How do you make a show about the environment? In the case of most performances, angrily, pessimistically and equipped with instructions for the audience. In the case of David Finnigan’s solo piece You’re Safe ‘Til 2024, the answer is to be as transparent and meta as possible.
The show is built around the concept of Finnigan being plagued by l'esprit de l'escalier after a conversation with a stranger, in which he was asked “What's the biggest change happening in the world today?'”. After asking scientists for their professional opinions (and for their favourite songs), he presents his findings in a pitch-style performance. The production is a work-in-progress that will evolve over the next few years before its final 8-hour extravaganza in 2024 (if, indeed, we’re all still around to enjoy it).
It is difficult to classify exactly what You’re Safe ‘Til 2024 is. Finnigan himself states “I think it’s so important, but it’s not theatre”. That’s not the only surprising confession of the piece; he also states that he is not an environmental activist. The potentially unhealthy carbon footprint of the show is a bitter pill to swallow. Nevertheless, the directness is admirable; he even unashamedly ticks boxes on similarities between his own show and the musical sensation Hamilton as a point of reference for “good theatre”, with increasingly tenuous connections.
What keeps the show afloat is Finnigan’s magnetic stage presence. It is almost impossible not to be won over by his endearing quirks and confidence. The show even features interludes where he dances to the favourite songs of the scientists he contacted. It adds almost nothing to the content or narrative, but it’s forgivable purely because of how naturally entertaining he is.
The facts-over-feelings approach to addressing the subject matter is refreshing, and Finnigan even communicates his own difficulty in creating the show through a stylised breakdown. Overwhelmed with having to meet so many criteria in making an environmentally conscious piece of theatre – no numbers, no polar bears, be hopeful, and so on – he admits “I am not responsible for how this stuff makes you feel”. It is brutally honest. But it is not productive.
This is a long-term project, and anyone who comes to see it at this stage will get an unshakeable sense of its current, embryonic state. It is nevertheless admirable in its ambition and scope. It will be interesting to see how this project evolves from its current one-hour form. As it is, You’re Safe ‘Til 2024 may seem directionless, but it was one of the most informed and self-aware environmentally-focused shows at this year’s Fringe. Three stars.