With its first show of the semester, the Yale Cabaret is offering a glimpse into what might happen if materialism overwhelms our world.
The U.S. premiere of “Have I None” by Edward Bond opened last night at the Cabaret. Directed by Jessica Holt DRA ’15, the play is set in a post-apocalyptic world in the year 2077, where the government outlaws almost all material possessions as a result of a global catastrophe caused by people’s obsession with material goods. In this repressive society, three individuals grapple with the temptation to explore what is beyond the forced uniformity of their surroundings.
“I think Bond is creating some kind of a contemporary parable, a warning about the excesses of our time but at the same time about the corrosive effects of too much governmental authority,” Holt said.
Holt explained that the play takes place several decades after society’s excessively consumerist culture had caused a catastrophic event that destroyed nearly all of the modern world. As a result, she noted, the government resorted to the opposite extreme of banning all possessions it deemed unnecessary. Holt described the play’s setting as a patriarchal, authoritarian society in which most family relationships are not recognized. She added that the government had also banned the possession of memory-evoking objects such as photographs, films and artwork as an attempt to rid society of individualism.
Four ensemble members interviewed said they think the play focuses mainly on the question of whether one should remain in an excessively uniform, but safe, society, or risk the dangers of the unknown world in pursuit of a unique identity. In the play, there are three characters: a man named Jams, his wife Sara and a stranger named Grit who moves into their household. When Grit appears with a photograph of him and Sara and claims to be her brother, he stirs up a great deal of uncertainty in the otherwise conformist and simplistic lives of Jams and Sara. Chris Bannow DRA ’14, who plays Grit, explained that throughout the play, each character hears a mysterious knocking on the door, which he believes represents the temptation to abandon the prescribed societal norms and follow the uncertain path to self-discovery. Each character reacts differently to the knocking — Jams adamantly refuses to follow it, Grit is confused by it and Sara submits to it, Bannow added.
Ceci Fernandez DRA ’14, who plays Sara, said that though the play is set in extreme conditions, she believes it is less fantastical than it appears. Bannow said he thinks many of the conditions that may lead to such a future already exist. The amount of information we can access at any given moment already makes our current environment overwhelming, Fernandez added, noting that she thinks any sudden major change in the world could lead to the kind of apocalyptic event mentioned in the play. Holt said that many of the controversial themes in the play, such as government authority and freedom of expression, are frequently discussed today, making the play realistic.
“I don’t feel like this play is where our society is headed, “ Holt said. “I feel like this is where we have already been for a while.”
Alexander Woodward DRA ’16, the production’s scenic designer, said the stage design aims to reflect the uncomfortable, stifling atmosphere of the society depicted in the play. He described the set as a blank environment, since the walls and furniture have no designs or decorations of any sort. Woodward added that the simplicity of the set helps to draw the audience’s attention to certain objects that would otherwise remain unnoticed. He explained that instead of being controlled by a switch, the main light in the room is connected to a box that is remotely controlled by the government, which symbolizes how little personal freedom these characters have. If the photograph of Grit and Sara did not stand out against the barren background, the audience may have underestimated its significance, Woodward noted.
The Cabaret’s next production, “The Defendant,” will open on Jan. 23.