There is no fear for one whose mind is not filled with desires.
If the Buddha is correct, Americans have much to fear. The average American uses 300 shopping bags worth of raw materials every week. For everyone on Earth to live an “American” lifestyle, the world would need the resources of three planets. In the US, more money is spent on fashion accessories than college tuition. Despite making up just over 3% of the global population of children, American kids consume 40% of the world’s toys.
These are not statistics that disturb Jill and Oliver Swift, the central characters of Radiant Vermin. Their acquisitiveness begins very reasonably with a desire to move out of their vermin-infested flat in Red Ocean Estate, and then, with a baby coming, their needs naturally increase. Soon Jill and Oliver (whose name reminds us of the orphan who only wanted a little more gruel) are singing, “Hell, I still want more.”
Still, throughout the Radiant Vermin rehearsals, we were frequently reminded that we all share the burden of recalcitrant desire. To help the actors get into character, the actors and production team poured over interior design and fashion magazines that promised that we could make our children brilliant, our homes glamorous, and ourselves irresistible with just a few purchases. We laughed at photographs of children’s rooms in which the stuffed animals matched the color scheme or where the homeowners’ clothes matched the décor. We sneered at the elaborate chandeliers shown hanging over babies’ cribs and at furniture named for a mood rather than a function. But eventually, everyone in the room paused at one page or another to note that a certain chair, lamp, rug, or cashmere blanket might just be perfect…
Written by Ellen Walkley, Radiant Vermin Dramaturg