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Renewed Heaven Storming: a theatre review of ‘Bastards of Creation’
Spectral Theatre haunts Powell Street. Along a strip of East Van ghetto not yet socially cleansed, the theatre appears as an apparition from the remaining storefronts. Its doors open only for a show, then dissipates back into the wreckage. Legend has it this building was once home to sixties subversive counter-culture; a space of happenings and conspiracy. Then, finally, of separation and compartmentalization. It seems to still harbor some entrepreneurial spirit, silk-screening and stuff. The end of counter-cultures is to turn away from its dual social rebellion and into a set of specialties. Without counter-power –counter-culture is just another form of production.
Albeit this theatre immediately displaces itself from any other theatre in town. Its small, black, open space is devoid of any state/spectacle saturation. The beer is cheap. The chairs comfortable. This run is a Late Night Double Feature. 2 plays cheaper then 1 elsewhere. The assemblage of actors are shuffled between the two stories. I imagine that there is no set technician/director, so no hierarchy of specialization. The play I have come to see is the second:
‘Bastards of Creation’. The tag ran: ‘Magnificent? Dirty? Inglourious? Yes! Yes! Yes! These are the original Bastards, back at the start of it all. See Lucifer and his Rebel Angels rise up against the Tyranny of God and his Good Angels! Thrill at the savage spectacle of Angel on Angel combat! Indulge in the dark pleasures of Sin and her sexy, seductive routine! All this and much, much more! ‘
Satan is a mythological touchstone with many antagonists. He (the masculine construct is applied, but angels can be considered beyond gender) is thought of as the first anarchist, who led the first revolt by storming the gates of heaven. He agitates for being bad –as good is the Order of the world. His legacy of lawlessness is best preserved in 19th century anarchist-egoist Max Stirner, who advocated a ‘renewed heaven-storming’ and stressed crime as rebellion against a society of Law. This ambition is a strong undercurrent in our contemporary renaissance of nihilistic thought/action in various (post) anarchist milieus.
In the interlude before the show I jotted down my remembrance of Milton’s Paradise Lost: Lucifer leads insurrection against god and his angels. Losing after fierce battles, they are forcefully exiled to hell. There a war council is called. Amongst those assembled 3 of Lucifer’s comrades speak to various strategies against god. The first is a call to open war, ‘which if not victory is yet revenge’. Followed by the plea to accept defeat, cause- ‘chains and torments? Better these than worse’. And finally against both another failed revolt, or worse still ‘ignoble ease and peaceful sloth’, a proposal to make hell they’re own, free from heaven, ‘preferring hard liberty before easy yoke’. Before making any final decision, Lucifer decides in the meantime to venture alone to earth to subvert humans with sin, so as to spoil paradise, and fuck with god.
The story being performed on stage is of the ‘dark insurrection against heavenly light’. The players are ugly. There is no harmony. Totally disjointed. It is beautiful! Their aura blazes with their enthusiasm. They perform in joy. This is not a job. But it is not proletariat theatre; it is not property-less. It is still stuck on a stage. Its alienated from its own potentialities, and the chance it has to explode the audience as meek spectators. Alas, this is the way stage-theatre is. At its best it ‘is full of sound and fury –signifying nothing.’
This play was communally written. It is a montage of clips and quotes from the canon of Dead White Men: Shakespeare, Milton, Blake, etc. Seeking to fill the dialogue with a multitude of voices, it speaks from only one skeletal mouth, and as such the telling of rebellion is that of eternal return. Revolution failed, turns in on itself: the way things are. Whereas the method of montage in theater has the agitative potential to open-up the play into many flows, of thought and action, settings and engagements; as soon as it is creatively closed into one specific stream of ideas –its subversion of disjointed-plagiarisms turns academic and stale.
Amongst the all white angles is the sole woman of color in the cast, playing the angel Ariel. She, thankfully, declines to join either side –the devils rebels or gods holy host; or, as she puts it, ‘neither rouge nor country slave’. She rejects the false choice of either production or destruction as an impossible exchange. Knowing Lucifer’s forces will lose, she denounces his proclamation that it is ‘far better to rule in hell then to serve in heaven’. She refused to be dominated and refuses to dominate. She is ambivalent to the two forces, which only reinforce one another. She cheats choice and goes it alone.
The play is great; everyone shares their affection for theatre. The style of Spectral Theatre is a repellent to bourgeoisie theatre; its sex is eroticism; its drug use and violence is nihilistic. Each actor is doing so as a singularity within the ensemble. Their voice is to their own range; they are practically falling over one another, barley able to suppress their smiles. Theatre for philistines! One that runs counter to the shit served as plays in the rest of Vancouver. But still, not a counter-power.
The Spectral Theatre, just as Lucifer’s rebellion, symbolizes a sequence which will lead out from dominion, but it is not itself a rupture from domination. Lucifer turns Pandemonium into the capital of fallen angels, and there sets his throne. We desire a theatre of chaos, constructed as the ruins it helps consistently create. To get there, theatre becomes a war machine, fit for barbarians, fast and ferocious. In theatre we experiment with intensities; its compacted capacities for qualitative disruption is a weapon easily generalized throughout social rebellion.
Like Ariel who saw Lucifer’s rebellion as a theatrical trick, and his revolution as simply a performance piece –we seek to exit the stage of history and torch the theatres of domination.