WORLD WITHOUT US
“Greetings to the inhabitants of the universe from the third planet Earth of the star Sun.
Greetings to you, whoever you are; we have good will towards you and bring peace across space.
Friends of space, how are you all? Have you eaten yet? Come visit us if you have time.
Greetings to all peoples of the universe. God give you peace always.“
A series of messages that scroll at the opening of WORLD WITHOUT US were sent out to the universe before the imagined demise of the human race. Our narrator enters the stark black stage and makes observations about the audience and the differences that would occur if the people were no longer alive.
WORLD WITHOUT US is a spoken word piece describing what happens to the world when humans suddenly cease to exist. The power goes off, batteries run down, planes fly on auto-pilot before crashing and the forest and wildlife return to the city. The narrator tells us that watches stop but time is still measured by decay.
There are lots of fascinating documentary films and television shows made about doomsday scenarios. Live theatre cannot match the impressive visuals that can be created on screen. However, the narrator, Karolien De Bleser, does an excellent job drawing in the audience. She describes the advance of insects and rodents, the gradual erosion and penetration of the buildings from rainwater. In a very poignant scene she discusses a document, a will, that is succumbing to decay and corrosion. It was written by a person contemplating no longer being alive but expecting other people to continue their existence and to benefit from an inheritance. In a WORLD WITHOUT US there is no-one alive to be a beneficiary. Humans no longer exist.
The audience is told about a marble slab that becomes exposed after years of erosion. The narrator contemplates what it was originally and decides that it was in a bar room. This leads to an interesting discussion of the conversations that must have taken place over drinks in the bar. I found these imagined conversations the most interesting part of the performance.
World Without Us is the conclusion of an epic trilogy that began with A History of Everything and Are we not drawn onward to new erA. This is a thoughtful production from Belgium’s Ontroerend Goed Company. Alexander Devriendt is the impressive writer and director. The design relies on a lot of black and minimal lighting. On leaving the performance one can enter Katharina Grosse‘s artwork The Horse Trotted Another Couple of Metres, Then it Stopped. The colour in this artwork is enhanced by the contrast to the monotone of the theatrical production and looks spectacularly vibrant. It caps off an entertaining evening.
For more information visit Sydney Festival 2018.