In discussing a play about endings, it feels important I start at the beginning. A brazen blast of the Oregon state song, sung softly at first with increasing fervour. But the pomp and ceremony that used to unite and rally us is all but extinct and the song is left incomplete. At the close, a haunting song of another kind is sung, “Hold me” they sing together, as the scorched earth around them smoulders. It is at once secular, holy and pure.
“There is silence. So much silence. Punctuated by rebellions of loud music”
It was T.S. Eliot who said “The world ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper” in 1925, and Landscape (1989) is built on this philosophy. It’s post-apocalyptic but there are no crashes or bangs. An orange glow flickers at a few points, voices sing, a pan sizzles. There is silence. So much silence. Punctuated by rebellions of loud music. It’s pace and structure match that of the oncoming end of the world, slow and subtly disconcerting. It’s worth paying attention.
In this thought experiment, which has grown out of Francis Fukuyama declaring 1989 ‘The End of History’ and examining what that might mean, fungus is the only thing that will continue to thrive. We are educated on ‘the humungous fungus’ in the State National Park, on cooking and eating the stuff (It will not end well long term, apparently). It is a slow and un-panicked preparation, though it does make my stomach turn. Personally, I am actually not a fan of the squashy little capped little guys.
Physical movement and ambient music replaces spoken word in sections, and we are reminded indefinitely of our evolution in abstract choreographed movements that gradually increase in pace and energy. There is very little fixed or definite about this production, even Fukuyama retracts many of his original claims in ‘The End of History’ in later decades. It’s all part of its charm.
“Rules are broken… in a controlled, deliberate way “
This is the second show from Emergency Chorus, now a New Diorama Graduate Emerging Company 2018/19. Ben Kulvichit and Clara Potter-Sweet’s partnership is seamless. Their work feels rebellious, like they have read the rule book, and are methodically dismantling it page by page. At one point an auditorium door is deliberately opened into the corridor outside. This is something of course that is not normally done and is, naturally, loaded with meaning. It is a reminder perhaps that we are able to step back into the present world at any time – but from the future there is no escape hatch. The interpretation however, is left up to us. Rules are broken, but always in a controlled, deliberate way so that we can attribute the result to our own meaning.
You could take reassurance then perhaps, from Emergency Chorus’s presentation of the apocalypse as quite a calm affair Reassurance – or dawning horror. Human connection and mushrooms are what will keep us going indefinitely, in this dream – or nightmare – scenario. The question now seems not be not “if” but “how far away” will it be?