Updated: Apr 7, 2022
Wholly original and thought-provoking, Flounder was an impressive student theatre production, performed last week on the 23rd and 24th of March. The dramedy was written and directed by Adesola Thomas, a student in the School of English at the University of St Andrews, currently undertaking a masters in screenwriting and playwriting. The production, “set in a near future where climate catastrophe is realised”, aimed to find humour in the gloom. And it is safe to say that Thomas succeeded by dousing the difficult topic with laugh-out-loud lines, interpretive dance, and eccentric costumes. Indeed, bringing humour to such a serious and pertinent issue is a clever way of creating discourse and perhaps even making the climate crisis easier to talk about.
Flounder follows the tale of two residents of a government owned facility, Margaret (SJ Rosetta Aurelia) and Gabe (Nicole Sellew), who after missing a flood rescue drill are left with nothing but each other and the question of whether the drill was merely a drill or if a flood really is coming. They choose to recollect and reflect upon their life stories, as themes of class divide between the two segregated factions, the Southerners and the Coastal Elite, begin to emerge. The chemistry between Margaret and Gabe was as charged as a post-apocalyptic, mutant electric eel as they played off each other and made great use of the minimal set. Their physical acting styles proved to be both comedic and, at times, especially tender. In fact, there was a particularly synergetic energy flowing through the entire cast. Whilst in a psychedelic-induced state, Margaret and Gabe are joined by Margaret’s zany family whom the pair end up swapping stories with and sharing a dance.
The play’s focus on love and human connection married surprisingly perfectly with the sombre topic. Despite the tragic doomsday ending, the audience was witness to joyful relationships which proved to be rather hilarious. Conversely, the cast’s twitching bodies in the darkness, whilst Radiohead’s ‘Weird Fishes/ Arpeggi’ hauntingly played, was incredibly poignant and moving. The dramedy’s conclusion was most importantly a warning of humanity’s future if we continue on the path to self-destruction. The relationships explored and the theme of love permeating the entire production, gives hope and maybe even proposes a solution; suggesting that it is through communication and community that problems are solved.
Thursday night’s performance was followed by a Community Resilience Dance, inspired by the art and queer community of Thomas’ hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, USA. The dance, set to a big collaborative playlist, proved to be a space for the audience to get together, reflect upon the themes and issues covered by the play, and mingle with like-minded people. Instead of simply hitting the audience with a tidal wave of climate anxiety and ushering them out into the night, the dance served as a way to come together and talk about the problem. Additionally, Transition St Andrews, “one of over 2000 Transition town groups across 50 countries, taking local action on the climate crisis”, had a booth at the event and there were activities such as face-painting and the opportunity to meet some therapy dogs.
Thomas’ Flounder was certainly a success, attracting a fully packed audience and, impressively, receiving a standing ovation. After viewing, the dramedy certainly caused me to contemplate the state of the earth and humanity’s ever-gloomy fate. However I was also left with a lingering feeling of joy and perhaps even some hope for our world.