It’s been quite a while since I’ve read a play and this one was a doozy to pick up and start on whim. The Golden Age by Louis Nowra had so much more impact when I realized that the story is inspired by true events. Not that the general idea is completely unheard of. A group of people living in the wild without contact with the outside world is discovered and brought to the outside and to their downfall. The story has repeated itself in our history far too many times and this play puts a microscope to all those involved. It begins with discovery and potential for partnership and ends with moral labyrinths and mutually assured destruction.
I had a conversation recently about super hero movies and someone mentioned that so many of them would be cut to a five minute clip if all the people involved just talked to each other and communicated the plan. I realize that this is the case with many many stories. The conflict appears because communication is lacking or impossible. In the case of The Golden Age the people discovered speak in a language that can’t be understood by the people that discovered them or the audience. In the book Louis Nowra offers translations in the back for the actors and directors. This made me so excited to see this some day because the actors have to do most of the heavy lifting for this dialogue. They and their directors get to decide how much of what they say should they try to use body language to help the audience along and when they should carry on and let the audience be as lost as the characters that can’t understand them.
The play offers up a lot of questions to be considered that the characters struggle with. Is it our responsibility to bring hidden societies into our world and way of living? It feels presumptuous but at the very least our advanced medicine could be of some use. So many of the advances societies have made have been made because cultural exchanges have happened. Not always pleasant, usually not pleasant, often forced and violent in fact, but the cultural exchanges don’t always have to be a bad thing. At what point does ones search for knowledge of the world and the cultures in it impede on those that want to be left alone? Is giving the options to leave already too much of an imposition, or is it one of the functions of explorers and knowledge seekers to share what they already know?
This play was fascinating and tragic. I appreciate a story that forces me to question what I believe and this play certainly does that. The world seems to be getting smaller and smaller every day which can make it easy to think there are no more societies that haven’t been discovered and led to our version of present day. Shortly after I finished this play I saw a video that indicated otherwise. Apparently there are tribes in Peru that we have yet to make contact with. The video was of a man from a tribe that had recently made contact and he indicated that they’re lives were much better beforehand. His plea was to save the land so that they could continue to live the way they wanted to and the tribes that hadn’t made contact yet wouldn’t have to if they didn’t want to. The story of this play is still happening and we still haven’t figured out what the best course of action is. If nothing else this play is important to force us to think very carefully about the negative effects our actions could have on those we haven’t discovered.