The Community (The Lion and Unicorn) ★★★★

The Community is Gaël van den Bossche‘s debut show at the Camden Fringe showing at The Lion and Unicorn Theatre. An extract of the play was performed last year at Southwark Playhouse as part of Soggy Brass, Velvet Trumpet’s evening of short comedy plays.

The Community presented here is an underground society of the last thousand humans on earth. Following an apocalyptic event, the planet’s surface has been reduced to an irradiated wasteland and the remaining humans are confined to a harsh underground life and encouraged to be grateful for small mercies. The Community is a brutal and unforgiving place where freedom of thought is discouraged, mandatory euthanasia at 60 is a normal part of life and birthday cakes are strictly prohibited. The population endures, clinging to the hope that one day they or their children may live to see the surface of the world that their ancestors were forced to abandon.

This world is presented to us through a number of characters played by an energetic cast. The Leader, forced to make difficult decisions for the ‘good’ of the people and becoming corrupted by power; the Head of the Ethics Committee, challenging euthanasia while arguing for permission to not have to have a baby with her annoying husband; the teachers of the children reviewing their curriculum to keep it current; the couple making an illegal birthday cake for their son; the men tasked with guarding the computer that holds all the knowledge of humanity; the musician tasked with composing an anthem for the dark world and coming up with the tuneful “please don’t kill yourself”.

This dystopian dark comedy is well thought through and touches on some interesting and challenging issues that face the last of the humans. If the Handmaid’s Tale has stirred an interest in dystopian futures, give this one a try for an hour then ponder how much of it could be just around the corner.

Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans