Tag Archives: Alex Fernandes

Ghosts of the Near Future

Ghosts of the Near Future

★★★

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

GHOSTS OF THE NEAR FUTURE at Edinburgh Festival Fringe

★★★

 

Ghosts of the Near Future

 

“performance art fans will be intrigued by Ghosts of the Near Future, and won’t be discouraged by the disparate and random elements in this show”

 

Ghosts of the Near Future promises “a show about extinctions, climatic, cultural, civilizational” in this newest offering by performance artists Emma Clark and PJ Stanley, aka emma + pj.
In sixty minutes, the audience in the Demonstration Room at Summerhall is treated to a rather muddled mashup of what is described as magic realism. Ghosts of the Near Future gives the impression of an incomplete encounter with too much popular American culture. The show is entertaining from moment to moment, but it’s a struggle to connect it with the theme of extinction on quite the scale suggested in its promotional material.

Extinction is a big theme in this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and with good reason. As scientific forecasts about species extinction, climate change, famine and plagues grow ever more disheartening, it’s important that artists tackle such big subjects. Art can illuminate data in ways that science cannot. What’s good about this piece by emma + pj is that, in a series of short scenes, Ghosts of the Near Future takes us out of the depressing reality of the near futures we are all facing, and presents us instead, with a dream of theirs. Spoiler alert: emma + pj’s is not any more cheerful, ultimately, but it’s a lot more fun to look at.

Clichés about the American West abound in Ghosts of the Near Future. Those who have been there can confirm that yes, it’s hot, and yes, it’s empty. If the point of all this is to show that the future of our planet may well look like Nevada, then yes, emma + pj are onto something. But how does the magic realism approach work with this? Why conjure up images of Las Vegas? To remind us that the showbiz glamour of this desert city is just a mirage? Is the point of this connection to make us realize that the achievements of our planet might one day been seen as just a magic trick, a dream? For generations of young people growing up amidst the ruins of the American Dream, I guess that’s true.

Ghosts of the Near Future is populated with white rabbits, magicians and showgirls. The imagination is caught, moment to moment, by enlarged images projected onto a screen, of plastic figures jumbled together in a glass tank; by pj’s sparkling magician’s jacket, or by emma dressed up as a showgirl holding a gasoline filled martini glass. The details can be captivating. Magic tricks do get performed, and there are some neat effects with cameras, lighting, sound and dry ice. Nice work by scenographer Georgie Hook and sound designer Patch Middleton.

All these details do not, in themselves, illuminate the theme of the show. Maybe the intent of Ghosts of the Near Future is to do this through playfulness, but the title of the show suggests otherwise. It is diverting to drift along with these likeable performers as they move through magic shows and various mythical encounters in the Nevada desert. As drifters know, however, such encounters are shot through with uncertainty. What did we really see?

Nevertheless, performance art fans will be intrigued by Ghosts of the Near Future, and won’t be discouraged by the disparate and random elements in this show. If that’s the case for you, go and soak up the experience, rather than trying to figure out its contribution to the subject of climate catastrophe.

 

 

Reviewed 9th August 2022

by Dominica Plummer

 

 

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TWO BILLION BEATS

Two Billion Beats

★★★½

Orange Tree Theatre

TWO BILLION BEATS

Two Billion Beats

Orange Tree Theatre

Reviewed – 9th February 2022

★★★½

 

“There are some very interesting discussions being had in a way that feels fresh and nuanced”

 

You know how I know the boxy over-sized blazer trend is going to be something we wildly regret in seasons to come? Because I just watched two girls in full school uniform and I coveted their blazers. No, surely we can all agree that the English school uniform is most certainly not enviable. So something must be terribly wrong.

But Bettina and Asha are hardly concerned with their outfit choices. Sisters in year 10 and year 13 respectively, they often meet outside school on the concrete steps, both avoiding the journey home, though for different reasons. Bettina is being bullied on the bus by a group of nasty school kids. So she dawdles, hoping her sister will at least accompany her if not defend her. Asha, however, has no interest in going home until her mum has left for work at 6:30pm. They’re not talking because Asha submitted an essay critiquing Gandhi, which her mum is taking personally.

There are some very interesting discussions being had in a way that feels fresh and nuanced. The trouble, though, is that they’re presented as a singular conversation when actually there are quite a lot of things going on. First, we’ve got the idea that within a fight for progress, history often only remembers those voices most convenient.

And then there’s the idea that social justice shouldn’t be something you have to earn through good behaviour. And within both main discussions there’s the inescapable subject of race, of microaggressions and this country’s obsession with othering. But they’re not the same argument, and somehow they’re presented as one, all tied together by yet another idea about taking action, being the change you wish to see in the world, if you’ll pardon the Gandhi paraphrasing.

Of course it’s fine to have multiple ideas at play, but maybe not so many when the play is nearly entirely exposition; we never really see anything happen, rather we see the sisters discussing the happenings before and/or after. The subject matter is strong enough that the conversation holds my attention for a solid hour I think, but that’s about as long as my focus can handle without anything actually happening before I start thinking about oversized blazers and their place in the fashion world.

Playing Bettina, Anoushka Chadha’s performance is sweet and vulnerable. She’s excellent at throwing a little lip wobbler, and she shines best when the conversation feels more ad-libbed or verbatim.

Safiyya Ingar’s Asha, however, is in another league. Still so doe-eyed about the world in one sense, and so savvy in another, you feel like you’re really witnessing someone making massive strides in their self-discovery. Bold and hesitant in turns, Ingar is masterful at giving us glimpses of the impressive woman Asha will no doubt become, whilst maintaining an honest and winning naivety.

Debbie Duru’s design mirrors the simplicity of Sonali Bhattacharyya’s script’s set-up. Besides an LED bus screen, and a brief appearance of a very excited hamster it’s pretty much entirely up to Ingar and Chadha, surrounded by a few concrete blocks, to keep us engaged. And if the play were the right length, i.e., half an hour shorter, this would be plenty. The subject matter is meaty enough to do away with flashy production value or heaps of props.

It’s frustrating to see such strong ideas so intelligently expressed and beautifully performed, let down by editing. That said, Two Billion Beats gave me a lot to contemplate on my journey home, and I’d rather that than a slick one-hour with nothing to say.

 

 

Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Alex Brenner

 


Two Billion Beats

Orange Tree Theatre until 5th March

 

Recently reviewed at this venue:
Rice | ★★★★ | October 2021
While the Sun Shines | ★★★★ | November 2021

 

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