7 May 2012
Faced paced, dynamic and educative 'Gravity' is a gripping contemporary play about violence in schools. **Obi Chiejina** links the unfolding events with iconic occurrences from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. 'Gravity' continues to tour to schools and colleges throughout 2012.
In 1914 Yevgeny Zamyatin a Russian science fiction writer compared the unfolding events leading to the upheaval of the Great October Socialist Revolution with Albert Einstein’s theory of gravitational force: ‘Life itself today has lost its plane reality: it is projected, not along the old fixed points, but along the dynamic coordinates of Einstein...’ [See http://www.monadnock.net/fanspaces/zamyatin/quotes.html]
Russia’s political, economic and social traditions or ‘fixed points’ were being eroded and being replaced by a flexible but powerful form of state governance. The dissolution of the old guard and the creation of a new state formed a new gravitational force/contract between the Russian people and the state.
The playwright Pezhman uses the gravitational metaphor to scrutinize the dramatic circumstances surrounding the physical assault of teenager Kyle by his teacher David in ‘Gravity’.
Pezhman loosens and tightens the bonds in two key interrelated dramatic orbits creating a play that is both familiar and disturbing. The first orbit consists of the dramatic links binding the eight scenes or fixed points together into one dramatic unit. The second known as the ‘audience-drama’ orbit is made up of the fluctuating relationship between the unfolding events of the stage and the audience watching the play.
In the first half of the play Pezhman loosens the gravitational forces linking the first four scenes resulting in a linear progression of events and occurrences. We are introduced to the science room of an unnamed secondary school, the character of David preparing for a school inspection and Kyle a male pupil with a keen interest in physics. Kyle’s scientific interests are nurtured by David, a physics teacher. By hinting at a happy ending Pezhman creates a taut relationship between the fixed points of the audience and the stage.
By scene eight the gravitational forces have tightened, forcing events and audience expectations to collide. The linear progression of events established in the first half of the play is reversed when Kyle is picked on by another pupil Rhys. Rhys makes fun of David's depression causing David to snap.
Kyle loses interest in physics whilst David feels frustrated at the normal but unpredictable changes in his star pupil. The sense of insecurity noted by the audience as they watch the order of the school system give way to impulsive behaviour is echoed by David: ‘…and with these recent events……I just don’t have the control that I used to.’
I found the exploration of the reasons behind the incitement to violence compelling. So it was perplexing to see ‘Gravity’ being promoted as a school play for children and young adults. Surely this play should be compulsory reading for anyone with an interest in probing the factors behind urban unrest in 2011?
For information about the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and the tour of 'Gravity', please go to www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/