Thursday 25 June 2015

The Future Show – Teatr Ósmego Dnia, Poznań

[seen 22/06/15]

I was there when The Future began and I’ve returned once since. The Future started in April 2012, and then again in August 2013. And now I’m here when The Future ends. (Maybe.)

The Future (now Show) is a one-woman table/microphone/script piece by Deborah Pearson. In it, she narrates the future. Her future, and the future of the world while she’s alive in it. The piece begins with the show finishing. She tells us what she will say, how she walks out from round the table she’s been sitting at, down the stairs of the stage, and tells us how she will bow.

It’s like the ultra-personal dimension of the macro politics of Tomorrow’s Parties. As curation goes Tim Etchells and the Malta Festival have played a bit of a blinder here. The two pieces glance off each other like diamond and diamond cutter.

The first The Future only shot a few weeks into The Future, to(wards?) Pearson’s then-forthcoming wedding. It was – if I remember rightly – full of both mild angst and much greater sense of contentment and happiness. In this present Future Show – unpredicted, unsurprisingly, by previous Future Shows (who sees Poznań coming?) – Pearson it staring down the barrel of her PhD deadline in September. And she’s got a cold. This, perhaps, makes it a slighty grumpier affair than before. In The Future, there will be GAAAAHHH, it coolly anticipates.

It’s still a great piece. Whenever I see it, it seems to come at a point when I am thinking about *the future* anyway. But then, I wonder if that’s not just part of a perpetual condition. In first of his Four Quartets, Burnt Norton, Eliot offer us this:

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.

Gorgeous though it sounds, I’m not sure I fully buy the analysis. Or rather, they’re lines about the past and regret, maybe how an older person configures the world (Eliot was 57). The Future Show, instead of focussing on “What might have been”s and “memory” instead points to possible futures, “What might be is an abstraction” it contradicts. Of course “time present and time past” are both present in time future, but let’s concentrate on the Future, it argues...

Regret is all well and good (and the old anti-Semite had more to regret than many), but it strikes me that what the Future Show confronts is not the easy, armchair grumbling of “if only”s from the past, but the real live potential terror of ongoing ethical negotiation moving forwards in time.

I quoted that bit of Nick Ridout’s Theatre & Ethics in my recent Oresteia review, but it’s really worth referring to it again here. Essentially, Ridout proposes that the words “How shall I act?” encapsulate/articulate the crucial/central ethical dilemma of all dramatic (and postdramatic) “literature” (extending “literature” to intend “texts”, including, un-*written* ones). Perhaps, at this Festival, that question is being expanded across the many shows looking towards the future, to “How shall WE act?”

As such, it feels slightly silly to tag on a pat ending about how nice it was to see this piece again, and how nice to catch up with Deborah, and what a jolly good thing theatre is, etc.

Instead, I’m suddenly really interested in the massive contrast between this week – a programme of what could be clumsily called “avant garde” work – all focused, so far, on the future, somehow; and last week’s programme which was almost entirely focussed on history, and also – entirely coincidentally – felt much more “traditional”. (See my [forthcoming] Rimini Protokoll review for linked examples disproving that the “avant garde” doesn’t also *do* “history”.)

And, as two weeks back to back, it has been remarkably fortuitous programming. So much of the present *is* plainly bound up in mankind’s long, long history, that, yes, *of course* both past and present are the genesis of the future. If, frustratingly, all those histories give precious little away about what might be coming...

Photos by: Maciej Zakrzewski (top), and me (bottom).

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