of ageing parents? Are they just a passport to inheritance? Should we listen to them? Is love enough?
Doyle delivers a powerful and political dialogue through believable characters which speak for the generations at both ends of the spectrum. It's an important conversation – clearly the 'meek will not inherit the earth', but the militant. But the question remains – are we willing to take up the fight in the new world order? Will we succumb to paralysis, paranoia and propaganda?
Damaged Guns is contemporary risk-taking theatre, and Doyle has made real-life sacrifices to mount his work. This is the dialogue we should be seeing on Australian mainstream stages – but will you take up the fight?