By Andrew Gillanders
I have been playing Dungeons and Dragons with a dedicated group of friends since 2019. Our current campaign has been running since 2020, and it has become an important part of our lives. For the uninitiated – Dungeons and Dragons (or as we like to call it DnD) is a social event. Yes, it is a board game – yes, you do it with funny voices – yes, it was caught up in accusations of being a satanic ritual. But the most important thing to know about it, is that it is a social event.
Each fortnight, schedules allowing, I get together with my friends to mark a new chapter in a story. One we tell each other, detailing heroics and villainous moral dilemmas as we explore a world created by us, for us. In this way, this hobby is like many rituals humans have kept for time immemorial. Stories around a campfire, a lay-preacher in a slum congregation, kids telling a furphy to scare their mates. There is something inherent in humanity about telling stories, and theatre is a natural progression of the oral form.
Last year, I mentioned to my friends that I had a stupid idea: we should put on a DnD show, staffed exclusively by our DnD table. They all responded immediately with complete enthusiasm, and the momentum began to build for Banshee’s Luck. I did not know then that I was going to write a story about death, I imagined I would simply tell a banal fantastical tale you can find on any bookshelf. However, as I began to write I realised I was creating an archfae to comfort myself. I had created an impossible being, whose sole purpose was to supplant mortality.
It was only when I looked back on my script and reflected upon it, I saw I was grieving the death of my peer, playwright Fliss Morton. Fantasy has long been derided as a form of escapism, and to be fair, generally I am not its biggest fan. I much rather realism, or if I am to speculate, science fiction. You see, all of my work is about justice and culpability. All of my stories aim to challenge and question what is fair and what form of justice reigns. Perhaps the greatest form of escapism I could create myself, the greatest fantasy, is that death fits into a paradigm of justice. In Banshee’s Luck I imagine a divine-like creature who can answer the calls of the grieving, a divine who genuinely wants to help mortals.
It is important to me that the person the Banshee saves is never seen on stage. We do not know them, not their name, not their station, only that they love someone and are loved by someone. As you enter the space as audience members, I encourage you to reflect on what your actions are, because ultimately you cannot save anyone. At most, audience members can only choose whose soul must be given up to save the unknown lover.
Are you helping this unknown person? Are you harming those in front of you? Are you simply following your instincts?
These answers are not mine to give, but they reveal why I write about justice. Through justice we can understand the world, through our systems of justice we can understand what our social order prioritises, we can understand what our values actually are. But perhaps the only answer I’ve found, is some things exist outside justice.
To close, I give you a line from Banshee’s opening.
“As you are all sure to know, I am an omen of death, but my hatred for mortals is greatly overstated. No, if there is anything I hate it is pure chaos – what a more cruel beast than the sands of time whose winds of chance pound at your mortality randomly with such disregard for your sensitive sensibilities.”