Gasping is a production by UK comedian Ben Elton, and tells the tale of advertising executives who discover the ‘suck and blow’ machine which can extract oxygen from the air, and who then start marketing air to the consumer. Starting innocently enough with ‘designer air’ for executives, things escalate until air is being stockpiled, the market prices tumble, and people are literally ‘gasping’ for a lungful.
While this is a ridiculous idea, the production draws parallels between this and businesses that have already mined and sold natural resources – i.e. water, oil and food production.
In a world where we have enough resources for everyone, people still go hungry, thirsty, or cold, simply through the greed of others. Take Ethiopia for example; a country where the export of food to western supermarkets makes up around 83.9% GDP of the country, yet the people that live there are often hit with famine, to the point that food aid must be sent from overseas. I really recommend you read Tescopoly to find out more about the power of the supermarkets.
Anyway, I digress. The show it’s was pretty good for a local production. The only thing I found wearing about the script however, is Elton’s overuse of ‘hilarious similes’. I love that in shows such as Blackadder (“This place stinks like a pair of armoured trousers after the Hundred Years War”), but in Gasping, it felt like every other line was delivered in this way.
To draw another Blackadder similarity, one of the lead characters, Phillip, was played by someone who sounded a lot like Hugh Laurie.
However, overall it was pretty funny, and also a damning insight into the world of marketing, big business, and the workings of capitalism. I also cannot recommend the Dolphin Theatre enough. It’s a cute venue, a not for profit, and a $28 ticket gets you the production and tea and biscuits during the interval.
For a lovely night out at the theatre – 3 out of 4 stars