Please Leave (a message) – Pleasance Theatre, London

Reviewer: Scott Matthewman

Writers: ClusterFlux Collective

In New Mexico, the US Government has proposed burying spent nuclear fuel in a repository under Yucca Mountain. Although the repository’s future is currently undecided, if it ever becomes a reality the site could be hazardous for tens of thousands of years.

ClusterFlux Collective’s Please Leave (a message) asks what type of warning messages could be left to keep away future generations who, millennia from now, may have lost all knowledge and context of the source of the radioactivity.

What follows is a cycle of slow, deliberate performance that ruminates on the impact and meaning of messaging, and of sound. Microphones are dragged across the stage, each bump and rustle massively amplified. Tuning forks resonate and reverberate until they cause a feedback loop. And the five cast members, each wearing a PPE full-body suit, take us line by line through the message left to warn of the radioactive disaster beneath future generations’ feet.

But the rigid, repetitive structure does, like radioactive material, have a half-life. The decay begins as individual cast members recall instances where messages of one form or another impacted their lives. These reminiscences see them drop out of the cyclical spine of the show, but not before their solo spot has ended in a karaoke performance (with Coldplay, Fleetwood Mac and Britney Spears among those being featured).

The gaps in the Yucca Mountain message become longer than the remaining narrators’ pieces. As it does so, the white plastic sheeting on the floor, ceiling and three sides of the stage begins to rise in front, too, threatening to engulf the whole space. The effect is an unspoken resonance with another long term environmental catastrophe – and as the voices disappear, this plastic ocean’s rise becomes more inexorable.

But before the collective disappears totally from view, this curious mix of comedy, karaoke and performance art continues to grip the audience.

Like its title, Please Leave (a message) has separate parts that carry their own meaning, and which when taken as a whole convey something else entirely. In total, it’s a piece that, though perplexing and strange, is ultimately also moving.

Reviewed on 13 May 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Message-laden ecological warning

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The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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