Review: Carnival of Futures

Futures probed in immersive live art experience

By Lois Maskiell

Participatory performance company, one step at a time like this, venture into the intangible world of the future in their latest production, Carnival of Futures. Developed in collaboration with two futurists, this interactive experience is a rumination on time, probability and what lies ahead.

Through a series of one-on-one micro-performances, the show presents an alternate world complete with its own inherent logic that’s as complex and bewildering as reality. The collection of performances is brilliantly chosen; the audience is given a crash course in the field of futurism, guided through mediations on time and encouraged to review our relationship to society and the environment.

Consisting of five performers, five-micro performances, five participants and a waiting room, what seems like a simple design results in a transfixing and absorbing production. After receiving a wearable ticket, the participants file into an eerily lit room filled with arm chairs and books. Over the next 120 minutes, the performers summon the participants, guiding them to their next appointment. This continues until each participant has experienced all of the five encounters.

In an appointment with the Oracle (Bridgette Engeler), who’s an enchanting take on a Delphic seer, we are invited to ask a question. Engeler, a specialist in strategic foresight, muses over the state of our future world, considering population growth, climate change and shifting borders. Coffee with the Mutant Futurist (Jose Ramos) is an informative affair involving a brief history of futurism, a game of chess, and a discussion about which social issues we find most pressing.

The final three encounters, lead by artists Julian Rickert, Clair Korobacz and Sharon Thompson, are equally hypnotising and engaging. These range from listening to an audio extract of The Dry by Hannah Donnelly, to arranging objects in a sand garden and to walking through a metaphorical curtain of time.

At the vanguard of immersive theatre, one step at a time like this, round up a network of ideas that question the role of individual agency and collective responsibility in shaping futures. Carnival of Futures is a playfully clever and mind-altering experience that invites the audience to anticipate, predict, and imagine tomorrow.

Carnival of Futures is being performed 8 – 19 August at Arts House, North Melbourne. Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 03 9322 3720.

Featuring Suzanne Kersten, Clair Korobacz, Julian Rickert, Bridgette Engeler, Jose Ramos, Sharon Thompson and Katerina Kokkinos-Kennedy. Lighting design by John Ford, set design by Eloise Kent and photograph by Bryony Jackson.