Spoiler: everyone dies in the end. A Play For The Living In A Time Of Extinction covers the story from the origin of life on Earth to its extinction. From mass extinction to mass extinction, and just before the end, man briefly appears around the corner.
Theater director Katie Mitchell wants to talk about climate change, but not through an energy-guzzling international theater production in which the cast travels around the world in polluting aircraft. So she came up with an alternative: the performance is always made by a local cast and crew, based on a stage text and a set of rules drawn up by Mitchell. One of those rules: all energy consumed in the performance must be generated visibly on stage.
For the Holland Festival, director Floor Houwink ten Cate took care of the concept. Together with actress Joy Wielkens and translator Jibbe Willems, the van origin American text by Miranda Rose Hall translated to an Amsterdam context. Wielkens plays Naomi, a dramaturg who researches himself to the fullest, who gives a sort of out-of-hand introduction to a performance that is canceled due to a death. When she started in the theater, she was already busy generating electricity for the scarce light in the hall, using dynamos, ropes and pulleys.
Wielkens breathes life into the at times rather theoretical and undramatic text with amiable and fiery play, which partly consists of a long-winded enumeration of the origin of all life on earth. The counterweight that the composition of Annelinde Bruijs offers is wonderful, who conducts the polyphonic choir of women’s voices live on the stage: from thin primordial sounds to soaring vocal pieces, navigating between fear, hope and resignation. This makes it tangible how climate concerns in daily life are not just something factual to relate to, but much more often an abstract gut feeling, packaged in aesthetic manifestations and by no means always recognizable.
As Naomi, Wielkens shows how the climate crisis is also a social, personal and privileged crisis. She invites the viewer to help generate energy or to depict certain elements from the history of the earth. In combination with performers behind her, who are almost constantly generating energy with the help of a huge dynamo, the expressiveness is evident: we are collectively responsible for taking care of our planet and forsaking it.