Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Rude Mechs' Get Your War On

Satirist, David Rees' web-comics are not, perhaps, the most obvious stop for a theatre company looking for material. Rudimentary drawings, printed in either black or red, with no real characters, and little action beyond phone conversations, Rees' Get Your War On series of anti-Bush broadsides is, on one level, the very opposite of spectacular.

"Yes, we have a history of adopting seemingly impossible texts," says Lana Lesley, a member of Austin, Texas-based company Rude Mechanicals, who has travelled to Galway to perform the company's stage version of Get Your War On for the first time outside the United States.

"The design was one of the biggest problems," says Lesley, who stars and also devised the piece along with the rest of the company. "David's cartoons were based on public domain clip art of offices from the 1980s. But when we tried to reproduce that on stage, it just started to look like an old, cheap sitcom."

The company decided that the answer was to use an archetypical piece of 80s office technology to create the scenes. "We decided to use an overheard projector because that is what David often used in creating the strip. It turned out to work very well in giving that kind of flat, neutral feel that the original drawing had."

"Flat" and "neutral," by the way, are terms of approbation here. "In the drawings, because the characters are so stylised, you feel the power of these bizarre things that they are saying very, very personally. And this way, you get that on stage too: it is so neutral and flat that you begin to forget you are watching actors at all – and the words take on a life of their own."

And the words here, of course, are the key. With their special blend of wigga posturing, Neo-Nazi brutality and white collar ignorance, Rees' speech balloons hilariously lampoon the Bush party line. The essential work of Get Your War On, according to Lesley, is offer an antidote, a cure even, for something deadly that she see as afflicting contemporary America.

"In American it is almost a disease we have – having such a short, short term memory. What was interesting about the show was how much it pointed out to people what they had already forgotten from four or five year ago."

"We had a section about the Anthrax alerts and people really had forgotten about that stuff already. They were going 'oh, yeah, they did that too'. This administration has such an extraordinary ability to bury the truth, that we really have to work constantly to keep even the recent past in view…"

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