Kill Climate Deniers is a play by Canberra-based writer David Finnigan. I wrote the 3-word name of this play on Facebook this week and got an account warning for breaching community standards. If only Facebook really cared about what it stopped me from saying.
In 2017, Finnigan sent me a copy of his new play because I was a fan of a controversial project he worked on called Kids Killing Kids. I read it in a wholefood café on Sydney’s northern beaches and knew that my eating my kale salad bowl was as problematic as his story about eco terrorists in Parliament House in Canberra.
Kill Climate Deniers went on to win the Griffin Award for writing and was presented at Griffin Theatre in 2018. It has also been a radio play, an audio tour of Parliament House, and a solo performance-cum-dance-party by the writer.
On 8 March 2020, Finnigan announced that there would be 6 new productions that year. He wrote about his parents and friends evacuating during the 2019/20 bushfires and the fierce urgency he felt from the companies, artists and community about the the political system that was happy condemn our future. He said, “So I’m excited and proud and excited and scared and excited.”
On 8 March 2020.
One of these cancelled productions finally opened at the Alexander Theatre at Monash University on Thursday night.
While university theatre and performance programs are cut and decimated all around the country, the Monash University Student Theatre (MUST) continues to support students and create astonishing and powerful work that consistently punches way above its weight and acts as an incubator for some of our most important emerging theatre artists.
This production of Kill Climate Deniers is as spectacular as it is relevant. With a cast who understand the politics and jokes far better than the people they are satirising understand themselves, it has an urgency and passion that leaves you believing that there is hope.
On one level it’s about an unwilling environment minister who is doesn’t understand her own party’s policies and is forced to face eco terrorists at a Fleetwood Mac concert Parliament House in Canberra. (It’s worth going just for Fleetwood Mac, especially if you’re of a generation that thinks everyone should care about 80s music.)
This story alone is equally serious and silly and comes from knowing that theatre isn’t going to change the world but is worth making to at least ensure that the audiences coming know that other people understand their frustrations.
Intwined in the fictional eco-terrorist plot is the real experience of Finnigan as he developed the work and became a target for conservative politicians and the super-well-paid media commentator Andrew Bolt.
They argued that giving Finnigan government funding to write was one step away from the disaster of totalitarian leftist violent revolution. Needless to say, they didn’t read the play and didn’t listen in history class when any of the words they used were defined.
The attack on Finnigan was atrocious in its fear and ignorance. No, saying that is giving it power. Finnigan was attacked so that the pollies and commentators could win some votes for being the voices of reason against the nasty lefties who dare to want a safe future. The attack was as personal as Facebook warning me for writing “Kill climate deniers”.
Maybe if they had read it or gone to a production, they have a laugh. The comedy is bitter-sweet dark and includes jokes about 1980’s popular rock and pop combined with a mad respect for late 1980’s and early 1990’s electronica, and an understanding of contemporary Australian politics that deserves its own free-to-air ABC telly program that Bolt could whinge about.
Under Artistic Director Yvonne Virsik, MUST empowers students to create theatre with industry professionals while being free to bring their own ideas to the projects. MUST enables students to experiment and develop their authentic voices rather than telling them what the industry wants.
As Finnigan encourages companies to change and update his script, the dramaturgy of the script makes it feel like it was written about today. It includes all the frustration and anger of Covid, the impact of social media, and a call to action as we approach a federal election that will literally decide the future of the students making this theatre.
It’s also the last MUST show for designer by Jason Lehane, who has been their Technical Director for 17 years. With live cameras and film on a large screen, the technology is a tour de force that feels like maybe we are part of the algorithms. Maybe we have some control?
MUST’s Kill Climate Deniers is the kind of compelling and electric theatre that needs to be seen by more than family and friends. It needs to be written about by emerging reviewers who can capture the authentic passion of the cast and creators who know that what they are doing is important.
It needs to be seen. And with only 4 performances, there’s no time for word of mouth or plans. So just go before it finishes on Saturday.
Kill Climate Deniers
Alexander Theatre – The Ian Potter Centre for Performing Arts, Monash University, Clayton
Performance: Thursday 5 May 2022
Season continues to 7 May 2022
Information and Bookings: www.monash.edu
Image: Kill Climate Deniers – courtesy of Monash University Student Theatre (MUST)
Review: Anne-Marie Peard