Landscape (1989), VAULT Festival

by Joanna Trainor

Please, you’ve got to stop eating the floor mushrooms!

It’s 1989 in Oregon. Political scientist and author Francis Fukuyama has declared it the “End of History” as the Berlin Wall is pulled down and the Cold War is finished. And in the Malheur National Forest in Oregon, mushrooms are popping up all over the place.

Emergency Chorus bring their personal blend of performance art and theatre making as they explore the slow, undramatic ending of our planet because of climate change, through an unassuming forest.

There is something hypnotic about Ben Kulvichit and Clara Potter-Sweet’s storytelling. As they slowly retreat from the audience, they talk of mushroom hunters, the humongous fungus growing underneath Oregon and we’re lulled into the forest with them. The tone Kulvichit and Potter-Sweet use is so gentle, that when you realise the enormity of what they’re discussing it can be quite jarring.

Nat Norland’s haunting sound design is the perfect accompaniment to this; he even utilises the noise of the passing trains. The muffled white noise as Kulvichit puts his headphones on, or when he’s tuning the radio as he waits for the mushrooms to cook – there are so many little touches that engulf you in the world they’ve created.

Having already seen a piece of theatre that Kulvichit directed, I know how intelligent Landscape (1989) is going to be, and that there would probably going to be moments that went over my head. That doesn’t take away from the quality of the performance though, because there are many levels that you can appreciate it on. I may not understand exactly what is trying to be said in the movement scene around the mushrooms, but I’m spellbound by the repetitive nature of it. The whole production feels very holistic – there’s someone for everyone.

Seriously though – regarding the bit where they eat mushrooms after they’ve been sat on the floor, I don’t think I’ve ever been that stressed when there’s been food involved. I can only imagine what has accumulated on the floor of Brick Hall. I beg you, please don’t eat any more.

Landscape (1989) runs until 14 February.

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