Considering what’s been happening with the London riots, various uprisings in the Middle East, and serious protests in Athens, the wisdom and voice of the people is not coming from up on high, but from the streets. Although there are various arguments about why this is happening, one driving motivation seems to be popping up again and again: alienation.
Film and theatre director Nadia Tass has a new theatre project, a play called The Aliens that deals with this very issue. The characters voicing it are very much from the street.
“The play is about a world of minorities and a world that is not easy for them,” said Tass, adding “It really explores how these misfits or outcasts are and how they manage to make some sort of sense out of their days.”
The plot of The Aliens, like its characters, is basic and from the hip. Two tramps hang around a dumpster out the back of a coffee shop, meditating on all manner of things. Things like philosophy, magic mushrooms, Bukowski and the great bands that never were.
A young employee asks them to move on, but as they start talking, the two tramps realise they have discovered a disciple they have been waiting for their entire lives.
The Aliens is written by American playwright, Annie Baker, and so far has been met with a great deal of success. Premiering off-Broadway in April 2010, it was a finalist for the 2010 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and shared the Obie Award for the Best New American Play, 2010.
The characters, “are not stupid; they’re incredibly intelligent and they are trying to navigate their way through many obstacles. I love the exploration of stillness and silences and whether you need to communicate in words, why talk just for the sake of talking?” said Tass.
The premise of The Aliens is somewhat reminiscent of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and his famous philosopher-tramps. “Well, yes, the communication wavers between staccato sentences and dense periods of silence and there’s a sadness and rock bottom that permeates the stillness,” said Tass.
Beyond the stillness and the sadness, a great deal of humour comes out, “Each character has a different thing they are fixated on,” said Tass. But their obsessions are not so much about big-picture philosophy, but a more basic human sentiment.
“It relates to them as the outcasts they really are, like their isolation and loneliness.”
“Isolation is a problem all of us share, despite all the technological communication tools we now have at our disposal. Yet the individual seems to be incredibly alienated. It’s one thing to communicate via text and I say ‘I am blah-blah’, but how much of the human condition is being actually communicated at that time?”
Indeed, just as texting may have been coordinated the London riots, it may have been the riot itself that subconsciously communicated the texters’ deep alienation.
Red Stitch Actors Theatre, Rear 2, Chapel St, St Kilda, VIC. 24 Aug – 24 Sept. For bookings, or 03 9533 8083