On Thursday night, I attended Doublespeak, an event of the Anywhere Festival in Frankston by The Dig Collective who will be performing each night until September 6th. at 7pm.
This experimental physical performance about wordplay, the power of words, their use and misuse, their relevance and irrelevance, the rewriting of history, propaganda and the power of silence.
It keeps you engaged and cemented to your seat – just as well they provide soft cushions as an added extra because the wonder and excitement of the Anywhere Festival is most performances can be performed everywhere (with a little adaptation). This festival, I’ve been in a barber shop and a yoga school!
The audience meets at Fresh Start Organic Cafe (scroll down their page to see a newspaper review of Doublespeak) before being escorted to a secret location (an ‘abandoned’ shop a short walk away). Warmly welcomed by Alex and Tim we were invited to partake in a glass of wine or water.
The warm welcome figuratively and literally an important aspect of this festival because Melbourne’s winter has been long and the nights cold, which may account for low audience numbers. Also the two-actor performance begins ‘on the beach’, the antics of the actors making me smile as I sat defrosting!
doublespeak (noun) deliberately euphemistic, ambiguous, or obscure language.
“the art of political doublespeak”
Or as the well-known fount of all knowledge Wikipedia suggests:
Doublespeak is language that deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms (e.g., “downsizing” for layoffs, “servicing the target” for bombing), in which case it is primarily meant to make the truth sound more palatable. It may also refer to intentional ambiguity in language or to actual inversions of meaning (for example, naming a state of war “peace”).
In such cases, doublespeak disguises the nature of the truth. Doublespeak is most closely associated with political language…
The Dig Collective living up to their reputation as experimental and innovative, present an entertaining show – tightly scripted and acted. ‘Scene’ changes smooth and intriguing; minimum fuss with ingenious and simple props. The speech patterns and movement deliberate but fluid, especially when Dana uses mime. Both Michael and Dana comfortable with each other and the performance space, their timing excellent and ensures the audience keeps up with some segments that move very quickly indeed.
Doublespeak is currently in development to be presented as a full-length performance for the 2015 Melbourne Fringe. The Collective advises:
To speak and not to speak about anything at all is nothing out of the ordinary, especially for a politician…
Working from case studies about people who have attempted difficult conversations at great self-risk, the project draws on the work of Sophie Calle’s Exquisite Pain to explore the form of personal mythology and unspoken cultural practices.
To speak of the unspeakable is a political act – and a dangerous one in the current national climate.
They have been conversing with people in the street during the day and asking for reflections on the question “When have you most felt Australia was an island?” Responses are incorporated in the act and updated to reflect the local conversations.
Sound is an important part of the performance and Tim does a magnificent job with this. To regularly incorporate responses into the show ensures the experimental work remains organic and keeps everyone on their toes. Anyone who’d like to respond is requested to do so. A voicemail to record reflections has been set up and if you would like to leave your own, please call 0451 051 681.
Audiences to Doublespeak don’t suffer, but there is a challenge to consider how you use your voice, how you perceive what others say, do you listen but not hear, and do you confront our political leaders and the media when they use weasel words or disseminate misinformation? What about the verbal abuse some of our sports representatives are now famous for? How do you speak to your friends and family? How do government representatives speak to citizens? What do you think of the language of official forms?
The mood of the play relies heavily on the background sound – the news report when a US Airways passenger plane safely crash landed in the Hudson River six years ago. The intermittent beeps, a bit like a heart monitor, the media ‘pulse’, voices sometimes clear, other times indistinct. Meanwhile, a large blade representing the plane turns in the background throughout the evening, slowly, almost silently, .
There have been more recent plane crashes with tragic outcomes reported in sensational ways, but can anyone say what the ‘truth’ is? Dana recalls being an eight-year-old and her father bringing the family together to try and explain 9/11.
How do our leaders explain and use the narratives of public/global tragedies, and crises? What words do the media use? Why do some feel migrant, refugee, asylum seeker and illegal immigrant are interchangeable?
The performers prompt other challenging conversations we need to have or at least consider. What happened in Australia to enable Tony Abbott, a prime example of a politician well-versed in doublespeak, to become our Prime Minister? The irony of Bronwyn Bishop’s sojourn as Speaker.
The Anywhere Festival allows you to chat with the performers and producers directly. The Doublespeak cast appreciate you are more than a number on a ticket. Give them a call – do you feel isolated or are you glad Australia is an island? Have you ever given a thought to the first peoples? Are you a migrant? A refugee? A tourist? What do you know of Australia’s history?
Those who stay home during this festival miss events guaranteed to give enough food for thought to have real and meaningful conversations with family or friends, around the dinner table, at the pub or in a cafe.
Book for Doublespeak: September 6 @ 7.00pm I guarantee you’ll value words and their meaning, perhaps even think before you speak!