When it Rains, performed by Never Mind the Peacocks!, is a 60 minute piece of theatre examining the realities of living in a climate emergency as a teenager, when the social rules governing teenage lives make increasingly less and less sense.
The performers are a group of students, and their choice to present this piece is highly relevant, as it is their generation which will have to make the difficult decisions about how to try to bring our planet back from the brink of destruction.
The performance is lively, and incorporates elements of physical theatre. As this is Fringe, an upturned table becomes a whole range of different items: a door; a window; a ledge, amongst others.
The company uses a lot of the principles of Peter Brook’s Empty Space in presenting the piece, addressing the audience directly, and using stripped back, but effective, sound and lighting design.
Written by up and coming playwright Natasha Brotherdale Smith, with collaboration from the company, the script is at times uneven, and perhaps unsure of what it is attempting to convey.
There are a lot of themes within the hour long performance: masculinity; the patriarchy; the climate emergency. Of these, the dystopian and confusing future that the climate emergency will offer us the most prevalent.
The cast of 11, all male presenting, channels their energy into numerous moments of anger and frustration, as a disparate group of young people find themselves sheltering from the rain in an abandoned building on a deserted industrial estate.
The need to hide arises from their status as social fugitives – out after curfew, and looking for some fun as generations of young men have before them. There is banter aplenty, often witty, as the group moves from the relative comfort, but restrictions, of their sheltered homes, to the self-imposed separation of the warehouse.
Quickly joined by three interlopers, everything soon descends into chaos, as the larger group’s clearly long-established hierarchy is challenged and disrupted.
The text unpeels slowly, and questions asked near the beginning are, mostly, answered by the conclusion of the piece.
In terms of masculinity, it is interesting to observe what survives in this imagined near future, and what has been revised. Homophobia and misogyny are passe – generalised bullying is still all too evident.
No cast list is available, and although all the performances were well observed and authentic, special mention must be made of the actors portraying Xander, the group’s self-appointed leader, and Josh, the newcomers’ weakest link. Their interplay is well observed, as the bullied victim claws his way back towards being integrated into the group, whilst the posturing of Xander falters as his bravado unravels.
This is a piece of theatre to chew on: what is the future we are creating for our young people? How much longer can we ignore the climate emergency for, before it is too late? Who are the people who will help us? Who is speaking truth to power?
A well observed and intriguing piece of theatre, Never Mind The Peacocks! and Brotherdale Smith are to be commended for their bold attempt to tackle these big ideas on the small stages of the Fringe.
Feature image credit: Never Mind The Peacocks!