Misanthropy is popular, it seems
Stephen Emmott is an unlikely candidate for a star of a sell-out London theatre hit. He currently uses crutches after recently losing a disc in his spine and until last month he had never trod the boards. Yet the 52-year-old academic has just completed a majestic run at the Royal Court. For the past three weeks, he has filled the seats of the company’s Jerwood Theatre Upstairs with audiences, mostly young, flocking to see his solo performances of Ten Billion, a brutal but careful dissection of the likely impact of humanity’s swelling numbers on our planet.
People queuing for return tickets have been turned away in their dozens and a restaging of the show now looks inevitable, possibly in the Royal Court’s main theatre next year. Emmott, a professor of computational science at Oxford University and head of Microsoft’s Computational Science laboratory in Cambridge, has also been besieged with offers from TV companies and documentary makers who want to put his work on screen. We have not seen the last of Ten Billion, it would seem.
And that can only be good news. Ten Billion – a co-operation between Emmott and the distinguished director Katie Mitchell, whose past works have included A Woman Killed With Kindness at the National Theatre – is the most effective theatrical work that has attempted to illustrate our planet’s environmental woes that I have seen. It is spare, chilling, moving and cunningly staged and unravels with compelling, impeccable logic.