In a moment where, seemingly, every show is rushing to Broadway, the Under the Radar (UTR) Festival stands out as a rare space for work that is decidedly uncommercial, where the focus is on doing some fun, weird art. One such piece is Titanic Depression, co-presented in collaboration with UTR and New York Live Arts’s Live Artery festival.
In this 70-minute performance piece, Jibz Cameron (who also wrote and directs) performs as alter ego Dynasty Handbag to offer a take on James Cameron’s beloved 1997 film Titanic, but with a climate change twist. In this version, the oceanliner doesn’t hit an iceberg, because the iceberg would melt. Instead, it hits a landfill trash island. The piece draws connections between the Titanic and the cruise ship industry, which is one of the biggest sources of pollution and waste. When the boat fills with trash (instead of water), Dynasty Handbag attempts to sort it, but realizes that there is only so much one person can do. She criticizes the various rich white men onboard, from Guggenheim to Zuckerberg, but they quip back at her complicity with their organizations.
Though she describes herself as a clown and draws on clowning throughout, Dynasty Handbag doesn’t follow some of the ironically strict rules of the artform. Similarly, it’s unclear where the line is between Dynasty Handbag being disheveled as a performer, and the production itself feeling messy and imprecise.
Right now, it’s hard to watch any riff on Titanic and not think of the comedic masterpiece Titanique. Sadly, Titanic Depression cannot get out from under Titanique’s shadow, and comes across as an attempt to be more intellectual, but without actually fulfilling that promise. The nugget of an interesting idea is quite clear here; I just wanted more.