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Review: Are We Not Drawn Onward To New ErA (Zoo Southside, Edinburgh)

Belgian company Ontroerend Goed returns to the Edinburgh Fringe

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Are We Not Drawn Onward To New ErA
(© Mirjam Devriendt)

Last time Belgian company Ontroerend Goed was at the Fringe, it turned the 2008 financial crash into a fun Monopoly-esque dice-rolling bonanza. This time, the group is clowning around with global warming in a Fringe run of 2015's Are We Not Drawn Onward To New ErA, a palindrome-laden yet bizarrely mesmeric hour-or-so of theatre.

The stage is empty save for a dormant woman and an apple tree. A man enters – fruit is picked, more people filter onto the stage, muttering in a weird language that sounds like a mix between Simglish and the scene from the Red Room in Twin Peaks. Philip Aguirre y Otegui's designs grow more and more garish – the tree is dismembered, plastic bags fall like a swarm of locusts. Statues are erected, fog billows out into the audience, the cast strap on gas masks. It's pandemonium on a scale that's hard to find at the Festival.

Are We Not Drawn Onward To New ErA
(© Mirjam Devriendt)

Like any good palindrome though, this is a show of two halves, and there are lots of things that shouldn't be said in this review for fear of ruining the experience. But rest assured that what the company pulls off during the piece is a testament to brilliant choreography, plotting, and vision, with a neat but simple sense of symbolism.

The piece suggests some pretty savage solutions to our ongoing climate crisis and does a great job of covering a lot of ground and nuance with remarkably few words. Somehow the show manages to end on a note of optimism – the everything that has been done can be undone – there's no way of knowing if a problem is unsolvable until it's been attempted. It's a note that might've rung truer in 2015 than it does now, as environmentally friendly policy-making becomes rarer and rarer across major nations.

Are We Not Drawn Onward To New ErA
(© Mirjam Devriendt)

The tricky thing is that, after the company pulls off its awesome theatrical coup, you start to become numb to the sheer brilliance of it all – like watching the same magic trick being done over and over again. A feat, with some hard-hitting points about climate change thrown in.