With the current state of political affairs, discussions of post-truth, fake news, and green aliens in body suits running the country, it feels very poignant for Love & Will Productions to be recreating their 2014 production of Cosmic Trigger. “Not so much a play about conspiracy theory, as a conspiracy theory about a play”, it’s a wild and wacky exploration of Robert Anton Wilson’s research into the Illuminati.
To define this play as merely about the Illuminati would be a great oversight, as it also covers Wilson’s investigations into alternative states of being. From initiation into the church of Discordianism (worship of the goddess Eris and embrace of disorder), to engaging with LSD and the work of Timothy Leary; from scenes of tantric sex, to belief in extra-terrestrial communication, Cosmic Trigger entices us to intelligently consider belief systems and approaches that we may previously have dismissed as paranoid, indulgent mumbo jumbo.
In this sense, the play can be seen as fulfilling the ambition of its protagonist, as it manages to get the audience “to look at the world in a new way, with many models recognized as models or maps, and no one model elevated to the truth”.
Despite this intellectualising approach, Cosmic Trigger does not take itself too seriously. Farcical musical numbers, audience participation, and a whole lot of nudity foster a humorous atmosphere and prevent the occult allusions from becoming too threatening and disturbing.
The non-linear narrative structure also works to great effect, as the play flits between various scenes. This, combined with an extensive use of multi-roling, sometimes makes it difficult to differentiate between characters, locations, and time frames. But Cosmic Trigger’s disorientating timeline of events feels apt regarding its subject matter, reflecting its themes of chaos, Discordianism, paranoia, and the confusing state of society in which no one is sure what to believe.
One of my key criticisms of Cosmic Trigger is its incredible length, as it turns into a four-hour trip down a psychedelic rabbit hole that at times can feel repetitive, confusing, and cause the audience to lose focus. Writer/Director Daisy Campbell addresses this concern in the programme stating “You might think tonight’s show is long – but many of us met staging the 24-hour long Warp – some of us are still having nightmares”. This highlights how this weakness is also arguably one of the productions greatest strengths, as its extensive running time immerses the spectator and bombards them with scenes of counter-culture, hallucination and ridiculousness, so that the play itself almost assumes a hypnotic quality.
Cosmic Trigger is running at The Cockpit, Marylebone, until 27 May.