Set in a not so distant future, The North Plan, the latest from Upintheair Theatre, follows a shady military faction that have taken over the American government, forcing an unlikely band of heroes to work together to expose the new regime. Inspired by real-life U.S. government initiatives, the play asks how far we should go when the world gets dark?
“We talked about the horrible things that happened in Paris, and something that this play talks about is how we react to events like that,” says Daniel Martin, co-artistic director of Upintheair Theatre. “Do we react by shutting down democratic institutions and instituting martial law? Or do we need to double down on what makes life in here special?”
Far from the darkly pensive television dramas like Homeland, The North Plan plays out as a comedy, but one that delights in heavier issues rather than distracts from them. This is part of the mandate of Upintheair which focuses on speculative fiction and extrapolating from the present to question our possible futures.
“Our last piece explored GMO foods and our next will be about extinctions,” says Martin. “We have another about the experience of urban life. But what we love is to package those things as adventures. We want you to go to the theatre and have fun. We want to have a good time. And then we also want you to go away and argue about what the piece has to say. Not just as adventure-tainment but as something that made you reflect on your life and society.”
Part of the Upintheair model is taking theatre into new spaces, allowing audiences to explore their city while the adventure unfolds around them. As Martin says, “It brings a certain vitality and energy to the piece that you don’t get when you do into one of the six standard venues”. But the choice to go “off-grid” comes with certain set-backs.
“We’ve done shows in camper vans and we’ve done shows in warehouses and there’s always something along the way where you think, ‘if we were doing this in a theatre, this wouldn’t happen’. But it adds so much atmosphere,” he says.
The North Plan is staged in the recently renovated basement of a Chinatown office tower. And by recently renovated, they mean they may have to push opening night back a day or two because the space isn’t quite finished. That said, placing the show in this space has opened up a whole new world for the audience.
“I love this play, but the thing I’m most excited for is to bring people into this space,” he says. “This may be the only time it’s ever used as a performance space. This may be the only time this space is open to the public. That moment when people enter a new space that they’ve never been in is magic. I can’t wait to see how that affects their experience of the play.”
The North Plan plays in a secret location near 211 East Georgia (at Main) November 19 – 29. Visit http://www.upintheairtheatre.com for tickets and more information.