Will the future be so full of people everyone will be squashed together, shoulders jammed up against each other as if they are on one long peak hour train ride? Or will there be just five lonely people left on earth, each with a entire continent to themselves? Will the future be a world of “push button democracy”, or a return to feudal times, where everyone is allocated two weeks each year to live as an aristocrat, spending the balance living as a peasant? The Sydney Festival About an Hour show Tomorrow’s Parties doesn’t leave too many future scenarios unexplored.
The staging is simple: a man and a woman back-lit by naked coloured globes. It’s as if they are in the dying hours of some low key celebration marking the passing of another year. They don’t move from their spot as they engage in an inventive and playful back and forth dialogue about the way the world will look at some unspecified future date.
Who are these two? They are a curious and beguiling mix of nerdily creative, unhinged professors and childlike simpletons. Is this an elaborate first date flirtatious tease? Or are they reciting verbatim the reveries of stoned undergraduates (and that’s not a swipe: some of the most mind expanding conversations can occur between stoned undergraduates). Or, are they low level marketing assistants at a firm of futurists? It’s a fun guessing game to play as you watch this pair: the woman (Cathy Naden), initially seems to be a low energy performer, but she proves to be a captivating story teller and conjurer of alternate worlds. The man (Jerry Killick) gives his character a playful, wicked edge, the kind of fun guest you want at every party.
Exploring the future is an interesting experiment for theatre – unlike, say, books and movies, where science fiction is an established genre, theatre is an art form usually more occupied with the present (or the very recent past). Maybe that’s why some of the most moving moments occur when the pair ponder that the future will be much like the present: there will still be big arguments over map reading and Christmas arrangements, people will have affairs and fall in love with exactly the wrong person at the wrong time. There will be corruption, sadism, child abuse. People will still write bad poetry. What will the future think of us? It’s a question posed late in the play, and one that’s about as interesting as the question of what the world will look like, “in the future”.