World Problems

by | May 10, 2024

By Adam Rafferty

Part of Melbourne Theatre Company’s Education and Families program for this year, Emma Mary Hall’s World Problems is both autobiographical reflection on the past and disturbing projection into our collective future.

Having been originally written in 2018, Hall performed the show at fortyfivedownstairs the following year, winning the 2020 Green Room Award for Best New Writing. For this production, the playwright has updated her script to reflect the profound changes the world has seen in the last six years and has gifted the one-woman show to performer Carly Sheppard.

The story is both a remembrance of one woman’s past and a lamentation of the future that we all may be destined to inherit. History’s events, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Tiananmen Square protests and the Chernobyl meltdown are interspersed with personally specific recollections of life’s important and special moments, youthful adventures with drugs and sex, and losing friends and family.

As we move through this history towards today, suddenly we become aware that the ‘recollections’ are actually projections of what our future might be like, many too outrageous to imagine ever coming true. Others, while fantastic and perverse feel like they may be disturbingly prescient. The hypotheses are fascinating, and Sheppard delivers the scrappy ideas with visceral relish, creating a passionate expression of life and what existence might be.

The performance is aided by a dynamic set piece designed by Dann Barber, reminiscent of a vortex, both sketched out and structural, with ribs like the fuselage remains of a crashed plane. It offers handholds for Sheppard to climb and crawl all over the structure and a central point to focus the action between moments, which Director Cassandra Fumi uses craftily to punctuate the tale.

Barber is also responsible for Sheppard’s monochromatic and ever evolving costume, which ranges from apocalyptic school uniform to futuristic lycra and unexpectedly, an inflatable globe. Having created both set and costumes, Barber creates an excellent design synergy that works beautifully.

The moments, both remembered and hypothesised, are perfect fodder for interrogation and speculation, making this an excellent choice for VCE Drama years 9-12. The short and sweet 60-minute production will provide students and the public plenty to talk and think about afterwards.

Image: Tiffany Garvie

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