Choke Me: Demanding Change of a Dystopic Reality
REVIEW: Now Then
Katherine Johnson, Dec 2019
Political performance company Doppelgangster are no strangers to pushing boundaries. WIth dual bases on opposite sides of the globe, Sheffield and Melbourne, the formation of the company itself traverses national borders and hemispheric distance.
Their work takes on the big issues: environmental destruction, climate change, forced migration, and the not-so-slow creep of corporatisation. As their latest production demonstrates, Doppelgangster grabs politics by the unmentionables in a vice-like grip of performance that is both intensely intellectual and violently visceral.
Infusing postdramatic performance with anarchic spirit and a punk aesthetic, Choke Me stampedes through seemingly divergent but deeply interconnected scenarios of environmental pollution, counterproductive policing and the dystopic futures to which these lead. The symbolic potential of the old adage ‘never discuss sex, religion, or politics’ is mobilised by flouting the convention at ever turn, confronting the audience with controversial imagery, forcing us into the position of the voyeur.
We uncomfortably witness, for example, the young actors (students of Sheffield Hallam University) whipping their own bare backs, invoking both catholic self-flagellation and BDSM in an allegory of the self-punishment our polluting lifestyles inflict on us. The placing of social niceties above dealing with the imminent dangers posed by destructive pollution levels is thus ridiculed and rendered ridiculous.
An intensity of subject matter, aesthetic and performance approach is lightened by a playful infusion of darkly satirical humour, visually evocative spectacle and absurdist storytelling. Even still, Doppelgangster do not offer, or even allow, a relaxing night out at the theatre.
Complex layers of intentionally relentless intertextual symbolism barrage the audience via a stream of script delivered with dizzy speed, denying audience and actors any escape into another’s journey or any hint of catharsis.
This is no tale, we are shown, but reality – and we must act to change it.