Friday 6 September 2013

The Future Show – Forest Fringe

[written for Whatsonstage]

***** (Five Stars)

Programmed after I Wish I Was Lonely only twice during Forest Fringe’s residency at their new Out of The Blue, Drill Hall base, Deborah Pearson’s The Future Show feels curiously contiguous with the themes if not the method of ...Lonely.

In theory, I’ve seen The Future Show before, at Forest Fringe at the Gate in April ‘12. But actually I haven’t, since Pearson re-writes the whole of the show, or at least the first half of the show every time she performs it.

It is something of a testament to Pearson’s astonishing skill as a writer that each time I’ve seen the show I’ve found it incredibly well-written (not a hint of the flurry with which it must be flung together), thought-provoking and beautiful. Pearson is a great performer too; her soft Canadian accent, her slow deliberate delivery into a microphone, the just-so poise of her sitting behind her little desk reading from the freshly printed script.

The actual text of The Future Show starts by describing Pearson’s life from the moment that the show we are watching ends. She describes us clapping and her leaving the space. She describes her post-show rituals and what happens for the rest of the day. And gradually, we move forward in time, past Edinburgh, past this year, and then gradually, past decades into the future. The show ends with Pearson describing her own death.

The first version of the show ended sooner than this, with Deborah lying in bed with her then new-husband-to-be, and seemed to include a lot of nostalgia and memories from the past occurring as elements of the future into which she was looking. This time round, the future feels longer, further, more distant – it is interesting that it becomes less detailed as it goes further ahead, just as if looking forward is very like looking back; yesterday vividly remembered, last year slightly more boxed-up, ten years ago represented by only a few fleeting images and so on.

What becomes fascinating, even enviable here, is Pearson’s ability to foresee a future with her in it. External events do occasionally play a part (“I buy the last newspaper ever printed”), but mostly we spend time with a fiercely intelligent, independent woman going through her life being every bit as awesome as we ourselves imagine she will be, and so facing her death becomes a genuinely saddening experience.

There’s something quite remarkable about the peace that Pearson seems to have made with he own life and the inevitability of death. Watching The Future Show, it feels much less like an act of solipsism and much more like an incredible act of quiet generosity within which we all get to sit and spend time and think about the future.

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