Because We Want To, Rose Playhouse

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When Natasha Rickman and Unfolds Theatre were questioned about the motivation behind their cross-gendered Twelfth Night, they had a simple response – “because we want to”.

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Songs For the End of the World, Battersea Arts Centre

 

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Jim Walters is the first person sent to colonise Mars. But when a global apocalypse occurs, trapping him in the Earth’s orbit and running out of oxygen, he and his guitar are left to broadcast music to the devastation below. Can anyone hear him? Are there any survivors? Will he ever know? Dom Coyote and his band the Bloodmoneys present a post-Brexit apocalypse in the gig-theatre Songs For the End of the World, a piece overly heavy on the ‘gig’ and reliant on a plot constructed of dystopian tropes. Though the story is thin, Dom Coyote’s songs are fantastically varied and plentiful, helping to gloss over any shortcomings in the script.

There’s rockabilly, 90s rock anthems, glam rock, and blues numbers with a touch of connecting story sprinkled in between. Set in Ashley Coombe, the village serves as a window into the attitudes of small, English towns of this dictatorial era – the elderly preacher woman who runs the place condemns foreigners, terrorists and space exploration whilst the rebels put on club nights in an underground bunker. The country is now called New Albion and rather than run by an individual, a corporation dictates all rules and procedures. These plot devices are predictable within a story of a dystopian future, but are simplistic enough to work within the gig-theatre format without needing much explanation. As these two tribes clash, Jim Walters is in space – a symbol of both human progress and arrogant dominion. It’s no surprise which side survives down on Earth, and that the future beyond the end of the show looks particularly bleak.

Though the story is overly familiar, the music is wonderfully varied. David Bowie’s promised influence is clear, but not limiting in style. All of the characters in this Little England kitsch/cold international corporation hybrid are suitably blown out of proportion, but feel eerily familiar in a fundamentalist-driven, isolationist Britain and a world where Donald Trump may become the next leader of its most powerful country. Staging is fairly static as per the usual gig-theatre approach, but there is some variation in movement and costume. The lighting design adds power and hope to the bleak, clinical setting.

A more substantial script and dynamic staging would lend more theatricality to the excellent set of tunes in of Songs For the End of the World; as is, it is overly driven by music and the narrative potential is neglected. That said, it would make a fantastic concept album, and the design is strong – an extra half hour of script would add polish to this fun, vibrant performance piece.

Songs For the End of the World is now closed.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

Generation Zero, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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A nameless couple meet online, fall in love and build a life together. Their lives are comfortably boring, with day jobs, road trips to the beach, holidays in a Yorkshire cottage and lazy weekends snuggling in bed, listening to records. They are almost identical to any contemporary middle class, suburban couple, but something’s not quite right.

Their world is just a bit off. They run out of gas, but they can’t go to the shop to top up their gas meter – they aren’t allowed to exceed their monthly allocation. There’s talk of restrictions on travel in order to cut pollution levels. He’s ambivalent about the environment, but she’s a political activist who devotes more and more of her time to a local group campaigning for change. He wants to spend more time with her, but she’s always out in the evenings, planning actions with the group, so he takes action of his own.

Becky Owen-Fisher’s debut play Generation Zero looks at the battle over the environment through the lens of a young couple in a poetic, episodic script that unsettles through it’s familiarity and the complacency with which (most? some?) people approach political issues. The story doesn’t viciously attack climate change, but takes a gentle, sinister approach that gets into your bones. Owen-Fisher has a good instinct for dialogue and imagery-laden narration that easily flows in and out of naturalism, adding just enough variation in style to keep the audience lightly unsettled.

Director Tom Fox attacks the script with lightening fast transitions; these could be slowed a bit for the sake of keeping up with the actions and the to-ing and fro-ing through time. Without sound and lighting signifiers, they would be totally unclear. Some important moments are also rushed, particularly towards the end, causing the gravitas they should have to be glossed over.More stylised physicality would also be welcome to coordinate with the stylistic changes in text.

The two actors are excellent; Jordan Turk and Francesca Dolan have a gorgeous chemistry that’s lovely to watch, made more romantic by dream-like lighting. The sheets and pillows covering strip lighting on the stage’s edge creates a lovely ethereal effect, destroyed by their reveal at a pivotal moment that also reveals the truth of their relationship’s dynamic – a great choice.

Perhaps some adjustments could be made to the script to transform it into more of a propaganda piece and place a stronger emphasis on the environmental collapse that is merely hinted at, but to do so would cause the piece to lose its delicacy. This is a promising play from an emerging writer with an important message that deserves to be heard.

Generation Zero runs through 29th August.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.