Dance theatre explores how the everyday affects climate change
Anthropocene: the Human Era - Gymjam in front rooms everywhere, from April 22 - May 17, review by Jon Lewis
Commissioned by the Oxford Playhouse and supported by TORCH, Oxford University’s research centre that funds arts projects that concern other areas of academic study, Anthropocene: the Human Era is an online film that uses dance theatre to explore how our everyday activities affect climate change.
The audience is encouraged to make its own journey through the film, touching the screen to make choices that are initially about consumer purchases eg juice / coffee, or wine / magazine / chocolate and later, moral or ethical decisions eg good / bad present. Press the word juice, for example, and a deftly edited collage of images follows – oranges being picked in an orchard, then transported by train, container ship and lorry. The message is clear: transportation fuels emissions. Our breakfasts will kill the planet. We hear the memorable warnings of David Attenborough urging populations to take better care of their planet.
Jointly directed jointly by William Townsend and Gavin Maxwell, this is a ravishing production that shows, rather then tells, in the mainly wordless style of Gecko. The fluid dance movements to an excellent techno soundtrack by Townsend and Micheal Lynch is reminiscent of Frantic Assembly, a company Maxwell has worked with. The central figure is Megan (Megan Noakes), a woman taking a pregnancy test in her bathroom, waiting for her partner to return home. She daydreams what the future could be like for her hoped-for child. In the journey I clicked, her daughter has a daughter of her own, the planet full of man-made disasters, landfill-stricken.
Megan and her partner are middle class, living in a cottage with wooden beams, whitewash, tiled floors, natural wooden doors, and heavy wooden furniture. The home should be a lovely nest for a baby. They have breakfast; he leaves for work. A friend of Megan’s visits. There are scenes on a beach, intercut with images from around the world portending disaster. More traditionally, there are more abstract ensemble dance scenes in a studio, lit by suspended LED lights, creating vibrant tableaux suggesting the womb as a globe. A baby bundle is passed around the dancers. Megan has decisions to make, as do the viewers. Superb.