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You’re Safe Til 2024: Deep History – Barbican Theatre, London

Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty

Creator and Performer: David Finnigan

Director: Annette Mees

The point is, according to David Finnigan, that the impact of climate change is not something that will happen suddenly in the future, it’s already here. Headlines and discussions about how we might only have four years left to prevent damage are not helpful – we are all already living in what he will call the “climate era”. It’s here, wrapped around us like a suffocating blanket.

How we choose to deal with that, is another matter. Finnigan’s one man, one laptop show is concerned with what we can do now to deal with our situation, and what we can learn from the past to help us using his climate scientist father’s notes on key turning points in history to help. That past, the eponymous “Deep History”, spans huge swathes of human history, from the mountains of Ethiopia 78,000 years ago to the 20th century’s nuclear tests. It also spans three December days of 2019 when his friend was caught up in Finnegan’s native Australia’s horrific and uncontrollable wildfires. The flipping between the times (and a 2022 version of Finnegan who reflects on the content written in 2019) is just another tool he uses to show the vastly macro, and intimately micro, scale of what we’re really facing when it comes to climate.

He’s a gifted storyteller, using some solid communication techniques to get his message across. He personalises the past by using a single transferable human existing in each era, wears his scientific basis lightly, and acknowledges the difficulty in getting to grips with everything. He’s an expert, presenting as an everyman we can trust. As we get closer in history to today, and as his friend reaches the most dangerous part of his wildfire experience, the tension mounts beautifully. We’re there with him – wild eyed, anxious.

There’s not a single clear lesson to the piece – apart from an instruction to be wary of human nature and our own past. “You can’t learn lessons from a species on a kamikaze trip.” Instead, he focuses on bringing us to appreciate a respect for the earth and openness to taking guidance from cultures that have worked in harmony with it for generations such as First Nation communities.

Barefoot, with jeans and a t-shirt in front of a projection screen and a funnel of sugar (another simple but effective communication tool to illustrate population growth and impact) this is a straightforward hour-long show. But its performance and message combine wonderfully, delivering an emotive, energising and highly effective evening.

Runs until 1 October 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Emotive energising and highly effective evening.

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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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