It’s a prophecy universally acknowledged that the world might just come to an end sometime in December. Many have attempted to take advantage of this predicament – there have been false countdowns to apocalypse, faux-mayan books and attempts at Hollywood blockbusters. Now, finally, there’s a piece of performance art to add to the collection, although this show has a different take on the premise. Nathan Evans has adapted the famous line from Flash Gordon and named his piece I Love You, But We Only Have 14 Minutes to Save the Earth; he then invited some of his closest collaborators and gave them 14 minutes of stage time each in which to rescue the planet – or at least elaborate on what they would do if it had 14 minutes left.
The show is bursting with cult names – the three main pieces were developed by Evans’ long-time associate David Hoyle, bearded lady Timberlina and burlesque diva Fancy Chance, who all worked individually with the director. Even so, Evans insists he was not simply aiming for a sequence of individual gems, and that quite a lot of effort has been put into making the separate pieces gel together: “The show consists principally of three fourteen minute solo performances, but each of the performers appear briefly, either live or on film, in a piece by one of the other performers which gives the show as a whole a cyclic quality. Between the performances there are two ‘cinematic entr’actes’ – short films made by me in collaboration with performers Bette Bourne and Kate Pelling. All five are performers I have worked with many times before and I chose them as I felt their responses to the remit would be both complimentary and divergent. In developing the pieces, I’ve tried to steer them in different directions, both formally and conceptually, but also to make the individual pieces of jigsaw create a bigger picture, so the audience are taken on a journey and arrive somewhere.”
I Love You But… is, to state the obvious, far more political than your average apocalyptic piece. It seems to be taking the pending doom as a clear sign that humanity at large has messed up, and found itself at a brink of a precipice – a point at which some might wake up and some will give up. “The show is inherently political – even if one of the performers decides they can’t really be arsed to save the planet (and Kate does) – then that, in itself, is a political statement. The show does shout (or sing) about many things – the environment, the economy, etc – but we address these issues with humour and with hope. It’s about action, rather than having a moan. There is no blank canvas and we all have a paint brush – we must just choose what we will paint with.” With such focused intent to make a show responsive to the events around it, allowing for changes that respond to the speed at which news is wheeled in these days must have been paramount; Timberlina’s piece was even “significantly rewritten…to incorporate changing current events”. In a way, to stay true to its political involvement, this performance can never reach the point of completion, and Evans intends to use his role as a MC to refer to the latest news, if and when he finds it appropriate. Then there’s also David Hoyle – the one man symbol of rebelling in real time, whose 14 minutes are only loosely structured: and heavily improvised: “This allows him to respond to what’s happening in the world at that moment, and what’s happening in the room, between him and the audience.”