A Year From Now

Kate Goodfellow and Vicki Baron
RedBellyBlack Theatre
The Vaults

Oscar Scott-White, Christopher Montague, Kate Goodfellow and Jessica Warshaw Credit: Robert Boulton
Kate Goodfellow and Christopher Montague Credit: Robert Boulton
Kate Goodfellow, Christopher Montague, Oscar Scott-White and Clementine Mills Credit: Robert Boulton
Oscar Scott-White, Christopher Montague, Clementine Mills, Kate Goodfellow and Jessica Warshaw Credit: Robert Boulton

A year from now where will you be? What will the world be like? Overshadowed by Brexit and Donald Trump’s presidency, it’s a question that must be in many minds but this production was created last year before they loomed so large and has a much more personal focus.

It presents us with a range of people from a four-year-old to a nonagenarian responding to what seem simple questions about their lives but gives us only their answers. It is a verbatim show: real people, their own words. There’s a teenage girl concerned about appearance and bullying. There’s the elderly man still getting about, still driving who, having passed 90, looks forward to being 100, the tot who already sees himself as a racing car driver.

These are glimpses into real lives: sight getting too poor to read but still watching television, still making short trips to the shops; finding loss can lead to new kinds of freedom; making the most of life despite terminal illness; the worries and problems of having a baby, raising children; managing life with mental illness. They are moving and sometimes amusing, individual although anonymous, responses surprisingly positive.

These responses come from just 14 voices, 14 people questioned; they all seem quite well spoken, not a representative range of class and ethnicity, but they still seem to represent the experience of all of us despite being surprisingly articulate and without hesitation.

Well, they are actors you may say: but they are not. This isn’t a script based on interviews or performers re-voicing words relayed to them through earphones as in some verbatim performance. These are the actual original recordings, skilfully edited into medley of multiple stories.

What at first you think are actors, for a change taking particular care to enunciate clearly, they are not actually speaking but lip-synching, something that becomes more apparent when you realise that the voices don’t match the performers. An old man speaks through the mouth of a young woman, gender swaps are frequent, but the faces follow feeling and feeling transmits through the body into further physical manifestation and into dance.

The five performers (Oscar Scott-White, Kate Goodfellow, Clementine Mills, Christopher Montague and Jessica Warshaw) are technically amazing with perfect timing and smoothly flowering into movement, director Vicki Baron has shaped the action to cleverly change focus and flow into Goodfellow’s choreography but the technique has its drawbacks.

While voices that don’t match the apparent speaker may emphasise the universality of what is presented and might perhaps in some Brechtian way focus on content, at the same time the sheer skill of the actors in matching their enactment grabs too much attention. Some of the physical work confuses—as for instance when two faces begin to share words of a father and son dialogue and their hands go wild, and when speech moves into dance and they stop being characters is this just an abstract interlude or is it making a comment? It becomes difficult to interpret.

A Year From Now is a dense work that has been prepared with care. It lasts just one hour, which is about right for the format that if longer might begin to seem too repetitive. Despite some misgivings, it is a piece of considerable accomplishment.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton