The world is ending. We are facing an intense heatwave, crops and animals are dying and people are starving to death. In Mitch Jones' solo physical theatre work AutoCannibal, we witness one of the last people on Earth spending his final days living with the same ignorance and self-destructive mode that led to civilisation's doom in the first place.
From a design point of view, the show is highly successful in creating a grim and desolate environment. The lighting design by Paul Lim and sound design by Bonnie Knight (with contributions from Marco Cher-Gibard) is a constant reminder of the bleak future that awaits our protagonist (and us). They work together incredibly well to create tension and unease right through to the final moments. Similarly, Michael Baxter's minimal scaffolding set design conveys a reality void of any human warmth.
Given the strength of these elements, it is disappointing that Jones is unable to carry this mood as effectively with his performance. While he exhibits great physicality and some nice clowning, we never see a vulnerability to the character that leads to a lack of empathy regarding his circumstances. In order to build on this isolation and desperation, as well as highlighting the urgency of the issues explored, AutoCannibal needs to go further in its depiction of the end of the world and the responsibility we need to take. It is surprising just how little the envelope is actually pushed by Jones and director Masha Terentieva, particularly given the publicity around its use of clowning, circus and BDSM culture.
Humanity might be screwed and perhaps we only have ourselves to blame but this production needs to be bolder and more savage in how this issue is brought to the stage. Jones may be attempting a cutting critique on how blind we are to the state of our environment and world with AutoCannibal, but what we get is less wake up call and more of a gentle prod on the drastic changes we need to make if we want life on Earth to continue.
Venue: Theatre Works, 14 Acland St, St Kilda
Season: Until 21 July | Tues - Sat 7:30pm, Sun 5pm
Tickets: $45 Full | $37 Conc | $30 Students/Under 30
Bookings: Theatre Works
Photo Credit: Jacinta Oaten