Gasping- A Brilliant Play

Air is about the only thing that's available to us for free. But why shouldn't a corporate sell that too, and make profits out of it?

Gasping, a play by Ben Elton (1990), is a brutal, brilliant satire on a company's quest to do exactly that. The Pot Noodle (a term for making money where none existed before- without any existing product selling less than before, meaning consumers are spending more than before for your product) that they discover is a machine that is called Suck and Blow. It sucks in oxygen from freely available air, and blows it out for paying customers (who have bought the machine) who want Pure Oxygen.Unsurprisingly, the machine is called Suck & Blow!

There are brilliant lines throughout the play, which hit home hard. The marketing and advertising industry (including PR or Public Relations) is a major target, but also the corporates, and the free market economy in general, and its lack of scruples. Sample this (about the PR industry)- " Free lunch is what keeps the mighty cogs of PR turning. Why, without free lunch there would be no more magazines, no more pop records, no more TV programs, no new estate agents, ..without free food London would stop moving, we'd be a Third World country in a month."

Or this (On bosses, by a boss to his junior)- "One of the little perks of being at the top, Philip, is being respected as well as that. Respected by people who really know how to respect.."  Or the line justifying taking over oxygen from natural air and selling it.." Imagine if nature started producing cars, what would happen to the British Motor Car industry?"

The exploitation of the African and other backward countries is also the subject of some Black Humour (pun unintended). So is the takeover of Native (Red) Indian lands by White Settlers in the U.S.

There are some side-shows, such as the sycophancy of corporate types, and a romance between the ad agency girl and one of the executives of the client firm "being groomed" by the originator of the Big Idea (his senior marketing man). There is also an undelying assumption that anything can be sold with the right advertising campaign.

Will leave you gasping for more.

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