The Future for Beginners

What would life be like if you could plan every detail ahead of time and guarantee your happiness? Such certainty of outcome is surely something that everyone has wished for at some point, when life has seemed too hard, too confusing, too lacking in narrative. Liveartshow’s The Future for Beginners follows two people, Matthew and Jenny, who attempt to do just that: map out their entire lives so that they can ensure they wind up at the end sitting on a bench together as an old couple, still happily in love and full of experience.

Unfortunately, however, the show doesn’t go much beyond its diverting premise.

Matthew and Jenny (Matthew Bulgo and Jennifer Adams) work together as “data cleansers.” Jenny has recently discovered that she is, unfortunately, not related to the Russian royal family. Matthew has been left emotionally scarred by his ex-fiancée, a lot of drinking and a strange encounter with a monkey at the zoo. Matthew tells Jenny she’s special and they start to fall in love. But, before that’s possible, they must prepare for the ending they want. They spend seven years planning: deciding not to have children, because they become independent and cannot be controlled, and abandoning family members who do not understand and cannot be made to partake in the game. When everything is ready and Day One of their lives is about to start, things start going wrong.

It’s certainly an intriguing premise for a story. Liveartshow match the peculiarity of the plot with a unique performance – for example, Jenny sings most of her dialogue in a highly operatic style. There is, of course, a lot of amusement in the idea that one can plan one’s time on earth and the audience giggled away at Jenny and Matthew’s constant naivety. Video design by Will Holt and choreography by Kylie Ann Smith helps to break up the large amounts of talking that are an inevitable consequence of Jenny and Matthew’s planning.

Unfortunately, however, the show doesn’t go much beyond its diverting premise. The main message is that it’s quite difficult to plan you life ahead of time and that if you spend all your time dreaming about what your life might eventually be, you’ll miss the life that you have. Whilst it is not possible to argue with these truths, they are reasonably superficial – I kept hoping the show would go deeper into its ideas and come up with something more insightful.

Jenny and Matthew are quite a charming performance duo and there are laughs to be had in this curious show, but it doesn’t offer nearly as much as it promises. 

Reviews by Jenny Williams

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The Blurb

Bethan and Matthew share a dream: they want to end up together at the end of their lives. They have taken the chance element out of growing old together by planning the rest of their lives in great detail. But there's a problem: they’ve lost the plan for day one. Created by liveartshow’s Martin Constantine and Alan Harris, co-produced with Wales Millennium Centre, with new music by liveartshow’s Harry Blake. On liveartshow’s Manga Sister: ‘Batshit-mental... Inventive, impressive, striking... An eccentric gem’ (Time Out). Time Out Critic’s Choice. ‘Uncompromising eccentricities... An astonishing oddly moving success’ (Guardian).