On Saturday the 27th of August 2016, it was confirmed that Mbah Gotho was the oldest person in the world, after he produced documentation that proved he was born on the 31st of December 1870. When Gotho was born (145 years ago) Ulysses S. Grant was the President of the United States, Italy was being unified, and Charles Dickens had just died. Indonesia, the country of his birth, was a Dutch colony. He would have been 74 when World War 2 ended, and is still living now.
The ME is about ageing, and the quest for longevity. It’s about the very human desire to resist death and the value of the one life you’ll get to lead before it’s snuffed out. Its protagonists are chasing immortality and the promise of experiencing the span of history Gotho has. It’s a gentle satire of wellness and pseudo-science, of new-age fixation and hollow self-improvement. Melody, the insufferable character at the centre of the story abuses her maid Lita as she joylessly swigs kombucha, seaweed health drinks or whatever else, before an absurd sequence of events introduces her to an unhinged researcher of how-to-cheat-death. This scientist of dubious ethics makes vague references to planarian worms, a sci-fi trope found in everything from Star Trek to Swamp Thing to denote unknowable potential for regeneration. Her crazed experiments are vaguely reminiscent of Serge Voronoff’s monkey-testicle grafts, the Russian scientist whose placebo experiments later inspired the vicious revolutionary critique of Mikhail Bulgakov’s Heart of a Dog. Like many other plays, films and books, The ME suggests a denial of mortality is the dark underside of medical science.
The world will change and leave us behind. By the time death comes it might be greeted without fear, as the world we find ourselves in has changed beyond all recognition. A long life is not the same as a good one, as the characters in The ME discover. Who knows how the world will develop as we age? Might it end, or continue to change? During the still continuing life of Mbah Gotho the telephone went from a new invention to a ubiquitous tool. He was alive before the first petrol engine was created. None of us know how long we have, or what we might see. (LC)
The ME ran at ZOO until August 28th - https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/me
The Sun Apparatus Theatre Company: http://www.thesunapparatus.com
Oldest Person in the World - http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/worlds-oldest-person-man-mbah-gotho-indonesia-145-years-old-a7213191.html
Planarian Worms: https://www.exploratorium.edu/imaging_station/research/planaria/story_planaria.pdf
Regrowing Heads and Keeping Memories: http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2013/07/16/decapitated-worms-regrow-heads-keep-old-memories/
Serge Voronoff: http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-true-story-of-dr-voronoffs-plan-to-use-monkey-testicles-to-make-us-immortal
What the World Might Look Like in 100 Years: http://www.realclearlife.com/2016/09/01/this-is-what-the-world-might-look-like-in-100-years/