In the last year or so, I’ve noticed a growing trend of theatre looking towards the future – imaginings of the world yet to come. Not the Back To The Future world of hoverboards and self-tying shoelaces, but very plausible scenarios. A greater reliance on technology, more frequent outbreaks of civil unrest, a strain placed upon resources. All of these things are present in the brave new world of New Atlantis, a pertinent piece as we approach the General Election in May.
They couldn’t have picked a better building than The Crystal in Royal Victoria, East London (although if you’re not familiar with the area, I’d recommend allowing a little extra time to get there) – all futuristic space-agey glass, vast airy high ceilings and loaded with sustainable engineering – perfect headquarters for the organisation that replaces the failed United Nations in 2036. But in 2050, the Secretary General calls a meeting to announce that she no longer has the energy to fulfil her duties and must step down; it is now down to us as ‘Agents’ to vote for a new leader from 3 possible canditates. A little bit King Lear with added “press the red button now” features. All the while, there is the threat of destabilisation from the ominously named Generation Alpha.
We are introduced to the gravity of the situation through a large screen broadcast: Secretary General Dr. Bryony Weller (Tricia Kelly) speaks with the sort of oratory skill frequently seen in world leaders, yet with a quiet vulnerability. Her age is rather poignant: hinting to the youngish audience that this will be us in 40 years time, approaching old age and regretting not doing more about climate change when we could still make a tangible difference. We are encouraged to explore the building for an hour and educate ourselves on the various policies of each candidate by engaging with characters and real scientists. There are some nice bits of science-fiction styling to the actors’ costumes, whereas the scientists are easily identifiable by their boiler suits.
My ticket was courtesy of Bargain Theatre – you can read the review in full here.
New Atlantis is on until 25th January 2015 at The Crystal, Royal Victoria Dock, London E16 1GB. For tickets and more information, go to http://www.enlightenmentcafe.co.uk/