When Fleetwood Mac sang Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow, their tone was optimistic. Writer and Director Lou Stein, however, turns the title into a stark call to action in this bold, often bleak, musical exploration of human-driven climate change.
Like snapshots of an ongoing catastrophe, dance and movement sequences unfold alongside narration by documentary artist Oscar, played with compassionate cheerfulness by Ashley Driver. Perched on the lip of the stage, he offers factual and anecdotal context for the unfolding scenes, which vary from abstract to artlessly literal.
Behind him, Chickenshed’s huge, diverse young ensemble tackle this uneven material with energy and confidence. The choreography is rich and inventive, featuring graceful wheelchair-pirouettes, ribbon dancers equipped with skeins of cellophane, and flashes of tribal and street dance. In grim counterpoint to this enthusiastic energy, a column of refugees slogs across the stage between scenes.
William Fricker’s design leaves the space largely bare, but utilises repurposed and recycled elements for both set and costume. Folding screens of corrugated plastic create the impression of a shanty town or makeshift shelter.
A live band performs Dave Carey’s score with gusto, making economical use of crunchy guitar riffs and plaintive violins. A few pre-existing numbers appear, too – an elegiac rendition of Johnny Cash’s Hurt, a peppy take on Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi underscored by fine beatboxing. The play’s most heartbreaking and galvanising moment, though, comes when a mother’s wailing over her starved infant blends into a lilting counterpoint to a soulful musical number.