Had you heard the world is ending? That’s rhetorical – as theatre-goers and readers of this site, of course you already know the science, and neither wars, illegal parties nor electricity bills will distract from your awareness of the hell to which modern industrial mankind is dragging our planet.
Writer/director Melissa-Kelly Franklin’s punchy one-act play forwards us an unspecified number of years to a time when food and energy are both scarce and a young couple face the tortuous question of whether they dare bring a new life into this nightmarish future.
As the Young Man (names are apparently short on the ground too in this era) Danny Horn delivers an intense and honest performance, making the most of a part written with a lack of disingenuity that is rare in the depiction of men these days. Could he be that mythical beast: a flawed male human trying to make the best of his choices in an imperfect world? In any case, Horn is very convincing and immediately has us on board.
Young Woman is played by Maite Jáuregui who gives a no less committed performance, powerfully inhabiting the psyche of a woman in intellectual rebellion against her maternal instincts.
The should-they/shouldn’t-they subject matter is ripe material, with the world around the torn couple contributing a new perspective to an old argument. I’d have liked this conflict to have been explored more probingly: how much has the global situation impacted on the age old issue of who decides whether a pregnancy progresses?
The play’s flashback structure works well, with slow motion physical transitions, and the whole story is satisfactorily contained within a tight 50 minutes. On the downside, there is some clunky exposition and on-the-nose dialogue. Franklin is clearly a skilled writer who one feels could’ve sub-textualised the issues to produce a more richly textured drama. I’d have easily stood an extra ten minutes or so if it had yielded the space for a slightly deeper dive into the fascinatingly relevant and primal themes of the play.
The unfolding climate catastrophe is real, and theatre needs to explore its consequences with as much artistic boldness and steel as it can muster. But of course, you already knew that.
Written and directed by: Melissa-Kelly Franklin
Produced by: Park Theatre, Bluestocking Productions and Women’s Writes
We’ll Dance on the Ash of the Apocalypse ran at Park 90 from May 3-7 as part of the Come What May festival. For more information on other shows during the festival check Park’s website here.