Sydney Festival: World Without Us

Tony Ling
18th Jan 2018

Our existence on this earth can be easily taken for granted. We live supported by many cogs in this wonderful machine called life and we continue to do so every day. But what if one day everything was gone? Everything! Your local café, your mother, your husband, even yourself? What if one day, humanity is gone from this earth. What would the earth be like across the span of thousands of years?

That’s what Alexander Devriendt’s theatre gem, World Without Us is all about. As part of Sydney Festival 2018 World Without Us is a sensory and mindful experience into the dystopian future where humans are a fleeting memory with nothing left but their decaying technology and homesteads. With Carriageworks giving the home for this production, we are taken into this world through our lady tour guide played by Karolien De Bleser who explores with avid detail what a world without humans feels like.

The production starts off with greetings from almost every human language in the world. Many spoken with tender warmness and optimism. Some very quick and ordinary. Some quite abrupt even. Which all goes to show how broad and different humans are.

And then in comes the main course. The slow descent of the human race’s disappearance and what we left behind. The slow acknowledgement into the scarcity of memory when no human being is on this earth to remember each other. No small memorabilia or backyard swing to possess any more meaning for anyone with enough intellect to acknowledge it… Trespassing wild animals that are completely ignorant of stomping on a ruined oil-painting.

Yet ironically there is very evident beauty as these expositions are being played out by De Bleser. Innocent animals curiously wondering through urban skyscrapers, droplets of water shining through the war-torn pages of a person’s upset diary entries. It’s a transcending experience that sometimes almost feels like it’s freeing not to have humans around anymore.

It is utterly sublime and remarkable how minimalist and simple this production is. De Bleser is the one-lady show commanding her innocent yet mature voice through some very atmospheric light set ups throughout the venue. The design of the lighting can range from utter darkness across the space to strong accented light beams shone on the stage.

There are many profound quotes to be had in how De Bleser describes the world as it spans across time without humanity. The little things like rocks eroding and nature growing over old cement is well juxtaposed to the loss of our own human creature comforts. The imagery is truly rewarding to imagine and listen to if you give yourself the focus and attention it deserves.

Your imagination and mind are your most powerful allies here. Each word spoken on this time journey through years of Earth’s continuance without human life is only elevated by your own creative engines to feel what it would be like.

The end of the production comes with a read-out of the famous real-life Voyager Spacecraft Statement written by President Jimmy Carter. It basically is an open letter to any aliens about what Earth is and what humanity is, along with our hopes and dreams in this greater cosmos. It’s interesting how President Carter actually reported seeing some UFOs himself and believed he saw something out there that would make him “never make fun of people who say they’ve seen unidentified objects in the sky”. The inclusion of this letter as well as some previous descriptions of what we left behind certainly creates some poignant science fiction elements that are exciting in their possibilities.

The audience is then shown a projection of the various things found on our Earth and civilization. From classical musical to pottery, it’s a love letter to life, to hope, and to wonder. And ironically, so is this production. World Without Us showcases the beauty of our Earth and the significance of what the human race is capable of. It’s a sublime experience that almost anyone can find at least a thing or two to take from it.