Yes We Candide!
The best of all possible worlds! The full outline of a modern adaptation of Candide by Voltaire, me and Geoff Pinfield.
If you’ve never read Voltaire’s novella Candide, you’ll enjoy Yes We Candide. If you have read Candide, you’ll be blown away by how perfectly a story first published in 1759 can be tailored to our present moment. Our adaptation closely follows the original chapters and journey structure. We updated the settings, characters and scenarios. It didn’t take us long. We had a lot of fun doing it. Thanks Geoff for bringing this idea to the creative table.
The Story of the Story
It’s no one’s right to receive public money. I accept that CNZ - New Zealand’s arts funding body and chief project validator - told us to get lost (twice). It’s a shame because The Wanaka Festival of Colour had committed to stage the premier and 5 other regional festivals had written to say ‘if they make it, we’ll buy it’. We assembled a stellar creative team including actor Anya Tate Manning, composer Gareth Farr ONZM - who’s work featured at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics - playwright Dave Armstrong as story mentor, producers David Goldthorpe and Debbie Fish of Goldfish Creative - who stage spectacular outdoor events and nurture feature films - and director Sara Brodie, the Arts Foundation laureate. Geoff and I are in awe of the artists who backed this tale. All we needed to transform it from idea to joyful reality was CNZ’s seal of approval, and the shoestring budget that comes with it to signal to the creatives that their work is respected and valued. No dice, unfortunately. But in the spirit of the story: maybe it was all for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds.
CANDIDE an idealistic Gen Z woman, FELLOW GRADUATES, RICHARD MEROS, B.A, OPPOSITION MP, PROMINENT MEDIA FIGURE, GOVERNMENT MP, NOTABLY ECCENTRIC BILLIONAIRE, RESPECTED FORMER LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD, JUDGE JESUS, POWERFUL OLDER WOMAN, NOTABLE OLDER WOMEN, A CUCKOLDED HUSBAND OF POWERFUL OLDER WOMAN, STREAMING GIANT MURDER APOLOGIST, THE DECAYING EUROPEAN UNION, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, DEAR LEADER OF NORTH KOREA, SENTIENT COWS, MARTINA THE FREELANCE JOURNALIST, ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS, LADY BRITANNIA, AMORAL START UP FOUNDERS, POPULIST ALLEGEDLY STUPID (FORMER?) WORLD LEADER, MARKET ACOLYTES, RICH-WORLD REFUGEES, FUTURE GRADUATES.
Designed to be played by two professional actors, a local community choir and the audience. Supported by the unusual use of everyday technology.
Chapter 1. The University of New Zealand Graduation Ceremony.
Candide, Richard Meros, B.A., Local Community Choir, audience as fellow graduates.
The show kicks off with a joyful choral anthem by Gareth Farr entitled It’s OK to B.A.
Candide graduates in the class of 2021 with a BA in Economics. She is inspired by the valedictory speech of prominent academic Richard Meros, BA. In it, he proves that no matter what the pessimists and ‘experts’ might say, this is the best of all possible worlds. If you could be born at any time in history, you’d choose right here, right now and you’d be happy with your choice. Candide is inspired, full of hope and student debt.
Chapter 2. The Mean Streets of NZ.
Candide, Opposition MP, Prominent Media Figure, Government MP, audience as passers-by and live studio audience.
Candide has a BA, no job, no prospects and is homeless. An Opposition MP realises Candide’s plight could be media-managed to cast a poor light on the incumbent government and score political points.
Candide agrees to get paid ‘in exposure.’ She’s co-opted into an emotive campaign in which she cries 3 tears shaped like the map of New Zealand. It goes viral.
She goes on morning TV, where she’s interviewed remotely by a Prominent Media Figure. Candide undermines the whole campaign by being far too cheerful about her abject state, and quoting her hero Richard Meros as she optimistically casts herself as an ‘office-free entrepreneur at the coalface of the gig economy’ - a benefit to her and opportunity to society. But it’s still embarrassing for the government.
As soon as she steps off the soundstage, a Government MP tells her she’s been selected for a pilot scheme to optimize underutilized human capital. Candide is given a one-way ticket to Australia.
Chapter 3. Off-Shore Detention Centre.
Candide, Notably Eccentric Billionaire, verbatim audio from an incarcerated asylum seeker, audience as fellow asylum seekers.
Candide is incarcerated without due process as part of Australia’s new Zero Tolerance of New Zealanders policy (ZTNZ). Candide is optimistic – she’s got a roof over her head, three meals a day and the cramped conditions and lack of air conditioning means it’s like a free Hot Yoga class. She asks her neighbour why s/he’s here. We hear a verbatim audio of an incarcerated asylum seeker describing how they got there and what it’s like. It’s awful and moving. It makes Candide question whether even Meros could put a silver lining on a world that works like this. Candide turns to the person on her other side and asks him why he’s here. It’s a Notably Eccentric Billionaire. He’s not a prisoner at all. He outlines an extraordinarily entrepreneurial get-rich-even-quicker scheme to make the world a better place by buying this island for his own pleasure thereby causing the trickle-down effect of asking them all to leave. Candide thinks its very clever. He likes the cut of Candide’s jib. He purchases the island, and evicts everyone into the sea - except Candide, who he invites to return with him to his Island Tax Haven aboard his private yacht.
Chapter 4. The Pacific Ocean.
Candide, Notably Eccentric Billionaire, audience as the sea.
In which they sail the ocean blue while the Notably Eccentric Billionaire shows Candide how he does everything for his own benefit, and how that benefits the world. If only more people were like him, the world would be a much better place. The Notably Eccentric Billionaire reminds Candide of her idol, Meros. She accepts his offer to acquire her virginity. While passing through the Panama Canal, the Notably Eccentric Billionaire falls overboard during a media storm unleashed by the latest tax avoidance scandal. Candide tries to save him, but the Notably Eccentric Billionaire refuses - it’s not in his nature to accept a hand up under any circumstances. With a dying breath he bequeaths Candide all his wealth and interests. Candide floats on to the Island Tax Haven.
Chapter 5. Island Tax Haven.
Candide, Respected Former Leader of the Free World, Judge Jesus, Richard Meros, B.A, audience as an angry mob then jury
Candide washes ashore. As the inheritor of the Notably Eccentric Billionaire’s global interests, she’s soon on trial for tax avoidance and conspiring to collapse the world economy. A Respected Former Leader of the Free World (and paid lobbyist for said Notably Eccentric Billionaire) defends her in the court of Public Opinion. He makes a speech in her defence that is eloquent but useless. Then there’s a victim impact statement. We hear the audio of a real person/organisation’s story about tangible suffering due to global corporation tax avoidance. Judge Jesus sentences Candide to death by social media. On the pyre of the Twitter-based auto-da-fe, a new and improved advocate appears – it’s Richard Meros, BA! He articulates a rousing defence of tax avoidance that casts it as a virtue and a patriotic duty. The audience gets to be the jury – does Candide go free, or does she hang? Whatever the populist result, Meros will spirit Candide away to his new sugar-mommas’s pad.
Chapter 6. Holiday Home in the BVI.
Candide, Richard Meros, Powerful Older Woman & Notable Older Women – played by women plucked from the audience & lovingly put on the spot. Likewise, A Cuckolded Husband of One of Said Women.
Candide is overjoyed to see Meros. He has been detained by his own success. His recent attempts to get a Powerful or Notable Older Woman to take him as her young lover have paid off rather too handsomely! A Powerful Older Woman AND and a Notable Older Women have clubbed together to take him as their Young Lover on a timeshare basis. One gets him Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, the other gets the Lionesses share. Candide is worried that the demands of servicing two strong female Key Opinion Leaders must take it out of him. Meros is upbeat: he describes how he’s leaning into it, and the increased demand has caused him to innovate sustainably productive methods of supply.
The Powerful Older Woman enters. She thinks Candide is cutting her lunch. She tries to kill Candide, who reflexively and accidentally kills her instead. Candide wishes women could be more supportive of each other. She also fears they’re going to be in big trouble for murder. Meros is about to offer a positive spin when the Notable Older Woman arrives. Meros introduces her. Candide figures, in for a penny, in for a pound and kills her too. Meros is mortified, but he justifies it on the basis of meritocracy brought about by healthy competition. He knows where they can seek public exoneration for cold-blooded murder: they flee to Netflix HQ.
Another audience member is prompted to offer an awkward eulogy outlining his love for the Powerful Older Woman. The Notable Older Woman’s body is tossed on a dunghill where it will be retrieved and carved up by medical students.
Chapter 8. Streaming Giant HQ.
Candide, Meros, Streaming Giant Murder Apologist.
The Streaming Giant Murder Apologist is delighted to meet Candide. SGMA has made a fortune - and captured the hearts and minds of billions of viewers - by selectively editing available footage, evidence and testimony to make people convicted of grizzly murders look completely innocent - or at the very least, hard done by. The results are sensational - the highest rating series across all streaming platforms! SGMA is particularly thrilled to be working with Candide at this early stage of her journey, because she’s on the run, and the real-time footage of her takedown by the Interpol SWAT team SGMA has called will be a great climax for Episode 1. As the helicopters swirl, Candide flees for her life while Zooming with her agent, Meros, who is delighted by this turn of events: truly the best of all possible worlds - Candide has a credible fear of being victim of police brutality, and that means she can apply for asylum in the EU. Because it’s a cross-border police operation, it’s also as misconceived as a piss-up in a kindergarten. Candide seizes the weapon of a Morally Conflicted Differently Abled Female Minority POC Interpol SWAT team member, and charm-bribes the pilot of one of the helicopters to fly her to the beating heart of the EU.
Chapter 9. Brussels.
Candide, Meros, audience as decaying European Union.
"When two wrongs don’t make a right, try three.”
It’s the last days of the fourth Reich. The EU is having its own crisis and doesn’t have time to help Candide with hers. They’re gathered in a bunker, as bits of the world’s second biggest trade block keep breaking off. Meros outlines a barkingly plausible plan to save the Union through a politico-economic form of bareback multinational polygamy called ‘Free Trade’. The EU votes overwhelmingly to accept it. It’s so stupid it just might work. What does Meros want in return? He wants the EU to help Candide come to terms with herself as an unrepentant murderer. The EU knows exactly how to help. It sends Candide to the Middle East with special envoy Lawrence of Arabia to undertake a 150-year performance review of western intervention in the region. Meros and the EU will stay behind and save Europe through unfettered movement of goods and people.
Chapter 10. The Middle East.
Candide, Lawrence of Arabia, Audience as middle eastern wedding party/angry mob.
As they stride across the Middle East like giants of enlightenment, Candide reflects on the guilt she feels for killing two women and forcing her friend Meros to waste his life trying to save the EU from itself. Lawrence of Arabia shows her how to not feel guilty, and to see that it’s all for the best in the best of all possible worlds. He points to the carnage all around them and explains to Candide how despite appearances, the west actually did a great job in the middle east, starting with him. Candide witnesses a child bride marry the oldest gentleman in the audience. She intervenes, only to find she’s out of step with local opinion; they don’t actually want her to intervene. An angry mob turns on them, then turns to a million bloody pieces when Lawrence of Arabia reflexively calls in an airstrike.
The audience is exploded.
In revenge, Candide and Lawrence of Arabia are taken hostage by radical islamists and about to be executed. Lawrence talks them out of it. He says it’s very right that they should kill westerners, but in fact he and Candide are only here because Candide has murdered two western women – one shamefully Powerful, and one embarrassingly Notable - two honour killings if you will, that turned back the clock when it came to those women’s personal agency. Furthermore, Lawrence posits, his own actions in the middle east destabilized the Ottoman Empire and opened the door to more than a century of radical islamic terror. So really he’s their leader and they should do what he says. The radical islamists agree. Candide and Lawrence are released. Candide reflects how lucky it was that she murdered those women. Perhaps she does live in the best of all possible worlds after all. But it might not be a good idea to hang around in this particular part of it. Lawrence of Arabia agrees. Now that the fashion is for renewable energy and decolonization there’s nothing in the middle east for him anyway. Lawrence of Arabia tosses a theological grenade into the crowd. They leave while the middle east tears itself apart.
Chapter 11 El Dorado, North Korea.
Candide, Lawrence of Arabia, Dear Leader, North Korean citizens, mathematicians and engineers. Audience as 100 red suitcases laden with treasure.
They can't go back to New Zealand, Australia, the Island Tax Haven or Streaming Giant HQ. Europe may not exist anymore, and radical islamic terrorists are unlikely to release them a second time. Instead, they follow their noses and end up somewhere where the streets are paved with gold: North Korea. Candide is surprised, given what she’s heard about the place. They are hosted brilliantly in the most delicious restaurant ever. It’s a government run establishment so it’s all free.
Thanks to a private audience with Dear Leader, they learn how North Korea is actually awesome, and how they conspire to make it look shit to the outside world in order to stop too many people coming over and ruining it. Dear Leader makes a brilliant argument for high-minded isolationism. At one point many years ago there was a schism between those who thought they should look outward, and those who wanted to enjoy what they had and hide it from the rest of the world. Those who looked outward were beggared by globalization. Those who looked inward enjoy the most peaceful privilege possible. They thank God rather than ask for anything because he has furnished them with all.
Dear Leader has a magnificent palace, but doesn’t stand on ceremony. There are no law courts, no prisons, and no disputes. They are devoted to science. Dear Leader is witty and talkative and welcoming.
Candide sees that North Korea is paradise and wonders if Meros could see it and still state, in good faith, that the world he knows and lives in is still the best?
They're allowed to stay forever, but after a month Candide decides that being rich in the land of the rich is nothing special. She misses Meros, and she yearns for some more visible inequality and to win at competition so she can feel superior. Lawrence of Arabia agrees. Dear Leader thinks they’re silly, but orders the construction of a missile to convey them across the border. It happens very quickly and costs a lot but it’s of no concern. They're given 100 red suitcases laden with gold, diamonds, precious stones and cryptocurrency. Enough to bail out Europe several times over.
Chapter 13 The Long March
Candide, Lawrence of Arabia, Mother Russia, Sentient Cows, Martina the Journalist.
After a long and wayward missile flight they land in China. Thanks to Dear Leader’s gift of 100 red suitcases laden with gold, diamonds, precious stones and cryptocurrency, they’re richer than anyone who’s ever lived (outside of North Korea). Candide is excited to reunite with Richard Meros, BA, the chief proponent of the hypothesis that we live in the Best of All Possible Worlds - and her Key Opinion Leader and telling him all about the staggering wealth and opulence of the Hermit Kingdom.
In western China they come across an enormous feed lot inhabited by genetically engineered sentient dairy cows. They talk to one. It’s been terribly abused and warns Candide that “this is the price of your dairy.” Over a glass of milk. Candide is moved to question whether this is the best of all possible worlds for every living being born into it.
Lawrence of Arabia agrees that it wouldn’t be if you factored in animal welfare or the state of the environment. So, it’s best if you don’t. It’s only people that count. And even then, only certain people. It’s basically all about what you measure, but the point is, that for Candide and Lawrence of Arabia and everyone they agree to include in the sample, this is the best of all possible worlds.
They reach Vladivostok. Candide tries to charter a plane but she’s on the No Fly list. Lawrence of Arabia’s not. Candide sends him with most of her riches to bail out the EU and redeem Meros. She’ll charter a military submarine to travel to the land of the free – the USA, and wait for Meros to join her.
The Submarine Commander is Mother Russia - who demands 10, 000 bitcoin to subvert America’s immigration policy by helping Candide infiltrate US borders. When Candide pays it easily she insists on 20,000, then when that’s agreed she extracts 30,000. Candide lets the luggage be loaded without her, and as she’s rowing out, Mother Russia sails away with most of her treasure.
Down, but not out, she pays a people smuggler to transport her in a shipping container along with a bunch of aspiring models to San Francisco. She offers to take a companion – the most unfortunate person who applies. The line of applicants snakes around the corner, and all have stories that would put Meros’ optimism to shame. Candide takes pity on Martina, a heartbroken American journalist who tried to be a serious foreign correspondent in an era of clickbait journalism. She arrived to report from Russia under her own steam. But lack of interest in the astonishing reporting she was doing means that she quickly ran out of steam and cash and is now stranded and at risk of white slavery - like all these aspiring models. She gloomily notes that everyone thinks she’s a socialist, but in fact, she’s a libertarian.
Chapter 14 A Shipping Container
Candide, Martina, audience as people being smuggled.
En route to San Francisco via the South China Sea, with lots of time to talk, Candide and Martina waste their precious oxygen talking about good and evil. They are similar except that Candide lives in hope and Martina has none.
“I scarce knew a city that did not wish the destruction of its neighbour, nor a family that did not desire to exterminate some other...the poor in all parts of the world bear an inveterate hatred to the rich even while they creep and cringe to them, the rich treat the poor like sheep whose wool and flesh they barter, millions of regiments of trained assassins traverse Europe to get their bread by regular depredation and murder, even in those cities which seem to enjoy the blessing of peace and where the arts flourish, the inhabitants are devoured with envy, care and anxiety which are greater plagues than any experienced in a town besieged.”
Through their breathing hole, Candide and Martina see Mother Russia’s submarine get sent to the bottom of the sea by a Chinese drone. Among the flotsam and jetsam is one red suitcase, though no longer laden with gold - it’s still a trendy fashion label! It’s thrown into the shipping container with them.
There, thinks Candide, isn’t there justice in the world? “What about all those Russian sailors who didn’t steal your suitcases but died?” wonders Martina. Candide is optimistic that since she has found a suitcase, she may again find Meros.
As they pass the coast of Japan, Martina offers her low opinion of Japan and the Japanese: “the chief occupation is masturbation, the second embarrassing TV shows and the third, saving rather than spending.”
Candide wonders whether people have “always been liars, cheats, traitors, brigands, weak, flighty, cowardly envious, gluttonous, debauched, fanatical, hypocritical and silly?”
“Do you think,” asked Martina, “that sparrow hawks have always eaten the pigeons they fly across?”
Candide thinks there is a great deal of difference – free will... they keep talking it thru with the help of some verbatim testimony from a fellow passenger – a white slave.
Chapter 15 San Francisco
Candide, Martina, Lady Britannia, audience as start-up founders at a venture capital pitching day.
Candide turns up in San Francisco to learn that Lawrence of Arabia has proceeded with his plan to give the EU all of Candide’s ransom money. The EU is saved. However, there was a small problem due to faulty intelligence: Lawrence gave them the money without checking that Brussels still actually had Meros. Lawrence of Arabia reflects that he made the same mistake countless times in his middle east negotiations. Oh well, he forgives himself. Meros has been ceded to the UK in a Brexit negotiation. He’s now a prisoner of Lady Britannia, who tells Candide that if she wants Meros back, she’ll have to bail the UK out too. Candide thinks this is impossible. Meros is optimistic – especially now she’s in SF. That’s where competition and capital come together to make sweet love. All she has to do is turn her last billion or so into a thousand times as much by angel investing in a Unicorn at the next start-up pitch day. Candide wonders how she’ll recognise the Unicorn, and Meros tells her it’ll be obvious: she just has to pick the most unethical idea pitched by the most privileged white male team of ivy-league alumni.
Candide listens to a bunch of one-line pitches from the audience and eventually settles on ‘Transpoox.io’. It’s a P2P marketplace where users can sell or acquire turds on demand for microbiome-enhancing, non-FDA approved home faecal transplants. Candide immediately takes it to IPO and makes a fortune. She cashes out and wires the money to Lady Britannia. The UK is saved, or rather, back to square one. Meros is free. He’ll fly to NY. They agree to meet under the statue of the Bull of Wall Street where they can pay tribute to the market’s divine ability to get them out of pickles that it got them into in the first place.
Candide immediately receives a push notification from a Populist, Allegedly Stupid (Former?) World Leader inviting her and Martina to visit them in their NY Tower. Candid can’t say no. Martina does. She stays in San Fran to be CMO of Transpoox.io.
Chapter 16 Neo-Ivory Tower, New York
Candide, Populist Allegedly Stupid (Former?) World Leader, the audience as high brow works of art and literature.
Candide goes to visit. PAS(F?)WL’s got an amazing and surprising collection of high- brow art and books. It turns out they’re not an idiot at all. They know all about high culture, and posses the best of it, they just think it’s rubbish for very well-articulated reasons. They intentionally act uncouth due to a genius and incredibly high-brow plan they outline in full Aristotelian terms.
Candide can’t condone their taste or tactics, but recognises its genius - though she notes that the best stomach isn’t one that rejects all food.
She leaves PAS(F?)WL to their musings on Plato’s Republic. She heads off to Wall Street to meet Meros beneath the statue of the Wall Street Bull.
Chapter 17 Wall Street, New York
Candide, Meros, audience as market acolytes.
Incredibly successful, Meros and Candide meet under the Wall Street Bull in order to pay homage to the embodiment of the world that may have caused a lot of pain, but is ultimately the best of all possible versions.
They find themselves in a long line of believers waiting to rub the bull’s balls in the hope that if they do, the world will work for them like it’s meant to.
They’re surprised to find a fellow New Zealander in the queue. Candide and Meros learn that their home, New Zealand is sinking under a massive pile of bullshit. Meros is prepared to accept that in the best of all possible worlds, an entire country, like an inefficient industry may deserve to get wiped off the face of the map. Candide disagrees. She argues that it behooves her and Meros to go home and save what’s important.
Chapter 18 The Flight of the Rich-world Refugees.
Candide, Meros, Notably Eccentric Billionaire, Powerful Older Woman, audience as Rich-world Refugees
As they travel cuddle class on Air New Zealand, they’re with all the Rich-world Refugees who have made their fortune by exploiting people and the planet and are now abandoning ship and heading to New Zealand to outlive the apocalypse they think is coming because they’ve caused it.
Among the passengers is a person Candide assumed to be dead: the Notable Eccentric Billionaire who acquired her virginity, and left her all his worldly possessions in a way that put her in the centre of a global tax avoidance scandal. He unapologetically clarifies: he faked his death and set her up to take the fall for his misdeeds. Like so many titans of industry before him (and pop stars) he’s even richer allegedly dead than he ever was alive.
Candide and Meros are intrigued to discover that New Zealand has been sold to these Rich-world Refugees as some kind of North Korean El Dorado. Meros and Candide know for a fact that it’s actually a giant sloppy cow pat. When they get to the border, they’re greeted by the Powerful Older Woman who had taken Meros as her Young Lover, and whom Candide is fairly sure she murdered. Nope. She came back to life while being dissected for medical research, and eat, prayed and loved her way to NZ, where she now enjoys greeting guests at the airport in the hope of seeing Meros again. Her near-death experience confirmed her belief that the lust to possess another person physically is the only thing that’s truly important in this, the best of all possible worlds. She wants him back in her bed.
Meros’ consumer choice butts up against hers, and they both get quite worked up until Candide intervenes with the perfect solution: thankfully, this best of all possible worlds offers a failsafe way to treat elderly people they don’t wish to have dealings with.... They put her in a rest home and forget about her.
Chapter 19 Graduation Ceremony, 2027
Candide, Meros, audience as future graduates.
As the world’s most successful woman, Candide is now giving the valedictory speech. She notes how rich she is, and how successfully she saved the best of all possible worlds repeatedly by bailing out the unions of nations, bringing peace to the Middle East, and empowering people to send and receive fresh turds in the mail. She tells people never ever to go to North Korea because it’s... awful. She reflects that her success in her professional life more than compensates for the down sides. She’s past her childbearing years, but was probably infertile from the chemical agents in the drone strike and/or dairy milk anyway. The only Notably Eccentric Billionaire she ever loved was just using her to take the fall for global tax evasion, and the environment and standards of animal welfare and human labor are all going to shit but that’s OK because image manipulation technology and the flexibility of words mean that anything can be reframed to look and sound good... as long as no one is looking or listening too closely. And thanks to information overload, they aren’t. So that’s worth celebrating.
She leads the choir in a joyful singalong of Fred Dagg’s ‘we don’t know how lucky we are.’
This text has been lightly edited from its 2016 original for the purposes of clarity and taste.
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