In a doomed, neo-capitalist world, it’s fairly obvious that nostalgia has become the cultural weapon of comfort.
You’d have to close off all your senses on any given day to let our nostalgia-saturated culture go unnoticed.
In among a slew of TV and cinema remakes, think of an “original series” like Stranger Things, whose premise is built entirely from 80s nostalgia-bait, with transparent nods to Stephen King.
Or Vetements, the French fashion collective, which included a replica of The Heart of the Ocean (y’know, the necklace from the Titanic movie) as a jewellery piece in its Fall/Winter 19/20 show. The brand then capped its hyper-capitalist nostalgic brand culture by setting its runway in a Parisian McDonald’s. Beautiful.
Recycling the past isn’t something new.
It’s still a lucrative drawcard for audiences even if done innocently in Sydney theatres (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and more so anyone who had Lord of the Flies as a school text). But nostalgia is dangerous when used as political rhetoric – for example, when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan states that the Republic of Turkey is a continuation of the Ottoman Empire (if you think that this has no relation to Cool Pool Party, I beg you to see it).
And nostalgia is dangerous again for anyone (me) who spends a lot of time home alone.
Nostalgia reveals its toxic prowess in the digital age, where Instagram and Youtube provide eternal collections for a pervasive hypnotism. On any given internet session, I would lose hours at a time. Blink 182 slowly crept their way up to be my most-played artist of the year. Hannah Montana’s entire season release on Stan became a shameful 2019 cultural reference point.
This nostalgia was a clear signifier of two things. That I hated my current life, and that I was falsely idealising the past.
I had one thing to do: kill the soft comforts of the devil that is nostalgia.
In my quest for “originality”, I decided I needed a true representative of nostalgia to relieve me from this trauma – an innocent pre-teen. A younger me, an optimistic me, an 11-year-old girl.
She would write about coming-of-age teens who would then be performed by actors consumed by the banality of their adulthood, and confined to the very fringes of Sydney theatre.
So I put a call out for a 10-14-year-old, preferably female. And that’s when I found Scarlett Beaumont.
On Mondays, we would get together to write about a pool party. A Cool Pool Party. Pretty quickly, however, we weren’t writing Cool Pool Party. Scarlett was.
My writing role – supervising grammar, plot and character – shifted quickly into stupefaction. Themes of love, betrayal, guilt and play were all at the hands of Scarlett, a gentle reminder of what I was incapable of writing.
My part in the process shifted. On Mondays, I consoled Scarlett through her Primary school happenings, from spelling tests, to mentally overthrowing the schoolyard “it” girls, and assuring her that it was ok to be friends with boys.
I was feeling comforted, although I hadn’t found a younger me. I wasn’t going to force this capable young woman to become a means to me overcoming my nostalgia-curse.
I forced that onto the adult cast and creative team, instead.
So I’d like to formally introduce the Sydney theatre community to 11-year-old child prodigy Scarlett Beaumont, an independent voice with a spirited script that she is so excited to see realised. Let’s embrace the start of what will hopefully become Scarlett’s ongoing career in Australian theatre.
Meanwhile, my nostalgia? Momentarily freed, at least on Monday afternoons.
And for the audience of Cool Pool Party? Well, there’s another two acts, written by myself – so you’ll be swamped in my false reverie of the past, and current state of the self-hate that is nostalgia.
It’s not all bad, though. Nostalgia is proven to thwart feelings of boredom, loneliness and anxiety, so come and take a dip.