Our fourth dinner and a show broke new ground for our program by offering the opportunity to read a series of scenes and research conducted by writer Eric Gardiner for his new work BARON バロン, rather than a complete draft.
I’m bringing a series of scenes from an unfinished play called BARON バロン. It’s still in a very early place, but there’s a few useful things I can tell you. It’s about young men and it’s about acceleration, and within that there are many ideas; everything from medieval fight clubs and airport chaplains to Little Athletics.
The work draws on a lot of research, particularly into the intersection between architecture and warfare. Something I’m fascinated by is the notion of “training cities” such as Baladia in Israel, an enormous simulacrum of a Middle Eastern city where they rehearse combat (The picture above comes from the Broomberg/Chanarin series of photos of that “city”, also known as Chicago). Thomas Stubblefield’s book 9/11 and the Visual Culture of Disaster made a big impression on me, and Paul Virilio’s book Bunker Archaeology (pictured below) was a great influence on the work as well.
All of this is very interesting, but it doesn’t matter. As the work progresses that research might leave behind its residue in the play but it has to become superseded by the text’s dramatic action. So I’m hoping to use the opportunity of VIMH’s dinner and a show to talk through these scenes and this material to get a better sense of its emotional heart.
The play started off as an epic, impersonal narrative about Barron Trump, the President’s ten-year-old son.
Look at his little face! His Mum used to smear caviar moisturiser all over his body – how could you not write about him?
(Aside: there’s a debate about whether kids like Barron should be “off limits.” I don’t find this very compelling. In my play Bounty all of the Queensland Premier’s family kept their real names as characters. In that instance I thought if I was writing about demonisation then I’d better be willing to do the same. I think sometimes the writing has to become complicit in the dynamic it’s describing – not problematic, but problematised.)
He was the seed. But I didn’t want to get bogged down in literal detail, or rehash what I’d done before with Bounty, something that relied on collage and incorporating verbatim text.
So that character shifted and became something very different. And shifting that character into this much more central position of authority allowed the rest of the work to coalesce around them, to allow for material that was much, much more personal, which could play off that central spine.
I know a lot of young men of my generation who feel aimless and worthless. They might be unemployed but they can just as easily be in full-time work that is destroying them. And there are others – some of the most brilliant, creative people I grew up with – who are successful, who work as consultants or as bankers, who are able to reconcile themselves to the dreams they’ve forsaken, and they carry themselves like invertebrates, like the dark blue suit’s a carapace, like it’s the only thing holding them together. And the world is only getting faster. I want to write about these young men, that’s why this play is important to me.
Eric Gardiner is a playwright and producer from Melbourne. In 2015 Eric was longlisted for the Scribe Prize, awarded to the best writers of nonfiction under 30 in Australia, and received first class honours from The University of Melbourne for a thesis on Australian adaptation theatre. His first full-length play, Bounty, premiered at the 2015 Melbourne Fringe, presented by Darebin Arts Speakeasy/MKA and directed by Tom Gutteridge. He is currently a playwright in residence with Lonely Company, producing Lally Katz’s Frankenstein at Theatre Works, and studying a Masters of Writing for Performance at the Victorian College of the Arts.