Review: Anthropocene – The Human Era (online)

GymJam and Oxford Playhouse have collaborated on a “choose your own adventure” piece with a serious climate change message, which streams from today, 22 April 2021, for World Earth Day.

Inspired by the Birth Strikers (women who refuse to have children in light of the climate crisis), Anthropocene follows Megan in an interactive theatre production as she dreams of her future and that of her family, driven by the choices she/you make as the show progresses.

There are various multiple choice options throughout the show (which runs around 40-60 minutes depending on your path). Each are accompanied by artistic sequences, footage from news reports, or visual depictions of what the future may bring.

Work - scene from Anthopocene

An example is where Megan looks at a garment for sale online and the prompt is to be “entertained” (by the ‘Clowns of Mass Production’ or “dig deeper” which looks at the consquences of a disposable fast fashion culture).

You can let the show run without making a choice, as the choice can be made for you, and the sequence of events will then run as the system dictates. At least one path comes to an abrupt dead end at the half-way point, but others go off into rabbit holes of silliness or stories off the main plot.

Anthropocene doesn’t really have a story, as such, beyond Megan and her husband possibly welcoming an addition to their family, and how their daily choices impact on the wider world, but in its delivery of formats including audio, video, animation, dance and movement, and statistics, it gets its message across clearly and concisely.

As a game, the different paths each demonstrate a level of power and education that may make you stop and think as you make your morning coffee or put together a packed lunch.

Run - scene from Anthropocene

Disasters we have long thought of as “natural” are the result of small decisions, so small changes can redress the balance. As each future is presented, we are invited to reflect on what we can do as individuals, or as groups taking direct action, to save the natural world, the planet, and civilisation.

Directed by Gavin Maxwell and William Townsend, Anthropocene has no dialogue between the actors to speak of, instead relying on the words of experts in the field, or public figures who are in a position to make policy changes for the better. As Townsend says, “our convenience choices are often at an unsustainable cost to the planet”.

GymJam’s physical, visual and collaborative theatre focus has reshaped a show which was originally developed by Hueman Theatre and Ride The Wave Theatre Company in 2019 for the Camden Fringe. It was inspired by Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch and Gecko Theatre’s Time of Your Life.

Bubble - scene from Anthropocene

The cast includes Liberty Bliss, Max Curtis, Giulia del Fabbro, Megan Noakes, Risha Silvera, and Abi Smith; and the sound by William Townsend and Michael Lynch gives the piece a vibrant yet ethereal feel.

Anthropocene streams from 22 April – 10 May 2021, and further details can be found here. You can also book for a Q&A on 22 or 29 April, and a workshop on 8 May, accessible from the same website as the show booking.

LouReviews received complimentary access to review Anthropocene.