Come aboard the vessel that birthed a new age – and hear a story of mass migration, broken pacts and moral dilemmas – in this immersive piece of theatre. Based on Karel Čapek's 1936 dystopian novel of the same name, this production stands out amongst the 3,000 shows of the Edinburgh Fringe for more than its unusual title.
On entering a disorientating room, the audience are welcomed, assessed and sorted, before taking seats in a set that fills the whole space. Told through frequent flash-backs - both those authorised by the new regime and ones which are still classified – the unfolding play is a disjointed account of humanity's collapse sparked by conflict with another species. With unreliable narrators, it presents a nuanced view of both sides.
At the heart of the story are the fishermen of Toch's Wild Oysters, whose discovery, compassion and greed leads to consequences that have global repercussions. Fast-forward to 'the Colony', and the world as we know it has changed.
The staging by Hannah Sibai is ambitious and effective, creating an unsettling futuristic atmosphere that transports you to a different era – further enhanced by the original sound score produced by Robert Bentall. The three performers effortlessly fulfil several different roles each, and flit between different accents smoothly.
It's an earnest production that sometimes felt a little like an extended art installation, but the overall impact is still very moving. The non-linear plot also took a while to adjust to, although it works well as a way to set-up the audience as viewers from the future unpicking a difficult past, unsure who or what to trust.
War with the Newts is an engrossing sci-fi production that you'll be mulling over for hours after. It raises timely ethical and philosophical issues, delivering them in an imaginative style. After this, you'll look at amphibians in a different way.