THEATRE REVIEW: A Play For The Living In A Time Of Extinction

By Aline Mahrud


WHEN?: Saturday 29 April (matinee), running to Saturday 29 April 2023 (evening) and then touring the UK until autumn 2023 RUNTIME: 70 minutes (no interval)

Lydia West’s (It’s A Sin, Channel 4) stage debut is a curious mix of uncomfortable audience interaction and despair at mankind-inspired climate change and species extinction.

  • Read on for reasons including how and where to see this production as it tours England

She stands centre-stage for much of this 70-minute feminist monologue flanked by 10 cyclists creating the power to run the show as it seeks to go ‘off the grid’.

West plays serious dramaturg Naomi in black jumpsuit and boots who takes to the stage with a handheld microphone to tell us that she has been researching the show and yet the rest of the production are detained elsewhere because an elderly relative is ill.

The intention is for Naomi to represent us all as she regales us with the facts she has uncovered including pictures of animal and nature species which are either recently extinct or soon to be so.

She struggles with the enormity of what she is imparting, occasionally falling to the floor with grief, needing to take a comfort break for water or encouraging the audience to represent the nature she is describing with hand gestures.

It’s distinctly lacking in intentional humour although we felt there was much unintentional comedy in the encouragement to members of the audience to join Naomi onstage to dance.

The question-and-answer session with the audience where it was encouraged to describe a tree or stretch of water it had loved was far less stilted than we might have feared, so much so whether we couldn’t help but wonder about its authenticity.

And yet despite all of this the reason we are writing this is that there is the germ of an idea here about theatre’s response to climate change and a play which tours although its people and materials do not, that does make sense.

For West does not continue in her role as Naomi as other actresses and directors reimagine the piece as it makes its way to the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry from 10 May, Shakespeare North Playhouse, Prescot from 16 May, New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-Under-Lyme from 19 June, Theatre Royal Plymouth from 28 June and York Theatre Royal from 27 September.

Conceived by Katie Mitchell and developed with the support of Jérôme Bel and Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne, the play tours whilst the people and materials do not. Sharing learning from Europe, the Barbican hosts the beginning of this journey, the first of its kind in the UK.

In each city a blueprint of this show will be uniquely brought to life by local teams, in a daring zero travel tour. It forms part of a ground-breaking international experiment in reimagining theatre in a climate crisis.

Hats off to West then for choosing to make her stage debut with this although it’s the idea about its execution rather than the presentation of the too on-the-nose content to the sound of whirring bicycle wheels that most interested us.

  • Main picture via Facebook courtesy Barbican Theatre Tickets
  • Have you seen Lydia West in other TV shows or on stage before? Let us know what you thought in the comments below
  • Enjoyed this review? Follow monstagigz on Twitter @monstagigz, email and check us out on Instagram and Facebook

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