The Puppet Regime (a title I’m growing to hate) started life as a screenplay back in 2015 and has been struggling to find its rhythm ever since. People who read the screenplay agreed that it was far too claustrophobic for the screen, and its conversion to a stage play has been troublesome at best.
My piece strives to be about a lots of things – perhaps too many things. It’s about what it
means to govern in a world that is continuously stripping power from government. It’s
about whether stagnation, to the elimination of conflict, is a type of progress. It’s about
preservation and hoarding and the lengths we go to for stability. It’s about masculinity and power. About what it means to change ourselves for the people we love.
It wasn’t until an afternoon of procrastination lead me down a Wikipedia rabbit hole that I came across Nietzche’s theory of The Last Man. These “last men” are described as risk averse and seek only comfort and security. This is a perfect description of my protagonist Boris, who believes potential should never be realised and power should be possessed not wielded. It got me thinking about whether a dictatorship that doesn’t actually seek to dictate is of any relevance to anyone. At this point I’m still not sure.
I created this world with a lot of absurd logic (that makes no sense) as well as with reference to a few real events and many imagined ones. I thought about gender imbalances, particularly real world examples of male surpluses due to population control and male supremacy, as well as female surpluses created by wars revolutions. What would happen if a male-governed country became completely female, and the government’s plan of attack was to quietly phase itself out? Could a ruling family become obsolete without being seen as a threat? Could they organically make the transition from tyrannical overlords to harmless figureheads?
In my play we have this museum of a regime whose historical link to power has just died. You know how everyone’s afraid that if the queen dies the royal family won’t have the same appeal? They won’t make a return on all the tax payer $$ that goes into maintaining Buckingham Palace – The National Trust won’t pick up the slack. I digress. We introduce our only female character to the play, because ironically, she’s the only one with the skills to maintain the current state of affairs. This is where things get messy for me: is it really a good idea to write a play that is mostly about women, yet only write one female character? Is that being responsible as a writer? Every time I have to write 1F, 3M on an application I feel dirty. What’s more, she’s not a huge talker, and her lines end up being spoken by a male actor anyway. Gross right?
Anyway, this female character’s journey sees her slowly immersed in male privilege, as she is forced to become more and more masculine on her quest to simply exist. Maybe it’s a similar predicament to white feminists of the world, but that’s the danger of writing a play that only has one female character. Is there a way to remind an audience not to view one character as the representative for a gender?
I am going to stop writing now!
Thanks so much to VIMH for this opportunity – I’m beyond excited to hear my words read aloud in the presence of generous, creative minds.
Georgina Harriss is a Melbourne-based writer specialising in screen and theatre. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Screenwriting from The Victorian College of the Arts, where she majored in comedy writing. In 2016 her playlet The Best is Yet to Comewas featured in Red Stitch’s annual showcase: Playlist.Georgina was subsequently offered a playwriting residency at Lonely Company and her work was chosen for inclusion in the inaugural Betafest: Theatre in Various States of Undress. In January 2018 her play Love Bird ran as part of The Butterfly Club’s summer curated program.