Universal debt

Phoebe Sullivan gives it everything in her debut one-woman show Beginning at the End (of Capitalism), an entertaining mix of live streaming and performance.

FLASH Gordon, haute-couture and mummy issues collide in the mind-boggling Beginning at the End (of Capitalism).

The one-woman show features Phoebe Sullivan performing in a green screen studio, with the audience able to watch her without effects or on huge screens with retro sci-fi backdrops, aliens and laser beams.

“The easiest way to think of it is if you’ve ever been to a footy match, you can either watch the field or get close up action on the players, the ball and instant replay, by watching the big screen,” Sullivan says.

“The performance, or the ‘action’ if you will, will be captured on three separate cameras that will be feeding the footage onto a huge projector, also in the same room. 

“The joy for audiences is that they can choose between watching the live action, such as myself, performing on a green screen interacting with practically no one, or turn their heads 45 degrees to watch a live cut complete with fantastic sci-fi effects, evil villains and backdrops à la Flash Gordon.”

Beginning at the End (of Capitalism) is described as a “retro-futurist sci-fi adventure as one astro-navigatrix Earth girl journeys to destroy capitalism,” but at the core of the show, like any good drama, is the relationship we have with other human beings, particularly our mothers.

Sullivan’s mum worked multiple jobs, leaned on credit cards and did everything to give her daughter the best life possible, making huge sacrifices along the way.

In the show, a woman in her mid-twenties on the other side of the universe has a sobering conversation with her mum about debt, and the love that created it.

“The work looks at notions of debt in a myriad of ways. There is, of course, debt in the accounting sense, how much one owes the bank,” Sullivan says 

“But a larger, more central question Beginning At The End (of Capitalism) seeks to examine is, what do we owe each other? 

“As participants in society, we will always be indebted to the efforts and actions of others – to parents, to previous generations, to our environment. 

“A central source of inspiration in the making process has been David Graeber’s book Debt: The First 5,000 Years. 

“In it, he concludes, ‘(society) can only operate by continually converting love into debt,’ and I think that’s really getting to the heart of what the show is about.”

Sullivan graduated from WAAPA with a BA in Performance Making in 2016, going on to appear in shows like Beside.

She likes to examine the rabid consumption in modern society, with Beginning at the End (of Capitalism) touching on our consumer-obsessed culture.

“There are nods here and there to various big name designers exhibited via costuming, but beyond that, the work’s themes attack head-on what it is to live in a state of perpetual desire,” Sullivan says.

“Of fervent wanting without ever feeling sated. 

“I think that hunger, and the feelings of emptiness left in its wake, are what we are engaging with when we refer to ‘a love of fashion’”.

Transcending the green screen gimmicks, lofty themes and cold interstellar space is Sullivan’s love for her mum.

“I have a beautiful relationship with my mother, I always have,” Sullivan says.

“I’m very privileged to have been raised by someone who exhibited so much resilience as a parent, and in many ways, nurtured my interests in spite of the difficulties that came with it.”

Beginning at the End (of Capitalism) is at The Blue Room Theatre in Northbridge from June 29 – July 10. 

Tix at blueroom.org.au/events/bate/


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