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Review: A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction

A Play For The Living In A Time of Extinction_Barbican_Helen Murray_23

By: Sara Lamerton, TRP Reviewer


Humans, like trees – the lifeblood of our existence – have roots. They take hold, grow, expand, explore the ground underfoot. Swaying in the wind, we eagerly look for our place in life. Once settled we mould to the earth around us. But, unlike trees who live in balanced harmony with the ecosystem, our roots can turn sour: poisoning others, sometimes even bleeding into the generations yet to come. We push, shove and destroy until all that’s left is a depleted land in which other life struggles to flourish.

This might sound bleak and hopeless. A story centering around death and destruction. Yet, despite the theme of Miranda Rose Hall’s, A Play for the Living in a Time of Extinction, it isn’t all doom and gloom. Of course, with a title like this you’d be more shocked not to find a plethora of reasons to despair. You’d also be hard pushed to not be confronted by some difficult facts surrounding the human insanity aimed at our magnificent world. Despite all this, at its core, the show is a call to find a different way to be human.

Shaday Barrowes-Bayewunmi, a Plymouth based artist, plays Naomi. Essentially this is a solo-performance. Shaday guides us through earth’s extinction level events from the dawn-of-time up until the present day, with all the animated enthusiasm of a children’s television presenter.  However, she’s not alone on stage. The show is powered by unstoppable stationary cyclists. For 90 minutes they pedal, they generate, they endure. Practising what the show preaches, the idea behind it is hopeful and unique. Naomi’s story entwines both the personal and the scientific, highlighting key issues which could easily make entire shows in of themselves. She engages the audience, bringing her points to life and injecting humour into the serious subject matter. That is until things get batty…..

Shaday remains relatively upbeat for the majority of the show. Although, the nature of her discussion darkens; her demeanour morphs alongside it. Presented with the reality of today: all that’s been lost in her short lifetime, and that which will be lost soon enough. It’s sobering.  And one unfortunate fact prevails. The biggest perpetrators of our climate crisis won’t be the ones to suffer.  A Play for the Living doesn’t ignore the reality that those who profit from destruction are not those who face the brunt of the earth’s death cries. None of us live in isolation. We’re all connected, all grounded to this earth, but certainly not all equal.

The idea behind the show is a virtuous one. It’s got a big heart and grand ideals. Shaday places her soul into the performance and director, Kay Michael, has a clear, effective vision. I could see it growing and evolving under the right circumstances. I wonder how this concept could be forged into something bigger. Into something with wider impact. But, the main concern for me is this question: do we even really want things to change?


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