It’s 2051 and the world is, of course, in the midst of a climate catastrophe. Floods, fires, and record temperatures are ravaging the planet worse than ever. In a diving bell descending to the floor of the North Sea, three men work on an oil rig. Pressure mounts – and pressure mounts – the lower they get, and their technology and mental health begin to fail.
Through his most recent play An Adventure, writer Vinay Patel proved he can masterfully sustain family dramas grappling with big themes. By sticking close to Chekhov’s original story, this adaptation of The Cherry Orchard set in the distant future does similar. A spaceship replaces the estate, but the strict social stratification with a stark disparity in privilege mirror early-1900s Russia. It’s a smart adaptation that works well in surprising ways, though the heavy use of Chekhovian, reflective dialogue and a lack of high conflict mean the story is often slow and baggy.
The Network Theatre Company has put together a brilliant night of short plays that are certainly entertaining, if slightly alarming about where the world is heading. The Future is Mental gives us an assemblage of six near-future, ‘soft-dystopian’ stories, admittedly inspired by Black Mirror, that makes us take a step back and really rethink our present lifestyles.
I came out of The First, by Barry McStay with direction by Emily Jenkins, and the first thing I write in my notes is ‘more space love love yes’. Given the focus on firsts within the piece, I think it’s apt to share first thoughts first.
Nuclear war has broken out and most of North America has been destroyed. The bombs are getting closer to London, and there are fewer escape options now that the borders are closed. There’s a sex commune in Wales, or the opportunity to join an alien species on another planet seeking a cis het couple to perpetuate the human race. Liam and Tess have applied for the latter.
In 1988, when I was a 13-year-old boy in a provincial town in Derbyshire, being in
possession of Erasure’s number-one album The Innocents was a big deal. It was cool to
know the names of the synthpop duo, Andy Bell and Vince Clarke. ‘Yeah, we’re going to see Andy and Vince in concert, yeah, Andy Bell, Vince Clarke, Andy and Vince’, we bantered in the playground as casually as possible. So to see Andy Bell as Torsten in Queereteria TV, relatively up close, in the flesh, was for me a piece of pop history, big deal again, nostalgia.
As the world feels more and more like a dystopian nightmare that could explode at any moment from greed and relentless late capitalism, it’s unsurprising that young people are worried about their future. Sounds Like Chaos are a soothing balm for them, though. The associate company at the Albany supports referred and self-referred 12-21 year olds with training, employment opportunities and opportunities to make theatre, treating them with respect and valuing their ideas. Their latest ensemble work is set in the near future, using music, projections and ritual to critique online culture.
In 2015, Dr Rosy Carrick was in Russia researching the life and work of Vladimir Mayakovsky as part of her PhD. On an otherwise a normal day, she receives a note from herself. It’s rather different from the usual reminders her past self leaves her future self, like ‘phone mum’ or ‘pack daughter’s PE kit’. Dated 1928, she has written to her past self – due to incorrect calculations and broken equipment, future Rosy implores present Rosy to build a time machine to rescue her.
In post-Brexit Britain, the oyster industry struggles. Work is hard and profits are low. But when oyster harvester Captain von Toch sees mysterious images on the ship’s sonar and discovers a new creature that can quickly be taught fine motor skills, he revitalises his business and changes the course of the human race’s destiny.