Surreal interpretation of mankind's last days

Last updated 09:46 20/12/2012
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EXPERIMENTAL THEATRE: Eschaton: The Final Thing is a play about the supposed end of the world.

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Eschaton: The Final Thing, directed by Stella Reid

Studio 77, Fairlie Terrace. Till December 21

Reviewed by: Laurie Atkinson

The Eschaton means the final event in the divine plan or the end of the world. This may happen tomorrow. A planet called Nibiru which, Nasa assures us, doesn't exist is also meant to crash into Earth when the Mayan Long Count calendar comes to a stop. Best place to be: A small hillside village in southwest France.

The flyer for the piece of what would have been called experimental theatre back in the early 60s suggests that it deals with these matters. Though Eschaton: The Final Thing is tenuously related to these apocalyptic events it is really about something else altogether.

The "something else" is some of the ideas of Terence McKenna, who died in 2000. According to Wikipedia he was an American ethnobotanist, philosopher, psychonaut, researcher, teacher, lecturer and writer on many subjects such as human consciousness, psychedelic substances, the origin and end of the universe, alchemy and extraterrestrial beings.

In her director's notes in the programme, Stella Reid, inspired by McKenna's writings, explores "how an eschaton could affect, and ultimately transform, humanity". McKenna imagines human existence going through "a gestation process" and that when the end happens we will go through a process of metamorphosis, and emerge from our human cocoon with "a human machine planet-girdling interface capable of releasing the energies that light the stars".

Staged under graceful white curtains arranged like an elegant marquee, a series of related scenes and stories are presented in surrealistic fashion and are accompanied by some marvellous musical effects (Sean Kelly and Thomas Lambert).

The stories involve a drag queen, a naive man and a prostitute, and a group of friends, one of whom, for reasons I didn't follow, instructs the group on how to kill a horse, while a dead man searches for his live partner, or is it the other way round? It gets a bit confusing at times, though there is a well-staged coup de theatre when an extraterrestrial briefly appears. It ends, as TS Eliot said it would, with a whimper.

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