Edinburgh Review: Are we not drawn onward to new erA cover photo

Edinburgh Review: Are we not drawn onward to new erA

Edinburgh Review: Are we not drawn onward to new erA cover photo
Lyn Gardner Edinburgh Festival avatar
Lyn Gardner Edinburgh Festival
9 August 2019 · Follow on Stagedoor

On stage a group of people are wading through a sea of carrier bags. They have already hacked down a tree, sprinkling its leaves all over the stage.

They are speaking a language which it is impossible to understand. Then there is the great gold statue, like a graven image or a tribute to a dictator, which they are intent on assembling and which they do with lots of self-congratulatory noises. It doesn’t seem to make much sense.

You could be forgiven for thinking that Flanders company Ontroerend Goed have gone slightly mad at Zoo Southside where their latest show is playing. But maybe it’s us who have gone mad. The clue to what is happening and what will unfold is in the title: Are we not drawn onward to new erA is, of course, a palindrome. It works both forwards and backwards, and the structure of this show—which starts in the Garden of Eden with a man giving a woman an apple from a tree—is a palindrome too.

The pure simplicity of the idea is genius and as bafflement turns to understanding it becomes emotionally devastating too, as it charts the mess we have made of our planet and the impossibility of ever going back to the Garden of Eden with its blooming tree and shiny red apple. We cannot undo what we have done, we cannot wave a hand and make all the plastic bags disappear, we cannot start all over. The show is a fine companion piece to 2016’s World Without Us which imagined a future in which human beings have been completely wiped out.

Like that piece, Are we not drawn onward to a new erA spares us little, refuses us any comfort, and points to the fact that the dream of going back is mere nostalgia. Without structural change we cannot change our world, let alone repair it in any way. It’s fine work and compelling viewing from a company who used to be tricksters and who are increasingly deep thinkers.

Are we not drawn onward to new erA plays at Zoo Southside Aug 9-11, 13-18, 20-25

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