In too deep: Griffin's Between Two Waves

You think we’re like, actually all fucked? Like rising seas, and hurricanes and judgement and shit?

A white stage, a single lightbulb in the middle of the white ceiling. The black walls of the theatre. A blank slate, a fresh start. Except it’s not, not really.
Ian Meadows’ Between Two Waves is a bittersweet and immediately political relationship drama about climate change. It may seem an incongruous mix on the page – relationships and climate change – but when you think about it, it’s not that big a leap of the imagination to draw a direct correlation between the two. Seasonal Affective Disorder is not just a flippant way to explain away our despondency on a lack of sunshine or clement weather, something my good friend Rosie talks about on her blog. And as for climate change, we all know what’s happening – weather becoming increasingly erratic and unpredictable from one year to the next; extreme weather events – floods, hurricanes, cyclones, drought, bushfires – becoming more frequent; temperatures rising unforgivably, unstoppably; icecaps melting, sea levels rising… They’re all phenomena which Ian Meadows’ Daniel has been researching and studying for ten years. Until the worst floods Sydney has witnessed destroys his research as well as part of his house. The irony isn’t lost on him, however, and as the play unfolds, we see Daniel’s grip on surviving in the face of catastrophe start to loosen. Something that isn’t helped by his partner, Fiona, when she tells him she’s pregnant.
It’s not just a play about climate change; it’s also a play about finding happiness and contentment in the face of uncertainty, of keeping calm and carrying on as the posters tell us. Originally written as a screenplay – a form to which it has aspirations – Between Two Waves is a gripping and engaging piece of theatre about the hereandnow, the very moment we’re being faced with now. Like so many books and plays and films out in the past six months, there’s a degree of anger and frustration to it, but it’s a passionate anger for the most part, anger at the way we’re dooming ourselves and the planet, hammering in the nails on the lid of our coffin with every passing day just that little bit more; anger at the lengths to which we’ll hide the truth, the way we interact with each other (or don’t), but there’s also a desperation – a need – to cling to those around us, to draw together when it all goes to shit.

It’s well-written, the four characters totally believable and real, Daniel’s technical science-speak so harrowing and frighteningly apocalyptic that it’s little wonder that the play was written. Through Sam Strong’s assured and measure direction, it also solves the chameleonic conundrum of the Griffin stage – what incoming Artistic Director Lee Lewis affectionately calls “the stupidest little space ever” – the crazy diamond shaped wedge between the two banks of seating. With the script’s formulative aspirations towards a screenplay, it’s easy to see how it has developed from that form, the instantaneous changes between location and space and time almost jarring, but it creates a malleability, a dynamic which is cleverly enhanced by Matthew Marshall’s simple and evocative lighting states, Steve Francis’ hauntingly beautiful music and David Fleischer’s set. As Daniel, writer Ian Meadows carries the play, barely leaving the stage, his character’s trajectory astute and measured; as the man caught in the middle of this cyclone (though not immune to its effects), he is as unsure and as scared as the rest of us. His scenes with Jimmy (Chum Ehelepola) are filled with a jocular facade that disguises an underlying uncertainty; his early scenes with Fiona (Ash Ricardo) and his later scenes with Grenelle (Rachel Gordon) are beautifully written and staged, bittersweet moments of synchronicity and shared-need amongst a maelstrom of anxiety and the all-consuming world. The end of the play, when the storm hits, is one of the most magical moments of theatre this year. Its simplicity, coupled with Daniel’s scaredness and aloneness, is only amplified in Griffin’s intimacy, magnified ten-fold by the figure alone on the stage and the roar of the water, the dumbstruck faces of the rest of the audience. 
It’s a play that grabs us by the lapels and urges us to stop and think, to take a look at ourselves and see what we’re doing, to ourselves and those around us, to shutupandlisten. We’re almost at the tipping point, the point of no return, the point at which the planet will be irrevocably fucked; if only we could see how far in we are, how deep we are in the quagmire of our own making, perhaps then we’d see what we need to do, that what we need most are each other and the life raft of humanity.

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