REVIEW: A PLAY FOR THE LIVING IN A TIME OF EXTINCTION @ THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH
🎭 A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction
📍 The Drum, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Royal Parade, Plymouth, Devon, PL1 2TR
🗓 Thursday 29th June 2023
FANTASTIC CONCEPT, POOR EXECUTION
Last night I was at the Theatre Royal Plymouth for the second time this week, but this time I was in The Drum for A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction and was bitterly disappointed.
The concept of the show is innovative and pioneering and I was genuinely looking forward to seeing it. This is a show that looks at the climate change crisis and has been produced in an interesting way. The show itself tours, but nothing else does! The actor, choir and cyclists change with each venue. So the people involved this week are all Plymouth based! Even the bicycles themselves are loaned from a shop on the Barbican! The show also uses the theatres own technical crew.
The job of the cyclists in this production is to produce the power to run the lights etc. Once they appear, the show is taken off grid. Each bicycle creates roughly 60 watts of energy. A production at the theatre would usually use an average of 80,000 watts for lighting and 30,000 watts for sound.
So the concept is fantastic. Unfortunately the execution and the play itself is poor. In the opening scene we met Naomi. She is the dramaturg for the production, but when the two actors couldn’t make it, she steps in to save the day and do the show. Again interesting start, but the script here was really weak. Combined with the fact that this part was too long, by the time the show really started and the cyclists arrived I was already completely disengaged.
The trouble I found was trying to work out whether this was a play or a lecture. As soon as the show went off grid, it became really preachy. I understand that the point of this production is to get across the urgency of the climate crisis but anyone who would book tickets for this would already be supporters of the cause so it was almost like preaching to the converted.
What I really didn’t like is how the audience was treated like stupid children. I found this utterly patronising and honestly if I hadn’t been there to review the performance I would have probably left because of this. The fault of this does not lie with the performer at all. Shaday Barrows-Blackman did her best with the material she had and was very expressive. The fault here lies exclusively with writer Miranda Rose-Hall who obviously had an agenda to push.
I came to the conclusion that this was a lecture masquerading as a play. I felt that a theatre was completely the wrong venue for this production and it is better suited to a school or museum.
It’s such a shame because the message and what they’re trying to achieve here is great, but they’ve completely missed the mark. If you’re a climate change activist then you’re probably going to love this, but as a piece of theatre it just doesn’t work and at the end of the day I have to look at this as a theatrical production and review accordingly.
The piece was actually quite boring and when you’re trying to get such an important message across you cannot bore your audience. Some interesting points were made such as the phrase ‘no life exists in isolation’ and the explanation of the difference between death and extinction, but because I was so disengaged so early on even these failed to resonate with me.
So a lack of any substantial story and the fact that I felt lectured to and made to feel like a child are the main failings in this show.
The end saw a talented local choir emerge from the audience and they sang beautifully. Again though, the lyrics were very preachy.
I know I will probably receive some backlash for this review, but after talking to other audience members afterwards I was definitely not alone in my feelings, and my views are just as valid as anyone else’s. I was invited to give an honest review and that is what I have done.
As I always say though, my views are only the views of one person and I encourage you to make up your own mind. A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction is playing in The Drum at Theatre Royal Plymouth until tomorrow, with three performances remaining. Head to www.theatreroyal.com for tickets.
All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest and free from influence.
My ticket for this performance was gifted by Theatre Royal Plymouth who invited me to review the production and give my honest feedback. The fact that my ticket was gifted has played no part whatsoever in the content of my review or the star rating it received.
RUNNING TIME (approx):
1 hour 20 mins with no interval
Occasional bad language, stories of death and mass extinction, themes of a seriously ill parent
The Theatre Royal Plymouth is the principle home of the performing arts in the South West and is the largest and most attended regional producing theatre in the country. Their mission is to develop and deepen people's engagement with pioneering creativity in Plymouth and the South West, delivering experiences that spark delight, expression and fulfilment. The venue offers three performance spaces of various sizes, the largest being The Lyric which accommodates the big touring productions. The Drum and The Lab are smaller, intimate spaces and often offer pioneering productions and I have personally seen some excellent productions in these spaces.