World Problems (MTC) – theatre review

Memories – personal, intimate, global … over time and space … on Earth and beyond. A monologue that is vivid and humorous and, at times, matter of fact, a kaleidoscope of disparate thoughts that come together to form a time capsule. That is what writer Emma May Hall pulled together seven years ago and revised slightly earlier this year.

Photos by Tiffany Garvie

The world she has drawn from is our own, relatable and funny, angry and sad … the edge of the abyss – apocalyptic.  When she constructed the hour-long piece, she was trying to work out how, as an artist, to respond to the greatest existential crisis she – a white woman – had known. And that didn’t account for Indigenous peoples who had lived through environmental and societal collapse many times over.

So it is that Carly Sheppard, as the consummate performer, takes on the role of a dead planet holding the consciousness of all humanity, which splintered. World Problems is a collective archive, an intermingling of thoughts and feelings, the simple and the complex.

Sheppard moves us through a time tunnel – a black hole – both physically and metaphorically, with a superb set design suggestive of both from designer Dann Barber. His stark, monochromatic costuming follows the character’s journey, from a patchwork school uniform through to a television (yes, a worn TV) and an inflated world. There is a composite feel to it, with exposed stitching, reflective of piecing together history.


With only a handful of props, Sheppard is bold and buoyant, evocative and playful, fiery and furious. She is nothing if not expressive and visceral. The word pictures she crafts provide insight and context to what was and what could be. Director Cassandra Fumi has ensured the endeavour remains stimulating throughout, the reflections potent.

World Problems is one of MTC’s more challenging works, which would fit comfortably in the independent theatre realm. That means it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it certainly showcases a noticeable broadening of the theatre company’s horizons. It is playing at Southbank Theatre, The Lawler until 22nd May, 2024.

Alex First

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