The Lowry, Salford; Thursday 24th October, 2019
Is the future nuclear? Or are we in the nuclear age already? It’s all so hidden away and elusive, we only ever seem to hear about it when it goes badly wrong. But what about the bit that is really (and deliberately) hidden away: what will actually happen if a nuclear bomb were to be detonated?
Nuclear Future by Gameshow Theatre is a mysterious solo show that sets about exploring a very peculiar philosophical paradox: how can something be so small that you can’t even see it – yet also be capable of instantaneously unleashing something so big that your mind can’t even imagine it.
If it’s out of sight then it’s out of mind. Yet at any moment it could destroy you, so how can it be out of mind?
Astrid (Leda Douglas) is a weapons engineer, she literally is in the business of making nuclear weapons. Yet on stage she only ever goes about her ordinary life: she brushes her teeth; she gets on the bus, she rings her dad. And most of the time she frets about her daughter: what she’s doing, who she’s talking to, even what she might be thinking.
The show exudes a strong mood of sinister mystery, it seems to describe some kind of Orwellian dystopia – one where Astrid keeps hearing sirens, are they police cars or ambulances? Has something happened, or is something about to happen?
Everything on stage appears mundane enough, the story line seems to be about the commute to work, or dealing with an unruly child. But interspersed among the high-tension scenes of Astrid going about her business are short, sharp science lessons that give the audience a clear indication of how these weapons work and just how much damage they could do.
Presentation-wise two giant screens make up the set, projected lighting effects and animations make up the bulk of the visual spectacle, often eye-pleasing when super-imposed onto Leda Douglas’ forbearing performance, which was always strongly concentrated on verbal presentation, rather than physical.
Ultimately, Nuclear Future is a deep dive into one woman’s struggle to deal with uncertainty. For all the talk of 100-megaton explosions it comes across theatrically as being more like one big, lusty strike on a reverberating bass drum. It may not go off with a big bang, but it certainly leaves a smoky haze of resounding questions echoing around the mind.
Photography: Helen Murray
|Visual pleasure||Great use of two projectors onto large screens to create a virtual set. Animations and changes in colour scheme were put to good effect though perhaps it needed more as most of the performance involved relatively static monologues.||3|
|Auditory pleasure||Musical effects led to the creation of a deeply sinister mood, which was quite pleasing in the context of the story. Also felt like more was needed in order to maintain focus on what was happening.||3|
|Architecture & Theme||The subject matter is fascinating but there seems to be a disjunct between talk of nuclear explosions and the relatively placid story line (and pacing) that emerged. The use of snapshot scenes (rather than a flowing story line) added a stuttering effect which made the flow difficult to engage with.||2|
|Artistic delivery||Good individual performance but a lot of the delivery was done with very little physicality – remove the visual elements and this could perhaps just be a radio play?||3|
|Overall impact||An interesting show about an interesting subject, and very elegantly delivered. Seems to be lacking in conclusive emphasis though, it’s difficult to define what the final impact of the performance is, or what it should be.||3|
|0||Detrimental – This aspect of the performance was so bad that it made the overall experience worse|
|1||Weak – This aspect of the performance was poor|
|2||Adequate – This aspect of the performance was perfectly acceptable, though nothing special|
|3||Good – This aspect of the performance was above average, it pleased in some way|
|4||Excellent – This aspect of the performance was much better than normal, it was impressive|
|5||Awe-inspiring – This aspect of the performance was exceptional, new boundaries were pushed.|