Words by Lochy Maybury
A nuclear disaster has devastated the United States. The population has been decimated; those remaining number a million or less, excluding the cockroaches who will outlive us all. A group of survivors huddle around a fire collectively piecing together and retelling The Simpsons episodes as a way to pass the time and to keep the terror of the outside world at bay, even temporarily.
Mr Burns – A Post-Electric Play is a world of stark contrasts. As the group of survivors become more engrossed in their Simpsons retellings they form a touring troupe re-enacting entire episodes, commercials included. It is fun, joyful and so easily accessible to the audience. However, you are occasionally sharply reminded of the world they now inhabit; a world where much like The Last of Us or The Road the monsters aren’t zombies or mutants, but people.
Opening night had a few minor hiccups which only seemed to heighten the audiences’ enjoyment, such was the tone of the piece. The cast is tight-knit; going from gritty naturalism to ritualistic tragic opera with ease. Jonathon Oxlade’s design is sparse and necessarily pared-back. Post-apocalyptic wastelands work well on film, but in a live performance setting, starkness allows the audience to imagine the worst, much like the characters.
Mr Burns is by far one of the most original works State Theatre has ever programmed; an ingenious look at the role of storytelling in communities. What do we take from stories? How do they shape us and how do we shape them to suit our needs? The Simpsons isn’t just a TV show; it’s common ground for millions of people and an opportunity to form communities. In a political climate more divided and dangerous than ever before, maybe a Simpsons marathon is more on the cards than we thought.
Mr Burns: A Post-Electric Play is on at Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, until May 13. Tickets & info here