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Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The Future for Beginners


Genre: Opera and Operatic Theatre

Venue: Summerhall


Low Down

Matthew and Jenny spend their days correcting other people’s data mistakes but neither want to be there;  they want a different sort of life, something less ordinary. They fall in love and want to grow old together. To ensure that nothing goes wrong they decide to plan every detail of their future together, to avoid any uncertainty. Then they lose the instructions for Day One…


Matthew and Jenny are data cleansers, spending their days correcting other people’s mistakes. Neither want to be where they are and neither want to be ordinary. They fall in love and want to grow old together. They are worried that something might go wrong between here and there. They decide to eliminate all uncertainty from their future together by planning every day, every minute of every day, to ensure that in old age they will be sitting on a park bench together, still in love with a lifetime of shared experiences. It’s going to be an ambitious project…

Stacks of paper form most of the simple set, stacks of data to be checked and cleansed by the two data cleansers.  Later the same paper provides the record of the thousands of days that they have carefully planned. In the background projections provide additional images to support the action on stage. The effect is simple and works well to help tell the story.

Jenny and Matthew work hard, for a long time and eventually everything is planned, every detail of the plan recorded and they are ready to start. And that’s when they lose the sheet for Day One and have to reappraise the whole project.

The story is told through a mix of sung and spoken dialogue. Jennifer Adams (Jenny) has a beautifully clear operatic voice and much of her dialogue is delivered in song as recitative.  Mathew Bulgo (Matthew) provides a convincingly fretful planner, who hates uncertainty. I wasn’t sure why he used a microphone when singing as the venue was small enough for his voice to carry.

It is a delightful premise and has just about enough oomph to last an hour, although it is obvious from the beginning that such a degree of planning is likely to get derailed by something even if you don’t lose the all-important Day One. However, there are unexpected shifts and turns at the end which keep an element of surprise and avoid a clichéd ending.

Overall, it is a charming show with excellent performances; one that you will leave with a smile.