Movies, Books, Radio, Music, and whatever.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Here is one that I've been wanting to comment on.
It played on BBC Radio 4 Afternoon Play some time ago, last year, it might have even been in November. It made quite an impression. I've listened to it about four times.

Development by Doug Lucie offers a scary comedy drama that accurately reflects our lugubrious times. This show is up to the minute. As Lucie says in this interesting interview at Theatre Voice, we have here a play about a "reckoning" that appears to be due, one that Lucie and some of the rest of us have been expecting.

We start out meeting a family in their large McMansion in a development "built" by the company of the man of the house Mike. This could have been recorded on location in such a house. The actors voices sound like they are resonating, reverberating in the large drywall board constructed hollow rooms where the story is set. The hollow sound reflects the empty spirits of the inhabitants. These people are vacuous, vampires, they suck up what is living to sustain themselves in a walking death, in their greedy march to nowhere. But are these cartoon monsters, exaggerated, too broadly drawn to be at all real? No. They are all too familiar figures that can be found in any Development, or any new suburb with it's too large "homes", anywhere in the "West" and in other parts of the world following this model for all I know. They are the inhabitants of the marketplace, they are consumers. They identify themselves through what they consume. They fill their emptiness through consumption. They and disconnected to one another.
Zoe, the mother, has been consuming fad spirituality but has finally returned to the faith of her fathers
There is a gap between the parents and the two children. The boy, Joe, is a slacker, a lay-about consuming marijuana and pornography. His father Mike apparently hasn't even been to his son's room. He has to be told about the hardcore pinups on the walls. They live in the same house and he hasn't been to his son's room. Mike tries to communicate with Joe, but is ridiculed because he doesn't know the latest slang for "cool". Mike is somewhat ashamed at not being with it. Joe doesn't want to use the same words of his father. He wants to be current and youthful, using the secret language of his consumer sub-group to express his individuality. He doesn't want to be associated with his parents generation, with the things they consume. He wants his own. The mass media culture encourages this divide and sell. If all members of a family go for the same products, there is less to be sold, They can share what they have. More products can be sold if they all are in their our niche markets. His father expresses some exasperation at Joe's laziness, and acknowledges that he is partly responsible for making him as he is. Why would Joe be motivated to make something of himself if he has had everything handed to him? How could he find the motivation to strive for the things that are already there? And his purchasing choices are anti-motivational. The marijuana encourages dreaming, the pornography, and eye-balling the help provides sexual fulfillment and release. What else is there to a young dude to strive for?

Mike is the classic self-made man. He is the one who schemed, worked hard, put the deals together, hired the workers, and fought the Green types in his way to build the developments that have made him rich. He has made it up from less into more. He believes in business, privatization, less government regulation and influence. He is the one of these rebels, the rugged individualists, who made hay riding on the dominate economic notions of the last part of the 20 Century. The man of our time.

In the opening moments of the play we hear Zoe berating Tatyana, the help, the housekeeper. Tatyana can't seen to get it through her thick foreign scull that she needs to make the coffee before she does the hoovering. And yes Zoe, we understand your pain. It is so difficult to find competent help these days. We soon find that Tatyana is more than the family saw her to be as her wealthy brother shows up.
We hear the family's attitude shift instantly as the brother Leo shows up in a flashy, expensive automobile. They smell money and the seduction begins. Mike needs it since his once thriving business in now bankrupt, he desperately needs an injection of cash to keep it all afloat. But the credit has all dried up. He befriends his maid's brother after he sees the flashy car and soon looks to him as the only savior of his lifestyle.

It's all too real and right out of the headlines. In the end there is an abrupt shift of the social order for the characters in this show. The first one now will later be last, in a global machine whose wheels and cogs keep turning. And we can see the winners at the end falling prey to the very same forces of decay that destroyed the original family. We are given a clue of that early on when the brother with the flashy car explains why his sister was working as a maid. Leo says that she is a lazy girl who needs to learn about work. Well, she does learn about work and learns that she doesn't care for it and will go the same way into pleasure, dominance, and consumption, the rewards of an empty marketplace culture.

It is fun to listen in on all this and sometimes laugh at and look down on these silly and shallow people. Yet there is much of them in many of us other consumers, and if not that, there is the fact that the actions of this sort of person in this sort of culture effects us all unless we have found a way to live off the grid.
How does one get off the grid?

This is a really great production, writing, acting, all. One of the best of last year. It would be good if they run it again on BBC Radio 4 soon. People should hear this one.
More Doug Lucie please. He knows how to tell the truth in an entertaining way.

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