Did you know you could be ingesting a credit-card-sized amount of plastic every week?
Most human ingestion of microplastics is through water (bottled and tap).
This was one of the findings of a 2019 University of Newcastle study. And it's among the pieces of information Canberra writer and performer David Finnigan discovered while researching Deep History, the second in the six-show series You're Safe Til 2024 that he and musician and DJ Reuben Ingall began in 2019.
Finnigan asked 30 leading climate scientists, what's the most important change happening today and how will it shape the future? The responses were not always predictable, he says, and he discovered a lot of fascinating facts - apart from how much plastic we swallow, he found out whale songs have lowered in pitch over the last 30 years and sand has been fused into glass near Australian nuclear test sites.
All this went into creating the new show, which he calls "a snapshot of a moment in history".
But, he says, it's not about news items.
"It's about the emotional experience of living in the present."
Why did Finnigan choose 2024 as the key date - and end point - for the series?
He says it's because "it's the year my niece turns 18. In a lot of ways, she's the person this piece is to and about."
The series is about different aspects in the huge changes taking place on planet Earth - including, but not limited to, climate change.
The pilot version of You're Safe Til 2024 in 2019 had its premiere at Griffin Theatre Company in Sydney and featured scientific discussion broken up with pop songs nominated by his scientist interviewees, including cuts from Alanis Morissette and Faithless, played on stage by Ingall.
Deep History, written last year,looks at seven key turning points in the history of humanity - from the Toba Super volcano eruption during the last ice age that nearly drove humanity extinct, to the death of the last Neanderthal (interestingly, Neanderthals had much bigger brains than we do, Finnigan says), all the way to the first nuclear tests in the 1940s.
That deep time story is placed against the story of an Australian family during the 2020 summer bushfires: 74,000 years of human history juxtaposed with 72 hours of danger and destruction on the New South Wales south coast.
Finnigan, 37 ("I'll be 38 by the time we do the show"), was born in Canberra and grew up with lots of science books and information at home as the son of a CSIRO meteoreologist.
After finishing school he became heavily involved in the busy ACT independent theatre world, among other activities cofounding the company Bohemian that later became Boho.
"Our mission statement was number one, make plays and number two, don't go broke. We made a lot of plays. We never made any money but we still kept making plays."
He says, "We got a lot of terrible reviews in The Canberra Times but we were to blame - we were terrible."
But they learned by doing, improving as they went, and Boho is one of the Canberra independent companies of the early 2000s that is still going.
Finnigan also maintained his early interest in science and it's not surprising he would eventually combine that with theatre, starting at Boho. His family background helped with access to knowledge and he has talked to many scientists in researching his pieces.
His international presence has grown. Finnigan's work has been performed at the Sydney Opera House, the London Science Museum, Melbourne's AsiaTOPA Festival, the World Bank Understanding Risk Forum, FutureFest London, the Griffin Theatre in Sydney and the Cultural Center of the Philippines. He wrote an earlier satirical play, Kill Climate Deniers, in which eco-warriors hold people hostage in Parliament House during a Fleetwood Mac concert. It's been performed in London, Los Angeles and Prague but the Canberra setting was retained.
The ongoing You're Safe Til 2024 project is more about information, telling stories on a macro level - those big pivotal events and changes - and a micro level, the bushfire experience that was big news at home but barely a blip on the international radar.
Finnigan says that when he performed Deep History in Britain he told the Canberra story.
"People were fascinated by it. It was a story of Canberra told to an international audience.
People were fascinated by it. It was a story of Canberra told to an international audience
"Now I'll be telling the people whose story it is."
Although Finnigan was not in Canberra - or even Australia - at the time of the fires, he monitored the situation. Ingall was here, though, and Finnigan says it was "a horrific experience" for his collaborator.
Finnigan says, "The show is spectacular" - with imagery, live performance and "a beautiful soundtrack" by Ingall. While the previous instalment, performed in Sydney and Canberra, was heavily verbal, there are more visual elements this time.
"There's a slideshow presentation and a lovely set piece image - but I can't talk about that."
- You're Safe Til 2024: Deep History. By David Finnigan. Music by Reuben Ingall. The Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre Centre. April 8 to 11, 2021 at 7.30pm. canberratheatrecentre.com.au.
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