Except in the Unlikely Event of War takes satirical look at the (im)probability of war

Robert Moloney plays a right-wing radio host in "Except in the Unlikely Event of War." Photos courtesy of Pi Theatre.

The new play, Except in the Unlikely Event of War, explores the direst issues of modern society - government transparency, politicization of media, war as a means of societal control - but does so in a humorous, entertaining fashion.

Saskatoon-born, Vancouver-based Pi Theatre artistic director Richard Wolfe, who also directs the play, worked with playwright Sean Devine (Re:Union) , for the  last two years in developing this new piece, which will be making its world premiere on Friday, Nov 15th through Nov 30  at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre.

Passionate about 1960s politics and U.S. politics,  Devine found inspiration in the controversial 1967 book “Report from Iron Mountain: On the Possibility and Desirability of Peace” by U.S. satirist Leonard C. Lewin. The book was originally deemed to be a top-secret think tank document leaked by an anonymous whistle blower “John Doe”. In 1972 Lewin confirmedthat he was the author and clarified that it  was a hoax.

The play's  first storyline, based on the book,  is set in 1965  in an underground bunker in the Canadian Arctic.   Three experts debate  the downside of transitioning to a period of peace. “So, we play on the idea of truth in story number one, because of the book Report from Iron Mountain [...] but some of the content of the book is true there are think tanks  looking at the questions of peace and war," Wolfe said, during a break from rehearsals, in a phone interview on Saturday.

Wolfe said he finds "quite realistic" the idea that  governments might come to the conclusion that war is necessary to keep the people in line. “This war on terror, for example, has put us in this constant state of war --so [it's] one that could never be won and one that could never be ended. Probably. And they are doing this because is one way of controlling the population through fear.”  The idea itself, he  added, “tends to have some basis in reality."

The second storyline deals with media corruption, China as the world's new superpower replacing the U.S  based on its desire to exploit the Arctic land. It leaps forward to the year 2015 on the eve of the Canadian federal election  taking  place in a radio station in the melting  Canadian Arctic. Right-wing radio host Tommy Banes, who works for the prime minister's press office,  creates smokescreens  trying to  dissipate the population's attention  when is interrupted by  news on the Chinese submarines  detected by the shores of Resolute Bay.

The final plot line is set in the present --entering meta-narrative territory -- and deals with public funding and art censorship.  Follows director Richard Wolfe and playwright Sean Devine and their  troupe of thespians  working on a highly political  play  except in the Unlikely Event of War, but face the sudden and mysterious  loss of government funding. “We are making fun of ourselves and of  the theatre business and the idea of acting.”

Wolfe explained this bit was loosely based on  the real case of a painter who works with environmental themes, but lost some of the funding because, some believe,  she approached “uncomfortable issues.”

In the execution of the performances, the show's producers, Pi Theatre and  Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre have ensemble a cast of talented actors including Robert Moloney, Josette Jorge, Lucia Frangione, as well as  Devine and Wolfe themselves.

On the stage, the minimalist mise en scene  integrates two screens showing two  different videos  --one  documentary-style following Robert Moloney , a sort of  the "making of" the play and the second one will be filling the background with more  impressionist  images and  photographic collage. Finally, Wolfe hopes the audiences  keep an open mind and engage in dialogue and "speak freely."

“A true democracy would need an open discussion of uncomfortable ideas. It’s important to have freedom to speak and to think independently […], so we are hoping the play can generate some discussion about the[se] ideas.”

 Except in the Unlikely Event of War, 2 hours with intermission, plays from November 15-30 at the Roundhouse in Yaletown.  Information on schedules and tickets at Theatre Pi  and Eventbrite.

 

 

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