Let’s Inherit The Earth, Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33) **** War With The Newts, Summerhall (Venue 26) ****
Co-created by Scotland’s Dogstar Theatre and Pofilteatern of Sweden, it’s an absurdist apocalyptic stage disaster-movie about climate change featuring sharp Brechtian songs about the stupidity of humankind, penned by top Scottish-surrealist writer Morna Pearson, and directed by Ben Harrison of Grid Iron; and it tackles the issue of looming environmental disaster with the kind of contemptuous head-on satirical energy that our progressive trashing of our own beautiful planet richly deserves.
The storyline has two main elements, one involving a bunch of climate-change-denying rich people (including a Scottish laird and his wife) in a Caribbean holiday paradise who suddenly, in soaring temperatures, find their luxurious enclave invaded by stinking seaweed full of struggling turtles. Meanwhile in Scotland, hapless couple Jane and Grant escape on foot from the great Morayshire floods and find themselves in some North Sea no man’s land with a couple of very organised survivalist Swedes and their son, who eventually – somewhat to his dismay – inherits the devastated earth. It’s a show, in other words, that combines hilarity with devastating political satire, and enables audiences to confront, laugh and cry over the desperate future we face if we don’t can the stupidity and get our act together.
There’s a truly preposterous set by Ulla Karlsson that the cast spend minutes assembling and disassembling at every scene-change. By the end, though, even that comes to seem like a perfect metaphor for humankind’s bumbling ineptitude; and with a brilliant five-strong cast of two Scots and three Swedes belting out the songs with ever-increasing comic ferocity, Let’s Inherit The Earth emerges as one of the most anarchic, timely and memorable shows on the Fringe.
The War With The Newts, presented in the basement at Summerhall by Knaive Theatre, is also a fierce dystopian drama set in the near future; but here the tone is less absurd, and more serious science-fiction with the odd light touch. Based on the 1937 novel by Karel Capek, director Tyrrell Jones’s adaptation offers a harsh satire on capitalism, in which humanity discovers a helpful species of intelligent deep-sea newts which it can train to do all the physical work of the world, enabling rich people to become even richer, while the poor lose their jobs; the problem is that the newts are even smarter than they seem, and when they rebel, humanity’s number is up.
All this is conveyed with impressive intelligence and feeling by the cast of three, as they welcome us to what they hope will be humankind’s last safe place; and with the help of an original score by Rob Bentall and some entertaining screen-work from Luca Rudlin and Richard Williams, The War With The Newts delivers its own brief disaster-movie, less ambitious than Let’s Inherit The Earth, but just as full of political anger, with an added edge of sorrow.
• Let’s Inherit The Earth until 26 August, 12:20pm. The War With The Newts, until 26 August, 5pm and 8:15pm