Launching on this year’s World Earth Day (Thursday 22nd April), Anthropocene: The Human Era is a digital choose-your-own adventure from Gym Jam and Oxford Playhouse. Co-directors Gavin Maxwell and William Townsend tell us a bit more about putting the power in the hands of their audiences.
Tell us a bit about Anthropocene: The Human Era?
Anthropocene: The Human Era is an interactive, physical theatre film that catapults viewers through multiple current and imagined, future realities.
It is a show about the Climate Crisis and the urgent dangers our planet is facing. Anthropocene reminds us that as humans, we are all accountable for our actions, our day to day choices and how we relate to nature and the world we live in. We experience all of this through the lens of Megan, our main protagonist who is wrestling with the kind of earth she imagines future generations will inherit as she sits waiting for the result of her pregnancy test.
Taking stock of how our lives impact others, nature and the wider world is never a bad thing to do and we all know it really. Making time to reflect and work, daily, for the future we want to see for ourselves and our children is probably the best way to counter the Climate Crisis. That’s what this show is for.
What was the inspiration behind the production?
The initial inspiration for the show came from a need to explore how excessive we are day to day in the UK. In our own lives and in wider society too. Watching commuters at train stations bouncing in and out of shops for meal deals and disposable items, thrown into the streets or out of windows. Our convenience choices are often at an unsustainable cost to the planet, there is no such thing as a short-cut, there is a cost. Also, the looming water crisis which is never really talked about.
After further development of this initial idea, we found our human inspiration in the Birth Strikers, having kids can feel so normal that to choose not to is a powerful message. After all, who will be most affected by the Climate Emergency? What was important to remember when exploring these themes is that there is so much to be said for not taking yourself or life too seriously even when facing world ending predictions. So we took a lot of inspiration from clowning and always found reasons to laugh on set.
In terms of the desire to create an interactive production, this was absolutely inspired by Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch and our collective love of Choose Your Own Adventure books.
It’s an interactive experience – what can audiences expect from the show?
Every one of our daily actions has consequences and the multiple-choice element of our show just mimics this reality of our every-day life. Our audience can expect not to have a passive experience, but one akin to gaming – to be engaged!
Our audience can also expect not to be completely paralysed by the weight of the climate crisis. There are many irreverent and absurd moments in the film that we hope will disarm and offer some relief. There may even be a few hidden Easter Eggs if you look hard enough. Just like our favourite interactive experiences.
What’s the biggest challenge when making a ‘choose your own adventure’?
At the time of writing this, there are currently 43 individual scenes within this story, which lead a total of 816 potential combinations of experiencing and exploring this story. But don’t let that overwhelm you, it is definitely user-friendly. Keeping track of everything has at times proved an obvious challenge.
Ensuring each pathway carries its own weight, relevance and dramatic arc has also tested us (in a really positive way!) It is fair to say flowcharts and spreadsheets have been our friend in making this work.
Have you got any more exciting projects coming up which you can tell us about?
We hope Anthropocene can tour nationally & internationally, both digitally and in its original format as a stage production in 2021/2022. We hope offering theatres a choice will give options to buildings as they recover from the pandemic and consider their own carbon footprint.
Providing accessible workshops is paramount to our work as a company. Our online PowerUp & Play workshops have been hugely popular in helping the physical theatre community keep moving and practicing over lockdown. Just getting up and moving or walking outside for 5 minutes out of the day has been essential to our own day-to-day life.
Later in the month we will be announcing a series of workshops for artists and creatives interested in making and creating physical and collaborative work. Sign-up to our mailing list or follow our socials to be the first to know.
Anthropocene: The Human Era runs from 22nd April – 10th May. To buy tickets, please visit the Oxford Playhouse website.