It’s been two years since we began our work telling the story of Linden. Despite its origin as a work of fiction, the town has never felt more real.
Let’s set the scene: Hannah Marr – ambitious civil servant in the town of Linden, Victoria – is tired of watching her beloved hometown suffer from stagnation, drought, boomer corruption and millennial apathy.
Using her unique position of power, she conspires to cure society’s ills with a bold political experiment: a series of neo-fascist policies designed to make Linden great again.
At first, it’s a roaring success: new jobs, potholes filled, daycare at the library! But before long, bigotry bubbles to the surface and the extremists move in next door …
Sound familiar? As creators, we always thought of Linden as a slightly unreal, allegorical setting – familiar enough to explore the concepts we had set out to address, but more a smudge on the map than a real-world location: think Grover’s Corners, Llareggub, or Springfield, USA.
However, it wasn’t long into the development process of this provocative new work until we realised that the issues we’d hoped to explore in allegory were all too present and genuine.
Far-right extremism has found a sturdy, comfortable place in contemporary Australian society.
Buoyed by sensationalist media and systemic racism, hate has been openly preached and sanitised by certain politicians and pundits, eager to use fear as a method of control – from right-wing radio hosts calling for violence during the 2006 Cronulla Riots to the heavily peopled (and ineptly named) Reclaim Australia rallies that gave voice to dangerous, anti-Islamic rhetoric.
Even more alarming is the little-to-no evidence of any push-back or admonishment by our politicians, law enforcement or society at large. Ask an Australian how you might know one of our all-time great racists: they’ll probably say they saw her on Dancing with the Stars.
In a recent segment on ABC’s Q&A, journalist Antoinette Lattouf cited that ASIO’s workload in handling white supremacist groups and neo-nazis has tripled over the past five years.
Non-for-profit organisation All Together Now released a statement during 2020 regarding the online radicalisation of young people during the pandemic, highlighting the increased use of social media platforms by extremist groups to radicalise and recruit young people online: “They build a sense of community by focusing on antidemocratic, xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, and ableist values and activities.”
The increased isolation of people during the 2020 lockdowns, combined with an increasingly pervasive culture of online radicalisation and misinformation, now renders far-right extremism to be considered the number one domestic threat in the United States. Australia isn’t far behind.
With The Linden Solution, Ratcatch Theatre aims to facilitate the conversation about a threat that is all too real, and the significant role complacency plays in allowing hatred, racism and bigotry to call Australia home.
We ask our audience to examine the part of themselves that might start nodding along to the bullshit. It doesn’t take much for us to let hate and fear seep in and infect our lives.
Like many of our colleagues in the 2021 season at KXT, The Linden Solution was postponed just weeks out from its world premiere in 2020 due to the pandemic. We shut down production, and began tuning the script to reflect the changing world before us.
Devastatingly, what we saw was a play that only increased in relevance – and in a setting that was growing to be uncomfortably familiar. We do hope you’ll join us on the journey to Linden: to discover what strange things happened there, and to learn how we can prevent them from happening again. It’s safe to say: we all have some work to do.
The Linden Solution plays at Kings Cross Theatre, May 26 – June 5
If you would like to read more about All Together Now you can find out more via their website – or for resources regarding the CAPE program (Community Action for Preventing Extremism) you can find more details here.
Click here for a detailed report on the impact of COVID-19 on far-right extremism in Australia.
You can make a donation to All Together Now via its website