by Noemie Huttner-Koros
Directed by Andrew Sutherland
Performed by Rali Maynard, Zoe Garciano, Phoebe Eames and Gabriel Critti-Schnaars
Blue Room Theatre
7 – 25 November
cell of four young climate activists take action to coincide with a federal
election to protest galloping climate change and the part the fossil fuel
industry plays in it.
In the dead of night, on the wrong side of a security fence, they break into a gas pipeline. It soon becomes clear that their ambitions and methods are wildly different…
Scroll back months, and Democracy Repair Services follows the trail that leads the quartet to that night at the pipeline. We meet Viv (Rali Maynard), a political operative with a playbook she’s intent on following, the sweet, uncertain Fin (Gabriel Critti-Schnaars), the combustible Elena (Zoe Garciano) and playful Billy (Phoebe Eames).
The story of their fruitless attempts at small-scale disruption and growing frustration as the summer heat rises and the election draws nearer exposes the fractures within the group and, more generally, the different and often conflicting ways political action gestates and finds its expression.
There’s no doubt about the commitment of the DRS team from its writer and presenter by Noemie Huttner-Koros, its director Andrew Sutherland and the young cast to the story and the issues it explores, and there are authentic and engaging performances, (notably from Critti-Schnaars).
Sutherland is a skillful theatre maker as well as an audacious one, and the structure and pace of his staging does justice to Huttner-Koros’s text and purpose. The production benefits from impressive creative work from the Audio-visual designer Edwin Sitt and the set, sound and lighting designs of Molly Werner, David Sewart and Jasmine Lifford respectively.
The quandary, though, is whether the effective representation of the characters, their thoughts and actions, which DRS undoubtedly delivers, comes at the expense of theatrical clarity and effectiveness.
I’m not insisting that DRS be a traditional “well-made play”, or that its action and dialogue follow conventional paths, but too many ideas, too often repeated, become a jumble that’s hard to untangle into a cogent line of thought.
That, of course, is the real world of political activism of all shades, but that’s real-world accuracy at odds with theatrical lucidity.
A critical pillar of the Blue Room’s charter is to give voice to disparate voices, and it’s at its best when they are young and challenging. For that reason alone, Democracy Repair Services is a worthwhile and necessary work.
And for its examination of the greatest issue of our time – and especially its impact on the young – it demands our attention.