World Without Us

Ontroerend Goed’s World Without Us imagines a future in which humanity has simply ceased to exist, and it’s surprisingly soothing. Rather than dwelling on the details of this extinction or apocalypse, the company is more interested in the philosophical questions of what our absence would mean for the rest of the planet and what (if any) trace would be left of us. The result could be described as a theatrical cousin to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, with its calm pace and serene outlook in the face of the vastness of time and space alongside its refusal to offer easy answers as to what it all means.

More truly immersive than most traditionally ‘immersive’ shows.

Valentijn Dhaenen, invites us, on a largely bare stage with a monolithic structure in the centre (in yet another nod to Kubrick), to imagine the minute details of this new world, of rats and insects reclaiming the spaces we inhabited and the slow erosion of the theatre we’re sitting in, as well as the massive philosophical questions that this new world poses. A world without humanity is also a world without human concepts such as time; 500 years (or 25 generations to humanity) can be summed up in a single lighting transition until only the theatre’s emergency light is left on before we’re plunged into darkness. The effect of all this is that it is more truly immersive than most traditionally ‘immersive’ shows.

However, this serenity seems to belie some more pressing concerns of the company, namely: if humanity does indeed manage to leave behind a legacy, what will it be? Bookending Dhaenen’s monologue is the content from the Voyager space capsule with messages of peace and greetings in multiple languages at the beginning and images of humanity’s scientific discoveries and a letter from President Jimmy Carter at the end. This tangible evidence of humanity’s attempts to maintain a legacy long after its extinction perfectly contrasts with Dhaenen’s musings to make us wonder if it’s even worth worrying about it.

Like I said, it doesn’t offer any easy answers but much like Kubrick’s masterpiece it’s all the better for it.

Reviews by Liam Rees

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The Blurb

We could hardly imagine it: no mortgages, no knitting scarves, no swimming pools, no butterfly strokes and no honey kept in glass bowls. Animals would no longer be stuffed, skyscrapers no longer built, no more suicide and no mathematics. There would be no more talk about the old days, about what's possible. There would be no more words. It would never happen. We'd find a solution. A world without us. Multiple Fringe First winners Ontroerend Goed return to Edinburgh with their new piece about the end of humanity and what comes after.

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