Treasure is a new play I’m working on. Since I was drawing for it this week, now is as good a time as any to explain it. It was inspired by two main things – two worlds, if you like, that are direct opposites. The first is the growing – and, no doubt, familiar – trend of helicopter parenting. The second is dumpster diving. Don’t knock it ’til you try it.
Treasure is set in a future wherein disease has supposedly wiped out the unwashed masses, and the earth is too polluted for habitation. The remaining humans live in a city raised off the ground, where cleanliness and safety are paramount, and wastefulness is common.
(The picture quality is a bit crap because I took it with my phone, rather than scanning it like I normally do. A better version will go up once I finish, in the gallery that I’m building.)
Anyway, in this cloud city there lives a spoiled girl called Chlorissa. That’s her in the blue onesie and blonde bob. I went with symbolic names for this story because I wanted to reflect the cultural values of the people. ‘Chlorissa’ is, of course, ‘chlorine’+’Clarissa’. I could have gone with ‘Clarissa’ for its associations with clarity, etc., but I wanted to reflect the baby-naming trend of krazie spellyng as well. She’s got gloves on in this picture, as well as personal monitors on her limbs and neck. I wanted them to look a bit like a hybrid of Apple watches and shackles.
Chlorissa’s mother, Raelene, is the CEO of a giant corporation, OmniTech. That’s her with the massive shoulder pads and squirty bottle. I gave her platform soles to get her even further off the ground. ‘Raelene’ means ‘protector’ and sounds like ‘railing’; not subtle, but it’s a school play so I’m allowing myself a bit of levity. Actually, I love Raelene’s design. I know there are thousands of possible variations on all these costume concepts, but I would love to see a budding actress stalking around a stage in that power suit.
OmniTech produces personal robots, like the green and purple ones here. Like many people in the cloud city, Chlorissa is guarded from every possible physical and emotional hazard by her mother and Silicon Sisters. In fact, she’s coddled to the point of being dependent on her gadgets and her mother for everything. Again, the Silicon Sisters don’t have to look like this, but I took inspiration from real robots like these: cute in theory, horrific in reality. Chlorissa’s trying to grow up, getting curious about the world, but Raelene and the Silicon Sisters keep getting in her way, and she begins to resent them.
One day, Chlorissa overhears a meeting at OmniTech: something called the Ultimate Cleansing Project. Chlorissa doesn’t understand it fully, but it doesn’t sound good. She’s caught eavesdropping by her Silicon Sisters, who throw her down a garbage chute. It’s assumed that if the fall doesn’t kill her, the plague down on earth will.
But Chlorissa survives the fall. And not everyone on the earth is a plague mutant:
These three are ‘Soilers’: energetic Skip, stoic Bri (Debris) and wisecracking Jet (Jetsam), named for the fact that down there, garbage is viewed as a blessing.
As it happens, not only do they live on the ground, there’s a whole community down there, living off the rubbish of the ‘Precious’ (wealthy folk) who live above them. Everything in their world is made from junk (although they grow their own food). Honestly, I would love to see different interpretations of these three – there are just so many wonderful, scrappy, messy opportunities. I’m inking them in warm colours to create a dramatic colour contrast to the Precious and the Silicon Sisters. I don’t know exactly what their relationship is, although I’ve written a few scenes that capture their chemistry. I like the idea of having Bri and Jet be a couple who have taken Skip on as a foster child, but maybe I’ll just have them all live together and let the audience decide for themselves whether they’re sisters or friends or whatever. I don’t think they’re biologically related, though. Like everything they own, they’ve scraped a family together out of the ruins.
The girls are wary of Chlorissa at first: she’s bratty, weak and naive, and their lives are tough enough without having to carry dead weight. They take her in, because with nightfall comes the source of the rumours: the junk heaps are full of feral plague victims who attack and devour humans. I want them to be less like zombies and more like rabid animals. Just as the Silicon Sisters embody the extremes of cleanliness, care and obedience, the ferals should be the opposite: dirty, wild and ruthless.
Chlorissa adapts to life in the junk heaps, learning about the ways of the world and the true history of the cloud city. She starts to have doubts about some aspects of her society, but her faith in Raelene remains unchanged.
That is, until the Soilers discover clues in the scrap heaps that reveal the full terrible extent of Raelene’s Ultimate Cleansing Project.
At the moment, I’m looking at an all-female cast so I can offer it to my old secondary school. As in my previous plays, I’m going to work in many smaller speaking parts – extra Precious folk, extra Soilers, more Silicon Sisters and of course, a big pack of snarling ferals. If the school doesn’t want it, though, I might be able to whittle down the ensemble and do something else with it. In any case, it’s shaping up to be pretty fun for me.
Questions? Ideas? Tell me in the comments!