‘Global Weirding’: Australian absurdist cli-fi plays

Stephen Carleton, Chris Hay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Stephen Carleton's The Turquoise Elephant and David Finnigan's Kill Climate Deniers have each won Griffin Theatre's national award for best new Australian play over recent years, placing these theatrically irreverent black comedies at the vanguard of new Australian works dealing with climate change and global warming. In order to lampoon the absurdity of political inaction in relation to climate change, we argue that these playwrights and their audiences are engaged in what Timothy Morton identifies as a shared ‘ecognosis'–an uncanny ‘knowingness'–by staging the conversation about climate change denialism via fictional characters whose own level of insight and culpability in relation to this issue spans the spectrum of possible positions. Both Carleton and Finnigan present Morton's concept of ‘global weirdness' and utilise the ‘weird' or ‘twisted, looping form' of ecological awareness as a structuring device, engaging as they do with absurdist comedy's time–bending loop form: characters lack logical, cognitive reasoning; they avoid the catharsis of Aristotelian tragedy’s dramatic arc; and are destined to loops and cycles of behaviour unchanged or unreformed by the narrative crises they endure. In this article, we argue that a contemporary iteration of absurdism is being developed by these Australian writers to examine a crisis that only appears to have one inevitable result. Each play depicts a distorted time signature–the future as the present, or the present as the future–and invokes the prospect of eco–terrorism as the solution to what Morton refers to as the ‘wicked problem’ of how to solve the unsolvable global crisis. Carleton and Finnigan each depict eco–terrorism as the necessary jolt to shake government out of the absurd torpor of inaction that has dominated official Australian responses to climate change over the past decade.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-86
Number of pages8
JournalPerformance Research
Issue number2
Early online date1 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Australian plays
  • black comedies
  • climate change denialism


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