Are we not drawn onward to new erA (5 stars)

This article is from 2019

Are we not drawn onward to new erA

Technically dazzling, emotionally devastating work

Provocative, pioneering Flemish theatre company Ontroerend Goed have baited and outraged audiences with previous Fringe shows, made us gamble our cash, offered intimate one-on-one experiences, and three years ago gazed aeons into the future to a time when humankind has long vanished from the Earth.

This year, they again consider our relationship with the planet in what might appear a more conventional show. But Are we not drawn … is a technically dazzling, emotionally devastating work that marries form and content to revelatory effect.

A bare stage, an apple tree, a man and a woman: there's no question where Are we not drawn … begins. But as its title suggests, the show is a palindrome, so – are we going to end up back where we started? What Ontroerend Goed attempt is quietly breathtaking: an uncompromising examination of human progress and environmental destruction, an interrogation of time, and a deeply troubling questioning of whether we really can achieve what we surely need to achieve. All in a show full of wit and wonder. And if you're planning to see it – and you really should – stop reading now.

For experiencing Are we not drawn to a new erA's high-precision mechanisms unfolding in front of you, and the slow realisation of what's actually happening (and therefore what's yet to come), are some of the show's many pleasures. Using reversed speech that sounds like something from Twin Peaks' sinister Red Room, OG's six actors gradually transform the stage into a nightmarish microcosm of contemporary western life. This, we're left in no doubt, is progress, yet they're working backwards – and they come up with a brilliantly ingenious solution for the journey back to their Edenic origins.

Are we not drawn … is a playful, ambiguous work, whose ultimate message could be joyfully optimistic or deeply despairing – and is probably both. It's vitally important theatre that seems perched precariously on our current make-or-break moment, a show that never preaches, yet reveals possibilities, fears and hopes.

ZOO Southside, until 25 Aug (not 12, 19), 11am, £14 (£12).

Are we not drawn onward to new erA – Ontroerend Goed

  • 5 stars

Theatre Royal Plymouth, Vooruit, Richard Jordan Productions, BiB with ZOO Ontroerend Goed, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Vooruit, Richard Jordan Productions, BiB with ZOO. Like its title, this performance is a palindrome. You can see it forwards and backwards. Because some believe humanity is moving forward, while others…