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Brighton Fringe 2024

Plastic and Chicken Bones

Give Or Take Theatre

Genre: Contemporary, Sci-fi, Storytelling, Theatre

Venue: Lantern Theatre


Low Down

Humans from the future try to warn us about impending doom – are we listening ?


The philosopher Santayana observed that those who fail to heed the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them. But if time travel were to be possible, could humankind step back from calamitous, self-destructive, actions ? And crucially, even if they could, would they ?

The Lantern Theatre setting is a plain black space, with what appears to be various items of junk in the background. Dryskoll (Malcolm Galea) has been sent back in time as part of an orchestrated attempt to prevent Earth’s “re-boot”. This seemingly benign term conceals a dark truth – planet Earth has seen a devastating world war, from which barely one billion people survived. Those fortunate few find themselves in a world where automation performs most tasks and they enjoy the benefits of more space and time. One technological advancement is that humans have managed to develop time travel. Successive time travellers return to the era preceding the war, with a guiding voice in their heads (Maxine Aquilina), endeavouring to prevent the apocalypse : but will they succeed ? And if they did, would theories around quantum mechanics give rise to the very real possibility that the reality sending those time travellers would cease to exist ?

Malcolm Galea conveys his tale charmingly ; breaking out of character occasionally to act as a kind of narrator and to explain aspects that the audience might not easily follow. He is a talented story-teller and imaginatively makes full use of the items of junk seemingly strewn upstage, e,g. the dustbin and cardboard becoming a table. Denise Mulholland’s direction is assured.

Time travel is a well-thumbed literary trope. This tale has parallels with Ben Elton’s Time And Time Again, in which a time traveller seeks to prevent World War I, or Stephen Fry’s Making History, in which an attempt is made to prevent Hitler from being born. There are undertones of 12 Monkeys, where the protagonist experienced time travel difficulties. Perhaps Dryskoll’s inability to affect outcomes reflects Kawaguchi’s Before the Coffee Gets Cold. But while Galea’s piece perhaps bring these tales to mind, his particular use of time travel in Plastic & Chicken Bones gives him his own voice, and that voices carries a warning for humanity.

A quarter of the way through this century, humanity can see disaster on the horizon. Putting aside for one moment the climate crisis posing an existential crisis, totalitarianism and populist politics are rife, views amplified in social media echo chambers. The threat Galea alludes to is very real indeed. Santayana’s warning may not be heeded.