THE TURQUOISE ELEPHANT
Sea levels are rising. Species are dying. Who gives a f%&$ ?
Winner of the 2015 Griffin Award. This black farce from Stephen Carleton is an absurdly good time, bursting with ridiculous characters, cracking banter and one very enormous elephant.
As the world tilts into chaos, Basra is intent on making a difference, but what can she do? Her family thinks the best way to save the planet is to eat endangered animals and bask in the glories of the free market. Meanwhile, her aunt’s new-age lover promises them safety at an exclusive utopia. But Basra knows she has a higher calling. How many blogs does it take to save the world?
"Excellent...Just a pity this show doesn't have a longer run"
- Nothing Ever Happens in Brisbane
"Hilarious...A snapshot of everything that's happening right now"
- Blue Curtains Brisbane
"Darkly funny...An urgent call to arms"
- Backstreet Brisbane
- Catherine Lawrence
Playwright Stephen Carleton
Director / Designer Lachlan Driscoll
Lighting and Sound Design Noah Milne
Intimacy Director Michelle Miall
Assistant Director El Waddingham
Basra Rebecca Day
Visi Clarise Ooi
Aunt Olympia Amanda McErlean
Augusta Sandra Harman
Jeff Cleveland Robert Wainwright
2023 Season. June 2 - 11
From Director Lachlan Driscoll: You need to watch this documentary on YouTube with Extinction Rebellion founder Roger Hallam. He talks about the power of hope. We have a choice: We can hope that things are going to be okay and simply continue with our everyday lives, or we can decide that there is no hope, then conclude that there's nothing to lose and proceed to do something about it. A bit dark right? But The Turquoise Elephant is an extremely relevant story to be telling now because of this very choice. It crosses our minds everytime we hear or see something about the climate crisis. So do we acknowledge the reality we are living in, or do we trick ourselves and downplay the issue? We seem to have progressed beyond denial of climate change as a society now. The new cards on the table to squabble over are how serious we think the issue has become, the money that needs to be devoted to it, and whether any action is going to help at all. Is it too little too late? The Turquoise Elephant brings us out of this rabbit hole of doom and gloom, not to distract us, but to point directly at the issue and the cause.
I think the play communicates the absurdity better than I can describe it here. Each character has their own bonkers idea of what's going on outside and how to cope. It's a rolicking and twisted story, but what it comments on is really of interest to me, because we cannot ignore what is going on under our noses. Corporate greed, obnoxious bureaucracy, rampant corruption and vested interests among our politicians. Deeper still, a dysfunctional social order where the good, pure and beautiful on this planet are at the mercy of humanity's dirty, wasteful and selfish ways. When did we decide that our s**t doesn't stink? We are at a time where many of our systems and structures are being challenged, and where our very livelihoods are feeling the pressure. It's time to do something good for the world. For a change.
Seriously, check out that documentary. Ordinary people everyday are rising up. They are taking action. They are sick of inaction. They want quality of life. They do not want to see the world polluted. They are tired of backflipping and insulting political decisions that pander to big business. Now is a critical point in history.
I'm not saying to abandon your current lives and instead take action. That would be crazy............. Well...
From Playwright Stephen Carleton: The first play I ever went to see was Ionesco’s Rhinoceros. I was 12 or 13 years old, and won tickets to the Darwin Theatre Group production over the radio. That experience opened up a new world for me; I was transfixed. I remember being terrified by the noise of the stampeding rhinoceroses; enthralled by the idea that they could operate as an image for bully-boys, for the gullible throngs being turned into fascists, seduced into truly horrid ideology by peer pressure and self- preservation. That seminal theatre experience politicised me in a quiet, slow burn kind of way. I didn’t even know until then that I had opinions about fascists and gullible throngs! The Turquoise Elephant pays obvious homage to Ionesco. Absurdism captures the sense of exasperation I feel about our economic and political classes’ ridiculous denialism about climate change. Every time you think things can’t get any more ludicrous, another catastrophe occurs – a longer drought, a bigger bushfire, a wilder super storm cell – and rather than galvanising us into action, we just seem to do more and more nothing.
We do nothing on a grander and grander scale. And what, the play asks us, is there to be done? Who should do it? I wrote the first draft of the play in the lead-up to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in 2015, spurred on tonally by the malodourous denialism wafting out of the Murdoch press at the time. I was worried that we’d somehow missed the boat by programming the play after the lead-up to that event. Well, here we are eight years later and we’re now living in a world where climate change is normal. Skew-whiff weather patterns, alternating cycles of bushfire seasons and floods and almost daily announcements of record high or record weird temperatures are the norm. Whatever climate change is – we’re in it. We finally seem to have state, territory and federal governments working with independents and minor parties to meet net zero targets. We’re acknowledging the problem at last because it’s so palpably obvious. But the threat to flip back into inaction is ever present, and there are powerful lobby groups at play placing enormous pressure on governments of all colours to keep the coal and gas fires burning. I’m seeing constant ads on the TV I watch telling me how green our big polluters really are. And we only need to look at what a basket case the US is, culturally, politically, to remind us that we’re only ever one election away from being back in the sort of political cycle of illogic, mendacity and chaos that spurred Ionesco and his contemporaries to find an Absurdist voice in the first place.
It would make me very happy if The Turquoise Elephant got inside the head of another 12 or 13 year old and provided them with the sort of seminal theatrical experience that Rhinoceros provided me. I need to believe that laughter is the right weapon to take on the ideology of the powers that be right now. Nothing else seems to be working.