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Theatre Review: Abacus ***

Michael Cox reviews a TED talk-like presentation filled with impressive multimedia.

Anyone who has seen a TED talk will know precisely what to expect from Early Morning Opera’s Abacus: an intelligent presentation given by a well-informed individual who uses theatrics to get their point across.

The theatrics of this talk, however, are a little more over the top. This isn’t just a glorified PowerPoint presentation that TED talks frequently feature but a multimedia extravaganza. Maps and charts flash and dance on screen, lights flicker and a rich soundscape are all stitched into the talk. Two Steadicam operators move about the space, not only projecting images of the speaker and the audience onto large screens but also providing choreographed movement.

The speaker asks the audience to withhold judgement and opinions for the duration of the speech, which is about the futility of borders and how life is surely on the cusp of a new dawn of humanity. An interesting topic, and it is all very impressive, but the fact remains: it is just like many of the hundreds of TED talks one can easily find online, albeit this one clocks in a much longer running time than the vast majority.

The talk itself is worth listening to, even just to allow for a discussion after the fact, but are the theatrics and live presentation enough to differentiate it from the vast library of TED talks now readily available on the Internet? Perhaps not, even if it is all well-executed, but it is a talk that is worth considering nonetheless.

Abacus performs at Summerhall until August 30, 2015 at 1810 (not 11, 18, 25).

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