The art of dystopia is no longer the far-fetched fiction it once was; as we move through history our collective awareness, enhanced by our technological advancements, these works become all the more prescient. Jo Clifford’s War in America, penned twenty years before finally reaching the stage, has added poignancy in our current geo political climate.
“I want to rescue you from the poisoned streets of America.”
War in America takes us to the heart of the Temple of Reason, to men in suits pissing, a machismo masochistic pissing contest, pissing their rotting bile in a corrupt and decaying democracy.
The debating chamber of the New Parliament building was the ideal setting as it gives the audience the perspective of being an unknown observer, with the focus being moved around the space over the course of the play. Andrew Cameron (Mr Fox) made for a very convincing utter bastard, and the interplay between Cameron, Imogen Reiter (A Girl) and Mark O’Neill (Alfred), summed up War in America’s wonderful mix of humour and horror, graphically highlighting the plays dark undercurrents of subjugation and power play. Complementary to this, the sharp and quick fire delivery of the brash and obstreperous spin doctors and trusted advisers Warp & Webb (Kirsty Punton, Ellen Aitken). Warp & Webb none too gently guide She (Saskia Ashdown), their whitefaced disillusioned figurehead, to power.
As with any theatre production, the music can make or break the experience. Cait Ivine and Charlie West take us on this journey, from whimsical, to maniacal, to the relentless beat of a dying heart. The music perfectly accented the stagecraft, from the minimalist machinations of disturbed power hungry animals, to the ridiculous and forlorn. They accented the inherent malevolence with poise and clarity, becoming the soundtrack to the thud and thrum of the last breath; even the disturbing, vibrating message alert of the mobile phone that puts us all on edge.
War in America is the Attic Collective’s second outing, and I look forward to seeing where they go from here. The Collective was set up by the Festival City Theatres Trust, and they have numerous opportunities for young people to gain experience and industry-led training for free. This will give a voice to so many people from diverse backgrounds who, in most cases, wouldn’t be in a position to pursue a career as a performing artist. It’s important that all ecstatic and visionary art-forms are open to the whole gamut of our culture. This will lead to better art; a culture that isn’t dominated by the privileged. We need a culture that breeds greater understanding of our systemic societal downfalls to help us better understand the world we all share.
Photos courtesy of Greg Macvean.