Telling the story of human history over 13 billion years in 90 minutes is a challenge relished by a Belgian theatre company in Perth for the Festival.
A History of Everything will take as its starting point the events leading right up to opening night, including this week's bombshell resignation of Pope Benedict.
"It's a way of embracing the here and now, of engaging the audience in the news of that particular day or week, of making history relevant to them in the moment," Ontroerend Goed artistic director Alexander Devriendt said.
"We will also include smaller events from the past year, things that may have already been forgotten by many people. When you feel that history is happening today, that should be in the play."
The players would track backwards through history all the way to the Big Bang, Devriendt said.
A History of Everything opened last night at the State Theatre Centre and runs until February 22.
Devriendt admitted it was ambitious to present the history of everything with only a handful of actors in 90 minutes but he wanted to put the magic of theatre in the service of some very big ideas about philosophy, evolution, science, human and animal behaviour and cosmology.
Collaborating with the Sydney Theatre Company and theatre writer Joeri Smets, Devriendt has fashioned a fast-paced work of theatre, dispelling the notion that what audiences will see is merely a history lesson.
"It's much more than that through the magic of theatre," Devriendt said. "We speed up as we get further away from contemporary history. And it is also personal history as well. The cast tell when they were born, so we can learn some of their own story."
Devriendt began the creative process by writing the names of historical events on scraps of paper, which were soon scattered across the floor. Then he filtered and editing the events so that they could be contained within a reasonable time-frame that would not test the audience's patience.
War features prominently in any history of the world, and for Devriendt the constant stream of conflicts is best characterised by actors writing the word "war" on scraps of paper and throwing them around the stage.
A History of Everything was first performed at the Sydney Festival last year.
Another Devriendt production is The Smile Off Your Face, which involves audiences being blindfolded and tied up in a wheelchair.They are then wheeled into a darkened space to experience what Devriendt likes to call "sensory theatre". It will be performed at the Adelaide Festival next month.