Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow (Online review for #COP26)

Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow (Online review for #COP26)

It was “Youth Day” at COP26 yesterday and so for the last of my journeys into the realms of environmentally conscious driven online theatre what better than to go back to youth theatre specialists Chickenshed? This always reliable company released a series of their socially conscious “spring shows” on video during the course of the pandemic. Among these was one titled after the Fleetwood Mac song, Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow which was developed in 2018 to highlight the plight of the planet. It is still just as relevant three years later and probably will be for some time to come. As the picture it paints is far from comfortable it’s another show that those gathered in Glasgow might do well to watch.

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If you’ve seen any other of their shows from the same era of its development you will instantly recognise it as pure Chickenshed. Take a topical issue that matters to young people, break it down into manageable sections each sub themed to the overall concern and devise pieces strong on movement and music to get the point across. Add in some other multi-media elements such as film and then create a sequence which doesn’t so much tell a story as create a mood. The whole should be stitched together by using a central narrator/commentator who sits outside the various collaged pieces but acts as the glue to hold the show together. In this case it is fictional artist Oscar Buhari (Ashley Driver) drawing up plans for an installation piece reflecting his concerns with eco issues and who can give us the facts and figures about various aspects and more importantly prick our collective consciousness to stir positive action.

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In fact,  the show is actually quite light on the factual stuff – watching it three years on that is probably a good thing as it means there has been less dating of the material. Director/deviser Lou Stein instead concentrates on the implications that all this has for human life and our future on the planet particularly those who become dispossessed as a result of extreme weather comditions. One of the most telling sequences reflects on the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina and what this meant for the inhabitants of New Orleans. Another stand out section propels us into the future when fresh water has run short and is being rationed and groups of people have to step forward to plead their case; this is all quite chilling but seems somehow plausible. A third portion which caught my eye and worked particularly well is an “underwater” sequence showing the effects of pollution on the oceans.

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All the various contributing elements feature the usual inclusive megacasts for which Chickenshed is renowned and which exhibit their customaryl disciplined approach. And although the general mood of the show is sombre and reflective there is a message of hope to finish the piece as the entire company come together for a celebratory finale. As in previous pieces there’s a strong reliance on repurposed (recycled?) songs not only by Fleetwood Mac but also artists such as Joni Mitchell and Marvin Gaye. Most have been rearranged as ensemble pieces showcasing Chickenshed’s choir and are obviously heavily influenced by the TV show Glee. The standard issue costumes bring further unity to the disparate elements with most performers dressed in an approximation of hazmat suits. Throughout the show use is made of some oversized geometric props which look like giant scraps of rubbish and leave one feeling baffled as to their purpose or relevance. However, these are used ultimately to create a giant sculpture – part of the central narrator’s art installation – hammering home the message of recycling.

Don't Stop Thinking Aboiut Tomorrow Finale

This is another of Chickenshed’s shows which had only been videoed to create an archive record and never really intended for public consumption so don’t expect a stylish film with high production values. However, it’s rough and ready appearance certainly fits with the messages which the piece puts forward and it’s still a total wonder to see all those young people on one stage taking their art seriously but having a great deal of fun at the same time. And after all, it is this generation that’s going to have to live with the consequences of what is happening right now.

Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow is available on Chickenshed’s You Tube channel – click here

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