Play captures weight of the world

Rhonda Dredge

The staging of the one-act dystopian play #No Exemptions presented some technical problems for the La Mama design crew.

The action alternates between two people high up in an apartment block and another two at ground level.

The characters stuck in an apartment are given a raised platform.

They can look out the window, go to the toilet and wrestle on the floor while fighting over their remaining food.

But those at ground level have to make do with a narrow strip in front of the platform to argue over who gets to keep the gun.

This division of space is a powerful metaphor for the themes of the play. Who has the right to live on Earth?

Zola, played by Eva Seymour, wins the battle for the gun and breaches the battle line between the two locations when she is sent up into the building to round up residents.

Set and lighting designers Sophie Woodward and Gina Gascoigne cleverly brought the characters together visually by delineating the contours of the apartment and the hall outside with strip lighting.

The audience can see Zola pacing outside the apartment while the two women argue inside.

#No Exemptions is a brave play with some great parts for actors. It’s not every day an actor gets to play a young hungry worker with both a gun and a soft side.

“You have to raise yourself,” said Seymour, who had to match the hyper performances of the starving characters, played by founders of the Shift Theatre.

The play has some great lines such as “revolutionaries are not normal people” and “you can go anywhere with kitten heels.”

But these people are all in extremis and any good humour is about to be dashed by the heavy-duty messaging.

 

Angela Buckingham.

 

Playwright Angela Buckingham wants to fire up her audience about climate change. When food, water and electricity run out, it will be the duty of the young to get rid of the old.

The old are crawling around the floor in rags, anyway, demeaning themselves, so the young have to steel themselves to rid the planet of another demanding mouth.

The old theatrical guard were at the opening, and they thought there was merit in Buckingham using generational tensions to examine the issue of climate change.

But they were just as pleased to be at a La Mama opening that was like the old days with free bubbles and plenty of unsustainable chat.

A playwright creates the world that drives a production and in Angela’s it is a weighty one.

The question remains whether #No Exemptions is a brilliant reflection on the fears of contemporary life, or a provocation that will turn us into activists to save the planet.

#No Exemptions, La Mama Courthouse, until May 8 •

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