EEmpathy – the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes and imagine life from their point of view – is a key skill for humans to operate in society…but is it a skill we are risking? to lose ?
When Brendan Black and Martin Chellew heard about an LNP politician being sent for empathy training, they had a light bulb moment. Their current work, performed as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, is a comedic exploration of how a Empathy training session might take place – and who might be called upon to attend.
The characters they have chosen are easily recognizable and perfect vehicles to represent the most selfish elements of modern society: there is a crusty God-fearing (ex-)minister accused of nepotism and rorts, a fiery feminist CEO suspended for exploiting overseas workers, a defamatory footy star who got caught dragging pieces of himself in public and a young influencer bent on promoting health products that have even less credibility than his anti-vax beliefs.
As they introduce themselves, self-awareness is low, while shameless confidence is high, and soon friction arises between them; all are excellent at seeing other people’s hypocrisy, but totally blind to their own. Everything is too familiar.
Relationships form and then fracture as players seek allies across generations or genders, but eventually revert to the self-centered type.
The psychologist who organizes the session quickly becomes lively and finds it difficult to maintain control; her only success at teambuilding is when they all turn to her.
But slowly, their defenses crumble and they begin to unravel, with epic and startling revelations.
Writers Brendan Black and Martin Chellew have made the most of material from this rich vein of social comedy: we explore the depths of social media, cancel culture, homophobia, racism, snobbery, political correctness and blindness, socialism versus capitalism , conspiracy theories, celebrity worship and ultimately personal responsibility.
There are a few key words among the broader comments, many of which are delivered by the “blonde on the inside” influencer Madysynplayed convincingly by Emma Snow. Alex Thompson brings necessary vulnerability to the role of noisy soccer player Tuckerwhile Peter Hatherley is awfully good as a deputy Winston. Julie Arnold is also brilliantly interpreted as CynthiaCEO and Davita van der Velde as a psychologist Sarah is remarkably smooth for someone playing in their second language.
It’s a clever comedy, perfect for this narcissistic age, and we can only hope to look back on that time and laugh even harder at our stupidity in the years to come.
The mother presents
by Brendan Black and Martin Chellew
Director Brendan Black and Martin Chellew
Venue: La Mama Courthouse | 349 Drummond Street, Carlton VIC
Dates: 04/12/2022 – 04/17/2022
Tickets: $30.50 – $20.50
Reservations: 03 9347 6948 | www.comedyfestival.com.au
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