Holocene
  • By Kat Pope
  • |
  • 15th May 2013
  • |
  • ★★★★

"As well as being born gay, I was also born scared. Thanks God!" cries the yellow-kagooled and barefoot young man on stage, a man obsessed with volcanos and all things geological.

Catch this show while it's raw though. It's often more fun that way, and decidedly more of a volatile, volcano-like experience.

His mum was a geography teacher, you see. They used to share their rock collections, her helping him, David, buy a new specimen every week from the town's Rock Shop ("the only recession-proof business"). And their holidays were spent tracking down rare geological and geographic phenomena mostly, it seems, in west Wales.

In Holocene, a one-man musing on eruptions of all kinds, David Sheppeard is writer and performer. He's the bod with the backpack, the chappy who's a mix of child explorer and young man on the edge of an adolescent caldera. He's also an assured and confident storyteller, leading us through this seismic landscape.

Interweaving tales of college exchange trips to America where all he wants to do is visit volcanos, with stories of a troubled growing-up gay, awkward, and with obsessive compulsive tendencies, David feels he's perpetually "the supporting character in someone else's drama" and he's starting to rumble.

He shows us ancient and now quaint-seeming footage of two French volcanologists, Maurice and Katia Krafft, who trip along the edge of volcanos dressed in absurd protective suits, seeming at times on the brink of daring to push one another in, so casual are they of the perils around them. They are Sheppeard's heroes, not only looking danger in the eye and saying 'pah!', but joking about it, enjoying it, taking life as it comes and revelling in every moment.

Sheppeard can't do this. His OCD grows, his fear grows, until he has his "own shitty little eruption" at college, a breakdown so debilitating that his dad has to come and sleep on the floor of his room to look after him. But he still has Maurice and Katia leading the way, leading him to the latest volcanic eruption in Iceland. Does he actually travel there, or is it in his mind? Who knows, and it doesn't matter anyway.

Sheppeard is a charming and erudite guide through the fissures, faults, fractures and fumaroles of growing up awkwardly. At times he comes into the audience, like a pally teacher, showing us his rock collection; at others he's a puppet master with Maurice (red bobble hat) and Katia (lump of rock) talking lovingly to each other about their shared passion, in a language only they understand; but mostly he's just David, a queer, OCD-ed, volcanco-loving, Belinda Carlisle-obssessed kid, trying to steer himself through life's dangerous lava paths that spew forth in his way.

Although obviously a work in progress, Holocene (to be renamed Krafft-Works on its next outing) feels clean and clear and worth a little polish to get it up to scratch, especially the slightly sketchy ending. Catch this show while it's raw though. It's often more fun that way, and decidedly more of a volatile, volcano-like experience. Don't be afraid to go with the flow.

Oh, and did you know? Yellowstone National Park is one giant volcano, and it's thousands of years overdue for an eruption? But then, aren't we all, dears? Aren't we all....

Reviews by Kat Pope

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Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
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The Blurb

Reflections on eruptions, both geological and emotional, in a world intent on destruction. The true story of French volcanologists Maurice & Katia Krafft who spent their lives on the edge, collide with everyday anxieties in this new play investigating the lengths we go to in order to forget essential truths.

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