“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore,” chants the National Theatre’s audience again and again.
[London, UK] Words that are supposed to sound like a reaction to all the evils of our society, turn the “Network” audience into a flock of sheep. Exactly like in real life. Anger is our new mainstream. We like to be angry. And we like to watch others being angry. We crave for an “angry man”. And we get one.
These 900 chanting people are not blinded by ideology, no. There is no ideology in this world. There are no borders, no countries and no nations. Instead, “The world is a business,” states one of the gods of the new money-backed pantheon of deities. The National Theatre’s staging of “Network” provides us with a brilliant metaphor: the news, or rather “the stories that we want to hear,” are being fed to us, just like a meal at a restaurant. Yes, we truly are the society of consumers.
“Network” is supposed to be a wake up call. For us to open our eyes and – no, not to be angry, seeing the society in black and white colors – but to think. Finally, think rationally. Analyze and see beyond our simplistic anger towards ‘Trump’s’, ‘Putin’s’ and ‘Jong-un’s’ (however reasonable hard feelings might be).
Because the fact of the matter is such: The more we hate, the more and better our hatred sells.
“Network” does an exceptional job at demonstrating this to us by immersing the audience into the world of news production.
Based on Paddy Chayefsky’s film of the same name, “Network” tells a story of Howard Beale (Outstanding Brian Cranston), news anchorman, who becomes America’s newfound populist prophet by breaking off the traditional news format and becoming the country’s ‘angry man’. His success is carefully staged by a young but highly ambitious TV producer Diana Christensen, brilliantly portrayed by Michelle Dockery. The play is set in 1975 (although it’s even more relevant in 2018), and Christensen is representative of the new generation that grew up with television (read – digital media). The new generation is ambitious, immoral and emotionally crippled. To her lover’s (Douglas Henshall) pleas to love him, Christensen responds, “I don’t know how”. This scene, perhaps, was one of the most emotional, as it made me see myself in Dockery’s character.
This theatre experience made me rethink my views and values. And that’s good. What else is theatre for, but to open our eyes to bigger issues by making us uncomfortable? I believe, that is the purpose of “Network”. A pity, however, that very few audience members got this message, laughing and cheering during the main character’s angry chants, when all I wanted to do was cry out of helplessness.
After the final bow, the audience was offered the final test. The giant screen lit up to show video compilation of the US presidents’ oath of office, ending with Obama and Trump. They, of course, received extremely different reaction from the audience.
No need to say that most failed the test.
Photo courtesy of National Theatre