The Dichotomy of Despair and Hope in the Age of Eco-Anxiety: I FEEL FINE

3.5 stars

I FEEL FINE attempts to walk a fine line between hope and despair to reflect back the ever-increasing social anxiety surrounding climate change and humanity’s role within it.

Image courtesy of Nicole Fox

Image courtesy of Nicole Fox

Sparked by the at once arrogant and appalling name of the current geological age—Anthropocene, because humanity’s influence on the planet is now recognised as a unique geological force—this play tackles the extremes of human rationality surrounding our presence on this planet.

Through satire and music, I FEEL FINE explores personal, spiritual and political reactions to climate change through its depiction of the tension between convenience and conscience, our need to be unburdened from our guilt, as well as the circular and stultifying reinforcement of our world view through communal ritual.

Set in a fictional church, this production doesn’t shy away from mocking the extremes of the religious spectrum. Both established and esoteric congregations come under fire for their ability to salve the conscience without enacting real change.

The play’s parody of the evolution of human thought through religion is sharp and unsettling and the audience is not let off the hook, with the cast including the onlookers in the increasingly ridiculous rituals and recitations. The effect of this inclusion is a shift from delight to discomfit as the audience laugh at their own conceit being mirrored back to them by the self-righteous, yet ultimately flawed members of the congregation.

In the end, the far-fetched characters on stage aren’t so far-fetched after all. Rather, all of humanity is complicit in the current climate crisis, and equally, all are responsible for finding a solution. This is further supported by the transmedia campaign to be found on posters around the city, at The Centre for Stories in Northbridge and on the official website.

The performances were, for the large part, outstanding and supported by effective audio-visual production. Like many churches, music is at the heart of the I FEEL FINE congregation. The impressive musical performances work to evoke the sense of community while satirising how that same feeling can become numbing and banal, and ultimately neutralise our ability to take real action.

In other words, in ‘preaching to the choir’ we, from all ends of the climate change debate, go around in circles increasing anxiety without making change.

At times the message was confusing with a few brief moments of audience disconnect. The humour, though having the audience in stitches throughout the play, ran the risk of doing the opposite of its goal to transform eco-anxiety into the impetus for change. I FEEL FINE strived to build hope from despair but, overwhelmingly, the play reflected back to even the most ardent environmental advocate that humans are by nature hypocritical and delusional; that we will all settle for platitudes and self-interest over the greater good.

Then again, perhaps the message was on point. Perhaps this is the message we need to hear to jolt us into collective, meaningful action.

Tickets available from The Blue Room Theatre. I FEEL FINE is running until 19 October.