Inspired by the surrealism of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Katie Pollock reimagines the well-known novella through young Greta’s eyes as her brother takes a sudden ugly turn towards extremism. In The Becoming, dangerous ideology and its sibling, dangerous indifference, means nobody gets out alive.
Greta (Sarah Maguire) has awoken on a mission to be kinder. For no particular reason, she believes that making breakfast for her family and having many, many children, who she loves as individuals, will make the world a better place and save it from inevitable collapse. In counter to her childish naivety, her brother Gregor (Patrick Holman) has taken a much more radical approach and has overnight developed extremist ideals and a plan for mass murder to convey the panic of climate change and global catastrophe. The Becoming frames this ideological debate with the underpinnings of Metamorphosis, in reference to the consequences of a great sudden change, against a backdrop of their parents’ (Jo Goddard and Paul Wilson) average indifference.
Greta and Gregor butt heads because they see the solution in opposite directions: one wants to take life away in the name of the cause, the other wants to create life to shape the cause slowly over time. Both, though, seem to completely miss the point as they fail to engage with either tangible personal responsibility, ie their parents’ continued scrambling to keep up with capitalist ideals while doing the bare minimum to consider their impact on the environment, or the key player in global climate change: corporate greed. So this argument of altruism v hatred, life v death is entirely hollow, devoid of connection or significance within a real world context.
Director Brett Heath plays up the hyperbolic language of the script with big slapstick humour and hammy characterisations. Maguire’s Greta is a bright, squawky school kid who comes out punching when she feels her family is being threatened. Her parents seem a lot cooler, though, with Mum focused on her work clients and maintaining her figure and Dad hell-bent on keeping his golf rival in check (and also inexplicably keen to beat-up this rival’s young children). The three form a loud, comfortable brood who are completely thrown by Gregor’s Jihad-inspired turn to radicalism, excepting Dad who must find his stolen Porsche, instead.
There is an attempt with this production to understand the dire state of the world socially, politically, and environmentally but with a script that entirely lacks nuance, there is little in the characters’ off-putting and aggressive ignorance to find interest in. In the same week as the Global Climate Strike, it feels in particularly bad taste to produce a work that paints climate change activism as terrorism and which argues for dangerous centrist inaction as the positive solution.
The Becoming is running at New Theatre from September 15th – 20th as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival
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