Scientific discoveries have abounded in the decades since Stephen Sewell’s Cold War era play, 'Welcome The Bright World', premiered in 1982.
Yet are we any closer to knowing what is universally true, asks Director Charles Sanders, or do we “just have a lot more knowledge to build bombs with”?
While humanity has vigorously searched for truth for millennia, through spirituality and science, in the information age the answers seem further away than ever. Science can’t seem to resolve the riddle of high carb or low carb, so how can we begin to arrive at a universal solution to questions like what is our place in the cosmos or how do we live a moral life?
Definitive truth is the crusade of two Jewish scientists in Stephen Sewell’s ‘Welcome The Bright World’, to be presented by House Of Sand and the State Theatre Company Of South Australia. In 1980s Berlin, where the play is set, the Wall dividing two conceptions of pure ideological truth, capitalism and socialism, still stands.
While that wall has since fallen, disunity rages on. Politicians are fighting as ferociously as ever over who is “right” and what we should believe, as was made clear to director Charles Sanders from the beginning of their production, as he explains.
“On our first day of rehearsal, I heard that Rudy Giuliani had dropped that fantastically horrible soundbite about truth isn’t truth when confronted about Donald Trump’s conduct.”
This production, then, is a timely opportunity to view our current political predicament through a slightly retro lens, says Charles.
“['Welcome The Bright World'] feels like one of those Brecht plays that’s set in a time that’s just enough removed that audiences can get a little bit of critical distance but the thematic links are so strong and particularly the central question of the play, what is truth, can we know it and if so, what is its moral character, that has become increasingly relevant in recent years with the rise of Trumpism and alternative facts and a post-truth society.”
Image © Kate Pardey
The production of the Sewell classic is a continuation of a partnership between Charles and the playwright that began at NIDA, where Charles studied the directing course and Stephen taught writing.
While they never shared a classroom, Stephen played a pivotal role in Charles’ NIDA education, as he explains.
“I asked him, somewhat audaciously, if he would write my graduate work for and with me and astoundingly, he said yes.”
As a middle class, politically engaged Australian, Charles sought art that spoke to his experience, and he found it in Stephen Sewell.
“I think the thing I’ve taken the most from Stephen, is his belief, which I share, that Australian stories and Australian characters can be large, epic, meaningful, politically activated and intelligent.”
The play will not only discuss epic ideas, but Charles has ensured that it will be visually majestic as well.
“It’s a beautiful '80s aesthetic. I said to [set and costume designer Karla Urizar] early on, I want everything that was fantastic about the '80s fashion and nothing that was terrible about '80s fashion.”
The accomplished cast includes two of Australia’s leading men, Patrick Frost and Terrence Crawford, with the latter reprising the role of Max that he first played as a third-year student at NIDA.
Although we still may all be mired in existential uncertainty, we can know that this one thing is absolutely true: with a cast and crew like this, 'Welcome The Bright World' is not to be missed.