'The Good Plague' One-hour stage play
I think It is true that such dark scenarios are part of human nature but we have had periods in our history when there's been an admirable collective effort to reduce the glorification of violence. Post-war Britain and America made a big effort to stop dark content but unfortunately that has been eroded. It's very worrying to me now that very violent content is now becoming the default form of entertainment in mainstream culture. When I was growing up, films such as 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre', 'Make them Die Slowly' and 'The Evil Dead' were regarded by most people as fringe entertainment for morally dubious people, but they're now staple entries in our multiplexes. I think it is a concerning development. I don't want to sound too puritanical when it comes to screen violence. For example, I thought 'Evil Dead 2' was a brilliant movie and I still do, but I've personally moved away from watching any violence, something I've blogged about in the past, and so to me, from where I'm standing now, this shift in our popular entertainment looks seriously awful.
From a social-programming perspective, flooding a society with a constant stream of dark, visceral stimulation does have its uses. Firstly, it's an addictive distraction. If everyone's too busy getting their kicks from watching an orgy of violence, they won't be thinking about other matters, such as the state of their planet, the behaviour of their ruling elite, the possibilities of human mental development and other important topics. An endless orgy of visual violence is also useful as it can train the general population to become increasing willing to be violent towards those seen as 'the enemy', or to be unconcerned when others in their society are callously violent to 'the enemy'. The far-right would certainly welcome such a cultural shift.
Because of my concerns, I decided to write my play 'the good plague'. It is set in a society whose citizens are well-behaved, industrious professionals but their society has no morals Instead, the society functions because every behaves themselves in order to comply with contractual agreements. Neighbours don't shoot each other because they both have insurance. If one shot another, the victim's insurance company would send a hit squad to kill the murderer, as this was part of the insurance coverage. In this way, everyone in the society is a law-abiding citizen, not through some moral code but out of self-interest. The biting satire is that such a callous, self-serving society can, on first view, seem indistinguishable from a supposedly moral society.
Self-interest isn't the only reason for the citizens of the society to hold off killing others. The citizens are free to kill uninsured people (nobodies in the eyes of that society) as they do not have to worry about retribution for their actions, but if they become too bloodthirsty, it will affect their character profile. Their CVs are very important to them and their psychology profile is part of their CV. If they're marked as being 'out of control', this will affect their careers. They therefore literally have to hold off killing 'nobodies' to protect their job prospects.
The play is set in one room, a 'hunting' lodge in a poor part of the city. The play's four protagonists meet up there, preparing to go out and help their society. A twist is soon revealed to the audience. The group's planned 'help' is actually hunting and killing the uninsured, 'culling' the population of 'inferior and tainted members'. One of them is doing it as a civic duty; two of the others are doing it for fun and the fourth is doing it to avoid being seen as a coward, or pacifist.
Soon, the main focus of the play is revealed, for increasing numbers of the out-group, the 'vermin' that the 'noble' citizens are trying to eradicate, have developed something that scares the death out of the 'noble' citizens; selfless love. The citizens are petrified of this plague, this spreading disease, for if they become infected with selfless love, they might give away all their money and become poor! But at the same time, some of those citizens notice what selfless love does to those who convert to it, or contract it, and realise that it offers something that their society lacks. They want to have that too. This split amongst the citizens creates conflict and death, and leads to another twist, revealed at the end.
Historical buffs may spot that the way this play unfolds reflects the way the Roman Emperors first bloodily suppressed Christianity, then switched tactics and made it an official religion.
This play is a new version of an earlier idea I had called ' the serial samaritan', with some key changes to make it work as a stage play. I also played with the idea in my graphic short story 'The Serial Samaritan', which had a dark, fantasy flavour. All in all, I think the play version works best.
As I've no expectation of selling this play to anyone, I thought I'd attach it here for anyone to download. It is still my copyright but I don't plan to charge any amateur performance if they stage it. If you like it and plan to perform it, please let me know as I'd be fascinated to hear how you got on.