Brighton Fringe 2017
The Forecast is a new play from Limbik, inspired by “The Semplica Girl Diaries”, a short story by George Saunders. It’s set in a dystopian future in which four women, fleeing war, poverty, debt and environmental destruction, have agreed to work as society’s latest consumer craze — living human garden ornaments. The play was conceived by Ben Samuels and Sarah Johnson, directed by Ben Samuels, and performed by Amie Buhari, Sarah Johnson, Gael Le Cornec and Eva Morkeseth. It’s a living work, constantly being developed after each performance, based on audience feedback.
Where to start? The Forecast is an unforgettable experience on so many levels.
The concept is brilliant – a horrifying, yet ultimately hopeful story about a future that is already pulling into the driveway. Becoming paid hanging garden ornaments – who collectively respond to the instructions of their operators, much like Siri or Alexa – is the only safety net available to the four women characters. As they experience their intertwined existence, and observe that of the family they serve, they throw us face to face with the brutality, desperation, prejudice, grief, exploitation, consumerism, loneliness, escapism and the sheer challenge of living together. We all know it’s there, but we close our eyes and our hearts to it, as do the characters themselves at the beginning of the play. Significantly, the characters are joined at the temples by a connecting wire, and, despite excellent acting by all the cast throughout, it sometimes seems like they forgot the imaginary wire joining them together. It would be good to see small reminders of that throughout the play, not just up front.
Appearances from Tony, the matter-of-fact technician who ‘services’ the women – brilliantly portrayed by Sarah Johnson – deepen our distaste. These living, breathing ‘girls’, who have slipped out of the mainstream of life, have become sub-human commodities, to be controlled by a button and discarded with ease when they become dysfunctional.
However, this is a tale of resistance and rebellion. As time goes by, and each of the women tells their tale, they reclaim their humanity, and with it, their power. We’re left with the message that, despite our differences and the pull of money, we can make life choices based on what really joins us: community and caring for each other.
Notwithstanding the profound dis-ease of what’s playing out before us, it’s simply impossible to turn our gaze away from what’s going on. The garden ornament costumes, created by Diana Castaldi, are mesmerising: huge white, habit-like but rigid dresses, which feel like they’re hanging, but are actually mounted on wheels. The characters slip in and out of them, work in them, rest in them, dance with them and finally, significantly, converge together in one dress. The dresses are also shadow puppet theatres, in which aspects of the characters’ individual stories are gently presented to us when they tell their stories, as if they have literally opened up their insides to us.
Equally as mesmerising is the play’s soundtrack, created by Susi Evans, and performed by Evans and the cast. It’s a lyrical, haunting, crazy and ultimately hopeful mix of world music – reflecting the characters’ origins – played live on clarinet, mbira, accordion and voice. This soundtrack weaves its way through the play like a gesture of hope, freedom and unbroken spirit.
The Forecast is a quirky, wonderful and provocative wake up call. It’s well worth running down to Sweet St Andrew to catch the last show in the Brighton Fringe on Sunday 14 May.