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Review of Eureka Day at The Old Vic - Let's all take a minute, step back and breathe before judging

Updated: Feb 5, 2023

Rated 🍯🍯🍯

Stage of Eureka Day at The Old Vic Theatre
Stage of Eureka Day at The Old Vic Theatre

What just happened?!

Depending on how synced up you are with the whole liberal / woke / anti-woke / progressive / whatever-new-phrase-they’ve-come-up-with-because-someone-got-offended-by-the-old-one movement, you may find Eureka Day either refreshing or infuriating.

Or maybe just banal, if you, like the bee, have spent countless hours rolling your eyes at the reductio ad absurdum technique increasingly used by people on both sides of the social and political spectrum to ridicule the other side, even if it is done purposefully to entertain.

Genuine stupidity v. strategic stupidity

The problem is that the bee has lost the ability to discriminate those who genuinely believe in their idiotic ideas from those who are strategically wielding stupidity (for want of a better word) as a weapon to gain social or political mileage. It does not help that we live in a world where publicly exhibiting stupidity earns you political advantages and can even make you head of state. Therefore, the line between the ‘truly stupid’ and ‘strategically stupid’ has blurred, at least in the bee’s tiny head, causing the bee a great deal of bewilderment at the state of the human world.

But that’s just the bee. The play cannot be held in contempt for causing the bee to roll its eyes when, clearly, that is exactly what the writers intended for their audience.

The play was meant to exasperate the audience, and it did. Beautifully.

Naturally, that complicates things in terms of deciding what exactly the play did for the bee. Should I concede that my enjoyment of the play was reduced by my exasperation at the absurdity of the premise of Eureka Day School, or should I give the play extra credit for achieving exactly what it intended to do?

To the play’s credit, Eureka Day does make a bold attempt to document the state of the nation and highlight the pitfalls of extreme fundamentalist thinking.

Not that reductio ad absurdum-oriented argumentation has ever been enough to change people’s beliefs - it only infuriates the believers and reassures the disbelievers without really changing either camp’s point of view, and we see this very clearly in the play - even those who claim to be broad-minded are, in the end, rather dogmatic in their beliefs and it takes a lot more than rational, objective fact to convince rational, objective individuals to change their minds. Okay, that’s takeaway #1.

The play delivers a chilling reality check as to the farcical state of affairs that one must contend with if one wants to recognise the existence of 72 different gender identities or co-opt jargon like ‘community activated conversation’ to bolster otherwise vacuous, tenuous and sometimes even destructive choices. Takeaway #2.

Can we just come to terms with the fact that we - the human race - are capable of boundless stupidity? And such stupidity is pervasive in both the left and the right? Aren’t anti-vax campaigns just as obtuse as letting young children get gender reassignment surgery before they even know who they are? An excess of most things is, usually, suboptimal. Takeaway #3.

But isn’t that obvious, when you think about it? Is there really any novelty in that message?

Sure, it was entertaining and humorous for the bee to count the number of times the progressives in the play said something like “yes, no, of course, of course” in an attempt to sound (without the remotest earnestness of course) like they’re being broad-minded enough to agree with a contrarian point of view. (The bee counted to 17 or so before giving up).

Sure, it was entertaining to see how some people can speak 70 words or so before they even begin to have something to say. A nice episode of The Office (US version) comes to mind: Angela begins making a speech to the office but has nothing of value to say. As she rambles about 30 words conveying - well - nothing at all, Toby cuts her off with "No, no, you have to have something to say if you want to talk".

Anyway, in Eureka Day, the entertainment value in these humorous elements wore off by the first half of the play and the bee was left with a hankering for something more novel. Perhaps a strong, polarising, controversial message. Something to the effect of, “Sometimes you stupid humans really do need an authoritarian dictator to tell you to go vaccinate your children, because you’re too stupid to be trusted to make the right decisions on your own. Just acknowledge your own stupidity and listen to the government sometimes.” (I am not saying I agree with this message, but I would have liked to see the play be bold, blunt and blatant like that).

Three stars.

Watched October 2022 at The Old Vic Theatre, London


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