BY HANNIE   RAYSON

Complete Works Theatre Company – Extinction Teachers' Notes 2020
Table of Contents

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020

On reading Extinction by Hannie Rayson I was struck by how detailed and
nuanced her characters were crafted. At first glance the play appeared to
be about four passionate individuals broadly aligning themselves with either
saving the natural environment or exploiting it at any cost. Closer analysis
revealed a story of complex personalities struggling to come to terms with
their own desires, changing values and inevitable extinction that mirrors the
overarching themes of the play.

For Complete Works’ incursion performance, we have compressed the
action of a two act play into a single 75 min act that keeps linear structure to
the story.

In her stage directions, the playwright makes use of projection, computers,
remote cameras and mobile phones to combine concerns of the natural
world with modern technology. We have chosen not to incorporate this
technology in our presentation but read stage directions where necessary
and make simple use of props and set pieces to ground the audience in the
world of the play. Characters wear a single costume throughout, and then
either add or subtract an item to denote change of scene, time or location.

Much of the language is blunt and to the point, reflecting the characters’
strong opinions. There is lot of swearing in the play. It’s used to express intense
anger and serious intent, sometimes with humorous effect. We have chosen
not to censor the playwright’s use of strong language or her characters’ use
of alcohol, but we have tempered any overt intimacy.

The characters in Extinction embody values that are aligned with either the
environment or the economy. We concentrate on how the characters’
shifting loyalties and inconsistent ethical positions are revealed throughout
the play.

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020
At the end of Act 1, we take a moment to reflect on what has been revealed
up to that point. We observe how the characters are tempted to forsake their
moral values and the further deterioration of their ethical principles as self-
interests and emotions take over. This is mirrored in the looming degradation
of a clean environment by a powerful polluter. We then move forward to see
if love and loyalty win out over revenge and betrayal, or if the characters
irreconcilable beliefs will break their relationships apart. We also explore how
the playwright either follows or departs from gender stereotypes as the action
gains momentum. We explore how the relationships of the characters can be
just as fragile and flexible and the ecosystems they’re fighting for.

We have chosen to use the Extinction Insight Text Guide by Sue Sherman as
our academic resource in staging our presentation. The following collection
of useful notes are a direct transcription of the Insight publication. They
included Sue Sherman’s suggested insights on essay construction with
example questions and two sample essays.

Andrew Blackman

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020

Alistair Frearson                            Leah Filley                       Jack Dixon-Gunn
Harry Jewell                                 Heather Dixon-Brown               Andy Dixon

Jessica Stanley                              Andrew Blackman
Piper Ross                                                                     Coordinator
                                                                               Patrick Tucker

                                                                               Assistant Director
                                                                               Lucy Searle

                                                                               Jack Dixon-Gunn

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020

Piper Ross is an American conservation biologist who is involved in a koala
breeding program at San Diego Zoo and acts to save the Otway tiger quoll
from extinction. Her response to endangered species is very emotional. Piper
is compassionate and loyal, but her emotions sometimes cloud her judgment.

Harry Jewell is the charming, wealthy and sexually predatory CEO of the
mining company Powerhouse. He represents the power of economic interests
that override environmental concerns and he is used to getting what he
wants. Harry is ultimately undone by emails about his sexual activities that are
sent to the university staff and board of his company. In the end, it is difficult
to determine whether Harry’s seemingly altruistic good deeds stem entirely
from self-interest or from a genuine desire to make a change in his life.

Andy Dixon is a proud, stubborn, self-sacrificing, idealistic veterinarian.
Diagnosed with a terminal illness, his own imminent ‘extinction’ parallels the
fate of many endangered species. He is a passionate environmentalist whose
values are the antithesis of Harry.

Heather Dixon-Brown, sister of Andy, is a successful university professor,
separated from her husband and attracted to Harry Jewell. Her approach to
endangered species is entirely practical and is representative of professionals
who work in a highly competitive environment, who often priortise work over
personal relationships and sometimes make compromises to survive.

Complete Works Theatre Company – Extinction Teachers' Notes 2019

Hannie Rayson in rehearsals, 2019 – Photo © Complete Works Theatre Company

Hannie Rayson has established a reputation for topical, complex dramas
written with wit and humour. A graduate of Melbourne University and the
Victorian College of the Arts, she has an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from
La Trobe University and is a Fellow of the Australian Centre at the University of
Melbourne. Her plays have been extensively performed around Australia and
internationally. They include Please Return to Sender, Mary, Leave It Till
Monday, Room to Move, Hotel Sorrento, Falling From Grace, Competitive
Tenderness, Life After George, Inheritance and Two Brothers. She has been
awarded two Australian Writers’ Guild Awards, four Helpmann Awards, two
NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and a Victorian Premier’s Literary Award as
well as The Age Performing Arts Award. She also wrote Scenes from a
Separation with Andrew Bovell.

For television she has written Sloth (ABC, Seven Deadly Sins) and co-written
two episodes of Sea Change (ABC/Artists Services). A feature film of Hotel

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020
Sorrento, produced in 1995, was nominated for ten Australian Film Institute
Awards. In 1999 she received the Magazine Publishers’ Society of Australia’s
Columnist of the Year Award for her regular contributions to HQ magazine.

Hannie made playwriting history when Life After George was the first play to
be nominated for the Miles Franklin Award. In 2006 she was nominated for the
Melbourne Prize for Literature, a prize for a Victoria-based writer whose body
of published or produced work has made an outstanding contribution to
Australian literature and to cultural and intellectual life.

“I wrote this play because I wanted to understand what it means that a
species might go extinct in my lifetime. Just wink out of existence. I wanted to
understand the human cost.” Hannie Rayson

Sourced from https://readingaustralia.com.au/books/extinction/ and used by
Complete Works Theatre Company as background research material.


Here's a snippet from Hannie Rayson’s interview on The Garret: Writers on

"As a play-writer I - or I have in the past, maybe not so much these days - I
have worked like an investigative journalist, where I articulate or identify a
particular social phenomenon which I don't quite understand, and then I use
the writing of the play to make sense of this conundrum I see at this
crossroads of our culture”.

To listen to the full interview or to read a transcript go
to: https://thegarretpodcast.com/hannie-rayson/

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020

The tiger quoll once ruled the dense Otway forest but is now almost extinct. A
wild, rainy night, a twist of fate and an injured tiger quoll bring together a
passionate environmentalist and an unlikely Good Samaritan. Both are hell-
bent on saving the species, but intentions are murky. What will be
compromised in the quest to save the quoll? Nothing is black and white in this
intriguing story about love, sex, money and power played out under the
shadow of global warming.

Extinction is a timely and intelligent new Australian play by Helpmann award
winning playwright and screenwriter Hannie Rayson (Hotel Sorrento, Life After
George). It delves deep into the heart of our own morals, choices and tightly-
held convictions. Extinction wraps an important conservation message
around a unique and personal human story.

Extinction raises questions about what is worth saving and whether or not
funds for conservation projects should be accepted from environmental
polluters. While Hannie Rayson provides no simple answers, she challenges
the audience to examine their own responses to some serious environmental

The play deals with two core related issues: one is the damaging effects of
mining activities themselves, and the other is the harmful consequences of
coal-fired power.

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020


Arguments to support the coal industry are voiced by Harry Jewell, CEO of
Powerhouse mining. He claims Australia's credible supply of coal has enabled
continuous economic growth and he argues that exporting coal supports
developing nations’ ‘right to electricity’ (p 38). Harry also defends coal mining
is a major contributor to the Australian job market: ‘I can't save the world,
okay. But I can help to bring jobs and people back to my hometown’ (p 37).

Harry also argues that the coal industry demonstrates a commitment to clean
coal (p 61) and is developing technology to ensure coal can be used without
contributing to global warming. What he doesn't say, however, is that these
technologies are costly and energy-intensive and, as such, are probably not
attractive to the profit driven coal industry. In response to Piper's suggestion
about solar, wind and tidal power, Harry argues that the Chinese will ‘go on
buying coal wherever they can get it’ (p 38). This apparently absolves him of
any responsibility for the environmental damage caused by China's use of
coal-fired power.

Since 2013, when the play was written, there has been a decline in our use of
domestic coal, while our use of alternative energy sources such as gas, wind
and solar, continue to rise.


Community and Health Issues

In Extinction, Andy is the most passionate opponent of the coal industry. He
refers to Harry as ‘Mr Evil’ because of his plans to explore coal: in the Otways
(p 27). The local farmers are ‘furious’ at the proposed intrusion onto their
lands. While not directly mentioned in play: mining poses health risks to local
communities. Rayson’s play suggest that, unless we are directly affected, we
tend not to care. Harry's efforts to have the mining exploration (and any

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020
future mining operations) moved ‘30 miles west’ of where he grew up (p 39)
exemplifies this morally irresponsible attitude.


Coal mining accounts for significant levels of air pollution, with 77% of
minuscule dust particles being discharged from coal mines. These are very
small particles that are particularly dangerous to humans (and other animals)
because they can lodge the lungs. Andy’s comment about Harry spewing
crap into the atmosphere (p 73) recognises this danger.

Fossil Fuels and Global Warming

A 2017 report by the Climate Council revealed that climate change, driven
by greenhouse gas pollution from coal burning and other fossil fuels, is
increasing the severity and frequency of many extreme weather events in
Australia such as heat waves, bushfires and intense rainfall. Burning coal and
other fossil fuels anywhere in the world (such as in China, where Harry’s
company sells coal) increases the incidence and severity of extreme weather
events across the globe.

Biodiversity Loss

Increasing numbers of endangered species - such as those in the Dixon-
Brown index (p 19) - reveal an alarming loss of biodiversity. Biodiversity is ‘the
number, abundance, composition, spatial distribution, and interaction of
genotypes, populations, species, functional types and traits, and landscape
units in a given system’ (Diaz et al 2006). Biodiversity influences ecosystems,
and ultimately benefits humans by making ‘human life both possible and
worth living’. Humans benefit from ‘diversity of organisms that we have
learned to use for medicines, foods, fibres, and other renewable resources’
(Diaz et al 2006). Biodiversity also influences human access to water and

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020
basic materials for satisfactory life. Piper's observation that ‘when a species
goes extinct our humanity goes with it’ (p 27) can be seen as an
acknowledgement of the potential threats to our species from global

Energy companies like Harry’s have contributed significantly to biodiversity
loss, and Dixon Brown's decision to accept his money for the project to save
tiger quolls (a species she considers statistically incapable of survival) makes
her seem hypocritical as well as unethical. Andy’s reference to Dixon-Browns
‘environmental vandalism’ (p 71) suggests that her acceptance of funding
from Harry's company makes her implicit in the damage to the environment
caused by coal-fired power.

Alteration and Loss of Habitat

Loss of biodiversity can be attributed to the influence of human beings on the
world ecosystems. We have dramatically modified natural landscapes,
decreased the populations of certain species by fishing and hunting, and
transferred species from one part of the world to another. The operation of
the natural environments caused the loss of native vegetation and a
decrease in the number of animals that can feed and live in. The
transformation of the forest into ‘prime agricultural land’ (p 23) significantly
decreased the number of tiger quolls. When Harry was a child living in the
Otways, the farmers considered the quolls to be pests that needed to be
eradicated (p 6). This also helped to drive them to the edge of extinction.

Moreover, the introduction of non-native species (cats, sheep and cattle)
into natural environments (such as the Otways) has led to imbalance in
ecosystems. To reverse this imbalance, Harry proposes a cat eradication
program as well as habitat restoration (p 47), which would be adversely
affected by pollutants from mining coal if discovered and mined in the

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020


The play uses plot, character and settings to tell a story. In Extinction four
characters appear on stage and because their roles are roughly equal
importance, the play is called an ‘ensemble piece’. Each character
embodies particular themes and issues explored in the play, although
sometimes their views alter in response to changing situations and

Playwrights also use generic features that are unique to performance, such
as sets, stage directions, sound effects, props, lighting and costume. These
are effective in subtly revealing aspects of theme and character.


Extinction is to act play divided into 12 scenes. Its uninterrupted linear
structure registers the passing of time and is a reminder of Andy’s progressive
deterioration and his impending death.

In the progression from one scene to the next, the characters’ shifting
loyalties and inconsistent ethical positions are observed, and particular
scenes are strategically placed to make this point. For example, Piper’s
adamant refusal to become involved with Harry's tiger quoll project at the
end of Act 1 is followed by Harry's seduction of Piper at the start of Act 2.


Much of the language in Extinction is blunt and to the point, reflecting the
characters’ strong opinions. The use of swear words or profane language is
pervasive in Extinction often with humorous effect. Swearing can also express
intense anger and serious intent, for example the verbal interchange
between Andy and Harry (p 91) is violent and conveys their enmity with each
other, as well as their rejection of each other's values and attitudes.

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020


Key Quotes

‘There's always a last one, isn't there? The last thylacine. The last dodo.
Maybe this is the last tiger quall.’ Harry (p 10)

‘I have a terminal illness.’ Andy, (p 74)

‘We’re all just passing through.’ Piper, (p 96)

Loss of Species

In the opening scene we are asked to consider the extinction of endangered
species such as the tiger quoll, and the attempts to save the species which
are dependent on limited government funding. Dixon-Brown explains that
‘too much government money is wasted trying to say doomed animals’ (p

Thus it is not only environmental factors that contribute to the extinction of
species, but also economic decisions made by governments about which
species are ‘worth’ saving. On a larger scale, the environmentalists in the
play believe that the continued increase in greenhouse gases will eventually
lead to the extinction of life on earth, no matter how many endangered
species are saved. Piper, for instance, admonishes Harry about the ‘massive
damage to the ecosystem’ caused by mining. (p 37).

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020
Simon Oats and Jessica Stanley, 2019 – Photo © Complete Works Theatre Company

The Death of the Individual

Harry's capacity to ‘destroy a life’ shows how suddenly a life can be
extinguished, and Andy's imminent extinction shows that randomly allocated
genes can make life tragically short. Other tragedies, such as the untimely
death of Piper's father (pp 7-8) and the suicide of Axel (the son of a friend of
Piper's mother, (p 68) also accentuate the fragility of human life and Andy’s
generic inheritance is especially tragic because he has so much life to live

Key point: In highlighting the fragility of life, Rayson reminds audiences not to
take our survival, either as individuals or as a species, for granted.

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020
Fear of nonbeing

Harry claims that its ‘the dying' that worries Piper. This, he argues, is why she
burdens herself with responsibility of ‘keeping everything alive’ (p 66) by
involving herself in the koala breeding program, the tiger quoll project and
Beasts expensive cancer treatment. Although Harry claims to not ‘think about
death’ (p 66), his actions and ambitions suggest otherwise. The ‘highways
and bridges and railroads’ Harry builds (p 63), and his need for his life to
‘count for something’ (p 92), betray a fear of death: he seeks to create
permanent reminders of his existence to alleviate this disquiet.

Dixon-Brown’s index and Piper's efforts to save endangered species are also
linked to this deeper anxiety. As Piper explains, ‘when a species goes extinct
our humanity goes with it’ (p 27). This suggests that saving a species creates
an impression of human control over ‘nonbeing’.

Other ways of managing fears about death are shown through the recurring
motifs of alcohol and sex.

Key point: Rayson looks at various forms of extinction within the play, ranging
from the deaths of individual people and animals to the disappearance of
entire species, in order to highlight the interdependence of all living

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020

Key Quotes

‘If you want to make a difference to “the environment”, you have to be rich.’
Harry (p 63)

‘It's my company . . . which I founded. Which I run . . . In which I am the
largest shareholder.’ Harry (p 85)

‘You were charmed by Harry Jewell.’ Dixon-Brown to Piper (p 88)

Electrical Power

The play proposes that protecting the natural environment is crucial to
human survival. Harry represents the power of coal mining companies to
override environmental concerns.

Economic Power

In Extinction, economic power is acquired through the exploitation of natural
resources and the disembodiment of those who stand in the way of profit.
Rayson implicitly condemns the power of money to override environmental
concerns and ethical beliefs. Cash-strapped Dixon-Brown is induced to
accept Harry's offer of $2 million for tiger quoll research (p 48), and the Vice
Chancellor considers Harry's ‘dirty money’ (p 48) a powerful weapon in the
‘war’ against other universities (p 17).

Political Power

The environment Minister requires Dixon-Brown to update her index (p 18). It is
a political directive connected to government funding, which Dixon-Brown
might lose she does not comply. This may well reflect the growing political
power of ordinary people who are concerned about the environment. Many
of them ‘spend their weekends planting trees or cleaning up riverbanks’ (p
64), and they are beginning to influence political decision-making. This,

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020
Rayson suggests is an encouraging sign, and challenges Harry’s confident
assertion that if you make a difference to the environment, you have to be
rich’ (p 63).

Another kind of political power exists within institutional hierarchies, which
grant great power to those at the top. This power can be abused. Dixon-
Brown’s position of authority for example, is used to remove Piper when they
both become involved with Harry on a personal level (p 88). Dixon-Brown also
uses her power to have the incriminating email on the university server
deleted by Alan Dodd at 2 o'clock in the morning. (p 93).

Personal Power

Harry’s charismatic power coupled with his considerable sexual power
enable him to successful seduce both Piper and Heather. The convergence
of his sexual power with the power of the coal he mines to produce energy is
not coincidental. Both kinds of power are exploitative. In the end, Harry’s
power is used to protect him and further his interests. Rayson’s suggestion that
there may be a more respectful way of dealing with relationships on the one
hand and the environment on the other.

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020

Key Quotes

‘People who have normal mothers don’t understand the horrors of having a
weird one.’ Piper (p18)

‘I won’t have a relationship with anyone who is prepared to become a pinup
girl for the mining industry … even though you are my sister...’ Andy (p 75)

‘[Beast] understands me better than anyone in the world.’ Piper. (p 34).

Husbands and Wives

    •    Marital relationships are mostly unsuccessful – Dixon-Brown and (the
         Buzzard) husband, Harry and Stephanie are good examples.
    •    When families disintegrate there is often bitterness and anger – Alison’s
         bitterness following the divorce with Piper’ father, Stephanie’s
         acrimonious email to the Powerhouse Board and the University, Harry’s
         daughter blaming him for her unhappiness.
    •    Not all relationships are completely flawed. Harry’s parents are still
         married and although during the play Andy and Piper break up for a
         time, the strength of their love enables them to confront and deal with
         the sadness to come.

Parents and Children

    •    Harry and his daughter – their relationship is quite loving and
         supportive. Harry is a more successful father than he is a husband.
    •    Heather Dixon-Brown and her son Max - we get no sense they are
         emotionally connected,
    •    Piper is critical of her mother, Alison, who cares about animals but her
         weird extreme veganism undermines their relationship.

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020
Sibling Relationships

    •    Andy Dixon and Heather Dixon-Brown initially share a close loving
         relationship and she attempts to comfort him as his condition
         deteriorates, enduring his anger and scorn. Their relationship is badly
         damaged when she ‘endorses environmental vandalism’ through
         accepting funding from Harry Jewell and Powerhouse.

        Annie Last and Leigh Scully, 2019 – Photo © Complete Works Theatre Company

Key Point: ‘We are all connected in some way to family’. Through family
relationships, Rayson provides deeper insights into her characters by giving us
access to some of the intimate moments they share.

Relationships with other Species

    •    Piper has a strong affinity with animals – her compassionate response to
         the injured quoll, her reaction to Beast’s illness and her mothering of the
         baby possum are examples.
    •    Harry’s nostalgic story of a quoll named Errol Flynn from his childhood.
    •    Dogs – Piper’s Beast and Alison’s dog spoilt in Central Park.
    •    The interconnection between humans and animals is highlighted
         through symbolism – tiger quolls on the edge of extinction symbolise
         the vulnerability of wildlife and natural ecosystems.

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020

Key Quotes

‘Are you like some cliché person? Having an affair? With your secretary or
someone?’ Piper to Harry (p 9)

‘Can you please find me a man to marry? I want to be a housewife.’ Heather
Dixon-Brown to Andy (p 28)

‘Say: ‘I love you. I want to marry you and have babies and live in a house
together.’ Piper to Andy (p 53)

Stereotypes of Femininity

Being emotional rather than rational is a quality traditionally associated with
female stereotypes.

    •    Piper’s emotional reaction to Beast’s illness
    •    Alison’s highly exaggerated environmental values
    •    Harry’s mother’s declaration that she is unfaithful to his father by falling
         in love with birds

Also part of the stereotypical representation of the feminine is Piper's beauty
(p 30) - a traditional feature of fictional heroines. This emphasises the
importance of a woman's appearance; the same is not the case for the male
characters. Dixon Brown’s expenditure on beauty treatments (p 29) implicitly
endorses the sexist notion that it is a woman's appearance that matters most.
Yet, Rayson also emphasises Dixon-Brown’s departure from stereotypical
femininity. With a PhD in statistics (p 25) and a mistrust of ‘cute’ animals (p 47),
Dixon-Brown has created an algorithm to rank animals according to their
chances of survival (p 26). What is puzzling, however, is how easily this
unsentimental, professional woman is seduced by Harry Jewell, who charms
her with his eloquence about the rainforest and his fondness for tiger quolls (p

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020
49), despite the risk this poses to her professional reputation. This represents
female identity as complex, with emotional needs being foreground but also
having to be weighed against the sometimes competing demands of ethical
and material concerns.

Key point: A stereotypically ‘feminine’ sensibility is often connected with
environmental values and the ‘masculine’ is traditionally aligned with
economic interests. The boundaries between these oppositions I blurred in
the play and become more complicated as the play progresses.is made of
Medea’s exotic nature as a barbarian witch, although the only character in
the play who denigrates Medea for this is Jason, who uses whatever
convenient ploy he can to justify his actions.

Stereotypes of Masculinity

Harry is defined by his wealth and power. Having ‘built Powerhouse from
scratch’ (p 56), he is a self-made man. And the ‘highways, bridges and
railroads’ (p 63) he will leave behind are a testament to his creative,
traditionally ‘masculine’ power. Harry is also sexually experienced and highly
predatory. His seduction of Dixon-Brown, and especially of Piper (p 61),
makes him look like the archetypal male villain.

    Jessica Stanley and Simon Oats, 2019 – Photo © Complete Works Theatre Company

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020
Andy is the character most committed to the environment, and he shares
important values with Piper and Dixon-Brown. His actions, however, are often
aligned with the conventional masculine paradigms: historic silence (a kind of
heroic self-sacrifice) about his terminal illness, for example, might be
construed as typically masculine (p 30). He is also plays ‘tragic hero’ -
doomed by fate to an untimely death and proudly refusing to be pitied
(p43). Andy’s stated decision to end his relationship with Piper because she
supports Harry's ‘environmental vandalism’ (p 71) is highly idealistic, or
perhaps extremely ‘stubborn’ (p 57).

As a result of Andy's refusal to compromise his principles, he alone occupies
the moral high ground, which is, as Dixon-Brown points out, a lonely place to
be (p 73). As the heroic loner, Andy fulfils a traditional male role in his pursuit
of a seemingly unattainable ideal. Yet, through his reconciliation with Piper,
he allows himself to feel pitied by her and accepts that he cannot ‘travel the
road ahead’ alone (p 96).



‘an institute committed to ecology accepting money from the biggest
greenhouse polluters on the planet. Some people would think that was
compromising . . . ‘ Dixon-Brown to Harry, (p 48)

‘I can assure you, there is nothing going on with me and Harry Jewell.’ Piper
to Dixon-Brown (p 79)

‘Most people don't have the time to be the idealists you want them to be.
They are too busy paying off the mortgage . . . ‘ Harry to Piper, (p 64)

The characters in Extinction embody particular values that are aligned with
either the environment or the economy. The character adhering most
uncompromisingly to his values throughout the play is Andy. His

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020
environmental principles are more important to him than his sister and the
woman he loves. He angrily accuses them of environmental vandalism (p 71)
insisting that he will fight her until the day he can ‘no longer stand up’ (p 75).
Rayson suggests that, despite their commendable values, highly committed
individuals such as Andy and Piper's mother, Alison, often take such
uncompromising ethical positions that they can drive people away (p 74). As
he deteriorates, Andy becomes more inflexible, literally pushing away both
Dixon- Brown and Piper.

Diametrically opposed to Andy is Harry, whose economic values not only
contaminate the environment, but whose moral values (or lack thereof)
corrupt those to whom Andy is closest. Harry convinces both Dixon-Brown
and Piper to accept funding and employment from a profiteering ‘Carbon
criminal’ (p 65), and to enter into inappropriate sexual relationships with him.
Harry's economic values are clearly highly beneficial to himself. He makes a,
‘shitload of money’ (p 61) and can have everything he wants (p 69). Yet, he
firmly believes that coal mining is beneficial to others: the Chinese, for
example, who have ‘a right to electricity’ (p 38).

Harry is an optimist with a strong belief in ‘the human capacity to achieve
great things’ (p 65), and he considers the future prospect of ‘clean coal’ (p
61) sufficient reason to inflict damage on the environment. Despite this, Harry
also values the environment, he wants to protect the Otway rainforest and
save the tiger quoll from extinction. Harry's apparent interest in environmental
issues is intertwined with his personal connection with Otways, and he shows
little regard for wider environmental issues. In the end, Harry's competing
values are irreconcilable, and his primary concern is that he has ‘lost
everything’ (p 92).

Between the strongly held views of Andy and Harry are the shifting positions
of Piper and Dixon-Brown: environmentalists who are swayed by charisma
and the persuasive power of Harry. Piper’s core values are underpinned by
her environmental principles and a strong commitment to endangered

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020
species. When she breaks up with Andy she adopts some of Harry's values,
reiterating his fine sounding words about believing in his own species (p 76).
This prioritises humans over other species, implying that ‘the human capacity
to achieve great things’ somehow excuses the environmental degradation
caused by coal-fired power’ (p 65). Piper naïvely accepts these propositions.
Her sexual relations with Harry (p 61) and her disregard for her ‘carbon
footprint’ in flying home to see Beast (p 69) highlight the extent of her ethical
compromises. Her ethical position, it seems, fluctuates according to her
involvement with either Andy or Harry.

Having initially rejected his two million-dollar offer for a research project,
describing it as ‘dirty money’ (p 48), Dixon-Brown totally alienates Andy, who
cannot tolerate her capitulation to ‘environmental vandalism’ (p 71). She
deceives Piper over the incriminating email (pp87-8) and involves Alan Dodd
in unethical behaviour when they delete the email from the university server
(pp92-3). Dixon-Brown's actions show the steady deterioration of a person’s
ethical principle when core values are tainted by self-interest. She becomes
a symbol of the progressive degradation of a clean environment by a
powerful polluting agent.

The ending of a work of fiction often reveals the authors values. In the final
scene of Extinction, the values of Rayson's characters are either condemned
or endorsed - although not unequivocally. Harry who loses ‘everything’ (p 92)
elicits audience sympathy. Most sympathetically endorsed is Andy, not simply
because he is dying, but because of his self-sacrificing nature and his strong
commitment to environmental sustainability. It is these characteristics that
Rayson values and asks audiences to value as well.

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020
The following discussion shows how contrasting interpretations of Extinction
can be equally plausible. Note that very different interpretations of character
can be supported by specific examples of dialogue, generic features,
behaviour and events.

Interpretation 1: Extinction is a play about the power of money

Harry Jewell wants tiger quolls back in the Otway's, and his access to $2
million makes this possible. In Extinction, those with money are clearly able to
exert their influence and act in ways that serve their own interests. The actions
of wealthy characters, such as Harry and Clovis Carter, can damage people
and have harmful consequences for the community and environment, yet
they are unable to be restrained. Rayson suggests however, that the power
of money can also result in unpleasant outcomes for those who misuse it.
Despite this, it is the profit driven mining company, Powerhouse, that emerges
victorious at the end of the play. Other kinds of power, such as the personal
power of a forceful character and the political power of authority, can be
employed to suppress and silence those who are less powerful; but it is the
power of money that speaks most loudly.

Much of Harry's power is connected with his wealth, symbolised by his car
(Porsche), referred to by Andy as a ‘cruise missile’ (p 13); the metaphor draws
attention to its destructive capacity (it effectively kills the tiger quoll) and its
expensive price tag. Harry’s position as CEO of Powerhouse granting access
to farmland in the Otway's, despite the threat to the livelihood of farmers
such as Corky Dent (p 24). Powerhouse’s enormous financial power and
Harry's plan to ‘bring jobs and people back to [his] hometown’ (p 37)
completely override farmers’ rights and environmental considerations. The
power of mining companies is also destructive on a global scale. Highly
profitable coal exports to developing nations such as China, which, Harry
argues, have ‘a right to electricity’ (p 38), contribute significantly to global

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020
warming and biodiversity loss. Harry's argument that ‘you have to be rich’ to
make a difference to the environment (p 63) seeks to justify the damage
caused by his vast mining operations. Ironically, the ‘difference’ that Harry will
make by ‘spewing crap into the atmosphere’ (p 63) is a more damaged
ecosystem. The irony is his desire to save one tiger quoll while contributing to
the eradication of an entire species will not be lost on Rayson’s audience.

Harry's wealth also contributes to his charismatic personality; he is a man
accustomed to getting everything he wants (p 69) and immediately
commands the attention of Piper and the audience with his determination to
save the tiger quoll. He gains Piper’s approval through his tenderness towards
the injured quoll and the touching revelation of his love for his daughter, who
has unfairly rejected him (p 7). Harry’s wealth also enhances his sexual power,
and the connection he makes between money and eroticism (p 61) is highly
revealing of his core values. He charms Prof Dixon persuading her to accept
an offer of $2.8 million to restore the tiger quolls habitat (p 72), overwriting her
ethical objections with the combined power of his language and his sexual

Indeed, Harry seduces both Dixon-Brown and Piper. Piper is impressed by his
sexual expertise (p 67) and swayed by the strength of his belief in his own
species to achieve great things (p 65) It is himself, however, in whom Harry
believes most strongly, and he cites the ‘highways bridges and railroads’ (p
63) he has built as evidence of his power. Although Harry is partly redeemed
by his desire to see the forest and his fondness for the quoll, it is money that
most often motivates him. After he is sacked by the board of Powerhouse (p
88), Harry claims that he has lost ‘everything’ (p 92), which refers mostly to his
wealth. Through his dramatic downfall, Rayson suggests that the pursuit of
wealth and power creates a materialistic and destructive culture in which
even the most powerful people can become victims.

Wealthier and more powerful than Harry is mining tycoon Clovis Carter, who
manages to ‘muscle’ his way onto the Powerhouse board (p 56). The $30

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020
million that the company will make (p 92) ensures that no one will ‘stand
between them and the forest’ (p 91). The ethical compromises made by
Dixon-Brown and the University Vice Chancellor in accepting Harry's ‘dirty
money’ (p 48) also suggest that even the people seemingly most committed
to the environment can be bought at the right price. Those who steadfastly
stand by their environmental principles, such as Andy, are deemed
‘stubborn’ (p 57) and ‘negative’ (p 66) and are mocked or ignored.
Throughout the play, the imagery connected with Andy subtly reinforces this
point, Andy like the tiger quoll, is on the brink of extinction. Stage directions
that draw attention to Andy’s loss of physical power (‘he clutches the side of
the desk’ (p 73) also suggest the vulnerability of those who oppose the
interests of big business.

Rayson’s play suggests that environmental degradation will make life
unsustainable, not just for endangered species but ultimately for human
habitation as well. The message for Rayson's audience is clear: like the
cancer afflicting Piper's dog, Beast (p 33), the destruction of the environment
can be slowed down if we care enough to take action. The play suggests
that the challenge for human beings in the 21st century is to resist the power
of money to provide short-term gain and to find a long-term sustainable
balance between the environment and the economy.

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020
Interpretation 2: Rayson reminds us that it is our relationships that matter most

The characters in Extinction embody competing environmental and
economic values, which come into conflict as the drama unfolds. In deciding
what matters most, the characters are compelled to examine their value,
sometimes making ethically unacceptable compromises and putting
considerable strain on personal relationships. Also significant is the relationship
between human beings and the environment which in Extinction, is often
shown to be unsatisfactory. In the end, Rayson’s play shows that morally
justifiable choices must be made in order to sustain relationships, both with
other people and with the environment. Regrettably, in the pursuit of wealth
and power, ethical values and fulfilling relationships are often sacrificed.
Rayson's play shows how essential these relationships are for our physical
survival and emotional well-being.

Despite his high-powered career, it is clear that Harry's family relationships
matter a great deal to him. His close relationship with mother, who once had
a pet tiger quoll (p 4), has made him protective of quolls and committed to
restoring their habitat in the Otway's. Harry cherishes the memory of his
grandfather who respected the forest and ‘allowed the mystery of it to be
part of his life’ (p 49). His relationship with his daughter very important to him.
He is distressed by her rejection of him and regrets not being there to share
her precious teenage years (p 7). He is also deeply upset that his wife,
Stephanie, leaves him for his ‘Best moment’ and is devastated when she
sends incriminating email to all university staff on the board of Powerhouse (p
92). Harry, the smooth-talking environmental polluter and sexual opportunist,
is humanised by his relationships with his family. Yet he has seemingly
prioritised the company he ‘built from scratch’ (p 56) over his family. As he
explains to Piper, ‘people like me work hard. We’re absent. We hurt people’
(p9). When Harry realises he has ‘lost everything’ (p 92), he means not only his
company but also friendship, home and family. He has realised too late that
these relationships are more important to him than wealth and power.

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020
Family is also important to Rayson’s characters, although some of their
relationships are seriously damaged by the clash between their conflicting
values. Andy confides in his sister, Heather Dixon-Brown, about the onset of his
terminal illness because she's the person he is ‘closest to’ (p 43). Dixon-Brown's
relationship with Andy is important to her. She wants to be there for him (p 43)
as his illness progresses and to look after him, despite his hostility and
aggression towards her (p 75). Yet when she accepts Harry's offer of funding,
Andy tells her that she has destroyed their relationship and that he will fight
her until the day he can ‘no longer stand up’ (p 75).

Andy's personal relationships are closely tied to his uncompromising
environmental standards, and he considers shared values essential for
sustainable relationships. Despite the fact that Andy is still in love with Piper,
he ends his relationship with her, declaring that he does not want to be with
someone who would even contemplate ‘environmental vandalism’ (p 71).
Yet, as Dixon-Brown observes, Andy and Piper are ‘fundamentally right
together’ (p 21), even if they ‘argue all the time’ (p 22). Piper's strong
commitment to doing everything possible to help a dying loved one (p 35)
affirms the importance of loving and compassionate relationships.
Recognising this, Andy finally submits to Piper’s need to travel with him on the
road that ‘leads to sadness’ (p 96).

The motif of human relationships in Extinction also encompasses the link
between human beings and the natural world. As Piper puts it, ‘when a
species goes extinct our humanity goes with it’ (p 27). This is a timely reminder
that all life on Earth is dependent on increasingly fragile ecosystems. Rayson
confronts audiences with the connection between their comfortable modern
lifestyles, for which turning ‘the lights on’ (p 37) is essential, and the effects of
global warming - particularly as a consequence of burning fossil fuels. Harry
observes that people delude themselves by thinking that they simply need to
‘change the light bulbs’, ‘save your lunch wrap’ and ‘take your own scruffy
bag to the supermarket’ (p 64) in order to save the planet. What is really
needed, suggests Rayson, is a major reduction in greenhouse gases, which

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020
means that people like Harry Jewell must stop ‘spewing crap into the
atmosphere’ (p 73). This requires a more rapid transformation to solar, wind
and hydropower in order to create a more sustainable relationship with the
other organisms with which we share the planet (p 38).

The thematic link between the tiger quoll on the brink of extinction and
Andy's terminal illness is another reminder of the ecological interdependence
of animals and humans, and their mutual reliance on a sustainable planet.
The image of a living, breathing tiger quoll seen by Andy and Piper on the
monitor in the Rescue Centre (p 96) delivers an optimistic message about our
relationship with the environment; it suggests that human intervention can
protect endangered species. Although Andy will die, the human race, the
world fragile and interlocking ecosystems, must survive.

Extinction shows that personal relationships can sustain the individual through
difficult times, even though conflicting values and shifting ethical positions
tend to damage these close connections, sometimes irrevocably. Extinction
also suggests that the degree to which the characters respect and care for
each other is a measure of the ways they interact with the environment. As
Piper reminds us, ‘we all exist in relationship with one another’ (p 67).

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020

This section focuses on your own analytical writing on the text and gives you
strategies for producing high-quality responses in your coursework and exam


An essay on a literary work is a formal and serious piece of writing that
presents your point of view on the text, usually in response to a given topic.
Your ‘point of view’ in an essay is your interpretation of the meaning of the
texts language, structure, characters, situations and events, supported by
detailed analysis of textual evidence.


In your essays it is important to avoid simply summarising what happened in
the text.

   •         A summary is a description or paraphrase (retelling in different words)
             of the characters and events. For example: ‘Macbeth has a
             horrifying vision of a dagger dripping with blood before he goes to
             murder King Duncan.’
   •         An analysis is an explanation of the real meaning or significance that
             lies ‘beneath’ the text words (and images, for a film). For example:
             ‘Macbeth's vision of a bloody dagger shows how deeply uneasy he
             is about the violent act he is contemplating and conveys his sense
             that supernatural forces are impelling him to act.’

A limited amount of summary is sometimes necessary to let your reader know
which part of the text you wish to discuss. However, always keep this to a
minimum and following immediately with your analysis of what this part of the
text is really telling us.

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020

Carefully plan your essay so that you have a clear idea of what you are
going to say. The plan ensures that your ideas flow logically, but your
argument remains consistent and that you stay on topic. An essay plan
should be a list of brief points covering no more than half a page.

   •         Include your central argument and main contention - a concise
             statement of your overall response to the topic.
   •         Write three or four points for each paragraph, indicating the main
             idea and evidence/examples from the text. Note that in your essay
             you will need to expand on these points and analyse the evidence.

An essay is a complete, self-contained piece of writing. It has a clear
beginning (introduction), middle (several body paragraphs) and end (the last
paragraph or conclusion). It must also have a central argument that runs
throughout, linking each paragraph to form a coherent whole.

The introduction establishes your overall response to the topic. It includes your
main contention and outlines the main evidence you will refer to in the
course of your essay. Write your introduction after you have done a plan and
before you write the rest of the essay.

The body paragraphs argue your case - they present evidence from the text
and explain how this evidence supports your argument. Body paragraphs

   •         A strong topic sentence (usually the first sentence) that states the
             main point being made in the paragraph
   •         evidence from the text, including some brief quotations
   •         analysis of the textual evidence, with explanation of its significance
             and how it supports your argument

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020
•         links back to the topic in one or more statements, usually towards the
             end of the paragraph.

Connect the body paragraphs so that your discussion flows smoothly. Use
some linking words and phrases such as ‘similarly’ and ‘on the other hand’,
they don't start every paragraph like this. Another strategy is to use a
significant word from the last sentence of one paragraph in the first sentence
of the next. Use key terms from the topic - or synonyms for them – throughout,
so the relevance of your discussion to the topic is always clear.

The conclusion ties everything together and finishes the essay. It includes
strong statements that emphasise your central argument and provide a clear
response to the topic.

Avoid simply restating the points made earlier in the essay - this will end on a
very flat note and implying that you have run out of ideas and vocabulary.
The conclusion should be a logical extension of what you have written, not
just the repetition or summary of it. Writing an effective conclusion can be a
challenge. Try using the following tips.

   •         Start by linking back to the final sentence on the second last
             paragraph - this helps your writing to flow rather than leading back
             to your main contention straight away.
   •         Use synonyms and expressions with equivalent meanings to vary your
             vocabulary. This allows you to reinforce your line of argument without
             being repetitive.
   •         When planning your essay, think one or two broad statements all
             observations about the text wider meaning. These should be related
             to the topic and your overall argument. Keep them for the
             conclusion, since they will give you something ‘new’ to say but still
             follow logically from your discussion. The introduction will be focused
             on the topic, but the conclusion can present a wider view of the

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020
It is important not just to identify the following features but to show an
understanding of how they convey meaning.

Characterisation: playwrights construct characters mostly through dialogue,
relationships and stage directions. Andy’s staunch environmental standards,
for example, shows that he is an uncompromising character. His dialogue is
often straightforward and abrupt - as when he angrily orders Dixon-Brown to
‘leave [Him] alone (p 72); his actions can be rough - as when he pushes
Dixon-Brown out of the door (p 75). His relationship with Piper shows that he is
also loving and self-sacrificing. Emotional components of Andy’s character
are revealed through tone - as when he sarcastically responds, ‘as if’, to
Dixon-Browns’ concern that Harry might kill him (p 92). In this, as in many other
instances, Andy’s language and actions are those of a dying man who is
angry about the ‘mutation’ he has inherited (p 74).

Dialogue: Dixon-Brown's language is that of an intelligent professional woman
when discussing university politics (pp17-18) and environmental research
data (p 26). In informal conversation she is often witty: she described her ex-
husband's idea of extreme adventure as ‘buying his socks from a different
department store’ (p 21). She is vitriolic when she confronts Harry about his
relationship with Piper (pp83-4) and is coldly clinical when she dismisses Piper
from the project (p87). Sarcasm reveals her disapproval - for example, of
Stuart Decker.

Piper’s language often shows a tendency to be highly emotional. She is
sentimental about ‘adorable little koalas’ (p 52) and desolate over Beast’s
cancer (p 32), for which she rather melodramatically blames her mother (p
33). She is completely overwhelmed by the death of her father (p 7). The
intensity of Pipers emotions is evident in her determination to sacrifice herself
for the man she loves.

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020
Harry’s language is that of the smooth operator who ‘sweet talks’ the Board
of Powerhouse (p 91), and who charms and seduces the female characters,
convincing them to abandon or at least compromise their principles. Harry
can be intimate and confining with Piper, and blunt and abusive with Andy
(p 91); in any situation he is adept at using language to achieve this purpose.

Setting: the time and place in which the action takes place, setting is also
revealing of character. The animal rescue centre, for example, is connected
with caring and compassion, and is often where Piper and Andy are located.
Dixon-Brown's arrival there with a box of groceries for Andy (pp71-2) suggest
her capacity for caring and compassion.

Costume: the clothes worn by the characters are also revealing of
personalities and values.

Irony: this is an effect or tone created when an outcome is the opposite of
what is intended by a character or expected by the audience. Harry's
seduction of Dixon-Brown is part of his strategy to protect the Otway
rainforest. Ironically, it is also the cause of his sacking by the board and the
cancellation of the tiger quoll project designed to save the animals and the
rainforest. Irony is also created by a significant discrepancy between
appearance and reality; an audience is usually aware of this but particular
characters are not. Piper sees Andy’s refusal to make a commitment to her is
evidence of his lack of love for her, for example while the audience knows it
is, in fact the opposite.

Lighting: the use of stage lighting can highlight (or possibly conceal) certain
aspect of a setting or character.

Motif: a recurring image or idea in a work of literature is known as a motif. In
Extinction, death is a motif, evident in the death of the tiger call in the
opening scene; the suicide of Axel (the son of a friend of Piper's mother); and
his terminal illness; and the possible extinction of life on earth.

Complete Works Theatre Company – Much Ado About Nothing Teachers' Notes 2020
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