They’ve Already Won by Harriet Gillies and Pierce Wilcox
At Belvoir St Theatre (Surry Hills NSW)
December 8 – December 20, 2015
Reviewed By Nathan Lentern
They’ve Already Won is, in a word, fresh. Packed full of cutting edge online parlance and contemporary discussions, you feel sure that the cast must have been updating their scripts right up until opening night and maybe even after. Which they could well have done. The production was written, directed and performed by duo Harriet Gillies and Pierce Wilcox which means of course, no interpretation.
The doubling up on roles, or tripling up in this instance, can be a dangerous approach. The absence of fresh eyes and perspectives can lead to some pretty debilitating tunnel vision but in this case you suspect a filtering influence would have weakened its emotional potency. For emotionally potent it is.
Through an array of innovative invocations of multimedia technology and unhealthy does of sardonic wit the pair manage to keep the impending sense of nihilistic despair at bay for a while but can only delay it for so long. As the title of the show suggests: the conclusion is long foregone.
They’ve Already Won explores takes on the fears and anxieties of the 21st century: climate change, terrorism, food shortages, with an overarching, greater anxiety about our intellectual capacity to deal with them. The role of clickbait and internet fads, whether through Buzzfeed Listicles, Youtube videos about cats or the language of meme eroding our capacity to communicate and even think in a nuanced and sophisticated way forms the dominant message of this sixty minute play. Our despairing protagonists are left fearful that the stupefying influence of New Media is leaving them weak and vulnerable to external threats, at a time in which they are told these threats are more existential than at any time in post war history.
The wit and generality of the play is such that older audiences are more than capable of enjoying it, but it is ultimately a product that speaks to millennials. A generation for whom living in a dystopic future where the broadsheet newspaper has passed from living memory is a probable outcome.
There are moments which fall flatter than others, but that is the natural trade-off for so ambitious and unconventional a production. The dividend for taking such risks is an audience witnessing some truly trailblazing theatre years before it is normalised and robbed of its edge.
Gillies and Willcox are talented and engaging for the duration. The pair of young NIDA graduates with startling impressive resumes are clearly blessed with deep reserves of talents which we may only hope leads to long, prolific careers.
Yet it is the skill with which the pair satirically embrace the Twitterverse’s lexicon ought to be singled out for praise. The artful synthesis of memes, catchphrases and acronyms combines to achieve a kind of genius gibberish that are at the same time both hilarious and deeply sinister, evoking comparisons with Anthony Burgess’ “A Clockwork Orange.”
All in all it’s something of an acquired taste but the arts are well served by ambitious, cutting edge productions like this. And for a certain type of anxious millennial it is likely the very thingfor which they’ve been holding out.
Nathan Lentern is a writer and performer.