Reviews Edinburgh Published 16 August 2014

The Future For Beginners

Summerhall ⋄ 1st - 24th August 2014

A mildly absurdist rom-com.

Donald Hutera

The Fringe is strewn with shows you may want to like but know you can’t love. This is one of them. Created by LIVEARTSHOW’s Alan Harris (writer) and Martin Constantine (director) with the Wales Millennium Centre, it’s a clever yet ultimately slight two-hander about a pair of data cleansers whose vision of a shared old age goes drastically pear-shaped. The premise is played out like a mildly absurdist rom-com on a set featuring stacks of paper and back projections.

LIVEARTSHOW’s modus operandi seems to be new theatre with music. Maybe that’s why ginger-haired Jennifer Adams, an entrancing soprano, initially sings most (but not all) of her lines. I’m guessing that the idea is the would-be ironic juxtaposition of her lovely voice versus the character’s mundane utterances. In the same vein you might well wonder why swarthy Matthew Bulgo has a blue ukulele round his neck. The instrument does indeed feature in the scenario although, it has to be said, not very significantly.

Chalk it up to inattentiveness perhaps bred by Fringe fatigue, but somehow I missed just how it is that the Adams and Bulgo’s couple acquire the desire/power to plot/predict their future day by day. Maybe it doesn’t matter because all that really counts for LIVEARTSHOW is that the pair’s dreams go so awry; they’re so busy planning for some putative wrinkly-faced but gilded future that they cancel out the present. Plus, they somehow misplace the first day of what is meant to be the rest of their lives. Oops.

Harris is addressing some valid issues here about divergent aspirations, disappointments, consequences and uncertainties both in relationships and life generally. But neither script nor the production itself sticks to the mind-ribs. It’s not at all a bad or stupid show nor, at 45 minutes, is it particularly drawn-out. The actors are creditable. Brief sound/movement bridges marking the transitions between scenes would benefit from some kind of sharpening or, perhaps, greater physical definition. But what’s really missing, I think, is theatrical boldness. I left the venue feeling untouched and underfed. Oh, and a word about the advertising. The principal and admittedly strong marketing image is of a section of a glowering older man’s face in closeup. Additionally, on the back of the show’s flyer, his portrait shot is next to that of a dear ol’ gran whose expression is full of kindly expectation. And that’s exactly what the show lacks – the sense of experience harboured in those two faces. That may well be LIVEARTSHOW’s point, that the Adams and Bulgo are unable to ever find themselves similarly seasoned by life. But their situation has little immediate impact let alone lasting resonance.


Donald Hutera

Donald Hutera has been writing dance, theatre, live performance and the arts both in the US and the UK since 1977. Publications and website include The Times of London, Animated, Dance Europe, and many others. He also curates both GOlive Dance and Performance and Chelsea Arts Collective aka CAC.

The Future For Beginners Show Info


Directed by Martin Constantine

Written by Alan Harris

Cast includes Jennifer Adams, Matthew Bulgo




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