by Laura Kressly
Whether society is moving backwards or forwards is a matter of debate, though in regards to climate change, it’s pretty clear we are determined to march onwards to our own destruction. Is it too late to undo the damage we’ve caused? Is magic the only thing that can save us? In this slick, multimedia production from Ontroerend Goed, the Belgian company employs clever staging, a palindromic structure, and impressive design to pose these questions, even though there are no easy answers.
A young tree with a single apple stands on stage, and a woman sleeps a few metres away. In the low light, it looks like a painting and immediately evokes Eve in the garden of Eden. What unfolds is a minimalistic, potted history of humanity, including developments in the modern world. The stark beauty of the opening image gives way to a different aesthetic – man-made art, and a sea of brightly coloured plastic bags fill the stage. There is some speech, in what is initially thought to be Flemish, but it’s minimal. The staging is as well, with the ensemble of six executing austere and precise movements. There are moments that are stylised or absurd, or just feel a bit off, giving the piece a heightened sense of artifice.
Once the story of human progress seems to wind down, the company change tactic and throw in one hell of a plot twist. It’s impressive in its narrative and technological scope, though it quickly becomes clear what is happening, and what the outcome will be. Though the device itself is pretty marvellous, it stretches out the show unnecessarily and there are few additional surprises.
Ontroerend Goed are undoubtedly a progressive company, and this show is no exception. It is crafted with specificity, care and precision, and is always pleasing to the eye. But the overarching dramaturgy of the piece works against the element of surprise, no matter how clever it might be.
Are we not drawn onward to new erA runs through 25 August in Edinburgh.
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