Sitting on a park bench as part of an old couple in love. That’s the dream so many hold for their future and that’s the premise for ‘The Future for Beginners’ by liveartshow’s Martin Constantine and Alan Harris. The set is futuristic, as one might expect. When the show starts there is data streaming down, you know, Matrix style, projected on artistic canvases of white, and two tidy looking people doing physical routines with stacks of white paper. We learn that they are data cleansers, fixing the mistakes other people make whilst filling out some documents or other. He has given up drinking after a bender landed him in the zoo and she’s hoping to get confirmation that she’s Russian royalty. They both like planning. In fact they love it. So they set out to plan the next fifty years, taking every precaution to eliminate fate from their lives’ equation. The final goal is to reach that bench together.
The story is beautiful in its simplicity, but the show is not simple. It fuses physical theatre, performance art style storytelling and opera with music and projection. It is decisively avant-garde and proud of it. This takes a few moments to get used to. In general the style of the piece is strange enough to fit its themes, but there are moments where it borders on being alienating in a sort of Brechtian manner and we as an audience are made extra aware of the theatricality of what is being performed in front of us. This may attract the most experimental of audiences but rob the more conventional of a sense of connection with the characters and the story. In other words it is a show that appeals to the head rather than the heart when one would hope it would do both.
The performers do their parts with admirable precision. The physical elements of the show are great to watch and there is plenty of humour to both performances. The music, however, feels forced and badly fitting in places and the projections would benefit from aesthetic continuity as to compliment or more poignantly clash with the neatness of the action on stage. An audience looking to be taken out of the conventional theatre and into a more experimental performance space will appreciate this piece for the risks it takes with form and content. That may be all that is required of ‘The Future for Beginners.’ But as a show, whilst very sweet and quirky, it lacks in warmth, leaving the audience somewhat untouched.
The Future for Beginners runs ’til the 24th (apart from Monday the 19th) at Summerhall, venue 26. Running time is one hour.