2071 (Royal Court)

‘One of the most outrageously anti-theatrical events I’ve ever attended’

Chris Rapley in 2071
Chris Rapley in 2071
© Stephen Cummiskey

Time’s running out folks, and our planet will soon eat itself when carbon or green gas emissions reach their peak. This is not a natural development – isn’t the earth supposed to be okay for another million or so years? – but a consequence of our own material greed, activity and thoughtlessness.

Look, pardon me for living and going about my daily business on public transport and all that, but I’m doing my best to try and make this sound interesting, which is more than Katie Mitchell‘s new show at the Royal Court does.

2071 is one of the most outrageously anti-theatrical events I’ve ever attended. Auditions must have gone on for weeks to find the most boring and incompetent speaker in the world – Professor Chris Rapley CBE, professor of climate change at University College, London – and the Court’s costume department despatched to study the dress code of middle-aged theatre critics; they’ve come up with a nifty looking maroon jumper, tweedy jacket and cheap shoes combo that makes it impossible to confuse the prof with anyone resembling a proper actor, or a tramp in Beckett, or even an eccentric sci-fi boffin.

Katie Mitchell has declared in an interview that she’s not going to buy any more new clothes in order to save the world, and the prof has obviously followed suit (sic). He stands on the stage, inert and microphoned – the talking clock is Judi Dench in comparison – and drones on about oxidisation while the stage behind him, designed by Chloe Lamford, with video by Luke Halls, changes constantly like a kaleidoscope, or a weather forecast of swirling high pressure, galactic upheaval and scary looking sea monsters.

The one positive thing the prof says we can do – apart from set up home in a cardboard box with no lights or running water (it would make the cardboard soggy, you see) – is pray that our grandchildren will become missionary engineers and slow down the process of self-elimination. The prof almost showed a flicker of emotion at this idea, but stopped himself just in time.

Rapley has co-written the 70-minute show (excuse the hyperbole) with Duncan Macmillan. Had it been more interestingly presented, it could have amounted to the starkest message on a stick ever mounted at the Royal Court. Instead, it’s probably the worst play ever seen on that hallowed stage, convincing you that the world can’t end quickly enough if this is all we can expect from the so-called home of new writing.