Kip Chapman’s The Resistance is 90 minutes of glorious chaos, providing poignant commentary on climate activism with the energy of a children’s birthday party.
The Resistance follows five climate activists as they struggle to organise what will become the biggest climate rally in Australian history, in which millions throughout the country will take the streets in order to put pressure on the Australian government to sign the fictional Athens Agreement. The group of activists are effortless crafted archetypes, reminiscent of your favourite childhood television shows. There’s Pepper (Thea Scholl), the boisterous one with a worrying interest in explosives, Miro (Jack Walton) the anxious tech expert that Pepper loves to bully, Drew (Genevieve Lemon), the scatterbrained head of the art department, Bundilla (Lakesha Grant) the passionate one who ultimately makes the decisions and Marlee (Diya Goswami), who’s shy but becomes the reluctant face of the movement.
The group scramble to prepare for the arrival of Eva Lawson, a Greta Thunberg-esque figure whom they’ve centred in their campaign, on the backdrop of a set that evokes a childhood wonderland. The walls are painted entirely hot pink, scaffolding adorned with colourful foam rollers and wires taking centre stage. At the top of the scaffolding sits a computer with a convoluted assortment of wires springing around it, seemingly plucked out of an eleven-year-olds imagination. “It looks like an episode of Richard Hammond’s Blast Lab,” my friend Lucy whispers to me. Scattered across the walls were four TV screens, a nod to the work by another Kip, Sydney Theatre Company’s production of The Picture of Dorian Gray, a similarity that is acknowledged throughout the play.
As the team bickers back and forth, volunteers are brought to the stage, some sitting in the craft area colouring the banners for the protest that’s to come. The plot is frequently interrupted by the actors breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience directly, prefaced by techno music that you’d find in a game show. The interruptions range from Pepper asking, “we just want to know who’s your favourite character so far, so put your hand up if it’s Pepper!”, to the audience being encouraged to take out our phones, open YouTube and search the sounds of our favourite animal.
The group hits a roadblock in their plan as they discover Eva Lawson is no longer coming, throwing their plan into whack and forcing Marlee into a leadership role, which she adamantly resists. One of the play’s best moments is Marlee’s reluctant participation in an interview with the Minister for Energy. The scene features the political doublespeak we all know too well, as he condescendingly claims that “we need a diversity of energy producing projects” and a “conversation grounded in fact.” As they discuss the figure they are expecting at their rally, he rebuts, “let’s have a maths lesson since we’re in school today.” This dialogue, compounded with the child-like randomness of the production, articulates Chapman’s key argument, that the youth of the climate movement is both its greatest strength and its Achilles heel.
Such a point is exemplified when Bundilla sees Drew’s newly designed banners. As one reads ‘We Still Have Hope,’ she’s infuriated by the softness of the message, yelling “this is why nothing changes … its a privilege to be nice.”
‘The Resistance’ offers a night of pure enjoyment that sheds an important light on the current operation of the climate movement in Australia. Its themes ring eerily true for a generation that’s become accustomed to continuous reminders that the odds are stacked against us, but as Chapman reminds us, there’s power in anger and strength in fun. Harness these and make change.