By Liam McLoughlin 25/1/2016
Stars of Tomorrow’s Parties Cathy Naden and Jerry Killick foresee some pretty fanciful futures. In the future, the world will be so overpopulated that people will have to share a body on a rota system. In the future, sex will become more of a nostalgia thing for older people, only really done at Easter and Christmas. In the future, children will become so fetishised they will make all governmental and legal decisions. The absurdity of these scenarios is offset by the bleak realism of others predicting the future will be pretty much like the present: there will still be ‘rich, poor, greed, unhappiness, sadists, innocents, corruption, men with guns’. There will still be child abuse and murder, ‘people will still resent foreigners, people will still make jokes about each others’ weaknesses and people will still find it hard to listen’. It’s a darkly resonant vision for a theatre piece inspired by the theme of ‘hope’ at a festival in Switzerland.
The performance is paired back. Standing on a wooden pallet and framed by a string of multicoloured carnival bulbs, Naden and Killick spend an hour or so listing possible futures. It’s a play of opposites. One foreshadows a one world government; the other a feudal society of rural communities. One conjures a vision where everyone takes part in criminal gangs; the other thinks we’ll all be working for the police. One advances a future in which people don’t eat meat; the other says we’ll all be cannibals. The two performers deliver the material with a philosophical tone and a light touch. Often their scenarios are wildly imaginative and at times they are gently amusing or thought-provoking.
Yet too often the work is hamstrung by its repetitive list format. 70 minutes in which almost every scenario was prefaced by the phrase 'Or, in the future' left me craving a future with more varied sentence structures. For a terrifying second I even thought Buzzfeed was colonising theatre with their new listicle play 200 Future Scenarios You Won’t Believe.
This isn't the only weakness. The cerebral delivery limits the emotional punch of some of the more affecting ideas in the piece, while the mass of predictions mean the implications of each can only be visited superficially. A static work like this needs emotional resonance, intellectual depth or both to keep the crowd fully engaged.
Most disappointing is the very fact the piece could only really move the audience in its bleak depiction of a future containing all the awful aspects of the present. In the style of Aldous Huxley’s Island or William Morris’s News from Nowhere, a work that encourages a hopeful view of future possibilities has the potential to inspire and excite us with innovative utopian visions. Instead we are offered a range of unbelievable possibilities but very few realistically optimistic political visions. Perhaps this speaks to the limited political imagination of the neoliberal age when we're told 'There is no alternative' to capitalism.
There’s a nice premise here, some solid performances and imaginative moments, but it could have been so much more.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Presented by Forced Entertainment
Director: Tim Etchells
Cast: Jerry Killick and Cathy Naden
20-24 January 2016