Future Cargo review – sci-fi show reflects these strange times back to us

Shows that are distributed physically and not digitally remain something of a rarity these days, but Frauke Requardt and David Rosenberg’s Future Cargo, performed inside a 40ft haulage truck that houses its set and tech, is designed for road transport. Inspired by sci-fi, this touring production is not so much futuristic as endearingly retro and analogue, with an opening voiceover about UFO sightings and alien landings that sets a 50s B-movie mood. True, there is some 21st-century tech involved: the audience, seated outside, tune in to a binaural soundtrack through headphones, and I imagine the lighting, which flushes the inside with shades of teal, fuchsia and lilac, uses up-to-date software. But the main theatrical trick is just a mechanical travelator that lets the three dancers glide along the length of the truck before they run round the back to start the loop again.

That loop is the basic choreographic mechanism, which Requardt and Rosenberg adorn with snippets of significance that evolve and mutate with each cycle. The featureless, gender-neutral silver bodysuits accumulate baseball caps, tasselled gowns, candyfloss wigs and funky tops. The action moves from kneeling, standing and swaying to a precise, curiously denatured boogie. Props crop up too: houseplants, water coolers, tennis rackets, each inducing motions that look both appropriate – cup-filling, ball-hitting – and purposeless.

It all feeds into the loop – but what does the loop feed to us? For a long time, not much more than this. Stick with it though, and a creeping subtext crawls out, along with one of the dancers, who climbs from inside the lorry on to the roof, exchanging places with the lorry driver who has clambered up there from the cabin, and now descends into the fishtank space of the container. This breach – of the roof rather than the fourth wall – lets the strange world of those shiny aliens mingle with our own and, like good sci-fi, reflects us back to ourselves.

Looking around, I noticed the background of cars, skateboarders and walkers on their own “travelators” – roads, paths, pavements; countless accessories of bodywear, facewear and hand baggage; the motion of plants in the wind and the flushed colour of the sky; our own spaced-out, mystifying and perhaps purposeless presence on this planet.

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