Bypass, by Jesse Weaver
Performed by Painted Filly
Taking place in the distant future, Bypass centres on a “ritual” that seeks to preserve the long lost halcyon days of humanity on Earth.
The audience is greeted in the foyer by Jenny, an interface similar to H.A.L. in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Jenny guides the audience into the rest of the building, which functions as the space craft Sunflower Estates 6. Here we find five astronats arguing over damaged life support equipment.
Jenny annouces to the astronauts that water and oxygen supplies are depleted and the hull is breeched. Since there is little time left, all they can do is send a distress signal and make a last recording.
The body of the play is the five doomed astronauts acting out a ritual. This ritual has been passed down over generations and in their final moments they enact and record it. The ritual in question is the performance of a soap opera-like tale of suburban living. Each astronaut plays a variety of characters that include store owners, housewives and telemarketers. The characters of the ritual discuss the effect a new bypass will have on their community; how it will damage local business, remove housing and the local politics that follows.
The most engaging aspect of the play is the relationship between the astronauts and their parts in the ritual as their situation dawns on them. The plays gains a new tense dramatic force as the astronauts break character, fumble over lines and storm off. Suddenly we are confronted not with melodramatic suburbanites but with people who are about to die and are trying to preserve their human heritage. It is the relationship to the ritual and not the ritual itself that is the most poignant.
The main issue with the play was its mixed messages regarding the breaking of the fourth wall. The audience is brought to believe that we are on this spaceship, but once seated no reference is made to this again. During the ritual itself it’s as if you are viewing the recording that was made rather than the making of the recording. This meant that at the end of the play an audience member could rightly ask “where was I during that?” However, even taking that into account, it is still both a thought provoking and enjoyable play. The acting is solid thoughout and the play-within-a-play device is handled excellently by all involved.