Ghosts of The Near Future

Aug 5 2022 | By More

★★★☆☆     Thoughtful

Summerhall (Venue 26): Wed 3 – Sun 28 Aug 2022
Review by Hugh Simpson

Striking imagery and genuine empathy distinguish Ghosts of The Near Future at Summerhall. If the piece is not always successful, it is certainly arresting and thought-provoking.

Devised and performed by the duo emma + pj (Emma Clark and PJ Stanley), it is billed as ‘colliding music, storytelling and live micro-cinema’ and lies somewhere between theatre and live art.

Emma Clark. Pic Jemima Yong

Featuring elusive stories of magic and disappearance in an overheated desert, much of this is extremely pertinent to the present landscape.

It is no bald statement about the climate crisis, however, as the more apocalyptic strands owe as much to 1950s atom-bomb paranoia as anything else, while there are also very personal moments shot through with gentle humour.

The presentation is undoubtedly striking and genuinely atmospheric, with carefully considered movement, moments of stillness, and clever use of screens.

interesting mixture

The whole thing is an interesting mixture of the technically advanced and the homespun. Frequent use is made of ‘micro-cinema’ (with Marie Klimis credited as consultant), and this is technically impressive, even if some of the tiny landscapes projected are very reminiscent of those ‘build a world in a box’ projects which well-meaning books used to encourage children to attempt on rainy days.

A great deal of thought has gone into how this comes across both visually (Georgie Hook is scenographer) and aurally, with Patch Middleton the sound designer. There can be no doubt that emma + pj combine real theatrical nous with boundless imagination and considerable sensitivity.

Emma Clark and PJ Stanley. Pic Jemima Yong

Which is not to say that it all succeeds. The unfocussed nature of the narrative is not a problem in itself. However, it does mean that the musings on extinction come across less as urgent warnings and more as existentialist brooding, even at times threatening to slide into self-obsessed self-pity.

The language of the piece has markedly less impact than the purely visual in this regard, and the two do not always work together, especially given that words can have a very different impact when projected on a large screen.

ironic gap

The duo undoubtedly know this, as the ironic gap between intent and effect is exploited very well in a strangely compelling ‘intermission’ sequence. This, like the stately micro-cinema and the extremely potent ending, is notable for the success achieved by the combination of defiantly unhurried presentation and thoughtful mise-en-scène.

Indeed, emma + pj might well consider making fewer concessions to traditional theatrical narrative and trusting their clear visual instincts. And dialling back considerably on the haze, which is all too predictable and definitely overused.

Running time 1 hour 5 minutes (no interval)
Demonstration Room, Summerhall (venue 26), 1 Summerhall, EH 9 1PL (Venue 26)
Wednesday 3 – Sunday 28 August 2022 (not Mon 15, 22)
12.00 midday
Information and tickets Book here.

Company website:
Instagram: @emmaandpj
Facebook: @emmaandpj
Twitter: @emmaandpj


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