After hearing about Kill Climate Deniers last year, I was very much anticipating the relief of finally satisfying my curiosity. However, upon entering the Arts House theatre, I was surprised to find a cabaret style space, the audience keenly milling about, awaiting the show. No set, just two projectors and an e-book, that Finnigan reads from, are the only props. On the screen above us, a vast scientific diagram explaining the various facets of climate change.
Kill Climate Deniers is not just a story about eco-terrorists attempting to subvert democracy and reroute Australia’s catastrophic climate pathway. In fact, the story itself is quite fantastical, retold by writer David Finnigan in a manner reminiscent of someone’s first movie pitch at university, eager and expressive, barefooted in jeans and a t shirt. With the use of a rich array of texts, from counter-terrorism laws to sound bites of Alan Jones spouting vitriol, Finnigan weaves together the story lines that make up the world inside Kill Climate Deniers, but also the world that is the media, and the role they play in climate policy.
The genesis of this story is particularly personal, as we watch awkward footage of Finnigan’s own father, a scientist studying climate change back when it was known as the greenhouse effect, learning how to engage with shock jocks trying to bait him and drown out his message. It is not a pleasant sight. But amid the giggles and the groans, in revising this lesson in how we got to be where we are today, a gratifying and humorous parallel appears. From Finnigan’s father trying to battle a conservative, sensationalist media, to Finnigan himself being attacked and defunded for daring to create a show with such an audacious title as Kill Climate Deniers, we see two generations of people trying to urge Australians towards climate action, only to be silenced by a media cycle with an alternate agenda.
For all the Alan Jones allies reading, I think I can safely say that Kill Climate Deniers is not a genuine attempt to incite eco-terrorism. In fact, Finnigan presents the tale in a manner so exaggerated that we get the sense he never envisioned it as a serious possibility. As we listen to him recount the Environment Minister transform into a vigilante-style hero and take down the terrorists in Parliament House one by one, an excerpt from Call of Duty plays above. The patriotism embedded both in the video game, and in the Minister fighting to save democracy, suggests that we have as much connection to digital entertainment as we do to environmental extremism. However, there is an important point being made here: if climate change is such an emergency, why does the elected representative become a vigilante hero quashing the eco-revolution?
It seems that this production of Kill Climate Deniers is an attempt to pronounce the long battle that has been raging, off camera and out of earshot from the Australian public. It is a deadly serious debate, between ‘opinions’ and ‘facts’, activists and lobby groups, from all sides of the political spectrum. If it weren’t for the pulsing soundtrack underpinning the show, it would a bleak end to the evening. Building throughout is a sublime array of classic electronic dance music, from the beginning of Chicago House, to dance anthems from the early 90s, teasing the audience towards a closing set by the show’s original music producer, Reuben Ingall. And so, it is with a strange satisfaction that we are called to jump up and dance, euphoric despite the dire reality that the facts presented were as surreal as the fictions.