Triumph is a new play about the ever increasing culture of celebrity victimhood and those fraudsters that enable us to do so. The notion that we can, and do, make celebrities out of fraudsters was highlighted 15 years ago when Tania Head (real name Alicia Esteve Head) told her story of having escaped the Twin Towers and lost her fiancé – she became a hero; a symbol of survival. But further investigations revealed a tale that was nothing more than an elaborate deception.
Why did Head do it – well, the jury is still out on that one but it is this ‘why’ that interests playwright Louris van de Geer. “I’ve always been fascinated by behaviours that on one level can be seen as normal, but in some people they go too far and reach beyond what is socially acceptable,” she says. ” I think the behaviours explored in this play are like this – surely everyone has slightly enhanced a story for dramatic effect or to gain more sympathy. I think these scenarios show us something complex about how we relate to each other as humans and how we give and receive love.”
Triumph is inspired by true stories and through her research, van de Geer has been consistently amazed by how the media continues to find new “heroes” to follow and then to expose. “There have been numerous stories of people ‘faking’ or embellishing stories of triumph or tragedy and I find the public response to this fascinating,” she says. “I am thinking particularly of Belle Gibson and Rachel Dolezal, whose “stories” served a real purpose for them in their understanding of themselves and the world, but to an outside observer seem like blatant lies.”
Van de Geer’s hope is that the play will provide a space for audiences to think about the way we connect with each other, and how we seek and give love. Audiences will not leave with all the answers (specialists in this field still do not fully understand what motivates people to behave in this way) but the hope is that they have been able to see an aspect of their life in a way they never have before.
Van de Geer’s interest particularly centres around the idea that these behaviors aren’t malicious deliberate decisions to deceive, but are a way for people to deal with feelings and desires they can’t identify and express in a “normal” way. “They construct these narratives for themselves to make sense of their feelings and to fulfill the need for a more intense form of connection and love,” she explains. “As a society I think we also respond to these stories of extreme trauma or survival with a more pure form of love as well. So the cycle begins. We don’t have the time or space or energy to give to someone who is NOT in pain. So we create pain to receive love. This transaction is most evident in Munchausen by Proxy, which part of the play focuses on. It enacts the patient/carer dynamic in the most obvious way, but I think there are traces of this dynamic in most human relationships.”
As a playwright, van de Geer is most interested in pursuing ideas that explore human behavior: how people find a sense of belonging in the world and the various ways they go about doing this, either consciously or unconsciously. Van de Geer’s thought is that a part of this quest for belonging is a quest for connection. She acknowledges that all of her plays are likely to be about those two things.
Following the success of Tuesday and Hello There We’ve Been Waiting For You, this bold new play brings van de Geer’s distinctive lens and cruel humour to bear on a world that makes celebrities out of victims, only to watch them fall apart.
Triumph is a deeply theatrical exploration of a society longing for connection, who use tragedy (real or imagined) as a way to attract empathy and make sense of their existence. Triumph will make you reconsider how we interact with each other in a post 9/11 world.
February 19 – 28