The Play “Marooned” is such an interesting project. From its conception I wasn’t sure how it would travel. But then the readers got back and they were overwhelmingly positive. This is not only a great piece but it’s an important piece of theater which was why night after night they urged us to keep going and take this play everywhere.
They even offered us great testimonials that we gleaned from facebook. This growing list is on our website. https://www.wolvestheatre.com/marooned
Still, testimonials from new readers of the script are coming in and they agree with the rest. Marooned is a powerful and important suicide prevention play.
And NOW THE MTC’s Lawler IS PARTNERING WITH THE PLAY
But there is a problem.
Mindframe is a national program supporting safe media reporting, portrayal and communication about suicide, mental ill-health and alcohol and other drugs.
Mindframe have Guidelines specific to portraying suicide on stage and screen. They too have stated in an email that the play is great, but they want it gutted, as their guidelines clearly state that mentioning methods in theatrical plays leads to copy-cat incidents.
But if we remove the discussion of methods then the story does not work.
Now in this play no suicides are portrayed, they are only discussed as the characters try to figure out why they failed.
Let me explain. A man once jumped off the Golden Gate bridge and survived. He stated that in the moments after he jumped, he changed his mind, and that all the reasons that saw him jump vanished immediately, the only problem he had now was that he was still falling.
Now, imagine if that regretful period of falling could be frozen.
This is where this play is set.
Four people, all strangers to each other have committed suicide and now their souls are stuck in a waiting room in the afterlife. They believe they have all “failed” and are waiting to be sent back to their lives and their problems. But nothing happens. They are still here, Marooned. So, they start to talk about how they did it, their methods, as they try to figure out how they “failed.” This talk leads to the reasons why they did it, and this conversation in turn sees them all opening up. Opening up ends their individual isolation, which leads to them all regretting the fact that they attempted suicide in the first place. This regret manifests into a strong determination to live. It also shows the horror that if there is an afterlife, then you could spend ‘who knows how long,’ wrought with a regret that your soul could not escape. And this horror would be worse than all the reasons that saw you want to leave in the first place.
This new and original approach is why Marooned works as a suicide prevention play.
Unfortunately, Mindframe’s guidelines do not make an accommodation for original creative ideas that tackle suicide from such a fresh perspective. Instead, despite all their good intentions, they are now a form of censorship. Every night this play has been on, audiences hang around and many want to talk about suicide. Therefore we know the play is an effective tool in cracking the stubborn silence. The methods the characters used are all pedestrian, and they are not detailed. The play is not an Ikea manual on how to top yourself. And if you did want to do that well it’s common knowledge that you can google methods and there are libraries of info on how to do it. Also, TV shows and movies from the USA routinely and graphically portray suicides so I can’t see how our play where methods are only lightly discussed, can be seen as more dangerous than them.
In conversations with Mindframe, they have told me that they have studies which back their claims. I have asked for links to these studies, for I could not understand how they were set up or completed or verified. Surely by now there should be a catalog of suicides that we can directly connect to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet?
But they wouldn’t send me their links. So I googled them and found nothing. No studies of the effects on audiences from suicides being depicted on stage at all. In a further discussion they told me that they had a study from China that proved it.
I’m sorry, but I don’t think that Australian Artists should censor or have their worked censored based on a study from China.
So, in conclusion. Before staging the play I asked, the mother of the man whose suicide gave birth to the play, to read it. She is a retired social worker and I wasn’t going to stage it unless she gave me the green light. She emphatically did. Since then actors, readers and audiences have all continued and still continue to urge us on. Communally stating that it has to be seen.
Therefore the only way forward is to state that this play is now an “Artistic Act of Rebellion.”
Rohana and I both believe that theatre not only needs to be free to push boundaries but that that is its purpose.
Michael Gray Griffith