Kill Climate Deniers is a new Australian political satire about the state of the political, scientific, and social discourse around climate change in our country. It depicts a group of eco-terrorists storming Parliament House during a Fleetwood Mac concert in order to hold the audience, including the Minister for the Environment, hostage and demand the Australian government put an immediate stop to global climate change. Written by David Finnigan, it won the 2017 Griffin Playwrights Award.
This show had a lot of promise in its premise of something witty, relevant, contemporary, and Australian, and you can tell a lot of effort was put into the production value to carry the expectations that the title and premise encourage. There are multiple functional curtains, projections, strobes, videos, smoke effects, slow-mo and sped-up action sequences, and multi-stage costume dissembling. There’s also a major re-creation of a terrorist attack that rang very true and frightening. Designer, Jonathan Hindmarsh, and his production team went all out adding movement and excited to what was ostensibly a puppeteered Finnigan persuasive speech.
Being a satire, and one that includes a lot of physical and gun violence and a terrorist attack, the stakes are kept pretty high from the very beginning which translates into a high tension and high energy performance from the cast. After a while, the constant mid-yell volume and frenetic movement became tiresome and repetitive, which is then broken up by the narrator’s interludes of meta-analysis and backstory. The interesting part of this satire was the attempt to present it as a counter-argument directly to climate deniers, and even including their voices in the performance. I especially enjoyed the riffs on hypothetical backlash if the Conservatives or their internet trolls mustered up the energy to write a counter-play entitled “Kill [insert Lefty/Green/oppressed minority identity here]” considering George Christensen’s Facebook post, “You gotta ask yourself, do you feel lucky, greenie punks?” and the attached photo of him brandishing a handgun. None of that public outrage got far off the ground, did it?
The cast of the terrorist attack within Finnigan’s argument are all women: Rebecca Massey as the somewhat defeated idealistic Minister for the Environment; Sheridan Harbridge as her whatever-it-takes media advisor; Lucia Mastrantone as the head terrorist, Donna Summer; and Emily Havea as a myriad of additional necessary characters including back-up terrorist, Salt n Pepa. All actors committed fully to the physicality and humour of the production and they were a joy to watch.
More on the script: Finnigan sets up his show as a meta walk-through of his brilliant climate change thriller action movie funded by tax-payer dollars. He narrates the entire production as a physical presence on stage, played by Eden Falk, and as a disembodied text displayed cheekily on the wall behind the action to remind you, if you’re paying attention, of all the hard work Finnigan put into his show and all the many, many thoughts he had about references and plot and just the general world around us. I suppose I am merely weary of the white men who over and over again insist on spending our limited arts funding, precious resources of other people’s space, time, and talent, and audience’s actual money to figuratively, and literally in this case, write themselves onto the stage. Finnigan, if climate change is something you are passionate about and Kill Climate Deniers is a project you put a lot of energy into and risked a lot doing (as you told me more than once tonight) then, please deflate your ego a fraction. Instead of putting your human self on stage surrounded by caricatures and fantasies, put all the words, facts, and feeling you reserved for yourself into the work.
Near the end of the performance, it came to a point where I was watching two women mock-fighting while also poll-dancing in their underwear and I thought to myself, “Who is this show for?” Probably not me, a young Left white woman, considering how much of this production was alienating for me. Perhaps it’s for the climate deniers in the audience, drawn in by the provocative title, but I’m unconvinced about the effectiveness of satire for making meaningful change in that way. So, it must be for the people already at Finnigan’s level who want to be entertained and laugh about how right they are. Which is fine theatre, it just isn’t theatre I’m interested in seeing anymore.
Kill Climate Deniers is running at Griffin Theatre from March 3rd – April 7th.