Monday, July 23, 2012

Entertaining play about climate change

 “The Underground Ark,” by Bruce Hoogendoorn, directed by Fiona Fox, at the Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre, until June 23. Bookings 6275 2700 or www.canberratheatrecentre.com.au
Reviewed by Helen Musa



                            Picture  shows Hannah Wood (Jamie) and Ethan Gibson (John)

In “The Underground Ark,” Canberra dramatist Bruce Hoogendoorn has written a thoughtful and entertaining play about the implications of climate change.

Set in a world destroyed by global warming, the play sees an elite group of human beings sent underground to survive and reproduce their kind according to a set of rules and regulations.

The playwright toys with eugenics, the concept of a master race and the dangers of utopianism, tempered with a healthy dose of satire and dramatic conflict as the idealists, the pragmatists and humanists battle it out. In the end, Hoogendoorn plumps for humanity and hybrid vigour over social engineering.

Just when you thought the plot was wound up so tightly that he’d never be able to extricate the characters, the playwright abruptly introduces a surprise ending that sees the characters gazing into the middle distance as they imagine a more or less optimistic future.

With a brand new play, it is dangerous to confuse text with production, but the characters seem to be  well-delineated and the script stylishly written, though in the earlier part perhaps a bit too speechy.

The actors do service to their roles, with a particularly fine performance by Ethan Gibson as the fanatical young medical student John.

But I was troubled by the lack of emotional ebb and flow in the directing that saw the ending very nearly fall flat. I am fairly sure this is not the script and that closer vocal work with the actors would have yielded the emotional power needed to convey Hoogendoorn’s challenging ideas.

July 23, 2012 (This review was first published in Canberra Citynews on June 16, 2012)

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