Review: Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow
Image: Daniel Beacock
Following last year's triumphant Blowin' in the Wind, which drew together themes and ideas of protest and political unrest, Chickenshed is presenting a powerful new musical addressing the issues of man-made climate change.
With an engaging and intriguing central narrative, the creative team have combined theatre, new and original music and dance to forge a thought-provoking and fascinating piece that will thrill audiences old and young.
Lou Stein is directing this piece and says:
"Scientists have had their go at bringing to our minds the global effects of not caring for our earth.
It is now up to artists to touch our hearts and bring the issue closer home."
Watching the finale of this show - with a stage packed to the last inch with a huge, almost uncountable cast - the phrase "seething humanity" readily came to mind (which I seem to recall from a Mark Twain story).
And another phrase, sometimes attributed to the same writer, quickly followed: "Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get".
The problem is that the weather we're experiencing, and likely to continue to suffer from in the future, is not what we expect because the climate itself is changing.
And there's little doubt now that it's down to human action and behaviour.
Or at least, if the climate is changing due to underlying natural forces, "seething humanity" is adding to the effects and, in the process, producing other negative impacts such as loss of habitat for the staggering array of the beautiful and unique creatures that share our planetary home.
Only yesterday, the BBC carried a report on the sad death of the last male northern white rhino, just one species set for extinction in the coming years.
And another report envisages the trebling of ocean-borne plastic within the next decade threatening not only the huge variety of life in our seas, but a large source of food for the world's ever-increasing population.
Chickenshed's artistic director, Lou Stein, tackles these profound and urgent matters head-on not just by offering us statistical analysis, but by illustrating the impact of severe water shortages, devastating weather events and the like in a series of individual scenes focusing on different aspects of climate change.
The format is glued together through an imagined climate change artist, who acts as narrator and guide, called Oscar Buhari (authentically and commendably played by Ashley Driver).
Each vignette is directed by a different creative team, offering opportunities for inventive experimentation and providing varied interactions and musical interpretation - and all of them work superbly well.
That approach could, of course, detract from an overarching thematic style if it were not for the meticulously keen and unflinching professionalism of Mr Stein who manages the unenviable task of marshalling such numerous forces with seemingly effortless aplomb.
An inspired selection of musical numbers incorporates well-known songs from the likes of Marvin Gaye and Joni Mitchell, sitting alongside first-rate original compositions from Dave Carey who also leads a top-notch band.
In Chickenshed's trademark inclusive style we find some actors in wheelchairs and a cast covering a wide age range, including two very young performers who deliver an irresistible and touching rendition of Robert and Richard Sherman's ballad Hushabye Mountain.
Though that pair of young singers pretty-much steal the show, the singing throughout is hugely enjoyable, embodying a rich vitality and enthusiasm for the music that really is a joy to hear.
This is certainly a show that deserves wider appreciation and amplification of its themes through publication - it's exactly the kind of innovatively relevant and engaging piece that schools yearn to produce.
And Chickenshed's exemplary commitment to inclusivity, matched only by its unequivocal dedication to artistic achievement and professionalism, ably paves the way for others to follow.
Because those objectives shine through a production that tackles a complex subject with warmth, humanity and hope, whilst energising a large, amazingly focused and collaborative cast.
Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow also leaves us with a powerful message: that the future of our planet - and seething humanity - lies in the hands of each and every one one of us: tomorrow will be what we make of it.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for Chickenshed Theatre
Our show listing for Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow
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