3 Billion Seconds, Vault Festival

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by Laura Kressly

The average baby born in Britain today will live for three billion seconds. They will be responsible for contributing approximately 58.6 tonnes of carbon to the environment. As such, climate scientists widely agree that not having children at all or having one less child than originally planned will have a significant effect on pollution levels. Climate change activists Daisy and Michael know this, and advocate for reducing the population in their environmentalism talks they give around the country – but what happens when they fall pregnant?

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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.

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The Children, Manhattan Theatre Club

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by NY guest critic Steven Strauss

American dramaphiles tend to view Britain as a hotbed of hyper-verbal and hyper-intellectual plays, especially in comparison to our home-bred musicals that often lack the same resonant depth. This is of course a gross over-generalization with countless exceptions, but personally, I became a card-carrying theatrical anglophile thanks to the massive transatlantic influx of Stoppardian texts in which characters talk talk talk about Serious and Important Ideas.

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The Toxic Avenger, Arts Theatre

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I’ve seen sexist theatre. I’ve seen ableist theatre. But it’s rare to come across a show that is so openly and unashamedly both of these things.

Even more frustrating, these aspects of the story are heightened and played for laughs. There’s no commentary or condemnation, just the worst parts of cult movies rolled into one superhero story reliant on anti-women stereotypes. The performances are excellent and there are some great tunes, but the overtly offensive storyline overwhelms any of the production’s positive aspects.

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Part of the Picture, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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Peppered across the North Sea, giant metal birds stretch towards the sky and drill into the seabed below, hunting for life-giving oils and gasses. Along their wide bellies, men work day and night to keep them moving in dangerous, dirty conditions. The money’s good, and the work is plentiful.

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World Without Us, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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Imagine the world if the entire human population disappeared suddenly, without a trace. What would it look like after a day, a month, a century, an era? A lone performer from Belgian company Ontroerend Goed methodically describes how the theatre space we sit in would change as a focal point within the wider world’s transformation. Delivered in a near monotone on a stage bare except for a grey obelisk, World Without Us is a meditative account of our solar system’s lifespan, and humanity’s inconsequence in the great scheme of planetary existence.

Karolien De Bleser quietly narrates this epoch-spanning journey of our planet with matter of fact coolness. What she describes really is remarkable in its compressed state, but the almost total lack of inflection makes the text pedestrian even in its most dramatic moments. Her movement around the space is relaxed and random, to look for meaning in it feels silly what with the story she tells.

With the ability to focus on the story without the mind drifting to topics such as what to have for lunch, the overall effect is a sense of calm acceptance that our lives, whilst impacting the planet immediately, really don’t matter. Our absence has little effect other than the gradual decay and burial of the artefacts we leave behind. Even in periods of environmental turmoil such as we see in the planet’s history, the impact is meaningless.

Even though the sun eventually swells and engulfs the Earth before it dies, all is not lost. Lightyears away, a single human artefact remains with a friendly but assumptive purpose. Its contents are, depending on one’s world view, absurd or incredibly beautiful. Perhaps they are both.The whimsy of human invention is particularly poignant at this moment.

World Without Us is a lovely, contemplative piece of performance and would work particularly well as an audio recording. As theatre, it could come across as flat, or upsetting or remarkable, depending each individual’s world view. Calmly provocative, it is wonderfully wide open to interpretation and effect.

World Without Us 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.