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Please Leave (A Message) presented by Clusterflux Collective

It’s not quite Groundhog Day – there is a cyclical pattern in this show, with the same rather depressing message about the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository, but told in slightly different ways each time. Thanks to various legal challenges and successive presidential administrations taking a different view on whether Yucca Mountain, in New Mexico, should serve as America’s repository for spent nuclear fuel, no functioning facility actually exists, and so (for the avoidance of doubt) no nuclear waste is really there, at least not for now, and not for the foreseeable future.

Please Leave (A Message) presented by Clusterflux Collective.
Please Leave (A Message) presented by Clusterflux Collective.

This show, however, makes the assumption that the US Government approved its construction, and with all that nuclear waste underneath the mountain, the mountain itself is out of bounds. But usual methods of keeping people out of an area aren’t going to work. The powers that be don’t want anyone there at all, not even security officers on patrol, because it’s so toxic. So they’ve devised a strategy of letting people know they need to keep away, a “series of warnings and messages” that transcend “linguistic boundaries”. After all, it’s rather difficult to tell how language will have evolved in a few millennia from now.

A series of personal stories together with renderings of chart music tunes (some of which have an ensemble and full-blown choreography) break up a narrative about various scenarios in future generations – a hundred, a thousand, and ten thousand years from now. Some of the predictions are plausible, others more than a little fanatical, others still would have benefited from a little more explanation. The show is fully surtitled, but unusually this does not just benefit the hearing impaired – imbalances in the volume levels between the recorded music and the spoken dialogue turn out to be deliberate distortions.

The use of Dutch and Arabic, in which Linda van Egmond and Miray Sidhom are respectively fluent, isn’t the only personal element the company bring to the show. I couldn’t help smiling at Chris Whyte’s admission about a fact given at the start of the show no longer being factual, but it was correct when the show was first performed, so it’s been kept in. The cast are all in white laboratory suits, and the stage is covered, floor to ceiling, in white plastic sheeting, one side of which rises incrementally with each scene change, presumably indicative of rising sea levels. By the final scene, the show has effectively become a radio play.

Completing the cast are Jack Hilton, who recalled a time when he climbed a mountain with his family, and Trevor White, whose father worked in the mines. White’s cover of Don McLean’s ‘Vincent’ contrasted brilliantly with the beginnings of an angry rant about the exploitation of the ‘third world’ by the ‘first world’, while van Egmond’s list of fears was so long and comprehensive there was bound to be something almost everyone could relate to in there somewhere.

Indeed, that seems to be the case for the show as a whole. A mixed bag of storytelling, humour, song and dance, dystopia and, to quote a surtitle, “atmospheric sounds of reverberating chords”, make for a unique, curious and quirky production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

PLEASE LEAVE (a message) examines ideas of messaging and failures of communication as we attempt to convey a message meant to last 10,000 years.

In hazmat suits, enclosed within a white plastic box and confronted with a rising fourth wall, ClusterFlux become scientists, linguistic experts and karaoke superstars. Time is running out and their attempts to reiterate this warning of disaster, cannot be contained.

With the impending climate crisis vibrating beneath the work, we use karaoke, personal story-telling and (partially) choreographed dance sequences to examine the role communication, messages and storytelling have to play in our understanding of the ongoing ecological disaster.

17th July 2023

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