Time travel has long been a stable of science-fiction – a way of commenting on how the world will ‘progress’ if society continues on its present path, or explaining why the here and now has developed as it has. The most engaging time travel stories have a personal angle, often involving the protagonist’s own timeline. Back in early 2016, Dom Coyote’s Songs for the End of the World premiered at the Vaults – timely as this theatrical ‘love-child’ of Ziggy Stardust and Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles appeared shortly after David Bowie’s death. Fast forward two years, Dom Coyote’s latest show We Can Time Travel is a personal odyssey that wears its influences on its sleeve. Playing Dominic Layton, a time traveller from 2018, Layton’s effusive about the fact that he’s back in the present. The keyboards, lights and other equipment that surround him represent low-fi, ‘steampunk’ technology reminiscent of Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys.
Much of what we subliminally learn about the world is through sound. Isolated from visuals, these sounds can be unfamiliar, ‘untraceable’ and remarkable. This show is a love letter to those who see – or rather hear – the world in a different way to everyone. Similar to the ‘old skool’ sound effects people in movies, Layton’s grandfather records natural phenomenon for academic purposes – an aural librarian if you will.
Inheriting tapes from his grandfather, Layton experiments with listening to the sounds on different speeds and frequencies. However, the one thing that is unmistakable is an audible message that reoccurs throughout nature, pertaining to the future of the Earth…
What makes this show ‘work’ is the intimate atmopshere that the audience shares with Coyote. When he gets out an old-fashioned cassette player – the sort that was used to ‘load’ games on computers in the 1980s – and plays the recordings of the natural world, in a very sense it’s a ‘time machine’. Certainly, anyone who was around before MP3s, XBoxes or Playstations were in common usage will automatically be transported back to ‘simpler times’ when technology was more ‘hands-on’. Of course, what really elevates this show is Coyote’s haunting electronic/synth-based melodies that exemplifies the branding of the show as ‘gig-theatre’.
Of all the things that Layton finds out about the future, it is what happens to him personally that he finds most perturbing. If we as ‘good people’ can change for the worse over time, what hope is there for the planet..?
© Michael Davis 2018
We Can Time Travel runs at Shoreditch Town Hall until 5th May.