Review: No Future (Camden People’s Theatre online)

The second commission in the Outside the Box series, No Future (written by Adam Welsh) is a multi-dimensional project bridging film, theatre, and installation.

Welsh draws on a burglary at his house that he reconstructs to bring a curious and unsettling film to the screen, with family members, projections, distortions, and filmed overlays adding to the strange atmosphere No Future generates.

I was not sure what to expect from this show (which ran 75 minutes), and have watched and read the supporting material, including a twenty-minute director’s commentary by Timothy Trimingham Lee, to gain an additional insight.

Screencap from No Future

Putting this together with the film itself, it became clear that several factors came into play when creating the show: the burglary itself, London during a pandemic, Zoom interviews with Camden residents, crime scenes, ADHD, and trauma.

At first I expected that the unsolved crime would be the central focus, but instead it became clear that memories, distractions, and decisions were more important. This is very much an art installation in which trick shots and fragments of fake or real recollections come in to play.

From a simple police procedural scene (featuring Adam Welsh’s uncle John, a former policeman) to a fairly distressing bathroom sequence, and flickering childhood recollections, No Future constantly surprises with the visuals it gives us.

We may not be seated within an auditorium but we can still share an experience through the medium of live streaming and social media discussions. Theatre is, after all, still theatre however we watch it – isn’t it?

Screencap from No Future

The other influence on this piece is the short story by Henry James called The Jolly Corner, published in 1908. This celebrated ghost story has a character who looks around his childhood home but is bothered by odd sensations of not being alone.

This could be a common feeling of those affected by having their homes burgled, and their personal items handled, removed, or even destroyed. You may have your windows boarded and be assured you are safe, but still feel the sense of an unfamiliar presence: in Welsh’s case, it was a Coke can which should have been in the fridge.

With stage directions read out, odd angles, and curious segues in plot and thought, No Future can at times be a frustrating watch. Trimingham Lee’s programme notes speculate on whether “a house or a flat [is] a home or is home only ever where you’re from?” 

Screencap from No Future

Pandemic homes have become offices, schoolrooms, even prisons in a way, where family members and strangers cannot enter except through the medium of online video chats.

No Future may seem a negative title, but in developing the show around “Construction. Deconstruction. Reconstruction even”, it does come with a positive caveat about where we all go from here, and as we are poised to move back into some normality, we can only celebrate that and Welsh’s unusual project.

No Future is available through the Camden People’s Theatre website until 17 April 2021 – book here on a Pay What You Can basis.