Quick: This Is Set In The Future

Closes on the 7th December (Sunday) and should not be missed.

A couple of thoughts afterwards.

On the one hand, it is independent theatre for adults, by adults, distinctly different from most of independent theatre around, which is decisively children-centred. Affrontingly vulgar. There may be a few reasons for it. Has a strong retro feel, 1990s if not 1980s (always hard to tell when geography blurs chronology), all those accounts of Anthill suddenly shaped up into coherent images in my mind – this may be all completely wrong, I may be misled. It is crude, smart and brutally in your face in the way Melbourne independent theatre made by people of my generation simply isn't. (I blame the suburbs, but then, I'm an urbanist. I always blame the suburbs.)

It is well-written, -performed, and -directed. Keeps you on your toes. It does (almost) my dream theatre: a dystopian soap-opera, all imaginary problems taken to their extreme. It has flaws: the frantic acting and the verbosity often work one against another: the actors trip over the language, the language is lost. It is, however, an exhilarating night of theatre. Theatre. Not writing, not acting, etc. The whole thing is quite splendid.

Finally, it brings up an interesting question. Knowing that death is imminent makes us behave in ways quite similar to knowing death will never happen. The absolute of presence and of absence of death results in the same freedom, and it may be only the uncertainty that keeps us in check. (This, strangely, brings us back to Kundera, and the irrelevance of anything that happens only once.)

What makes it decidedly 1980s, and not now, I think, is the presence of death. In the 1980s, drugs were still lethal. AIDS was present, and so was the nuclear war. Contraception was not a given. One was still making choices. Today – apart from the suburbs, and the fact that most Australians of independent-theatre-making age were raised bubble-wrapped and fearful – we have had 9/11, we have had Belle and Sebastian, we have had the strangest combination of supremacy of the unReal (from suburbs and television to bubble wrap) and massive-scale trauma (Terror and the war against). Ecstasy doesn't kill, neither do computer games nor mobile phones. It is a much safer world. Much less real.

This Is Set In The Future is another Melbourne altogether. It is, in a sense, all about heroin.

The reason why I'm taking forever to respond to Bell Shakespeare's marriage with Heiner Műller is the complex ethics of the aesthetics of the unreal. When everything becomes a copy of a copy of an image, when consequences are many times removed, we are entering the realm of pornography. This Is Set In The Future, quite the contrary, is terrifyingly real. In that Műller sense of it being “the potentially dying person” that makes theatre special.


This Is Set In The Future. Written by Glyn Roberts, directed by Robert Reid, designed by Sayraphim Lothian and Robert Reid, music by Josh Cameron. With Scott Gooding, Rachel Baring, Hayley Butcher, Joshua Cameron, Glyn Robert. La Mama, until 7 December. Thu – Sat 8pm, Wed & Sun 6.30pm.