// timelapse, intervention one, and the end of the world
by CJ Simon

In August of 2022, the New Diorama Theatre announced something radical: they voluntarily closed their doors for a season of theatre. Artistic Director David Byrne and the New Diorama team decided that instead of programming new shows, they would spend six months investing in “a new slate of bold, risk-taking work”. For Will Young, the venue's executive director, this programme of regeneration - called Intervention One - was designed to “re-inspire audiences and remind them why theatre is essential to our lives”. The mission for the fifteen companies receiving funding from Intervention One: do something that scares you.

In April of 2023, Timelapse theatre began its first workshop through Intervention One with the project 90 Seconds to Midnight. This is a project which brings together five writers to collaborate on a new show over a six month research and development period. Embracing the call to produce work that scares them, Timelapse Artistic Director Adam Lenson and Executive Director Lia Buddle have set out on two quests with their maiden project. The first is to produce innovative pieces of music theatre that unpack large ideas about humanity, identity, and technology. The second is to seriously rethink how musicals can be made.

On the 1st of May 2023 at around 11:15 AM, the 90 Seconds to Midnight team are gathered in a small garden shed behind the New Diorama Theatre. The conversation at hand: how to use the day productively? The ethos is incredibly collaborative. Inspired by the practices of theatre companies like The TEAM or The Civilians, 90 Seconds to Midnight has embraced a creative process which seeks to erase the fingerprint of any one hand involved. Instead, the project shows a desire to produce a piece of form-disrupting music theatre which speaks to a collective human experience.

It is this drive for collective theatre-making which might make this research and development process feel alien to those working in the industry. There are no actors present, no public presentation planned, and - until recently - no instruments. In an aim to rethink how musicals are made the Timelapse team have adopted a mode of working which calls for time, patience, and trust-building before pulling the dust-covers off the piano. It’s a process which participants have noted is both anxiety inducing and librating. On the one hand, the time and space allows for deeper thinking and it removes a pressure that is built-into the time-worn practices of traditional theatre-making. On the other, it leaves theatre-makers in the vast open waters of creative possibility without a map.

This is not to say that 90 Seconds to Midnight is a project without direction. As the title suggests, the project is inspired by the Doomsday Clock. This is a symbol created in 1947 which intends to speak to the likelihood of a man-made global catastrophe. It is a symbol which speaks to the anxieties of a post-war world where humanity has become incredibly aware of its propensity to produce violence and death on an unimaginable scale. In 2023 our fears stretch beyond the nuclear anxieties of the mid 20th century towards concerns around man-made climate disaster, artificial intelligence, and infectious diseases. This is the map upon which Timelapse launches its first project.

Still, with such a broad scope the musical possibilities are endless. Taking from the mission statement of Intervention One the 90 Seconds to Midnight team have spent a large portion of their initial workshops discussing what scares them about catastrophe. From there, the aim is to explore the narrative, sonic, and thematic potentialities that come from these fears. It is at once liberating and terrifying. The company have travelled from April 2023 to September 2099, New York in 1947 to Berlin in 1710, the creation of the universe to 90 seconds to midnight. In August of 2022, Timelapse Theatre was given the opportunity to embark on a risk-taking project which hopes to re-imagine how music theatre is made. The outcome promises to be vibrant, bold, and big. Now the possibilities are endless and we invite you to follow along this journey.

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