Halfway through Current Location, I suddenly thought of that chilling footage of Oppenheimer, the creator of the atomic bomb that destroyed Nagasaki and Hiroshima, saying “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds”. Afterwards I discovered that the show actually is an adaptation of a play by the Japanese playwright Toshiki Odaka. Japan has been haunted by radioactivity from WWII to Fukushima. In FellSwoop’s adaptation, the horror of nuclear decay makes place for more distant disasters: the imminent destruction of the world by climate change.
“What do those words actually mean, the whole world obliterated? Everything we know and love just totally disappears?” Every day there is death and despair. As the play points out, the world is falling apart incrementally. But we don’t make a big fuss out of it. Some people say the bees are going extinct. Some people say they’re not. Who should we believe? In the play, there are only these rumours. It is never clear what the dystopian future looks like. The audience never gets the chance to leave the intimate choir rehearsal room in which the story is set. Yet they feel what it is like nonetheless.
FellSwoop’s Bertrand Lasca says that “the language the characters speak in this play feels very contrived: they can no longer express their emotions and feelings correctly. It’s as if we’ve gone a step too far and people have stopped behaving normally or feeling empathetic towards the situation.” The idea that without intense personal communication we can never move from a world of whispers to a world of facts is explored throughout Current Location. The opening shows one of the choir-singers approaching their conductor, asking if they can talk. But the actors stand as far apart from each other as possible on the stage, unable to express empathy.
Later on Hanna, the outsider, pleads to be friends with the choir-singers. She also needs to communicate. But this openness (symbolised by the actress undressing on stage to change out of her wet clothes) disturbs the choir’s micro-community. In the end, with the village threatened to be destroyed, it appears there are only two options: flight or denial. The third way, addressing the issue by reaching truth through human contact, is simply too hard. But if the play has a moral, it is that that is what we should do.
Both Okada and FellSwoop succeed in the immensely difficult task of expressing the way these people who are unable to express themselves are feeling. Somehow, they create an understated scenario that is still as overwhelming as the apocalypse. Oppenheimer might have been the destroyer of worlds, but artists are creators of worlds. And that is exactly what Current Location does.
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