Organising a surprise birthday party or the Kennedy assassination, it’s still a conspiracy theory
Like many people, I have long been fascinated by conspiracy theories. Like ghost stories, they are often the topic of atmospheric late night after dinner conversations. ‘You must have heard the truth about…’ And like ghost stories, there exists within a conspiracy theory the thrill that they might just be true; that there might be more to this world than we realise. To be offered the alleged hidden truth behind a seemingly random event lets us feel we are in on a secret shared with shadowy, clandestine figures.
For the uninitiated, a conspiracy, at its simplest, is when two people alter the perception of an event for a third. If you have ever arranged a surprise birthday party then you are the orchestrator of a conspiracy theory. It hopefully has a happy outcome for the recipient, but they have still had their world view altered by others.
One thing is certain. Conspiracy theories divide opinion. Some believe they are all true. Elvis Presley lives in Buenos Aires. The American government destroyed the twin towers. The Royal family are shape shifting lizards who secretly rule the world. Indeed some want to believe so badly that they accept the conspiracy theories regardless. For every plausible reason put forward for something not to be the case, they will provide an equally plausible counter argument. Others view them as nothing more than the musings of the paranoid. This conflict struck me as an interesting starting point for a play. And so ‘Robert Golding’ was born.
‘Robert Golding’ is a play that continues my lifelong love affair with dark stories. Exploring the themes of conspiracies and hidden secrets, the play is set in a brand new restaurant on the eve of its opening. A husband and wife arrange to meet the architect of the building, a man who ultimately changes their lives forever.
In the course of researching the topic and characters I have found myself veering from complete acceptance of conspiracy theories to a laugh out loud denial of their very existence. I, like countless others, was aware of the alternative thinking behind 911, Princess Diana, JFK, Dr David Kelly and the Moon Landings. But there were other opinions that were new to me.
Were you aware that there are people who believe that the German architect who designed the Eiffel Tower actually planned it as a way of tethering Zeppelins in the event of an invasion of France. That a cartoon of Donald Duck travelling across America to pay his voluntary tax contributions boosted America’s tax revenue from 11 per cent of the population to almost 40 per cent. Or that the communally idyllic existence of the Smurfs and their battles with Gargamel are actually fiercely pro-communist and anti-semitic propaganda. It would appear that for every major world event or cultural phenomenon, from the Arab Spring to Gangnam Style, there is a school of thought that dictates all is not as it seems. Why?
It can be seen as a way of rationalising the unexpected, adding an element of the deliberate to the accidental. The outpouring of grief that followed the death of Diana Princess of Wales was followed by a feeling that there had to be more to it than met the eye. Did Prince Phillip organise it? Was she pregnant with the Muslim half brother or sister of the future King of England? Is there any symbolism behind the fact that the Pont D’Alma was once the setting for ritual sacrifices to honour the Moon Goddess Diana? Was there a blinding flash? Was Henri Paul drunk, an MI6 hitman or a Manchurian candidate?
Or was it simply an accident, one of countless random tragic accidents that happen every single day?
And how must it feel to be the centre of a conspiracy theory? Paul McCartney, in one of his idle moments, may well Google himself and discover that a huge swath of the population believes him to be dead, the victim of a fatal car accident in 1966. The clues are all there apparently, just get a copy of ‘Abbey Road’ and study the cover carefully.
But whether you believe that Paul McCartney is Paul McCartney or Paul McCartney is Billy Shears, a sound-alike look-alike who saved Beatlemania, one thing is certain. When something happens that seems too implausible to be true, conspiracy theories will continue to thrive and divide.
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