Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Day The Galaxy Inevitably Exploded and Died

The Day The Galaxy Inevitably Exploded and Died plays at the King St Theatre from 11-6 September 2012 as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival. By Ildiko Susany, directed by Sarah Vickery.

The Day The Galaxy Inevitably Exploded and Died is a dense play. It’s full of philosophy and physics and language and religion, and if you stop paying attention for just a moment, you’ll miss something. There are layers upon layers – perhaps too many layers, because the play moves beyond ‘challenging’ into ‘downright difficult’. What it is, however, is poetic, mimetic, beautiful – and ultimately, I think, very rewarding.
The show, written by emerging playwright Ildiko Susany (whom I interviewed about this show here), is the story of Broon (Cameron Croker) and Enlon (Susany), a brother and sister who are the last beings left alive in the universe. To them has fallen the task of recording the fall of civilisation, humanity, and the universe, even though they have no way of knowing that anyone will ever know what they have known. Is the death of the universe the beginning of a new one, one that will rise like the phoenix from the ashes? Will they, whose atoms once came from the stars, return to the stars and find each other again? Or is there just nothingness at the end of it all?
It would be easy to characterise Broon as the pessimist and Enlon as the optimist, but the dynamic is much more complicated than that. Broon is a mathematician who has calculated the end of the world, but the repercussions of his discovery are slowly driving him mad. As the universe comes to a end, so too does his hope, so too does his sanity: he is losing his own universe, his mind. Enlon is a visionary, a girl who has been tortured (in a genuinely disturbing scene that made more audience members than just me wince) but who somehow has retained something like faith. Her constant desire for her brother to tell her stories is not just a way of keeping her brother’s faith alive but a recognition that even though the universe is shrinking, dwindling around her, the rug about to be pulled out from beneath her, her imagination is boundless. From Enlon’s hope, a new world might be born. Both Croker and Susany deliver genuinely touching performances, real performances (in spite of some truly difficult dialogue).
Ildiko Susany has a very lyrical voice as a playwright, and in some places, The Day The Galaxy Inevitably Exploded and Died feels more like poetry than a play. As mentioned above, the dialogue is dense and difficult, and while I don’t know if this is exactly a realist play, it was a bit hard to suspend disbelief enough to believe that two young people would actually really speak like Broon and Enlon do. (From a purely linguistic standpoint, I doubt that language would develop the way Susany has foreseen here – it’s a sort of amalgamation of twelfth century romance, Victorian novels, lyric poetry, and sci-fi.) Sometimes it sounds like the characters have either swallowed a thesaurus or Wikipedia. This is not to say that Susany doesn’t pull it off, but the language of the play is strange and challenging, to say the least. You really have to pay attention sometimes to understand what the characters are saying.
The show is full of high philosophy and physics and religious concepts, which I can see might be quite alienating for an audience. Let’s just say that my adventures in higher learning certainly helped me out here! This is not to say that high concepts can’t be explored in theatre, because they absolutely can, but I think they were maybe packed in a little too densely here. They were definitely interesting, but if nothing else, I wasn’t quite sure where Broon and Enlon got all that learning from (especially considering the fact they make reference to their parents working in the fields). But if you’re willing to be challenged, then The Day The Galaxy Inevitably Exploded and Died is definitely the show for you. It is superbly acted by Croker and Susany, beautifully directed by Sarah Vickery, and the script is sublimely poetic. If you go, you MUST be prepared to pay attention, to not blink, but I highly recommend you do go.

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