Review: You're Safe Til 2024: Deep History (Pleasance Courtyard)
Updated: Jul 28, 2023
Lessons from deep time, and why we shouldn’t listen to them
Something you may not know about me is that a few years ago I had the job of finding speakers for a local TEDx event – and one of the first people I approached was science theatre-maker, David Finnigan. In 2019 Finnigan brought the first part of his six-year project You’re Safe Til 2024 to the Edinburgh Fringe: it was intensely factual and framed with theatricality. It was a difficult performance to get your teeth into, but that was exactly the point: to emphasise how difficult it is to communicate the size and threat of the climate crisis. After three years a lot has changed, especially in Finnigan’s home country of Australia. Written over three days during the Australian Bushfires of 2019-2020, this latest instalment reminded me exactly why I thought of him to deliver a TED-style talk.
Finnigan speaks directly to the audience and weaves several threads together, some factual and lecture-like, some narrative, and some theatrical. For example, there is a pile of sugar to represent the increase in population, tales of an imagined character exploring different periods throughout human existence, and anecdotes about Finnigan’s friend trying to survive the bushfires in 2019. They are all broad, contrasting, and do not flow naturally from one to another, but they all share a common goal: to learn lessons from our past as a species that may help us survive “the climate era", lessons such as “Survival is possible”, and “Not Everyone Will make It”.
The first question you might ask is whether a show written pre-Covid about the climate crisis still holds up today when so much has changed over such a short amount of time. Well, throughout the performance “2022 David” comes in to interrupt the scene to air his doubts and make corrections about what “2020 David” had written. Ultimately, the performance falls apart, as Finnigan (or his performance persona) decides that we cannot learn lessons from the past without ending up right back where we are today. It is this unexpected direction that makes the performance theatrical and brings the post-colonial themes to the forefront.
It is an effective twist, not least in reminding us how easy it is to fall back into outdated modes of thinking that will only harm us if we try to apply them today. But it means that the overcomplicated style that came before it, which felt more like education than entertainment, doesn’t feel worthwhile. There are so many ideas in You’re Not Safe Til 2024: Deep History and not enough of them stick, and theatrically it is a step back from the first iteration that he brought to the Edinburgh Fringe. There is so much to be said about the climate crisis and no one knows that better than Finnigan, but the ideas that would have made this performance great don’t have enough space to breathe. Three stars.
Whispers from the Crowd: "It was a really good way of explaining the climate crisis honestly whilst still being entertaining." "It was informative but gave you space to reflect on yourself."
You're Safe Til 2024: Deep History has completed its run at Pleasance Courtyard